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Optimize What? • Commune
"Silicon Valley is full of the stupidest geniuses you’ll ever meet. The problem begins in the classrooms where computer science is taught."

"In higher education and research, the situation is similar, if further removed from the harsh realities of technocapitalism. Computer science in the academy is a minefield of contradictions: a Stanford undergraduate may attend class and learn how to extract information from users during the day, then later attend an evening meeting of the student organization CS+Social Good, where they will build a website for a local nonprofit. Meanwhile, a researcher who attended last year’s Conference on Economics and Computation would have sat through a talk on maximizing ad revenue, then perhaps participated the next morning in a new workshop on “mechanism design for social good.”

It is in this climate that we, too, must construct our vision for computer science and its applications. We might as well start from scratch: in a recent article for Tribune, Wendy Liu calls to “abolish Silicon Valley.” By this she means not the naive rejection of high technology, but the transformation of the industry into one funded, owned, and controlled by workers and the broader society—a people’s technology sector.

Silicon Valley, however, does not exist in an intellectual vacuum; it depends on a certain type of computer science discipline. Therefore, a people’s remake of the Valley will require a people’s computer science. Can we envision this? Today, computer science departments don’t just generate capitalist realism—they are themselves ruled by it. Only those research topics that carry implications for profit extraction or military applications are deemed worthy of investigation. There is no escaping the reach of this intellectual-cultural regime; even the most aloof theoreticians feel the need to justify their work by lining their paper introductions and grant proposals with spurious connections to the latest industry fads. Those who are more idealistic or indignant (or tenured) insist that the academy carve out space for “useless” research as well. However, this dichotomy between “industry applications” and “pure research” ignores the material reality that research funding comes largely from corporate behemoths and defense agencies, and that contemporary computer science is a political enterprise regardless of its wishful apolitical intentions.

In place of this suffocating ideological fog, what we must construct is a notion of communist realism in science: that only projects in direct or indirect service to people and planet will have any hope of being funded, of receiving the esteem of the research community, or even of being considered intellectually interesting. What would a communist computer science look like? Can we imagine researchers devising algorithms for participatory economic planning? Machine learning for estimating socially necessary labor time? Decentralized protocols for coordinating supply chains between communes?

Allin Cottrell and Paul Cockshott, two of the few contemporary academics who tackle problems of computational economics in non-market settings, had this to say in a 1993 paper:
Our investigations enable us to identify one component of the problem (with economic planning): the material conditions (computational technology) for effective socialist planning of a complex peacetime economy were not realized before, say, the mid-1980s. If we are right, the most notorious features of the Soviet economy (chronically incoherent plans, recurrent shortages and surpluses, lack of responsiveness to consumer demand), while in part the result of misguided policies, were to some degree inevitable consequences of the attempt to operate a system of central planning before its time. The irony is obvious: socialism was being rejected at the very moment when it was becoming a real possibility.

Politically, much has changed since these words were written. The takeaway for contemporary readers is not necessarily that we should devote ourselves to central planning once more; rather, it’s that our moment carries a unique mixture of ideological impasse and emancipatory potential, ironically both driven in large part by technological development. The cold science of computation seems to declare that social progress is over—there can only be technological progress. Yet if we manage to wrest control of technology from Silicon Valley and the Ivory Tower, the possibilities for postcapitalist society are seemingly endless. The twenty-first-century tech workers’ movement, a hopeful vehicle for delivering us towards such prospects, is nascent—but it is increasingly a force to be reckoned with, and, at the risk of getting carried away, we should start imagining the future we wish to inhabit. It’s time we began conceptualizing, and perhaps prototyping, computation and information in a workers’ world. It’s time to start conceiving of a new left-wing science."
engineering  problemsolving  capitalism  computers  politics  technology  jimmywu  2019  optimization  efficiency  allincottrell  paulcockshott  siliconvalley  techosolutionism  technocapitalism  computation  wendyliu  compsci  ideology 
yesterday by robertogreco
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."

"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
22 days ago by robertogreco
Hampshire College provides excellent education that should be protected (opinion)
"The Best Education Isn't Cost-Effective: Hampshire’s model provides excellent education precisely because it is not efficient, argues Falguni A. Sheth, and that's why we need to protect it."

"When I first read that Hampshire College’s new president was “inviting a partnership” to keep it afloat, I was startled but not surprised.

Hampshire has been long known as the quirky, hippie, artsy liberal arts college in the western Massachusetts woods. Developed via a consortium of four other colleges (Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts), Hampshire has always been the poor cousin. Like the New School for Social Research, where I matriculated as a philosophy graduate student, Hampshire has been eternally underfunded and run on a skeletal budget, relying on its faculty and staff’s dedication and commitment to the alternative, progressive pedagogy espoused since the college’s founding in 1965.

I was a faculty member at Hampshire for 14 years. There, I developed my identity as a political philosopher and public writer on national security, the war on terror and Islamophobia. There, I found challenging and supportive intellectual camaraderie among brilliant, committed colleagues who espoused a broad, interdisciplinary curriculum. Hampshire’s list of illustrious and accomplished faculty has included James Baldwin, Yusef Lateef and Jerome Liebling, among many others.

I discovered students who were refreshingly thoughtful, refusing to be satisfied with a conventional education. They were fearless in challenging their faculty members’ and classmates’ presuppositions. This is how my first book came about: from a political philosophy course on the social contract that was continuously challenged by critical students. My students asked about race, colonialism, the absence of recognition for male and female nonwhites, the contradiction between the notion of equal rights, and the fact of slavery. They required me to address these contradictions back when it was unheard-of to do so.

The same questions had occurred to me in graduate school but were afforded little merit even at a progressive place like the New School. Those questions still niggled as I taught my courses at Hampshire, but we -- my students and I -- were afforded an intellectually supportive space to consider them, even as I insisted that my students seek better, more rigorous ways to exhibit their findings.

The distinctiveness of Hampshire’s curriculum needs to be considered carefully: students are required to create their own interdisciplinary concentrations (majors). Hampshire’s approach is predicated on inquiry-based learning where students contend with immediate concerns and long-term objectives, with new ideas and a demand to understand the history of those ideas, while anticipating what the future might look like. This means that knowledge is not merely received but rather explored and digested through various methods: photographic, agrarian, scientific, poetic and dramaturgical, among others. This curriculum requires wrestling with ideas, as well as self-reflection, and anticipation of unexpected obstacles. It cultivates critical thinking and ethical reflection in the deepest sense imaginable.

As an immigrant kid who went to public schools, I was initially skeptical of what seemed to be a fairly self-indulgent education. Yet I knew that many respected academics sent their children to Hampshire instead of elite Ivy League schools. They were in on one of the best-kept secrets of postsecondary education: students were given unprecedented attention from faculty members, nurtured and carefully guided in their intellectual and political interests to become powerfully smart and critically thoughtful, broadly read citizens of the world. Graduates have gone on to become journalists, immigrant rights lawyers, inventors, novelists, scientists, professors, actors, social entrepreneurs, community organizers, doctors and engineers.

Inefficiency, Not Cost-Effectiveness

Yet as remarkable as my time at Hampshire was, my colleagues and I were unrelentingly exhausted. We were encouraged to teach specialized courses and to develop new ones. Students needed faculty members to serve as frequent advisers as they finished the various levels of education, from individual and distinctive interdisciplinary concentrations to the Division III senior capstone project that has been part of Hampshire’s graduation requirements.

Moreover, since its inception in 1965, Hampshire has assessed students’ relevant skills through narrative evaluations rather than grades. Faculty members write such evaluations for students as they progress through the educational tiers to help them reflect on their studies, develop deeper questions and further complicate their thinking and skills. To do justice to each student’s work, those evaluations must have detailed comments on various aspects of the project.

This innovative approach often resulted in extreme workloads. Often faculty members would find themselves writing pages upon pages of course evaluations, concentration evaluations and senior capstone evaluations -- sometimes in excess of 100 to 150 pages each year. This work did not account for the enormous time devoted to faculty-governance commitments or the various extracurricular programming that faculty members would engage in: bringing speakers to campus, raising money for those speakers and taking students on topic-related trips -- whether to The Hague to witness the tribunal for a war criminal; to Cuba to learn about arts, culture and politics; or to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn about immigration patterns.

All of those activities -- intensive interactions between and among faculty members and students, narrative evaluations, fascinating extracurricular programming, vigorous faculty governance -- are crucial to the exciting intellectual, cultural and political environment that gives Hampshire its spirit. But all of this commitment is difficult to sustain on a shoestring budget. It also means scarce resources -- in terms of both time and money -- are available to support the faculty’s intellectual life and research, which are nonnegotiable in this epoch of competition for students.

And therein lies the rub: Hampshire’s model is effective precisely because it is not efficient. Inefficiency -- not cost-effectiveness, in the form of careful attention, reflectiveness and conversations unhampered by time restrictions -- leads to some of the best education in the country. Inefficiency requires more money, not less, but for good cause: nurturing young minds and sustaining the education of worldly and thoughtful citizens, which requires the nurturing of faculty minds and lives, as well.

So, unlike the contemporary trend among postsecondary educational institutions, Hampshire’s incredible educational model flies in the face of a neoliberal, cost-effective business model of education. That latter model measures its economic sustainability through metrics that are designed to assess the pedagogy or curriculum but tell us little about whether students have evaluated their positions critically or understand the world differently.

The other four colleges in the consortium should understand their obligation to uphold Hampshire as a vital intellectual partner, where their own students take classes and flourish. I hope that a merger will not succumb to calls for cost-efficiency, or a “leaner” educational model by paring down faculty and staff members -- and as bad -- curtailing the rich interdisciplinary curriculum.

If it does, then Hampshire will be forced to forfeit its singular gifts and place in the academy, and the world will be much poorer for it. I fervently hope that Hampshire can continue to exist in its distinct way and thrive among sympathetic partners."
hampshirecollege  falgunisheth  2019  alternative  education  highered  highereducation  cost  efficiency  inefficiency 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The New ‘Dream Home’ Should Be a Condo - The New York Times
"This is the New American Home for 2018. It’s a sprawling monstrosity of more than 10,690 feet (the lot encompasses 65,340 square feet).

The New American Home should really be this condo. There are six units. One unit here can have just 1,800 square feet."

"The first New American Home that N.A.H.B. built, in Houston in 1984, was 1,500 square feet and cost $80,000. By 2006, at the peak of the housing bubble, the N.A.H.B. home – a lakeside McMansion in Florida with a tri-level kitchen island and a waterfall off the master suite – was over 10,000 square feet and listed for $5.3 million in what is today one of the nation’s foreclosure capitals, Orlando.

That 1984 project was the smallest; square footage hasn’t dipped below 2,200 since 1985. The 2018 version, also in Florida, is “Tuscan”-inspired and is close to 11,000 square feet, with eight bathrooms and both an elevator and a car elevator in the garage. The 2019 version, to be unveiled soon, is 8,000 square feet and has an “inner sanctum lounge” and a view of the Vegas strip.

The N.A.H.B. house may be meant to highlight trends, but they’re not necessarily the trends homeowners want (and certainly not what most people need). Instead, they’re what builders, kitchen and bath manufacturers and real estate agents would like to sell them: Think cathedral ceilings, granite countertops, gift-wrapping rooms and, more recently, “smart” appliances like a refrigerator that can text you when you’re low on milk and eggs.

Many builders will tell you that though these houses are large, they are more efficient – even that they have a small carbon footprint. But this is like bragging about the good gas mileage of an S.U.V. While a 10,000-square-foot house built today uses less energy than a 10,000-square-foot house built a decade ago, a home of this size requires a phenomenal amount of energy to run. (And most likely has an S.U.V. or two in the garage.)

Does anyone need 10,000 square feet to live in?

Families are getting smaller, not larger. The average American household shrank by 30 percent from 1948 and 2012, to 2.55 people from 3.67. Yet houses have ballooned as family sizes have contracted.

The average new home today is 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973. The square footage of living space per person has increased to 971, from 507 – a 92 percent increase.

What if the next New American Home was a condo? And what if there was a new American dream, not of auto-dependent suburbia, but walkable urbanism?

In the Cloverdale749 building designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in Los Angeles, six families are housed – luxuriously – in a 10,500-square-foot building that has little else in common with the N.A.H.B. home.

No space is wasted here – it may not have multiple walk-in closets or “air-conditioned storerooms,” but it has high ceilings and roof decks.

Larger homes use more resources, typically require longer commutes, come with more expensive utility bills, and often contribute to more sedentary lifestyles (which in turn results in increased rates of conditions like obesity and heart disease).

The way the Cloverdale building is designed effectively reduces the need for (and costs of) heating and cooling, and increases natural light and circulation.

Thanks to its central location (and Los Angeles’s serious commitment to expanding public transit), it reduces the need for driving, too. Building this way has the highest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities. The N.A.H.B. home, in contrast, is entirely self-contained, with no regard for neighbors or neighborhood. It might as well have a moat.

This approach to housing is not only socially isolating, it’s no longer sustainable.

Our way of building homes and neighborhoods lost the plot a long time ago.

Homes like those the N.A.H.B. is promoting ignore the changing nature of families and the imminent crisis in housing for the elderly – not to mention climate change, which we have no hope of combatting without a true reimagining of the American dream. Enter the Green New Deal: If it recognized the link between building more infill housing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would be even greener. Taking a strong stand against the primacy of the single family home (and the zoning that encourages it), especially the 10,000-square-foot ones, would represent a bold move toward combating climate change."
allisonarieff  housing  us  sustainability  2019  transportation  density  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  excess  efficiency  energy  society 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here: ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?” ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."

"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."

"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."

"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Audrey Watters on Twitter: "I'm sorry. But I have a rant about "personalized learning""
"I'm sorry. But I have a rant about "personalized learning"

"Personalized learning" is not new. Know your history. It predates "Silicon Valley" and it pre-dates educational computing and it most certainly pre-dates Khan Academy and it pre-dates Sal Khan.

Even the way in which Sal Khan describes "personalized learning" -- "students move at their own pace" until they've mastered a question or topic -- is very, very old.

Educational psychologists have been building machines to do this -- supposedly to function like a tutor -- for almost 100 years.

The push to "personalize" education *with machines* has been happening for over a century thanks to educational psychology AND of course educational testing. This push is also deeply intertwined with ideas about efficiency and individualism. (& as such it is profoundly American)

Stop acting like "personalized learning" is this brand new thing just because the ed-tech salespeople and ed reformers want you to buy it. Maybe start asking why all these efforts have failed in the past -- with and without machines. Ever heard of the Dalton Plan, for example?

And good god, don't say past efforts failed because computers are so amazing today. School software sucks. People who tell you otherwise are liars.

Also: as democracy seems to be collapsing all around us, perhaps it's not such a fine time to abandoned shared intellectual spaces and shared intellectual understanding, eh? Perhaps we should be talking about more communal, democratic practices and less personalized learning?

Also: stop taking people seriously who talk about the history of school and the only book they seem to have read on the topic is one by John Taylor Gatto. Thanks in advance.

(On the other hand, keep it up. This all makes a perfect Introduction for my book)"
personalization  personalizedlearning  2018  audreywatters  history  education  edtech  siliconvalley  memory  salkhan  khanacademy  psychology  testing  individualism  efficiency  democracy  daltonplan  johntaylorgatto  communalism  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  collectivism  us 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Ancient pigment can boost energy efficiency | University of California
"A color developed by Egyptians thousands of years ago has a modern-day application as well – the pigment can boost energy efficiency by cooling rooftops and walls, and could also enable solar generation of electricity via windows.

Egyptian blue, derived from calcium copper silicate, was routinely used on ancient depictions of gods and royalty. Previous studies have shown that when Egyptian blue absorbs visible light, it then emits light in the near-infrared range. Now a team led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has confirmed the pigment’s fluorescence can be 10 times stronger than previously thought.

Measuring the temperature of surfaces coated in Egyptian blue and related compounds while they are exposed to sunlight, Berkeley Lab researchers found the fluorescent blues can emit nearly 100 percent as many photons as they absorb. The energy efficiency of the emission process is up to 70 percent (the infrared photons carry less energy than visible photons).

The finding adds to insights about which colors are most effective for cooling rooftops and facades in sunny climates. Though white is the most conventional and effective choice for keeping a building cool by reflecting sunlight and reducing energy use for air conditioning, building owners often require non-white colors for aesthetic reasons. For example, bright-white asphalt shingles are almost never used on sloping residential roofs.

Berkeley Lab researchers have already shown that fluorescent ruby red pigments can be an effective alternative to white; this insight on Egyptian blue adds to the menu of cooling color choices. Further, they found that fluorescent green and black colors can be produced with yellow and orange co-pigments. The new findings were recently published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

In addition to its cooling potential for buildings, Egyptian blue’s fluorescence could also be useful in producing solar energy. Used on windows tinted with the blue, photovoltaic cells on the edges can convert the fluoresced near-infrared energy to electricity.

Substantial research over the years from Berkeley Lab’s Heat Island Group has found that reflective roofs and walls can cool buildings and cars. This reduces the need for air conditioning and mitigates the urban heat island effect. By reflecting the sun’s rays back to space, these cool materials also release less heat into the atmosphere, thus cooling the planet and offsetting the warming effects of substantial amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

This work was led by Paul Berdahl of the Heat Island Group as part of the Cool Walls project supported by the Electric Program Investment Charge program of the California Energy Commission."
blue  pigment  energy  efficiency  2018 
october 2018 by robertogreco
lalitha vasudevan on Twitter: "Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, where
"Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, wherein to relate to have personally experienced.


Being able to relate, in and of itself, isn't the cause of my despair. It's the over-reliance on experience to the exclusion of other ways of creating conditions for understanding that worries me. This bent away from the traps of "cultural literacy" began w/good intentions;


but this response -- understandably, in resistance to the hyper-testing mania that overtook and still dominates much of the schooling landscape -- may err too far in the direction of allowing some young people to never have to stray too far from their own thoughts.


I want to know what young people think, what they notice and see, how they navigate and experience the world. AND, I want their insights on what others notice, see, conclude, design, and decide; for that, too, concerns young people --


not only in their immediate, local, kinship networks, but about how they perceive others' perceptions of the they things they have noticed, or not. They are civic beings, active in their citizenry, and to deny this and allow otherwise is educational malpractice.


I want young people to be seen and engaged as real interlocutors, not discursive window dressing to be written into curricula and grant proposals as the "participatory" element. I don't just want to hear what they think; I want to think with them, toward new questions.


So, I return to a familiar, frustrating thought: My, how standardization, answer-driven teaching, & the greedy pursuit of efficiency-driven uniformity has royally screwed over kids & schools.
And (some) big data efforts want to help do more of the same.

lalithavasudevan  education  standardizedtesting  standardization  experience  relatability  teaching  learning  schools  schooliness  kinship  perception  culturalliteracy  howweteach  howwelearn  comprehension  essays  writing  howwewrite  teachingreading  teachingwriting  noticing  civics  citizenship  democracy  democratic  malpractice  participatory  participation  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  uniformity  efficiency  bigdata  testing 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Vehicle of the Future Has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and Is a Bike | WIRED
"WHAT’S THE SHINIEST, most exciting new technology for transportation? Well, there are plenty of candidates! We’ve got the self-­driving car and drones big enough to carry people. Elon Musk is getting ready to bore hyperloop tunnels. When it comes to moving humans around, the future looks to be merging with sci-fi.

But from where I stand, the most exciting form of transportation technology is more than 100 years old—and it’s probably sitting in your garage. It’s the bicycle. The future of transportation has two thin wheels and handlebars.

Modern tech has transformed the humble two-­wheeler, making the bike-share model possible: You check out a bike from a docking station, use it for an hour or so, then return to any other docking station. The concept was tried back in the ’60s but failed miserably because no one could track where the bikes went.

Today, that’s been solved with smartphone-ized tech: GPS, Bluetooth, RFID, and mobile-payment systems. And bike sharing has unlocked a ton of American interest in navigating cities on a bike: Usage has grown from 320,000 rides in 2010 to 28 million in 2016. In China, where gridlock in cities like Beijing is infamous, the trend has grown even faster.

But cooler tricks are possible. We’re now seeing dockless bike sharing, where all the tech is crammed into each bike, eliminating the need for docking stations. When riders are done, they just park and lock the bike and walk away; the bike simply awaits the next user. This makes the systems cheaper (those docks cost a lot), so dockless bikes can be rented for as little as a buck an hour.

“It’s personal mobility for the last mile,” as Euwyn Poon, cofounder of dockless bike-­sharing firm Spin, says.

Dockless also creates something like self-governing internet logic, with bikes as packets routed where they’re needed, rather than where docks will fit. This seems to make bike sharing more fair: Seattle city council­member Mike O’Brien has observed anecdotally that dockless bike sharing is used by a broader demographic, in part because it’s super cheap and the bikes can circulate outside the well-off downtown neighborhoods.

Want even more inventiveness and innovation? Behold the next phase arriving in a few years: dockless electric bikes. Batteries are cheaper and lighter than ever. One US firm, Jump Bikes, has custom-­designed dockless ebikes sprinkled around San Francisco and Washington, DC. CEO Ryan Rzepecki suspects they’ll eclipse the appeal of regular bike sharing, because you could arrive at work without being drenched in sweat. “The number of people who are willing to ride electric bikes is probably 10X that of people who are willing to ride a regular one,” he says.

Clearly the bike-share revolution has limits. It probably won’t work outside urban areas. And if too many bikes flood a city, dockless systems can produce chaotic piles of bikes on certain sidewalks and streets, as has happened in China. This is a pretty solvable problem, though, if cities decide to limit the number of dockless bikes.

So sure, bring on the self-driving cars. Dig those hyperloops! But for a world that’s rapidly urbanizing and heating, the truly cool tech is bikes. And bike sharing has oodles of civic benefits too, says Elliot Fishman, director of Australia’s Institute for Sensible Transport: It relieves pressure on public transit, produces vanishingly small emissions compared to cars, and, at least with nonelectric bikes, boosts the overall exercise level (duh!).

Best of all, the bike-tech revolution reminds us that innovation isn’t always about the totally new. It’s often just as powerful to blend a robust, old tool that works well with a bit of new tech to make it better. Sometimes you truly don’t need to reinvent the wheel."
bikes  biking  bicycles  transportation  efficiency  mobility  2018  bikesharing  clivethompson  cities  urban  urbanism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Transit Agencies Must Sell Freedom – Remix
"Some of you may have watched the recent Winter Olympic Games, during which, Toyota ran several ads highlighting individual mobility. The core message: celebrate the notion of freedom. Yet, absent from these commercials were actual vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturers have long sold themselves as purveyors of freedom. For decades in America, the purchase of a vehicle was not just a financial transaction, but the key to personal freedom. Through their commercial, Toyota was similarly connecting the notion of athletic freedoms to the personal freedoms granted by their vehicles.


On the other hand, public transportation is often portrayed as an alternative to driving, or the option you use when driving is too expensive or unavailable to you. But at its core, there is no difference between the function of a private vehicle and a public transportation vehicle. Both are used to get you from wherever you are to where you want to be.

The Freedom Frame

Willful motion is a basic characteristic of life. Being able to move when you want and go where you want is a core element of personal freedom. In my work as a transit planner, I’ve found that when I am able to describe my work in the context of personal freedom, people engage. I believe that more transit agencies should use this “Freedom Frame” to plan, promote, and communicate their services to showcase the benefit they bring to their communities.

Using such a ‘Freedom Frame’ to talk about our work has several advantages.

1. It keeps the focus on what matters most to people — their ability to access destinations quickly and affordably.[1]

2. It allows you to transform beyond the individual experience and plan for a type of collective freedom.

3. It allows you to tap into the broader transportation market.

Fortunately, there are more and more tools becoming available to transit planners to measure transit freedom. These tools are known as transit accessibility analysis, isochrone analysis, or in the Remix world, Jane. Using Jane to estimate the accessibility for different demographics, such as low-income, minority, youth or seniors, has allowed me to make the transit Freedom Frame relevant to diverse audiences, and gain broad-based support for potential service changes.


Freedom is Greater Than Efficiency

Too often, our conversations about transportation and transit are focused on operational details or efficiency metrics — roadway capacity, vehicle delay, passengers per hour, vehicle loads, etc. But it turns out, that no one really cares about efficiency for efficiency’s sake. In my experience, people care about efficiency only to the extent that it allows them to do something they otherwise would not be able to do. In other words, if we cannot explain our efficiency enhancements in terms of expanded freedom, they will continue to be undervalued or actively resisted.

This reality has implications for both transit planning and marketing. As an example, transfers are essential for an efficient network. However, it’s very difficult for a rider to accept this trade-off and they often resist adding new transfers to a network. You can reduce some of this resistance by illustrating and quantifying the number of new places riders can get to with the new transfer. Mapping one’s transit freedom immediately encourages the public to to imagine new trips they could make rather than focusing on the inconvenience of the transfer.

Freedom as a Business Bottom Line

When marketing to local employers, quantifying the size of the workforce that is accessible to them because of transit speaks to them in terms of their bottom lines. If they can move their workforce on transit, they can rethink their parking strategies and needs. If employers have commute trip reduction goals or targets, for example, marketing transit to their employees starts to be in their own self-interest. In the case of a small business owner, illustrating the number of people who could potentially arrive at their doorstep because of the bus stop could change their perspective. They come to see the bus stop as a virtual on-street parking space that turns over much more frequently than an actual parking spot. Through this lens, they too, have an interest in supporting people using transit.


Collective Freedoms Enhance Individual Freedoms

Another significant challenge in transportation planning is that we tend to think about travel from our personal experience, which leads to individually optimized solutions. In transit we experience this, when certain customer groups approach us to ask what special service, or route, we can provide for them. Invariably the request stems from the desire to get a certain group or type of person to a specific type of destination to do a specific type of activity. Common examples include seniors getting to the grocery store, youth to a recreational center after school, a certain employer’s employees to their office building, or even concertgoers to a venue.

Approaching transportation from the perspective of the individual requires agencies to know a lot about each individual — where they live, where they’re they going, and when they’re going. Developing highly tailored services around individual trip patterns results in networks that are brittle (fragile to changes in the community) and less efficient. Further, optimizing for an individual will make the network less attractive to everyone but that individual.

To counter this trend, transit agencies need to pivot toward a collective approach. Begin by refocusing on freedom. At the core of each of those individual trips is the same desire, to get from where one is to where one wants to be. Connecting more people to more places more often will result in more seniors, more youth, and more employees reaching their destinations.

If we optimize a network for collective mobility, rather than individual trips, we will have a network that will enhance the individual freedoms for the greatest number of people. Not to mention, the network itself will be more resilient to change, more efficient, and require less specific knowledge about individual trips.

A Willingness to Pay for Freedom

The promise of freedom in transit is primarily sabotaged by its operating budget. The Freedom Frame however, has encouraged me to dramatically expand my vision beyond the limitations of an existing operating budget. We typically think about our current operating budget as the starting point for people’s willingness to pay for transit. For most small and even middle-sized transit agencies, this funding level is insufficient to provide freedom to the general population let alone our current passengers. This lens artificially limits transit’s potential.

I would challenge transit agencies to consider a “Freedom Frame” approach to funding. This changes the question from “How much should we spend on transit?” to “How much should we pay for the freedom to move?” As the automobile industry and Toyota have confirmed, people are willing to pay a lot of money for their personal freedom. Much more, in fact, than any transit agency’s operating budget.

For example, the two-county area surrounding Boise, Idaho, known as the Treasure Valley, is home to over 600,000 people. Residents of the Treasure Valley pay an estimated $1.5 billion per year on operating their own vehicles. By comparison, the transit operating budget for the Treasure Valley (including paratransit and demand response options) is $15 million — or one percent.


This single statistic explains:

1. Why transit currently provides little freedom in the Treasure Valley

2. The remaining market share of what transit could provide

Today, asking people to take transit in the Treasure Valley is like asking them to step out of a world of $1.5 billion of freedom and into a world of only $15 million of freedom. Our residents experience this loss of freedom in terms of the bus not coming often enough, not coming on the days they need, or not taking them to their needed destinations. Understandably, few people, compared to the entire population, choose transit[1].

Catch the Freedom Train

If people are willing to spend $1.5 billion on their own freedom, why are we limiting ourselves to incremental transit expansion programs? Could transit provide more freedom to more people with less money than the current arrangement?

Of course it can! So, why isn’t that our target? Why aren’t we telling this story in terms of freedom rather than in terms of transportation needs assessments, alternatives, efficiencies, or environmental impacts?

Transit is about providing more freedom to more people at a lower cost. And those costs are not only out-of-pocket financial costs but also lower social costs, lower land requirements, and lower environmental costs. These concepts of transit freedom are not new, but have been elevated through new technology that transit planners now have at their fingertips.

There is truth in Toyota’s advertising: when people are free to move, anything is possible. Whether looking at the past and the tunnels cut by hand through the Rocky Mountains, or the ribbons of asphalt and concrete that crisscross our country, or looking to the future with investments in automated vehicles, Hyperloops, etc., it is clear that anything is possible when you provide people the freedom to move. Transit agencies will be much more likely to realize the investments they need to remain relevant if they are able to tap into people’s desire to move freely."
transmobility  2018  transportation  transit  publictransit  freedom  efficiency  mobility  collectivism  fundign  government  trains  buses  stephenhunt 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Sean Michael Morris on Twitter: "It’s not pragmatic now to think that on-campus and online college experiences can remain separate, in terms of quality but especially in terms of ideology. #digped"
"It’s not pragmatic now to think that on-campus and online college experiences can remain separate, in terms of quality but especially in terms of ideology. #digped

We have long framed online learning as inclined toward rudiments, toward direct instruction, toward autonomy, whereas campus learning is framed as intimate, nuanced, communal.

But if online learning is more rudimentary, less nuanced, personal, complex than campus learning, it betrays an implicit assumption that so are online students less.

In program after program, online classes are restricted to courses that rely more entirely on content than on invention and inquiry. The most interesting classes are kept on campus.

When we omit seminar classes or dialectical teaching and learning from online course offerings, we create an inequity. When we think of online learning as instrumental and not intrinsically valuable, we create an inequity.

Online students are students like on-campus students. Just as curious, just as hopeful, just as genius, just as troubled, just as excited and unsure. Do our online courses actually accommodate them?

Do online courses accommodate students at all? Or do they cater primarily to an ideology of efficiency, retention, “student success”, and numbers which institutions can report?

Increasingly, the importance of _who students are_ is coming into greater relief. Identity is at the center of education. It is the student’s mind, not the institution’s competitive aspirations, that needs attention.

Likewise, teaching must remain a work of self-actualization (a la @bellhooks). When we take our teaching online, do we feel as interested, as invested, as challenged, as engaged, as when we teach on campus?

Have we created an online learning which has self-actualization at its core? What is the goal of online learning? Inclusion? Access? Efficiency? Increased enrollment?

We must look straight at the online learning we’ve created and that we sustain and ask: is it education we are providing? Education with all its texture and nuance and abruptness and creativity.

If the current form of online learning, once we inspect it, doesn’t measure up as parallel in value to on-campus learning, we just take it upon ourselves to revise it, to refuse what is inequitable and imagine something different.

This, and more, is the work I hope to do at @umwdtlt with @Jessifer, that @amcollier and I were after at @Middlebury. It’s what @DigPedLab is for. But this work needs all the voices and collaborators possible. Are you in?"
seanmichaelmorris  digitalpedagogy  criticalpedagogy  education  highered  highereducation  online  college  universities  howweteach  bellhooks  accessibility  inclusion  inclusivity  efficiency  creativity  equity 
march 2018 by robertogreco
How to Ungrade | Jesse Stommel
""I can't think of a more meaningless, superficial, cynical way to evaluate learning."
~ Cathy N. Davidson

The work of teaching shouldn't be reduced to the mechanical act of grading or marking. Our talk of grading shouldn't be reduced to our complaining about the continuing necessity of it.

If you're a teacher and you hate grading, stop doing it.

Across education, we've normalized absurd levels of grading, test-taking, and standardized assessment. And yet letter grades are a relatively recent phenomenon. They weren't widely used until the 1940s. In “Teaching More by Grading Less,” Jeffrey Schinske and Kimberly Tanner cite the first “official record” of a grading system from Yale in 1785. The A-F system appears to have emerged in 1898 (with the “E” not disappearing until the 1930s) and the 100-point or percentage scale became common in the early 1900s. According to Schinske and Tanner, even by 1971, only 67% of primary and secondary schools in the U.S. were using letter grades. The desire for uniformity across institutions was the primary motivator for the spread of these systems.

As I was preparing to write this piece, I looked through the sections on grading from a dozen or so U.S. teaching and learning centers. What I noticed across the lot of them is how their language around grading emphasizes “efficiency” (the word repeated incessantly) while reducing individual students to cogs in a machine that ultimately seems to have little to do with them. The work of grading is framed less in terms of giving feedback or encouraging learning and more as a way of ranking students against one another. Nods to “fairness” are too often made for the sake of defensibility rather than equity. What disturbs me is how effortlessly and casually this language rolls off Education's collective tongue. And I'm even more disturbed by how many otherwise productive pedagogical conversations get sidetracked by the too easily internalized ubiquity of grades.

The page from the Berkeley Graduate Division offering “Tips on Grading Efficiently” is pretty standard fare. The very first bit of advice on grading for new graduate student instructors raises more anxiety around grades than it alleviates. And at the same time, as is all too common, grading is something new teachers are encouraged to spend as little time on as possible: “Too often, time spent grading takes away from time spent doing your own coursework or research.”

Without much critical examination, teachers accept they have to grade, students accept they have to be graded, students are made to feel like they should care a great deal about grades, and teachers are told they shouldn't spend much time thinking about the why, when, and whether of grades. Obedience to a system of crude ranking is crafted to feel altruistic, because it's supposedly fair, saves time, and helps prepare students for the horrors of the “real world.” Conscientious objection is made to seem impossible.

I've been leading workshops on grading for years, and when I talk about why I don't grade, I often hear back some version of, “but I have to grade” ... because I'm an adjunct ... because my institution requires it ... because grading is necessary in my discipline ... because wouldn't you want your heart surgeon to have been graded? The need to navigate institutional (and disciplinary) pressures is real, but I would argue teachers grade in many more situations than grading is useful and/or actually required by institutions. And, as I've said before, I care less that my doctors are graded and more that they've read all the books of Virginia Woolf or Octavia Butler, because critical thinking is what will help them save my life when they encounter a situation they've never encountered before.

Peter Elbow writes in “Ranking, Evaluating, Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement,” "Let's do as little ranking and grading as we can. They are never fair and they undermine learning and teaching." I believe pedagogy is personal and idiosyncratic. My approach won't necessarily work in each classroom, at every institution, for all teachers, with every group of students. My hope with this and my previous posts about grading is to challenge stock assumptions, describe what has worked for me, and explore alternatives that might just work for others."
jessestommel  grades  grading  education  schools  teaching  ranking  2018  standardization  efficiency  institutions  sorting  ungrading  assessment  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  excuses  process  rubrics  highered  highereducation 
march 2018 by robertogreco
How to Build Castles in the Air – Teachers Going Gradeless
"One of the more profound ironies of “going gradeless” is realizing just how fundamental grades are to the architecture of schools.

Grades undergird nearly everything we do in education. By threatening late penalties and administering one-shot assessments, we focus our famously distracted students on the task at hand. By regularly updating our online gradebooks, we provide an ongoing snapshot of student performance so precise it can be calculated to the hundredths place.

Grades inform our curriculum and instruction too. Because so much rides on them, it’s essential we build upon the rock of “objective” data, not the shifting sands of human judgment. Thus, we limit ourselves to those kinds of learning that can be easily measured and quantified. A multiple choice quiz testing students’ knowledge of literary devices can be reliably scored by your 10-year-old daughter (not saying I’ve ever done that). A stack of bubble sheets can be scanned on your way out of the building for the summer. Check your results online in the driveway, then go inside and make yourself a margarita.

If you want to evaluate something more complex, like writing, you had better develop an iron-clad rubric and engage in some serious range-finding sessions with your colleagues. Don’t put anything subjective like creativity or risk taking on that rubric — you’re already on shaky ground as it is. Make sure to provide an especially strict template so that the essay is fully prepared to “meet its maker.” Word choice, punctuation, sentence variety, quote incorporation — these are the nuts and bolts of writing. If the Hemingway Editor can’t see it, isn’t it just your opinion?

Hopefully, you see the irony here. Grades don’t communicate achievement; most contain a vast idiosyncratic array of weights, curves, point values, and penalties. Nor do they motivate students much beyond what it takes to maintain a respectable GPA. And by forcing us to focus on so-called objective measures, grades have us trade that which is most meaningful for that which is merely demonstrable: recall, algorithm use, anything that can be reified into a rubric. Grading reforms have sometimes succeeded in making these numbers, levels, and letters more meaningful, but more often than not it is the learning that suffers, as we continually herd our rich, interconnected disciplines into the gradebook’s endless succession of separate cells.

So, as I’ve said before, grades are not great. Nor are the ancillary tools, tests, structures, and strategies that support them. But as anyone who has gone gradeless can tell you, grades don’t just magically go away, leaving us free to fan the flames of intrinsic motivation and student passion. Grades remain the very foundation on which we build. Most gradeless teachers must enter a grade at the end of each marking period and, even if we didn’t, our whole educational enterprise is overshadowed by the specter of college admissions and scholarships. And since grades and tests rank so high in those determinations, we kid ourselves in thinking we’ve escaped their influence.

Even in a hypothetical environment without these extrinsic stresses, students are still subject to a myriad of influences, not the least of which being the tech industry with its constant bombardment of notifications and nudges. This industry, which spends billions engineering apps for maximum engagement, has already rendered the comparatively modest inducements of traditional schooling laughable. Still, the rhetoric of autonomy, passion, and engagement always seems to take this in stride, as if the Buddha — not billionaires — is behind this ever-expanding universe.

Let’s go one more step further, though, and imagine a world without the tech industry. Surely that would be a world in which the “inner mounting flame” of student passion could flourish.

But complete freedom, autonomy, and agency is not a neutral or even acceptable foundation for education. The notion of a blank slate on which to continuously project one’s passion, innovation, or genius is seriously flawed. Sherri Spelic, examining the related rhetoric of design thinking, points out how “neoliberal enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and start-up culture” does little to address “social dilemmas fueled by historic inequality and stratification.” In other words, blank spaces — including the supposed blank space of going gradeless — are usually little more than blind spots. And often these blind spots are where our more marginalized students fall through the cracks.

Even if we were able provide widespread, equitable access to springboards of self-expression, autonomy, and innovation, what then? To what extent are we all unwittingly falling into a larger neoliberal trap that, in the words of Byung-Chul Han, turns each of us into an “auto-exploiting labourer in his or her own enterprise”?
Today, we do not deem ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects: always refashioning and reinventing ourselves. A sense of freedom attends passing from the state of subject to that of project. All the same, this projection amounts to a form of compulsion and constraint — indeed, to a more efficient kind of subjectification and subjugation. As a project deeming itself free of external and alien limitations, the I is now subjugating itself to internal limitations and self-constraints, which are taking the form of compulsive achievement and optimization.

One doesn’t have to look too far to find the rhetoric of “harnessing student passion” and “self-regulated learners” to understand the paradoxical truth of this statement. This vision of education, in addition to constituting a new strategy of control, also undermines any sense of classrooms as communities of care and locations of resistance.

A5. Watch out for our tendency to lionize those who peddle extreme personalization, individual passion, entrepreneurial mindsets. So many of these undermine any sense of collective identity, responsibility, solidarity #tg2chat

Clearly, not all intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is created equal. Perhaps instead of framing the issue in these terms, we should see it as a question of commitment or capitulation.

Commitment entails a robust willingness to construct change around what Gert Biesta describes as fundamental questions of “content, purpose, and relationship.” It requires that we find ways to better communicate and support student learning, produce more equitable results, and, yes, sometimes shield students from outside influences. Contrary to the soaring rhetoric of intrinsic motivation, none of this will happen by itself.

Capitulation means shirking this responsibility, submerging it in the reductive comfort of numbers or in neoliberal notions of autonomy.

Framing going gradeless through the lens of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, then, is not only misleading and limited, it’s harmful. No teacher — gradeless or otherwise — can avoid the task of finding humane ways to leverage each of these in the service of greater goals. Even if we could, there are other interests, much more powerful, much more entrenched, and much better funded than us always ready to rush into that vacuum.

To resist these forces, we will need to use everything in our power to find and imagine new structures and strategies, building our castles in air on firm foundations."
grades  grading  equity  morivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  measurement  schools  schooling  learning  howwelearn  socialjustice  neoliberalism  arthurchiaravalli  subjectivity  objectivity  systemsthinking  education  unschooling  deschooling  assessment  accountability  subjectification  subjugation  achievement  optimization  efficiency  tests  testing  standardization  control  teaching  howweteach  2018  resistance  gertbiesta  capitulation  responsibility  structure  strategy  pedagogy  gpa  ranking  sherrispelic  byung-chulhan  compulsion  constraint  self-regulation  passion  identity  solidarity  personalization  collectivism  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

For all its influence as a shaper of individual decisions, the greater power of convenience may arise from decisions made in aggregate, where it is doing so much to structure the modern economy. Particularly in tech-related industries, the battle for convenience is the battle for industry dominance.

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much."

"By the late 1960s, the first convenience revolution had begun to sputter. The prospect of total convenience no longer seemed like society’s greatest aspiration. Convenience meant conformity. The counterculture was about people’s need to express themselves, to fulfill their individual potential, to live in harmony with nature rather than constantly seeking to overcome its nuisances. Playing the guitar was not convenient. Neither was growing one’s own vegetables or fixing one’s own motorcycle. But such things were seen to have value nevertheless — or rather, as a result. People were looking for individuality again.

Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the second wave of convenience technologies — the period we are living in — would co-opt this ideal. It would conveniencize individuality.

You might date the beginning of this period to the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1979. With the Walkman we can see a subtle but fundamental shift in the ideology of convenience. If the first convenience revolution promised to make life and work easier for you, the second promised to make it easier to be you. The new technologies were catalysts of selfhood. They conferred efficiency on self-expression."

"I do not want to deny that making things easier can serve us in important ways, giving us many choices (of restaurants, taxi services, open-source encyclopedias) where we used to have only a few or none. But being a person is only partly about having and exercising choices. It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.

Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.

An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life.

We need to consciously embrace the inconvenient — not always, but more of the time. Nowadays individuality has come to reside in making at least some inconvenient choices. You need not churn your own butter or hunt your own meat, but if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him.

Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Facebook is wrong, text is deathless
[resurfaced because:

"Welcome to the Post-text Future ]

"Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable — you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral — text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

Because nothing has proved as invincible as writing and literacy. Because text is just so malleable. Because it fits into any container we put it in. Because our world is supersaturated in it, indoors and out. Because we have so much invested in it. Because nothing we have ever made has ever rewarded our universal investment in it more. Unless our civilization fundamentally collapses, we will never give up writing and reading.

We’re still not even talking to our computers as often as we’re typing on our phones. What logs the most attention-hours — i.e., how media companies make their money — is not and has never been the universe of communications.

(And my god — the very best feature Facebook Video has, what’s helping that platform eat the world — is muted autoplay video with automatic text captions. Forget literature — even the stupid viral videos people watch waiting for the train are better when they’re made with text!)

Nothing is inevitable in history, media, or culture — but literacy is the only thing that’s even close. Bet for better video, bet for better speech, bet for better things we can’t imagine — but if you bet against text, you will lose."
timcarmody  2016  text  facebook  canon  communication  evolution  resilience  efficiency  elegance  adaptability  simplicity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
What Is Neorealism? on Vimeo
"“The only great problem of cinema seems to be more and more, with each film, when and why to start a shot and when and why to end it.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Created for Sight & Sound / British Film Institute"
film  kogonada  editing  time  hollywood  walking  italy  1952  vittoriodesica  neolrealism  davidoselznick  extras  lingering  longshots  efficiency  slow  context  place  story  plot  narrative  cinema  srg  videoessays 
december 2017 by robertogreco
When The Iron Law of Efficiency Comes Crashing Down – Jokull | Helge Tennø
"This is part of my manuscript for a session with Keen Bull on how additive manufacturing will impact the world, at this years DIF-festival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only thing certain becomes uncertainty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this new world we have decentralized teams making autonomous decisions. Smaller companies (because there is no advantage of scale) with local niches and the ability to turn around swiftly as demand patterns are manipulated by new impulses."
efficiency  helgetennø  keenbull  complexity  scale  decentralization  horizontality  manufacturing  additivism  consumption  employment  stability  certainty  predictability  uncertainty  organization 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Equitable Schools for a Sustainable World - Long View on Education
"“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.” bell hooks

Instead of writing a review of Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski, I want to try reading it differently, from back to front. I’ll start with the last topic, equity, and then proceed to talk about: innovation, boredom, learning, economics, and information literacy. But first, I want to touch on the book’s epigraph: Seth Godin tells us to “Make schools different.”

Different is an interesting word. It’s certainly a different word from what people have used to call for educational transformation in the past. If we were to draw up teams about educational change, I’m confident that McLeod, Shareski, and I would all be against the authoritarian ‘no excuses’ strand of reform that fears student agency. We’re also for meaningful engagement over glittery entertainment.

Yet, we also part ways very quickly in how we frame our arguments. They argue that we should “adapt learning and teaching environments to the demands of the 21st Century.” Our “changing, increasingly connected world” speeds ahead, but “most of our classrooms fail to change in response to it.” I start from a different position, one that questions how the demands of the 21st Century fit with the project of equity."

"What makes McLeod and Shareski’s take different from the long history of arguments about schools? Here’s their answer:

“In some respects, the concerns in this book are no different from the concerns of the authors of A Nation at Risk… We agree schools need to change, but that change should have to do with a school’s relevance, not just with its achievement scores.”

I think that relevance is exactly the right word, but we must ask relevant to what?

Their answer is the “demands of the 21st Century” that come from “shifting from an industrial mode to a global model and innovation model.” In Godin’s book, he presents the data center as a source of individual opportunity. While that can be true, the number of well-paying jobs at Google and Youtube stars will always be limited. Freedom of expression and civic participation can’t flourish in an age of economic precarity.

So what are the alternatives?

Jennifer M. Silva writes a counter-narrative to the worship of self-sufficiency and competition, and exposes “the hidden injuries of risk”, which often lead to isolation, a hardening of the self, and tragedy. One of her interview subjects died because she lacked affordable health-care.

What Silva finds is that “working-class young adults… feel a sense of powerlessness and mystification towards the institutions that order their lives. Over and over again, they learn that choice is simply an illusion.” Writing in a global context, (2014), Alcinda Honwana gives a name – waithood – to this experience of youth who are “no longer children in need of care, but … are still unable to become independent adults.” Honwana explicitly rejects the idea that waithood represents a “failed transition on the part of the youth themselves,” and she carefully documents the agency of the youth she interviewed in South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Mozambique.
“Young people I interviewed showed strong awareness of the broader socio-economic and political environments that affect their lives. They are acutely conscious of their marginal structural position and they despise and rebel against the abuse and corruption that they observe as the elites in power get richer and they become poorer … They are critical of unsound economic policies that focus on growth but do not enlarge the productive base by creating more jobs.”

There’s no sustainable future in Western countries measuring educational success by the extent to which they out-compete the globalized Other. In her conclusion, Silva presents Wally, who is like her other working-class interview subjects in every respect except his political activism, as a token of hope. Instead of privatizing his problems, he is able to translate them into political issues. The alternative lies not in making schools different, but making the world ‘different’, sustainable, and just."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  equality  equity  socialjustice  schools  sustainability  education  children  economics  globalization  competition  bellhooks  scottmcleod  deanshareski  litercy  infoliteracy  sethgodin  capitalism  digitalredlining  digitaldivide  chrisgilliard  marianamazzucato  hajoonchang  innovation  labor  work  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  jordanweissman  aliciarobb  carljames  race  class  boredom  richardelmore  mikeschmoker  robertpianta  johngoodlad  engagement  passivity  criticism  learning  howwelearn  technology  johndewey  democracy  efficiency  davidsnedden  neoliberalism  richardflorida  tonyagner  erikbrynjolfsson  andremcafee  carlbenediktfrey  michaelosborne  davidautor  inequality  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  shoshanazuboff  jonathanalbright  henrygiroux  jennifersilva  alcindahonwana  change  precarity 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Lingua Franca - February 2001 | Cover Story: The Ex-Cons
"The only thing that arouses Luttwak's ire more than untrammeled capitalism is its elite enthusiasts—the intellectuals, politicians, policy makers, and businessmen who claim that "just because the market is always more efficient, the market should always rule." Alan Greenspan earns Luttwak's special contempt: "Alan Greenspan is a Spencerian. That makes him an economic fascist." Spencerians like Greenspan believe that "the harshest economic pressures" will "stimulate some people to...economically heroic deeds. They will become great entrepreneurs or whatever else, and as for the ones who fail, let them fail." Luttwak's other b'te noire is "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, the peripatetic CEO who reaps unimaginable returns for corporate shareholders by firing substantial numbers of employees from companies. "Chainsaw does it," says Luttwak, referring to Dunlap's downsizing measures, "because he's simpleminded, harsh, and cruel." It's just "economic sadism." Against Greenspan and Dunlap, Luttwak affirms, "I believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs, because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency—love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes.""

"Although Luttwak writes in his 1999 book Turbo-Capitalism, "I deeply the virtues of capitalism," his opposition to the spread of market values is so acute that it puts him on the far end of today's political spectrum—a position that Luttwak congenitally enjoys. "Edward is a very perverse guy, intellectually and in many other ways," says former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, one of Luttwak's early champions during the 1970s. "He's a contrarian. He enjoys confounding expectations. But I frankly don't even know how serious he is in this latest incarnation." Luttwak insists that he is quite serious. He calls for socialized medicine. He advocates a strong welfare state, claiming, "If I had my druthers, I would prohibit any form of domestic charity." Charity is a "cop-out," he says: It takes dignity away from the poor."

via: ]

[from the responses to the tweet above:

"reminds me of kurt vonnegut on buying an envelope"

"[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore." ]

[also from the responses:

"Excellent. Nicholas Carr "

"Pichai doesn’t seem able to comprehend that the essence, and the joy, of parenting may actually lie in all the small, trivial gestures that parents make on behalf of or in concert with their kids — like picking out a song to play in the car. Intimacy is redefined as inefficiency." ]

[Cf: "The automated island"

"In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain."]
2001  efficiency  capitalism  policy  politics  alangreenspan  edwardluttwak  freemarkets  humans  humanism  love  family  attachment  community  culture  canon  inefficiency  economics  slow  small  coreyrobin  charity  poverty  markets  welfarestate  dignity  normanpodhoretz  karlmarx  marxism  johngray  conservatism  thatcherism  ronaldreagan  elitism  kurtvonnegut  nicholascarr  parenting 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist | Gardner Writes
"I’ve been mulling over this next post for far too long, and the results will be brief and rushed (such bad food, and such small portions!). You have been warned.

The three strands, or claims I’m engaging with (EDIT: I’ve tried to make things clearer and more parallel in the list below):

1. The computer is “just a tool.” This part’s in partial response to the comments on my previous post. [ ]

2. Doug Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” [ ] is “difficult to understand” or “poorly written.” This one’s a perpetual reply. 🙂 It was most recently triggered by an especially perplexing Twitter exchange shared with me by Jon Becker.

3. Engelbart’s ideas regarding the augmentation of human intellect aim for an inhuman and inhumane parsing of thought and imagination, an “efficiency expert” reduction of the richness of human cognition. This one tries to think about some points raised in the VCU New Media Seminar this fall.

These are the strands. The weave will be loose. (Food, textiles, textures, text.)

1. There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results, or perhaps a “tuser” (pronounced “TOO-zer”). I believe those two words are neologisms but I’ll leave the googling as an exercise for the tuser. The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” This answer was particularly easy to imagine inside Second Life, where metaphors become real within the irreality of a virtual landscape. In fact, I first came up with the game while leading a class in Second Life–but that’s for another time.

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings.

To complicate matters further, the computer is an unusual tool, a meta-tool, a machine that simulates any other machine, a universal machine with properties unlike any other machine. Earlier in the seminar this semester a sentence popped out of my mouth as we talked about one of the essays–“As We May Think”? I can’t remember now: “This is your brain on brain.” What Papert and Turkle refer to as computers’ “holding power” is not just the addictive cat videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I imagine), but something weirdly mindlike and reflective about the computer-human symbiosis. One of my goals continues to be to raise that uncanny holding power into a fuller (and freer) (and more metaphorical) (and more practical in the sense of able-to-be-practiced) mode of awareness so that we can be more mindful of the environment’s potential for good and, yes, for ill. (Some days, it seems to me that the “for ill” part is almost as poorly understood as the “for good” part, pace Morozov.)

George Dyson writes, “The stored-program computer, as conceived by Alan Turing and delivered by John von Neumann, broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our universe would never be the same” (Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe). This is a very bold statement. I’ve connected it with everything from the myth of Orpheus to synaesthetic environments like the one @rovinglibrarian shared with me in which one can listen to, and visualize, Wikipedia being edited. Thought vectors in concept space, indeed. The closest analogies I can find are with language itself, particularly the phonetic alphabet.

The larger point is now at the ready: in fullest practice and perhaps even for best results, particularly when it comes to deeper learning, it may well be that nothing is just anything. Bateson describes the moment in which “just a” thing becomes far more than “just a” thing as a “double take.” For Bateson, the double take bears a thrilling and uneasy relationship to the double bind, as well as to some kinds of derangement that are not at all beneficial. (This is the double-edged sword of human intellect, a sword that sometimes has ten edges or more–but I digress.) This double take (the kids call it, or used to call it, “wait what?”) indicates a moment of what Bateson calls “transcontextualism,” a paradoxical level-crossing moment (micro to macro, instance to meta, territory to map, or vice-versa) that initiates or indicates (hard to tell) deeper learning.
It seems that both those whose life is enriched by transcontextual gifts and those who are impoverished by transcontextual confusions are alike in one respect: for them there is always or often a “double take.” A falling leaf, the greeting of a friend, or a “primrose by the river’s brim” is not “just that and nothing more.” Exogenous experience may be framed in the contexts of dream, and internal thought may be projected into the contexts of the external world. And so on. For all this, we seek a partial explanation in learning and experience. (“Double Bind, 1969,” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, U Chicago Press, 2000, p. 272). (EDIT: I had originally typed “eternal world,” but Bateson writes “external.” It’s an interesting typo, though, so I remember it here.)

It does seem to me, very often, that we do our best to purge our learning environments of opportunities for transcontextual gifts to emerge. This is understandable, given how bad and indeed “unproductive” (by certain lights) the transcontextual confusions can be. No one enjoys the feeling of falling, unless there are environments and guides that can make the falling feel like flying–more matter for another conversation, and a difficult art indeed, and one that like all art has no guarantees (pace Madame Tussaud).

2. So now the second strand, regarding Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” Much of this essay, it seems to me, is about identifying and fostering transcontextualism (transcontextualization?) as a networked activity in which both the individual and the networked community recognize the potential for “bootstrapping” themselves into greater learning through the kind of level-crossing Bateson imagines (Douglas Hofstadter explores these ideas too, particularly in I Am A Strange Loop and, it appears, in a book Tom Woodward is exploring and brought to my attention yesterday, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking. That title alone makes the recursive point very neatly). So when Engelbart switches modes from engineering-style-specification to the story of bricks-on-pens to the dialogue with “Joe,” he seems to me not to be willful or even prohibitively difficult (though some of the ideas are undeniably complex). He seems to me to be experimenting with transcontextualism as an expressive device, an analytical strategy, and a kind of self-directed learning, a true essay: an attempt:

And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers–whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years.

A list worthy of Walt Whitman, and one that explicitly (and for me, thrillingly) crosses levels and enacts transcontextualism.

Here’s another list, one in which Engelbart tallies the range of “thought kernels” he wants to track in his formulative thinking (one might also say, his “research”):

The “unit records” here, unlike those in the Memex example, are generally scraps of typed or handwritten text on IBM-card-sized edge-notchable cards. These represent little “kernels” of data, thought, fact, consideration, concepts, ideas, worries, etc. That are relevant to a given problem area in my professional life.

Again, the listing enacts a principle: we map a problem space, a sphere of inquiry, along many dimensions–or we should. Those dimensions cross contexts–or they should. To think about this in terms of language for a moment, Engelbart’s idea seems to be that we should track our “kernels” across the indicative, the imperative, the subjunctive, the interrogative. To put it another way, we should be mindful of, and somehow make available for mindful building, many varieties of cognitive activity, including affect (which can be distinguished but not divided from cognition).

3. I don’t think this activity increases efficiency, if efficiency means “getting more done in less time.” (A “cognitive Taylorism,” as one seminarian put it.) More what is always the question. For me, Engelbart’s transcontextual gifts (and I’ll concede that there are likely transcontextual confusions in there too–it’s the price of trancontextualism, clearly) are such that the emphasis lands squarely on effectiveness, which in his essay means more work with positive potential (understanding there’s some disagreement but not total disagreement about… [more]
dougengelbart  transcontextualism  gardnercampbell  2013  gregorybateson  marshallmcluhan  socraticmethod  education  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  hammerhand  technology  computers  computing  georgedyson  food  textiles  texture  text  understanding  tools  secondlife  seymourpapert  sherryturkle  alanturing  johnvonneumann  doublebind  waltwhitman  memex  taylorism  efficiency  cognition 
july 2017 by robertogreco
I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

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


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

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

Think about that for a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Can economies thrive without growth? de RSA Radio
"When economies stop growing they go into crisis, but it seems impossible for them to grow forever without causing ecological catastrophe. Matthew Taylor talks to Tim Jackson about the big dilemma in sustainability and the updated and expanded second edition of ‘Prosperity without Growth’ (2017). Can we safely stabilize the size of the economy? What’s behind our insatiable demand for new things? What revolutions are required in the nature of enterprise, policy and values to create prosperity without growth? And have they gotten any closer in the years since the books first publication in 2009?"
economics  growth  policy  prosperity  2017  matthewtaylor  timjackson  capitalism  environment  emissions  globalwarming  climatechange  sustainability  happiness  wellbeing  scarcity  resources  technology  technosolutionism  efficiency  consumerism  consumption  fashion  socialgood  privatization  money  politics  service  monetarypolicy  government  governance  society  ethics  values  technocracy 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Most of the time, innovators don’t move fast and break things | Aeon Essays
"The global view shifts the focus from Manchester, Lowell, Detroit and Silicon Valley. It involves accepting that innovation and technological change are more than just making things. Ironically, this allows us to begin to glimpse a more familiar world where activities such as maintenance, repair, use and re-use, recycling, obsolescence and disappearance dominate. A much more global picture, one that includes people whose lives and contributions the Great White Innovator narrative marginalised, comes into view. The Lizzie Otts of the world can take their proper place as participants and contributors."

"Efficiency, therefore, is not some timeless universal value but something grounded deeply in particular historical circumstances. At various times, efficiency was a way of quantifying machine performance – think: steam engines – and an accounting principle coupled to the new applied sciences of mechanics and thermodynamics. It was also about conservation and stability. By the early 20th century – the apogee of Taylorism – experts argued that increases in efficiency would realise the full potential of individuals and industries. Dynamism and conservatism worked together in the pursuit of ever-greater efficiency.

But a broad look at the history of technology plainly shows that other values often take precedence over efficiency, even in the modern era. It would, for example, offer several advantages in efficiency if, instead of every apartment or home having its own kitchen, multiple families shared a communal kitchen, and indeed in some parts of the world they do. But in the prevalent ideology of domesticity, every family or even single person must have their own kitchen, and so it is.

Nor, despite what Silicon Valley-based techno-libertarians might argue, does technological change automatically translate to increased efficiency. Sometimes, efficiency – like the lone eccentric innovator – is not wanted. In the 1960s, for instance, the US military encouraged metal-working firms, via its contracting process, to adopt expensive numerically controlled machine tools. The lavish funding the Department of Defense devoted to promoting the technology didn’t automatically yield clear economic advantages. However, the new machines – ones that smaller firms were hard-pressed to adopt – increased centralisation of the metalworking industry and, arguably, diminished economic competition. Meanwhile, on the shop floor, the new manufacturing innovations gave supervisors greater oversight over production. At one large manufacturing company, numerical control was referred to as a ‘management system’, not a new tool for cutting metal. Imperatives besides efficiency drove technological change.

The history of technological change is full of examples of roads not taken. There are many examples of seemingly illogical choices made by firms and individuals. This shouldn’t surprise us – technological change has always been a deep and multilayered process, one that unfolds in fits and starts and unevenly in time and space. It’s not like the ‘just so stories’ of pop history and Silicon Valley public relations departments."

"Perhaps most simply, what you will almost never hear from the tech industry pundits is that innovation is not always good. Crack cocaine and the AK-47 were innovative products. ISIS and Los Zetas are innovative organisations. Historians have long shown that innovation doesn’t even always create jobs. It sometimes destroys them. Automation and innovation, from the 1920s through the 1950s, displaced tens of thousands of workers. Recall the conflict between Spencer Tracy (a proponent of automation) and Katharine Hepburn (an anxious reference librarian) in the film Desk Set (1957).

And what of broader societal benefits that innovation brings? In Technological Medicine (2009), Stanley Joel Reiser makes a compelling case that, in the world of healthcare, innovation can bring gains and losses – and the winners are not always the patients. The innovation of the artificial respirator, for example, has saved countless lives. It has also brought in new ethical, legal and policy debates over, literally, the meaning of life and death. And there are real questions about the ethics of resource expenditure in medical innovation. Can spending large amounts pursuing innovative treatments or cures for exotic, rare diseases be ethical when the same monies could without question save millions of lives afflicted with simple health challenges?

It’s unrealistic to imagine that the international obsession with innovation will change any time soon. Even histories of nation-states are linked to narratives, rightly or wrongly, of political and technological innovation and progress. To be sure, technology and innovation have been central drivers of the US’s economic prosperity, national security and social advancement. The very centrality of innovation, which one could argue has taken on the position of a national mantra, makes a better understanding of how it actually works, and its limitations, vital. Then we can see that continuity and incrementalism are a much more realistic representation of technological change.

At the same time, when we step out of the shadow of innovation, we get new insights about the nature of technological change. By taking this broader perspective, we start to see the complexity of that change in new ways. It’s then we notice the persistent layering of older technologies. We appreciate the essential role of users and maintainers as well as traditional innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and, yes, Bill and Lizzie Ott. We start to see the intangibles – the standards and ideologies that help to create and order technology systems, making them work at least most of the time. We start to see that technological change does not demand that we move fast and break things. Understanding the role that standards, ideologies, institutions – the non-thing aspects of technology – play, makes it possible to see how technological change actually happens, and who makes it happen. It makes it possible to understand the true topography of technology and the world today."

[via: ]
history  technology  innovation  invention  maintenance  wpatrickmccray  2016  economics  continuity  incrementalism  change  changemaking  via:audreywatters  ethics  stanleyjoelreiser  siliconvalley  hacking  nurture  nurturing  care  caring  making  makers  standards  ideology  efficiency  domesticity  taylorism  technosolutionism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Are we robbing students of tomorrow? - Long View on Education
[Cf. "The High School of the Future (in 1917)" on David Snedden ]

"Is our present educational system ripe to be disrupted by Deweyan thought from a century ago? Are we robbing students of tomorrow?

While it might seem like John Dewey is back in fashion, and on the side of those who argue that schools need to be ‘future proofed’ to keep pace with the changing economy, Dewey never actually said the above. As Tryggvi Thayer points out, “it doesn’t sound like something that Dewey would say in his writings; neither the sentiment nor diction.”

As an example of the ‘future proofing’ trend, Charles Kivunja presses Dewey into a narrative about how America’s “obsolete” schools need to do a better job of “training the work force”, making the argument that the current agenda is “really not new.” Thus, Bill Gates and Thomas Friedman are just the Dewey’s of today, worried that we are robbing children (and the American GDP) of tomorrow. In reaction to the restrictive nature of standardized testing, project-based learning and student-centered approaches have emerged as the favored pedagogy to help prepare students for the workplace of tomorrow.

Ironically, Dewey criticized both the main future proofer of his day, David Snedden, and the leading proponent of the ‘child-centered’ project-method, James Heard Kilpatrick. Rather than a resurgence of people reading Dewey, we are witnessing the rise of Sneddedism and Kilpatrickianism passed off as the thoughts of everyone’s progressive hero."

David Snedden – Future Proofing and Social Efficiency

I imagine that a Dewey redivivus would be sadden but not surprised to see that Snedden’s ‘social efficiency’ won out over the brand of progressive thought that Dewey argued for. Snedden was a member of what David Tyack and Larry Cuban (1997, p.17) have termed the ‘administrative progressives:
These white men – few women and almost no people of color were admitted to the inner circle of movers and shakers – carved out lifelong careers in education as city superintendents, education professors, state or federal officers, leaders in professional organizations such as the National Education Association (NEA), and foundation officials. They shared a common faith in “educational science” and in lifting education “above politics” so that experts could make the crucial decisions.

The administrative progressives didn’t lack any vision:
They thought that schooling should be both more differentiated and more standardized: differentiated in curriculum to fit the backgrounds and future destinies of students; and standardized with respect to buildings and equipment, professional qualifications of staff, administrative procedures, social and health services and regulations, and other educational practices.

“The terms have changed over the years, but not the impulse to emulate business and impress business elites,” (112), and so the current future proofing agenda is really just Snedden’s ‘social efficiency’ wrapped in the buzzwords of the so-called Knowledge Economy. For Will Richardson, PBW justifies PBL: “If you want a justification for Problem/Project Based Learning, there probably isn’t any better than this: increasingly our students are going to be doing problem/project based work in their professional lives.”

Dewey opposed the administrative progressives’ attempt to construe education so narrowly as training. David F. Labaree recounts the history in How Dewey Lost, which is well worth the read. In The New Republic (1915, republished in Curriculum Inquiry in 1977), Dewey put his criticism this way:
“Apart from light on such specific questions, I am regretfully forced to the conclusion that the difference between us is not so much narrowly educational as it is profoundly political and social. The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that. It seems to me that the business of all who would not be educational time-servers is to resist every move in this direction, and to strive for a kind of vocational education which will first alter the existing industrial regime, and ultimately transform it.” (38-9)

Labaree pulls many lessons from his study of history. Snedden emerged at the right time to argue that schools needed to be reformed to keep up with the changing economy. Among the other points Labaree makes, I find these three particularly compelling and relevant:
The ideas sounded authoritative and gave the impression that they were building into arguments, but they were largely a collection of numbered lists and bullet points. He was a man who would have warmly embraced PowerPoint. In his work, portentousness abounded; it was all about riding the wave of the future and avoiding the undertow of the past.

However, Snedden’s ideas lacked substance:
He was a self-styled scientist who never did anything that remotely resembled scientific study, an educational sociologist who drew on the cliches of the field – social Darwinism and social control – without ever making an original contribution. In his written work, he never used data, and he never cited sources, which made sense, since he rarely drew on sources anyway. His books and journal articles took the form of proclamations, scientific pronouncements without the science; they all read like speeches, and that was likely the source of most of them.

And lacked subtlety:
But one of the lessons of social change in general and educational reform in particular is that every doctrine needs its doctrinaire. Nuance is dysfunctional for the cause of educational reform, especially early in the process, when the main task is to clear the field of the accumulated institutional underbrush and make the case for a radical new order. Every reformer needs to slash and burn the remnants of the old way of doing things, portraying the past as all weeds and decay, and clearing space tor the new institutions to take root. This is something that a literal minded, hyperkinetic, and monomaniacal figure like Snedden could do superbly. As Diane Ravitch {2000) noted, “Snedden’s caricature of the traditional school became a staple of progressive attacks tor years to come: it was ‘repressive,’ ‘monarchical,’ ‘barren and repellent,’ founded entirely on classics and completely out of touch with American democracy” (p. 82).

I’ll let you do your own compare and contrast with current educational thought leaders.

William Heard Kilpatrick – The Child-Centered Project-Method

"David Snedden’s social efficiency agenda does not entail any particular pedagogy. Maybe schools need to have rigorous standards and teachers need to impose upon students a disposition to defer to authority to prepare them for factory and corporate jobs.

We are witnessing a swing away from this pedagogy, and a return to child-centered classrooms (which constructivists have argued for since the 1980s). William Heard Kilpatrick’s ‘project method’, popular during the progressive era, is now re-born as Project-Based Learning, which casts teachers as ‘facilitators’ (again, much like constructivism). Gert Biesta has noted that ‘teaching’ and ‘education’ have virtually disappeared from our discourse that now raises ‘learning’ and ‘student-centered’ approaches above all else. The learnification of educational discourse makes it increasingly difficult to raise questions about the purpose of education, which has largely been settled in favor of preparing students for work.

Our present obsession with being ‘student-centered’ owes its heritage not to John Dewey, but to William Heard Kilpatrick, the popularizer of ‘the project method’ Michael Knoll writes:
In his concept, there was no proper place for traditional educational features such as teacher, curriculum, and instruction. Project learning, Kilpatrick wrote, was always individual and situative, and could neither be planned nor fixed. “If the purpose dies and the teacher still requires the completion of what was begun, then it becomes a task” – merely wearisome and laborious (Kilpatrick 1925, 348). “Freedom for practice” and “practice with satisfaction” were the slogans with which he effectively staged his “revolt” against drill, discpline, and compulsion (ibd., 348, 311, 56ff.).

Kilpatrick’s emphasis on the interests of the students can easily slide into an embrace of one side of the curriculum / student dichotomy. After all, we don’t need kids completing more meaningless tasks, but embracing their passions. Will Richardson argues we should “let kids bring their kale to school,” in reference to his daughter’s passion, “and make that the focus of developing them as learners.” (15:00)

Dewey abhorred the dichotomies that plague contemporary educational discourse. In The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago, 1902), Dewey writes:
“Just as, upon the whole, it was the weakness of the ‘old education’ that it made invidious comparisons between the immaturity of the child and the maturity of the adult, regarding the former as something to be got away from as soon as possible and as much as possible; so it is the danger of the ‘new education’ that it regard the child’s present powers and interests as something finally significant in themselves.”

It’s not that we should not nurture the interests of children, but to elevate the child and their present interests over the knowledge that adults have accumulated makes little sense. In his Experience and Education, Dewey argued for experiences as a “moving force”, and teachers are a wealth of such experience which they ought to use to structure… [more]
benjamindoxtdator  johndewey  davidsnedden  williamheardkilpatrick  2017  education  sfsh  economics  work  labor  purpose  progressive  efficiency  democracy  projectbasedlearning  michaelknoll  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  policy  constructivism  gertbiesta  student-centered  schools  davidlabaree  history  willrichardson  davidtyack  larrycuban  billgates  thomasfriedman  tryggvithayer  society  capitalism 
february 2017 by robertogreco
POLITICAL THEORY - Karl Marx - YouTube
"Karl Marx remains deeply important today not as the man who told us what to replace capitalism with, but as someone who brilliantly pointed out certain of its problems. The School of Life, a pro-Capitalist institution, takes a look.


“Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising, leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the ideas of its most famous and ambitious critic, Karl Marx. This isn’t very surprising. In practice, his political and economic ideas have been used to design disastrously planned economies and nasty dictatorships. Frankly, the remedies Marx proposed for the ills of the world now sound a bit demented. He thought we should abolish private property. People should not be allowed to own things. At certain moments one can sympathise. But it’s like wanting to ban gossip or forbid watching television. It’s going to war with human behaviour. And Marx believed the world would be put to rights by a dictatorship of the proletariat; which does not mean anything much today. Openly Marxist parties received a total of only 1,685 votes in the 2010 UK general election, out of the nearly 40 million ballots cast…”"
karlmarx  marxism  capitalism  2014  work  labor  specialization  purpose  alienation  disconnection  hierarchy  efficiency  communism  belonging  insecurity  economics  primitiveaccumulation  accumulation  profit  theft  exploitation  instability  precarity  crises  abundance  scarcity  shortage  productivity  leisure  unemployment  freedom  employment  inequality  wealth  wealthdistribution  marriage  relationships  commodityfetishism  feminism  oppression  ideology  values  valuejudgements  worth  consumerism  materialism  anxiety  competition  complacency  conformity  communistmanifesto  inheritance  privateproperty  banking  communication  transportation  eduction  publiceducation  frederickengels  generalists  specialists  daskapital 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman | Technology | The Guardian
"All of our efforts to be more productive backfire – and only make us feel even busier and more stressed"

"At the very bottom of our anxious urge to manage time better – the urge driving Frederick Winslow Taylor, Merlin Mann, me and perhaps you – it’s not hard to discern a familiar motive: the fear of death. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel has put it, on any meaningful timescale other than human life itself – that of the planet, say, or the cosmos – “we will all be dead any minute”. No wonder we are so drawn to the problem of how to make better use of our days: if we could solve it, we could avoid the feeling, in Seneca’s words, of finding life at an end just when we were getting ready to live. To die with the sense of nothing left undone: it’s nothing less than the promise of immortality by other means.

But the modern zeal for personal productivity, rooted in Taylor’s philosophy of efficiency, takes things several significant steps further. If only we could find the right techniques and apply enough self-discipline, it suggests, we could know that we were fitting everything important in, and could feel happy at last. It is up to us – indeed, it is our obligation – to maximise our productivity. This is a convenient ideology from the point of view of those who stand to profit from our working harder, and our increased capacity for consumer spending. But it also functions as a form of psychological avoidance. The more you can convince yourself that you need never make difficult choices – because there will be enough time for everything – the less you will feel obliged to ask yourself whether the life you are choosing is the right one.

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?

For Merlin Mann, consciously confronting these questions was a matter of realising that people would always be making more claims on his time – worthy claims, too, for the most part – than it would be possible for him to meet. And that even the best, most efficient system for managing the emails they sent him was never going to provide a solution to that. “Eventually, I realised something,” he told me. “Email is not a technical problem. It’s a people problem. And you can’t fix people.”"
time  timemanagement  productivity  psychology  gtd  2016  oliverburkeman  stress  busyness  frederickwinslowtaylor  taylorism  merlinmann  technology  thomasnagel  humans  seneca  efficiency 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Arianna Huffington on a Book About Working Less, Resting More - The New York Times
"We hear a lot about the many things that are disrupting the American workplace: the decline of manufacturing, demographics, globalization, automation and, especially, technology. And it’s true — all of those are roiling the world of work, not just in America but worldwide.

But there’s another force transforming the way we work, and that is: nonwork. Or, more specifically, what we’re doing in those few hours when we’re not working. With “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang superbly illuminates this phenomenon and helps push it along.

What’s being disrupted is our collective delusion that burnout is simply the price we must pay for success. It’s a myth that, as Pang notes, goes back to the Industrial Revolution. That’s when the Cartesian notion of home and work as separate — and opposing — spheres took hold. Home, Pang writes, was “the place where a man could relax and recover from work.” When there was time, that is. Because soon leisure time and nighttime became commodities to monetize. Over the next decades, starting with demands from labor reformers, work hours were pushed back, mostly for safety reasons. But even today, the conversation focuses on “work-life balance,” which implicitly accepts the notion of work and life as Manichaean opposites — perpetually in conflict.

That’s why “Rest” is such a valuable book. If work is our national religion, Pang is the philosopher reintegrating our bifurcated selves. As he adeptly shows, not only are work and rest not in opposition, they’re inextricably bound, each enhancing the other. “Work and rest aren’t opposites like black and white or good and evil,” Pang writes. “They’re more like different points on life’s wave.”

Continue reading the main story
His central thesis is that rest not only makes us more productive and more creative, but also makes our lives “richer and more fulfilling.” But not all rest is created equal — it’s not just about not-working. The most productive kind of rest, according to Pang, is also active and deliberate. And as such, that means rest is a skill. “Rest turns out to be like sex or singing or running,” Pang writes. “Everyone basically knows how to do it, but with a little work and understanding, you can learn to do it a lot better.” Though he’s obviously never heard me sing, I take his point.

And he illustrates it well, showing how the secret behind many of history’s most creative authors, scientists, thinkers and politicians was that they were very serious and disciplined about rest. “Creativity doesn’t drive the work; the work drives creativity,” Pang writes. “A routine creates a landing place for the muse.”

And as Pang notes, modern science has now validated what the ancients knew: Work “provided the means to live,” while rest “gave meaning to life.” Thousands of years later, we have the science to prove it. “In the last couple decades,” he writes, “discoveries in sleep research, psychology, neuroscience, organizational behavior, sports medicine, sociology and other fields have given us a wealth of insight into the unsung but critical role that rest plays in strengthening the brain, enhancing learning, enabling inspiration, and making innovation sustainable.”

We can’t declare victory quite yet. To experience the kind of rest that fuels creativity and productivity, we need to detach from work. But in our technology-obsessed reality, we carry our entire work world with us wherever we go, right in our pockets. It’s not enough to leave the office, when the office goes to dinner or to a game or home with you. And it’s not enough just to put our devices on vibrate or refrain from checking them. As Sherry Turkle noted in her book “Reclaiming Conversation,” the mere presence of a smartphone or device, even when not being used, alters our inner world. So achieving the kind of detachment we need for productive rest can’t really be done without detaching physically from our devices.

And even though the science has come in, still standing in the way is our ingrained workplace culture that valorizes burnout. “With a few notable exceptions,” Pang writes, “today’s leaders treat stress and overwork as a badge of honor, brag about how little they sleep and how few vacation days they take, and have their reputations as workaholics carefully tended by publicists and corporate P.R. firms.”

Turning that around will require a lot of work. And rest. The path of least resistance — accepting the habits of our current busyness culture and the technology that envelops us and keeps us perpetually connected — won’t make us more productive or more fulfilled. Instead of searching life hacks to make us more efficient and creative, we can avail ourselves of the life hack that’s been around as long as we have: rest. But we have to be as deliberate about it as we are about work. “Rest is not something that the world gives us,” Pang writes. “It’s never been a gift. It’s never been something you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.”

And you can start by putting down your phone — better yet, put it in another room — and picking up this much-needed book."
alexsoojung-kimpang  ariannahuffington  work  rest  creativity  2016  books  burnout  labor  sleep  workaholism  conservation  sherryturkle  productivity  detachment  neuroscience  psychology  sociology  routine  inspiration  innovation  lifehacks  efficiency 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Are You Being Served? →
"A few months after “Are You Being Served?“ some of us met up in the Feminist Server Summit at Art Meets Radical Openness (AMRO <>), ESC in Graz. The theme of this edition, Autonomy (im)possible sparked discussions on relationality, dependency and what that would mean for an (imaginary) Feminist Server. The following embryonic manifesto was written in response to these discussions.
A feminist server…

* Is a situated technology. She has a sense of context and considers herself to be part of an ecology of practices
* Is run for and by a community that cares enough for her in order to make her exist
* Builds on the materiality of software, hardware and the bodies gathered around it
* Opens herself to expose processes, tools, sources, habits, patterns
* Does not strive for seamlessness. Talk of transparency too often signals that something is being made invisible
* Avoids efficiency, ease-of-use, scalability and immediacy because they can be traps
* Knows that networking is actually an awkward, promiscuous and parasitic practice
* Is autonomous in the sense that she decides for her own dependencies
* Radically questions the conditions for serving and service; experiments with changing client-server relations where she can
* Treats network technology as part of a social reality
* Wants networks to be mutable and read-write accessible
* Does not confuse safety with security
* Takes the risk of exposing her insecurity
* Tries hard not to apologize when she is sometimes not available

Another version will be developed and presented at The Ministry of Hacking (ESC, Graz) <>. You are welcome to contribute to this text through comments, rewriting, additions or erasure: <>."
via:caseygollan  feminism  servers  technology  ecology  community  software  hardware  materiality  efficiency  scalability  slow  small  immediacy  networking  autonomy  security  safety  readwrite  service  manifestos  context  sfsh  care  caring  transparency  open  openness 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Databite No. 76: Neil Selwyn - live stream - YouTube
"Neil Selwyn presents (Dis)Connected Learning: the messy realities of digital schooling: In this Databite, Neil Selwyn will work through some emerging headline findings from a new three year study of digital technology use in Australian high schools. In particular Neil will highlight the ways in which schools’ actual uses of technology often contradict presumptions of ‘connected learning’, ‘digital education’ and the like. Instead Neil will consider ….

• how and why recent innovations such as maker culture, personalised learning and data-driven education are subsumed within more restrictive institutional ‘logics’;

• the tensions of ‘bring your own device’ and other permissive digital learning practices • how alternative and resistant forms of technology use by students tend to mitigate *against* educational engagement and/or learning gains;

• the ways in which digital technologies enhance (rather than disrupt) existing forms of advantage and privilege amongst groups of students;

• how the distributed nature of technology leadership and innovation throughout schools tends to restrict widespread institutional change and reform;

• the ambiguous role that digital technologies play in teachers’ work and the labor of teaching;

• the often surprising ways that technology seems to take hold throughout schools – echoing broader imperatives of accountability, surveillance and control.

The talk will provide plenty of scope to consider how technology use in schools might be ‘otherwise’, and alternate agendas to be pursued by educators, policymakers, technology developers and other stakeholders in the ed-tech space."

[via: "V interesting talk by Neil Selwyn on ed-tech and (dis)connected learning in school" ]

"the grammar of schooling"
neilselwyn  edtech  byod  via:audreywatters  logitics  technology  teaching  learning  howweteacher  power  mobile  phones  ipads  laptops  pedagogy  instruction  resistance  compliance  firewalls  making  makingdo  youth  schools  design  micromanagement  lms  application  sameoldsameold  efficiency  data  privacy  education  howweteach  regimentation  regulation  rules  flexibility  shininess  time  schooliness  assessment  engagement  evidence  resilience  knowledge  schedules  class  leadership  performativity  schooldesign  connectedlearning  surveillance  control  accountability  change  institutions  deschooling  quest2play  relationships  curriculum  monitoring  liberation  dml  liberatorytechnology  society  culture  ethnography  schooling  sorting  discipline 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Will · We’re Trying To Do “The Wrong Thing Right” in...
[Also here: ]

"Whenever I think about the way most schools are structured today, I always come back to the same question: Do we do the things we do because they’re better for kids or because they are easier for us? For instance: separating kids by age in school. Is that something we do because kids learn better that way? Or do we do it because it’s just an easier way organizing our work? I think all of us know the answer to that. And there are quite a few other comparisons like those that are worth thinking about:

• Do kids learn better when we separate out the content into different subjects, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we have every one of them pretty much go through the same curriculum in the same way, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we have them turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we we assess them all the same way, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better in 50 or 90 minute blocks, or is it just easier for us?

To be sure, these are not new questions, nor are they unique to my thinking. Many of us in the edu online community have been writing about these things for years. As with much of the “we need to change schools” conversation, it’s another part of the repeatedly articulated argument that appeals to common sense but hasn’t much moved the needle when it comes do doing things any differently in schools.

So why bring it up yet again? Well, for me at least, two words: Russell Ackoff.

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to some serendipitous surfing online, I came across this 10-minute snip of an interview with Ackoff, a pioneer in the field of systems thinking who was a professor at the Wharton School prior to his death in 2009. I was staggered a bit after watching it because he was able to articulate something I have been feeling for a while now but had been unable to find the words for:
“Peter Drucker said ‘There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.’ Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter.”

Here’s the video. [ ]

I’ve been thinking about Ackoff pretty much consistently since I watched it, and the application of that lens to our current practice in schools is profound. Can there be a more apt example of trying to “do the wrong thing right” than in schools? Look again at that list above. Are we in search of efficiency, or effectiveness?

I think the answer is obvious. If you watch the clip, you’ll hear Ackoff dive into the education issue head on. He says, and I agree, that the system is not about learning (effectiveness). It’s about teaching (efficiency). And believe me, I understand why we have that focus. Given our devotion to an overstuffed curriculum, standardized tests, “college and career readiness” and more, about the only way we can see our students navigating the school experience is to “teach” it, to organize it, pace it, and assess it in some way that allows us to confer the adjective “educated” to each student. This despite the obvious truth that the vast majority of what we “learn” in school is quickly forgotten, and the truest “education” for our life’s work comes on the job, not in school.

Sadly, “doing the right thing” for our kids in schools is difficult. In education, our structures, our histories, our nostalgia for trying to do the “wrong thing right” runs deep. Regardless of how we got here (and the story is complex [ ],) we are profoundly wedded to what now constitutes this “education system” that dominates our learning world. The roles and expectations of students and teachers and administrators and parents are so clearly reinforced by our own experience, our cultural representations, and by those who have millions of dollars invested in the status quo that any serious suggestion that we might be doing the “wrong thing” is simply layered over by a new initiative, a new technology, a new curriculum, or a new success story to avoid having to grapple with the more fundamental question.

But that will not work for much longer. The contexts for learning and education have changed. As Ackoff says in his book Turning Learning Right Side Up [ ]:
There is no way that the vast majority of teachers, whatever their training, can ever hope to match in their classrooms what students can receive at will from sources of their own choosing (14).

Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools I’ve visited continue to try to do the “wrong thing right.” While few teachers or administrators really believe that learning happens best when kids are grouped by age, or when they are all forced to learn the same things on the same day in the same way, or when we chop up what we’ve chosen for the content into 50-minute periods and different subjects, we do that stuff anyway. And, if you look at the recent Gallup survey of engagement [ ] of almost 1 million students across the US, trying to do the “wrong thing right” is having devastating consequences. Of high school juniors, just 32% say they are “involved and enthusiastic” in school, 17% say they have fun at school, 17% say they “get to do what they do best,” and 16% say they “will invent something that changes the world.”

Read those numbers again, and ask yourself can we possibly be doing the right thing? Can we possibly label our current practices as “effective?”

As with most addictions, the first step to changing this is to admit we have a problem. The signs that we are reaching “peak education” in the traditional system are becoming more and more apparent by the day. (More about that in a later post.) And while I’m not naive enough to suggest that policy makers and vendors and many educators are at all ready to begin the process of moving away from a focus on efficiency toward a focus on effectiveness, that shouldn’t stop individual teachers or school systems from starting down that path.

Doing the right thing in schools starts with one fairly straightforward question: What do you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply in their lives? Once you’ve answered that as an individual and as a school community, the question that follows is does your practice in classrooms with kids honor those beliefs? In other words, if you believe that kids learn best when they have authentic reasons for learning, when their work lives in the world in some real way, when they are pursuing answers to questions that they themselves find interesting, when they’re not constrained by a schedule or a curriculum, when they are having fun, and when they can learn with other students and teachers, then are you giving priority to those conditions in the classroom? Are you acting on your beliefs?

I’m working with districts where this is the root question, and where the answer is the fundamental driver for every decision made within the system. It’s a recognition that the roles and responsibilities of the system have irrevocably changed due to the shifts in the world we’ve seen over the last two decades. And it’s also a recognition that we have to approach our work with children from an entirely different angle than what we are accustomed to. But make no mistake, it’s a long, difficult process of change to endure.

This is not the first time in our history that we’ve faced such a seismic shift in our needs regarding schools and education. As Ackoff writes:
Here, a culture declaring itself to be the protector of individual liberty, and affording seemingly boundless opportunities for the expression of personal freedom, the challenge of creating a large, docile population that would accept the dominance of the factory system in their lives was enormous. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, it became clear that the only way to succeed with industrializing (and hence modernizing) this country was to find a way to break the inherently free human spirit during childhood (Kindle 177.)

As we are confronted with “modernizing” this country once again, it’s a focus on that “inherently free human spirit during childhood” that is once again at the core of our work. But instead of finding ways to break that spirit in children, this time around we must “do the right thing” and allow it to flourish in profound and beautiful ways for learning."
2016  willrichardson  russellackoff  peterdrucker  unschooling  deschooling  learning  education  schools  schooldesign  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwelearn  teaching  efficience  data  childhood  children  school  agesegregation  disciplines  interdisciplinary  efficiency  edtech  politics  policy  schedules  scheduling  assessment  curriculum  sfsh 
march 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism -
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — counter-constraint #1: non-progress dogma
"The world’s fairs also offer their insights into this dichotic system. For example, Futurama’s hidden agendas are strikingly revealed in E. L. Doctorow’s novel World’s Fair (1985). As a family leaves the exhibit, the father says: ‘“When the time comes General Motors isn’t going to build the highways, the federal government is. With money from us taxpayers.” He smiled. “So General Motors is telling us what they expect from us: we must build them the highways so they can sell us the cars.”’

Bel Geddes’s vision of super-highways largely came true, but so did various dystopian imaginaries that were generated out of the Futurama vision. In ‘Futurama, Autogeddon’, Helen Burgess describes the way in which ‘a messy, always-under-construction, polluted highway system, beaming cheerfully forward into the future, is reflected back to us in the second half of the century as a degraded landscape in J. G. Ballard’s Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition. In these tales,’ Burgess writes,

Bel Geddes’ optimistic narrative of the Interstate has collapsed … because the Interstate system is unsustainable - both narratively and ecologically. The ghosts of the highway call back to us from these future narratives, reminding us that death is just around the next bend.

Progress dogma as an eternally recurring phenomenon

The progress boosterism in the West of the 19th century was followed by two highly regressive world wars. Yet the postwar period saw an almost immediate return to … optimism! Progress dogma was reborn! America, isolated from the worst ravages of the two World Wars, kept blowing the trumpet for progress, and the other western countries followed. The lessons of history continued, and continue, to fall on deaf ears.

Designing counter-constraints

We realise now that we’ve not set ourselves an easy task. These are massive, complex systems that are more easily identified and critiqued than challenged with alternatives. But inaction is no solution. So we’ll go on, inspired by historical examples of how critical approaches have impacted on specific research directions and undermined progress dogma. The public inquiry into genetically modified food development in Europe and the consequent demonising of an entire scientific area (‘Frankenstein foods’) led by certain newspapers is one example of technology being steered away from its intended trajectory. In that case, however, the approach was problematic because the debate was simplified as a contest between good and evil, dystopia vs. utopia, rather than being an open and constructive dialogue. As this article suggests, the reality is often more nuanced and complex than a simple binary opposition can express.

So how do we move toward a more constructive approach to counter-constraints?
Here, as a discussion starter, are some first steps:

1. Stop assuming that, through technology, the future will be better than the present.
2. Be wary of too-positive presentations of technological future solutions.
3. Don’t assume that any of society’s problems will be solved by technology alone.
4. Do assume that for every benefit a new technology brings there will be unforeseen implications.
5. Remember to ask: ‘Progress for whom?’
6. And: ‘What in this specific case does progress actually mean?’
7. Remember that progress is easily confused with automation. Or efficiency.
8. Watch Adam Curtis’s The Century of the Self (and then watch it again).
9. Find ways of encouraging a critical perspective in others, without being a dystopian dick about it.
10. Actively start building the future you want, with or without technology.

One approach where we have first-hand experience and that begins to address point 10 is speculative design, which aims to facilitate a more critical and considered approach to future-formation. By countering the constraints that limit normative design to slavishly serving the market, speculative design is free to present futures that are neither explicitly utopian or dystopian. Using this approach we can explore possible scenarios when specific emerging technologies collide with everyday life. Or we can see what happens when we apply alternative configurations of contemporary technologies or systems to generate fresh perspectives on particular problems (a counter-constraint to constraint no. 2: legacies of the past, which we’ll return to in a future post). Speculation is time well spent.

We’ll give further thought to counter-constraints over a game of ping-pong on our rough-hewn autoprogettazione table, followed by coffee and toast. More, much more, to come. "
crapfutures  counter-constraints  futures  speculativedesign  design  2016  technosolutionism  technology  progress  progressdogma  automation  efficiency  normanbelgeddes  eames  productification  utopia  dystopia  resistance  richardbarbrook  processfatigue  eldoctorow  helenburgess  interstatehighways  cars  history  optimism  sustainability  boosterism  adamcurtis  thecenturyoftheself  statusanxiety  bladerunner  pollution  traffic  futurama  world'sfairs  1939  1964  ibm 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Website Obesity Crisis
"Let me start by saying that beautiful websites come in all sizes and page weights. I love big websites packed with images. I love high-resolution video. I love sprawling Javascript experiments or well-designed web apps.

This talk isn't about any of those. It's about mostly-text sites that, for unfathomable reasons, are growing bigger with every passing year.

While I'll be using examples to keep the talk from getting too abstract, I’m not here to shame anyone, except some companies (Medium) that should know better and are intentionally breaking the web.

The Crisis

What do I mean by a website obesity crisis?

Here’s an article on GigaOm from 2012 titled "The Growing Epidemic of Page Bloat". It warns that the average web page is over a megabyte in size.

The article itself is 1.8 megabytes long."

Here's an almost identical article from the same website two years later, called “The Overweight Web". This article warns that average page size is approaching 2 megabytes.

That article is 3 megabytes long.

If present trends continue, there is the real chance that articles warning about page bloat could exceed 5 megabytes in size by 2020.

The problem with picking any particular size as a threshold is that it encourages us to define deviancy down. Today’s egregiously bloated site becomes tomorrow’s typical page, and next year’s elegantly slim design.

I would like to anchor the discussion in something more timeless.

To repeat a suggestion I made on Twitter, I contend that text-based websites should not exceed in size the major works of Russian literature.

This is a generous yardstick. I could have picked French literature, full of slim little books, but I intentionally went with Russian novels and their reputation for ponderousness.

In Goncharov's Oblomov, for example, the title character spends the first hundred pages just getting out of bed.

If you open that tweet in a browser, you'll see the page is 900 KB big.
That's almost 100 KB more than the full text of The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov’s funny and enigmatic novel about the Devil visiting Moscow with his retinue (complete with a giant cat!) during the Great Purge of 1937, intercut with an odd vision of the life of Pontius Pilate, Jesus Christ, and the devoted but unreliable apostle Matthew.

For a single tweet.

Or consider this 400-word-long Medium article on bloat, which includes the sentence:

"Teams that don’t understand who they’re building for, and why, are prone to make bloated products."

The Medium team has somehow made this nugget of thought require 1.2 megabytes.

That's longer than Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky’s psychological thriller about an impoverished student who fills his head with thoughts of Napoleon and talks himself into murdering an elderly money lender.
Racked by guilt, so rattled by his crime that he even forgets to grab the money, Raskolnikov finds himself pursued in a cat-and-mouse game by a clever prosecutor and finds redemption in the unlikely love of a saintly prostitute.

Dostoevski wrote this all by hand, by candlelight, with a goddamned feather."

"Everyone admits there’s a problem. These pages are bad enough on a laptop (my fan spun for the entire three weeks I was preparing this talk), but they are hell on mobile devices. So publishers are taking action.

In May 2015, Facebook introduced ‘Instant Articles’, a special format for news stories designed to appear within the Facebook site, and to load nearly instantly.

Facebook made the announcement on a 6.8 megabyte webpage dominated by a giant headshot of some dude. He doesn’t even work for Facebook, he’s just the National Geographic photo editor.

Further down the page, you'll find a 41 megabyte video, the only way to find out more about the project. In the video, this editor rhapsodizes about exciting misfeatures of the new instant format like tilt-to-pan images, which means if you don't hold your phone steady, the photos will drift around like a Ken Burns documentary.

Facebook has also launched, an effort to expand Internet access. The stirring homepage includes stories of people from across the developing world, and what getting Internet access has meant for them.
You know what’s coming next. When I left the homepage open in Chrome over lunch, I came back to find it had transferred over a quarter gigabyte of data.

Surely, you'll say, there's no way the globe in the background of a page about providing universal web access could be a giant video file?

But I am here to tell you, oh yes it is. They load a huge movie just so the globe can spin.

This is Facebook's message to the world: "The internet is slow. Sit and spin."

And it's not like bad connectivity is a problem unique to the Third World! I've traveled enough here in Australia to know that in rural places in Tasmania and Queensland, vendors treat WiFi like hundred-year-old brandy.

You're welcome to buy as much of it as you want, but it costs a fortune and comes in tiny portions. And after the third or fourth purchase, people start to look at you funny.

Even in well-connected places like Sydney, we've all had the experience of having a poor connection, and almost no battery, while waiting for some huge production of a site to load so we can extract a morsel of information like a restaurant address.

The designers of pointless wank like that Facebook page deserve the ultimate penalty.
They should be forced to use the Apple hockey puck mouse for the remainder of their professional lives. [shouts of horror from the audience]

Google has rolled out a competitor to Instant Articles, which it calls Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP is a special subset of HTML designed to be fast on mobile devices.

Why not just serve regular HTML without stuffing it full of useless crap? The question is left unanswered.

The AMP project is ostentatiously open source, and all kinds of publishers have signed on. Out of an abundance of love for the mobile web, Google has volunteered to run the infrastructure, especially the user tracking parts of it.

Jeremy Keith pointed out to me that the page describing AMP is technically infinite in size. If you open it in Chrome, it will keep downloading the same 3.4 megabyte carousel video forever.
If you open it in Safari, where the carousel is broken, the page still manages to fill 4 megabytes.

These comically huge homepages for projects designed to make the web faster are the equivalent of watching a fitness video where the presenter is just standing there, eating pizza and cookies.

The world's greatest tech companies can't even make these tiny text sites, describing their flagship projects to reduce page bloat, lightweight and fast on mobile.

I can't think of a more complete admission of defeat."

"The other vision is of the web as Call of Duty—an exquisitely produced, kind-of-but-not-really-participatory guided experience with breathtaking effects and lots of opportunities to make in-game purchases.

Creating this kind of Web requires a large team of specialists. No one person can understand the whole pipeline, nor is anyone expected to. Even if someone could master all the technologies in play, the production costs would be prohibitive.

The user experience in this kind of Web is that of being carried along, with the illusion of agency, within fairly strict limits. There's an obvious path you're supposed to follow, and disincentives to keep you straying from it. As a bonus, the game encodes a whole problematic political agenda. The only way to reject it is not to play.

Despite the lavish production values, there's a strange sameness to everything. You're always in the same brown war zone.

With great effort and skill, you might be able make minor modifications to this game world. But most people will end up playing exactly the way the publishers intend. It's passive entertainment with occasional button-mashing.

Everything we do to make it harder to create a website or edit a web page, and harder to learn to code by viewing source, promotes that consumerist vision of the web.

Pretending that one needs a team of professionals to put simple articles online will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overcomplicating the web means lifting up the ladder that used to make it possible for people to teach themselves and surprise everyone with unexpected new ideas

Here's the hortatory part of the talk:

Let’s preserve the web as the hypertext medium it is, the only thing of its kind in the world, and not turn it into another medium for consumption, like we have so many examples of already.

Let’s commit to the idea that as computers get faster, and as networks get faster, the web should also get faster.

Let’s not allow the panicked dinosaurs of online publishing to trample us as they stampede away from the meteor. Instead, let's hide in our holes and watch nature take its beautiful course.

Most importantly, let’s break the back of the online surveillance establishment that threatens not just our livelihood, but our liberty. Not only here in Australia, but in America, Europe, the UK—in every free country where the idea of permanent, total surveillance sounded like bad science fiction even ten years ago.

The way to keep giant companies from sterilizing the Internet is to make their sites irrelevant. If all the cool stuff happens elsewhere, people will follow. We did this with AOL and Prodigy, and we can do it again.

For this to happen, it's vital that the web stay participatory. That means not just making sites small enough so the whole world can visit them, but small enough so that people can learn to build their own, by example.

I don't care about bloat because it's inefficient. I care about it because it makes the web inaccessible.

Keeping the Web simple keeps it awesome."
pagebloat  webdesign  maciejceglowski  2015  webdev  participatory  openweb  internet  web  online  minecraft  accessibility  efficiency  aesthetics  cloud  cloudcomputing  amazonwebservices  backend  paypal  google  docker  websites  wired  theverge  medium  javascript  advertising  ads  acceleratedmobilepages  mobile  html  facebook  freebasics  jeremykeith  timkadlec  facebookinstantarticles  maciejcegłowski 
january 2016 by robertogreco
I want to live in a baugruppe | Grist
"Eliason introduces baugruppen here. The basic idea is that a group of people comes together to work directly with architects and designers, bypassing developers, to build a shared dwelling that they own collectively (a co-op, basically). Taking developers out of the picture saves money — 25 to 30 percent in Berlin, where baugruppen are common — and opens up space for much more ambitious, innovative, and sustainable architecture. It also fosters cooperation and community among members of the collective.

In this post, Eliason notes that many jurisdictions (Freiburg, Tuebingen, Hamburg, and Berlin) recognize the benefits of baugruppen and structure public policy to encourage them. “There are a number of solid reasons why cities should be interested in stimulating and facilitating such undertakings,” he says. “Jobs, affordable housing within city limits, maintaining or expanding the tax base, and stimulating development of vacant/awkwardly shaped/smaller lots developers may see as too risky are just a few.”

This post covers why baugruppen tend to save money over conventional developer-driven projects. I like this in particular:
For me, the big point on cost-effectiveness is that a member gets a unit tailored to their specific needs — as well as desired communal spaces if space and budget allows. Developers don’t normally fine-tune projects like this, as it would add even more cost and time. Additionally, development projects tend to be directed towards the average user, whom they try to appeal to, however there are some notable exceptions to this, especially here in Seattle. But before a BG even brings on an architect (assuming there isn’t one already in the group) — they’ll have discussed the type of lifestyle they would like to live, the type of building they would like to dwell in. A bunch of musically-oriented families founding a BG? They might plan a rehearsal space as part of the common area. Older couples might want a co-owned guest unit they could let their friends or children stay in, thus keeping their unit smaller and more affordable. Want a say in what color your facade is? How about typical finishes in common areas? BGs can offer that level of communal authorship.

This post is about the innovative efficiency and sustainability measures popping up in baugruppen. This one is about the wide variety of sizes and styles among them. And this one is about the communities that form around them:
There are a number of ways baugruppen are formed — some are initiated by friends or acquaintances that already share a common bond or set of core values. Others need additional members, and declare a strong central concept (bikes only! DINKS ok! Intergenerational granola-loving families!), a rallying cry for those that may be interested in joining up. …

Once formed, a large amount of community buy-in must take place. To actually build a baugruppe is no small feat. Like co-housing, the design process of many baugruppen is driven by future tenants. Concepts, themes and ideas are developed, processes are formulated to move project planning forward. The land situation must be worked out. Architects work with the owners on the design — both groups bringing needs and constraints to the table. This is not usually the case with developer-initiated projects, but on the best projects, it is this close collaboration with clients that really drives success. There has to be consensus amongst the members to move forward, schedules have to be maintained. This is a process of give and take — actual democracy in action! Though the process may take more time (e.g. weekly meetings for up to and over a year) and definitely involves challenges (There should be bike storage! The stairs should be yellow!) — it seems like a great way to engage your future neighbors while formulating a building that meets your needs in a way other models can’t or won’t. Imagine having a say in whether or not your building would have a roof terrace, or how your building engages the public! Want to implement ecological and social requirements for a project? Then do it! How about prioritizing car-free living like in Vauban? Go for it! This process seems to induce a greater sense of pride, respect and sense of community than other models — perhaps owing to the greater degree of trust and respect garnered through the planning process.

All the posts are filled with specific examples (and photos) of baugruppen. Check them out.

As Eliason says, this mostly seems to be happening in Germany (which is way ahead on community energy projects too). But it sounds like exactly the kind of thing I have in mind. And I know I can’t be the only one who dreams of sustainable urban living, with a community and a home that reflect my values."
cohousing  germany  baugruppe  housing  architecture  cities  2013  energy  development  efficiency  sustainability  baugruppen 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"

"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."

"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Not-yetness | the red pincushion
"I have done several talks lately about the idea of not-yetness. It’s an idea that Jen Ross (University of Edinburgh) and I first wrote about in our chapter, Complexity, mess, and not-yetness: Teaching online with emerging technologies, to be published in the forthcoming second edition of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. In the first edition of the book, our esteemed editor, George Veletsianos, wrote about defining emerging technologies. He wrote that emerging technologies can be both old and new technologies and they are constantly-evolving organisms that experience hype cycles. George also noted that emerging technologies satisfy two “not yet” conditions: they are not fully understood, and not fully researched.

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

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

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

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

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

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

• promote creativity, play, exploration, awe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

[Follow-up post: ]
amycollier  via:steelemaley  messiness  unschooling  learning  emergent  emergence  emergentcurriculum  2015  lego  not-yetness  gardnercampbell  edtech  noelgough  pedagogy  instructions  directinstruction  mikecaulfield  brentdavis  dennissumara  complexity  curriculum  tcsnmy  howwelearn  howweteach  online  web  georgeveletsianos  emergenttechnologies  technology  simplification  efficiency  quantification  measurement  cv  hamishmacleod  clarao'shea  sianbayne  randybass  open  openness  jenross  criticalpedagogy  recursion  spiraling  rhizomaticlearning  nonlinear  deschooling  meaningmaking  understanding  depth  unpredictability  unfinished  behavior  power  responsibility  sustainability  reach  contact  lcproject  openstudioproject  teaching  education  schools  cocreation  non-linear  alinear  linearity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Quit Ordering From Uber-for-Food Start-Ups - The Atlantic
[This is Josephine: ]

"I work some days from a small office in San Francisco, and every day, I gotta eat. For a stretch of several weeks this year, I obtained my lunch from an iPhone app called Sprig.

It’s a beautiful piece of software. A trompe l’oeil table offers a compact slate of choices for lunch and dinner, all photographed beautifully from above. On the day I’m writing this, I can get a Caesar salad ($11), blackened chicken with broccoli ($11), a lamb-kofta wrap ($11), a tequila-lime shrimp salad ($13), or a kimchi veggie bowl ($10). Everything is organic, with sources all specified. The chicken comes from Petaluma.

* * *

I work some days from my apartment in Berkeley, and every day, I gotta eat. Two or three times a month, I obtain lunch or dinner from a network called Josephine.

The first time I encountered Josephine, its website was a bare page that instructed you to enter your phone number and “join our SMS list.” The design is only slightly more elaborate today; there’s still no iPhone app.

Josephine doesn’t prepare any meals itself. Instead, it screens home cooks and takes orders on their behalf. On the day I’m writing this, I can get carrot soup ($11) from Lisa in Oakland or pho ($13) from Hai in Emeryville. That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, there’s chicken and dumplings ($11) from Suzie in Albany or veggie enchiladas ($8) from Afiba in Fruitvale. The menu extends out two weeks; Josephine is less “I’m hungry now” and more “I expect to be hungry on Thursday, so I’d better line something up.” The photography is rough-and-ready, Etsy-caliber, and the dishes are described by the cooks themselves.

* * *

Sprig sells on speed: From selection to delivery, it’s twenty minutes. The experience is identical to an order from Seamless or GrubHub. A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.

Meals from Sprig arrive reliably deflated from their in-app depictions: soggier, less composed. The quality of the food ranges, in my experience, from “sure, I can eat this” to very good indeed. It’s approximately equivalent to what you’d get in a nice cafeteria; better than Kaiser Permanente’s, not as good as Facebook’s.

“Gotta eat” is a rumble in the belly, a business opportunity, and a public-health crisis all rolled into one, and to address it, Sprig is building the biggest, nicest cafeteria ever. The ambition is clear: Sprig in every city, with longer menus, better ingredients, faster delivery. I can see them: the drones dropping lamb kofta from the sky.

But there’s more to any cafeteria than the serving line, and Sprig’s app offers no photograph of that other part. This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.

I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.

What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?

* * *

Meals from Josephine are not available for delivery.

On the day of your order, a text message arrives bearing a street address. You ride over on your bicycle and spot a Josephine sign taped to the front door, which is ajar. You step inside; the feeling is both clandestine and transgressive. In the kitchen, the cook—your neighbor—is working. Maybe another customer—also your neighbor—is lingering. You announce yourself, say hello, receive your meal. Chat a bit, if you like. Carry it home in a bag dangling from your handlebars.

It definitely takes more than twenty minutes.

But I will tell you that my Josephine pickups have been utterly reliable generators of smiles and warm feelings. I look forward to them, not just because “gotta eat,” but because they unlock my neighborhood, fill in the blank spaces on my mental map. And of course, it’s always fun to see the insides of other people’s houses.

The seriousness of Josephine’s cooks ranges widely. Some are clearly demi-professionals, as polished and efficient as Airbnb hosts; others seem surprised to have people in their kitchen. Some offer fat slices of cornbread as impulse buys; others seem happy to have finished their soup in time.

What unites them is this: They are your neighbors; they have cooked a dish of their own design; they have invited you into their home.

I flaked on a Josephine meal once, and as the pick-up window was closing, my phone rang. It was the cook. “I can leave it out for you,” she offered. I demurred. “Oh, okay,” she said. Her voice betrayed her disappointment. I felt bad all night.

* * *

Sprig started in 2013. Its four founders have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $50 million so far. (It is safe to assume the words "Uber for food" were uttered along the way.) Currently, you can order in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago—the last of which is clearly the test case for national expansion. The Sprig careers page advertises openings in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, and Austin.

Josephine started in 2014. Its two founders also have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $600,000 so far. Mark Bittman recently joined its board of directors. Josephine’s home cooks are mainly scattered around Oakland and Berkeley. In October, the company listed its first batch of meals for San Francisco; on the day I’m writing, there are three home cooks in the city.

If Sprig projects an Amazon-like relentlessness, Josephine feels tenuous; some days, it seems almost too good for this world, too “eat your vegetables,” literally and figuratively. It’s convenient, but not THAT convenient. When it needs more cooks, it can’t simply hire them. Its viability in neighborhoods beyond the Bay Area will depend on instruments subtler than a war chest and an expansion playbook.

* * *

We are alive at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?

It’s like this:

Sprig-type operations drain agency and expertise out of the world. They centralize, aiming to build huge hubs with small spokes; their innermost mechanisms are hidden. They depend on humans behaving as interchangeable units of labor.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Sprig, no one cooks who is not employed by this kind of company.

Josephine cultivates agency and expertise. It decentralizes, aims to build a dense mesh, neighborhood-scale; its mechanisms are public. It depends on humans developing their specific, idiosyncratic tastes and skills.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Josephine, many people don’t cook, but some people cook a lot more, and better, than ever before, and all of us, cooks and non-cooks, derive pleasure from that. We meet on the sidewalk carrying warm veggie enchiladas.

What kills me is the plausibility of the Josephine future. This isn’t some utopian vision; there’s a scale model working in the East Bay today. Neighborhoods everywhere are full of cooks, or would-be cooks; the talent and the desire is thick on the ground.

Josephine employs the most basic tools of telecommunications to make a market and match “gotta eat” with “wanna cook.” This could be the system! The rumble in the belly, the business opportunity, the public-health crisis: The answer to all of it might be waiting next door.

We make these choices, bit by bit. I stopped ordering from Sprig back in the spring, because (a) I don’t like that future and (b) they sent me a truly sub-par chicken sandwich.

Every couple of weeks, or whenever I think of it, I check Josephine for something nearby. The food is always good, at least friend-cooking-dinner good and often better, but honestly, the future is what sells it."
robinsloan  systems  systemsthinking  2015  amazon  sprig  uber  efficiency  josephine  markbittman  decentralization  civics  society  neighborhoods  community  humanity  future  food  cooking  eating  slow  slowness  relentlessness  neighbors  neighborliness  dystopia  technosolutionism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."

"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."

"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Slow education in Spain: Taking time to learn (Learning World: S5E38, 1/3) - YouTube
""Slow education" is a concept put into practise at this school in Spain. It takes into account that each pupil has a different learning speed and rhythm - a fact neglected by conventional teaching methods. It also focuses on individual strenghts, so that pupils do not feel weak. They spend less time being taught and more time learning. How do these kids get on in secondary education? Take a look!

Is slow education also a concept known outside Europe? We explore in China: and Japan: "
sloweducation  slow  education  spain  españa  2015  japan  china  pace  learning  howwelearn  efficiency 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Jennifer Armbrust | Proposals for the Feminine Economy | CreativeMornings/PDX
"“The experimental feminine is all that is not business as usual and vice versa.” — Joan Retallack

What does it look like to embody feminine principles in business? In art? Why does it matter—what’s at stake? What does gender have to do with business? What does business have to do with art? What does capitalism have to do with nature? And what is an economy, anyhow? Can a business be feminist? Why would it want to? Where is money in all of this? Armbrust’s Creative Mornings talk posits a protocol for prototyping an experimental/feminine business."

[Direct link to video: ]
jennarmbrust  via:nicolefenton  2015  capitalism  feminism  masculinity  consciouscapitalism  power  egalitarianism  growth  art  design  criticaltheory  entrepreneurship  business  economics  competition  inequality  ownership  consumerism  consumption  labor  work  efficiency  speed  meritocracy  profit  individualism  scarcity  abundance  poverty  materialism  care  caring  interdependence  vulnerability  embodiment  ease  generosity  collaboration  sustainability  resourcefulness  mindfulness  self-care  gratitude  integrity  honesty  nature  joanretallack  well-being 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Apocalyptic Schadenfreude — Matter — Medium
"In other words, even if this drought is a sign of climates to come, California has plenty of water to support its lifestyle. It just won’t have enough to support its crops, without significant changes to make those farms more water-efficient. It seems bizarre that a region like the Central Valley with just six million people — barely more than 10% of the state’s population — should use so much of the water. But then you realize that the vast majority of people benefiting from that water don’t live in California at all. The Central Valley takes up only 1% of the landmass of the United States, but it produces 25% of the food we eat, and almost half of the fruits or nuts we consume. California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country. The average Times reader sneering at those desert lawns from the Upper West Side might want to think about the canned tomatoes, avocados, and almonds in his or her kitchen before denouncing the irresponsible lifestyles of the California emigres. Because the truth is California doesn’t have a water problem. We all do."
2015  california  drought  water  economics  farming  agriculture  stevenjohnson  efficiency  deserts  centralvalley  climate  climatechange  nytimes  food 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Edutopia | Jacobin
[Too much to quote (still tried and exceeded Pinboard's visible space) so go read the whole thing.]

"Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away."

"Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)

We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.

Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.

Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.

Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Math project, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.

Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.

Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.

According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”

What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored."

"IDEO puts forth the fact that Innova students perform higher than the [Peruvian] national average on math and communication tests as proof that they’ve delivered on their mantra for the project: “affordability, scalability, excellence.”

But if test scores are higher than those of public schools, it is not because of the soul-searching of teacher/designers. It’s because tuition is about a quarter of the national median income. After all, a consistent pattern in the educational research of the past half-century is that the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents is one of the strongest predictors of his or her academic success."

"Design thinking, embraced by key figures in business and especially in the tech industry, insists that educators adopt a perpetually optimistic attitude because that is what it takes to believe everything will turn out okay if we just work together to streamline our efforts. That is what it takes to believe that the best idea is the one that survives group discussion and is adopted. The rabid optimism of the techno-utopian vernacular, with its metaphors that no longer register as metaphors, obscures the market imperatives behind the industry’s vision for the future.

This is intentional. Conflating the future with unambiguous, universal progress puts us all on equal footing. Participating as a citizen in this framework consists of donating your dollar, tweeting your support, wearing your wristband, vowing not to be complacent.

Critiquing the solution only impedes the eventual discovery of the solution. And why make demands for power if you yourself are empowered? Empowerment, as Duncan uses it, is a euphemism. Anger is empowering, frustration is empowering, critique is empowering. Competence is not empowering.

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated."

"The United States is one of just three OECD countries, along with Israel and Turkey, where schools that serve rich families have better resources and more funding than schools that serve poor families. The other thirty-four countries included in the index either provide equal funding for all students or spend a disproportionate amount of money on students from low-income families.

In a country where the top 20 percent of the population earns eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent, this inevitably leads to two distinct and parallel systems of education, one for the rich and one for the poor. It’s not that “money doesn’t matter” for reforming the education system, or that technology can be a substitute, but that children from working-class and poor families score lower on standardized test scores than their wealthy peers — and America has many more poor families than rich."

"One example of the importance of this kind of flexible and evolving practice — especially for children from low-income families — comes from Lisa Delpit, educator and author of Other People’s Children. In talks, Delpit uses a situation she witnessed in a preschool in which a teacher handed out a tray of candy and instructed children to each take a piece and pass on the tray. Some of the children took multiple pieces, and there was not enough to go around.

A teacher evaluating the children without interpreting the context, like a machine, would conclude that the children did not successfully complete the task and need more practice in sharing. In fact, after asking why the children took extra pieces, the human teacher found that they were simply engaging in a different kind of creative economy, saving up a couple of pieces to take home to siblings later.

I suspect the innovation Gates is investing in is not a technological one, but a managerial one. The only truly novel thing Sal Khan has done is produce a cheap and popular way to distribute basic lectures and exercises to a large number of people who like them."

"The firing and disciplining of teachers is also an ideological choice: teachers threaten the ruling class. Though they are atomized as workers into separate classrooms and competing districts, teachers are, as Beverly Silver puts it, strategically located in the social division of labor. If they don’t go to work, no one can — or at least, no one with children to look after. As caretakers, teachers are by definition important and trusted community figures, public care workers who can shut down private production.

In the United States, where the vast majority of families continue to rate their own child’s teacher highly, even while believing the political mantra that the nation’s education system is rapidly deteriorating — unique job protections like tenure serve to further strengthen teachers’ capacity to resist … [more]
meganerickson  2015  whigpunk  education  designthinking  timbrown  ideo  policy  canon  paulofreire  oppression  capitalism  inequality  management  petermclaren  salkhan  khanacademy  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  politics  economics  edwardthorndike  history  bfskinner  psychology  control  power  technosolutionism  progress  technology  edtech  funding  money  priorities  optimism  empowerment  distraction  markets  lisadelpit  otherpeople'schildren  hourofcode  waldorfschools  siliconvalley  schooling  us  democracy  criticalthinking  resistance  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  efficiency  rote  totelearning  habitsofmind  pedagogyoftheopressed  anationatrisk  rotelearning  salmankhan 
march 2015 by robertogreco
UC Berkeley professor designs bricks that could replace air-conditioning |
"UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture Ronald Rael and former professor Virginia San Fratello succeeded in designing 3-D “cool bricks,” a device that could potentially replace air-conditioning systems in hot, arid climates.

Working with their team in Emerging Objects, co-founders Rael and San Fratello have developed porous ceramic bricks set in mortar. The bricks were inspired by a Mascatese cooling window — which consists of a wooden screen and ceramic vessel filled with water — that Rael encountered in one of his research trips.

“We look for ways of how traditional systems can be incorporated into contemporary lifestyles,” Rael said.

Rael was inspired to develop ways to create a water screen out of ceramic instead of wood so that it could be more applicable to current uses.

With the help of Tethon3D — a 3-D ceramic printing company based in Omaha, Nebraska — Rael further developed the right materials that could optimize evaporative cooling technology.

“We collaborated to make the design printable, as well as economical,” said Tethon3D co-founder and president Karen Linder in an email. Tethon3D made the cool bricks with a 3-D printer loaded with dry clay powder and a liquid binder in the shape of the desired model.

According to Rael, the brick is designed with a porous, lattice-like structure, which allows air to flow through it. The process is simple: Like a sponge, the bricks absorb water vapor, which evaporates when it makes contact with warm air. Warm air that passes through the micropores is cooled, ultimately decreasing the entire room temperature.

The cool bricks are not yet ready to be used commercially. The Emerging Objects team, however, is looking ahead toward commercial and humanitarian applications. With further developments, the bricks, which are able to interlock, can be stacked together to potentially create a wall or even an entire house.

Calling it a “less energy-intensive way to humidify air,” Rael said he envisions the bricks being implemented both near and far from home: in the southwestern deserts of the United States, in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Arabian Desert and even in parts of China.

Rael said questions still remain unsolved, however, such as where windows could be located to maximize the amount of air that passes through the bricks, where the water would come from and whether UV rays can be used to prevent mold from forming in the bricks.

The 3-D cool bricks can be seen at Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth, a public exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design, until April 19."
2015  bricks  construction  energy  efficiency  sustainability  ronaldrael  virginiasanfratello  ceramics  insulation  cooling 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Who’s to blame for the digital time deficit? – Judy Wajcman – Aeon
"For all the smart tech, we still feel pressed for time. Are digital services the problem, or are we humans to blame?"

"More than 40 years ago, as a young woman in Melbourne, Australia, I had a pen friend in Papua New Guinea. She lived in a coastal village, an hour’s slow boat trip from the city of Lae. I went to visit her. The abundant tropical fruit, vegetables such as taro and sweet potato, and fish fresh from the sea made up for the mosquitoes that plagued me. No one was in a rush to do anything.

We spent an entire day making coconut milk. I suggested a different way to squeeze the coconut flesh that would allow us to make the milk faster. The young New Guineans looked quizzical. Making coconut milk always took a whole day. There was no hurry, they said. Today I see my interest in saving time and increasing productivity as a peculiar and interesting cultural eccentricity.

Life in the 21st century, we are told, is faster than ever. Time is scarce, the pace of everyday life is accelerating, and everyone complains about how busy they are. High‑speed traders make millions in milliseconds, and people go speed dating where dates lasts around five minutes. Technological innovation, we hear, is dynamic, disruptive, unfolding geometrically, changing everything. But is it true? Digital technology products claim to shrink space and collapse time while also promising to save us valuable time and free us for life’s important things.

If we believe Silicon Valley, a faster, constantly accelerating world is the problem, and the solution is more speed. Apps for better time-management are proliferating. Self-logging wristbands that track everything from heart rates and sleep patterns to mood fluctuations enable us to better monitor our activities. At my local swimming pool in London, I can wear a bracelet to let me know how efficient my swim strokes are. In case I didn’t know this, a flashing sign at the pool reminds me of this app. Some Californian IT geeks have even resorted to liquid food. Sitting down to enjoy, much less cook, a leisurely meal, is squandering time. Time is under assault. It must be saved. Whether it’s Siri or Cortana (the helpful, accommodating female voice) on your phone, ‘she’ lets you ‘use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings and place phone calls’ while, driving or exercising. Less time, more speed.

If digital technology saves time, how come so many of us feel rushed and harried? Technological utopians once dreamt of the post-industrial society as one of leisure. Instead, we are more like characters in Alice in Wonderland, running ever faster and faster to stand still. Is digital technology at once the cause of time pressure and its solution? Is Sherry Turkle right when she argues in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011) that social media has replaced communicating with connecting? Is Tim Wu, a leading authority on net neutrality, right when he says that ‘attention’ is the new scarce resource?"

"Of course, there is a difference between objective quantity of time passing and peoples' experience of that time. Minutes, hours or days can feel either interminable or fleeting, depending on the person and the activity. This is why time-use studies are important. Time-use studies – where people keep detailed daily diaries about what they actually do – help mitigate against the subjective experience of time so we know better how people actually spend their time. Importantly, time-use studies show that, overall, the amount of leisure we have has not decreased. Of course, it varies a great deal between different groups (for example, between professionals who work long hours but are time-poor, and the time-rich who work few or no hours but are poor), but in the past half-century, overall leisure time has remained about the same."

"So does it matter, then, what sort of machinery we have? Are digital technologies at all complicit in our sense of time pressure? I think it matters a great deal. Our cultural expectations of speed are constantly fed by technological innovation, but not always in predictable or envisioned ways, and certainly not always in the ways promised by tech innovators.

Even if actual implementation often finds technology doing things that its designers did not envision, the tools still matter. Human beings build the present and imagine the future with tools designed for certain purposes, and there are more reasons than ever to think about what kind of society we want those tools to advance."

"The constant upgrading of computer software and hardware is another example. I went to the Apple store to get my iPod repaired and was told: ‘Two years old, madam! We certainly can’t repair things that are two years old.’ Much of so-called innovation is trivial; it is really a way of locking people into existing products, enforced obsolescence and higher profits. The flip side of accelerated novelty production – the continual simulation of the new – is a mounting pile of trash.

Would a computer that lasted years, could be easily updated, repaired and upgraded, and was easy to learn and use, be better for most people than a computer that came with new software and features every few years but had to be replaced? The time it takes us to maintain our digital infrastructure at home, the work of continually upgrading our machines and getting used to new software, is significant. This real consumption of time is never discussed by the tech industry. Their story, and the temporal story of technology that we tend to favour, is the early moments of inception and the heroic inventors. What about the breakdowns, the maintenance and the repairs? What about that ever-mounting pile of plastic trash? I don’t know where to draw the line, but I am certain these questions need to be considered.

To be absolutely clear, I’m not nostalgic for a more natural, less digitised past. Neither do I see the emerging slow time movements (whether it’s Slow Food or mindfulness) as the solution. Individualistic adaptations will not solve problems requiring collective, societal wide change. The emancipatory potential of new technological developments is real and, to me, fascinating. I’ve spent most of my life studying them. One thing I have learned however is that innovation is not imagination, and that the world imagined by tech visionaries is not in fact such a brave or new one.

If technology is going to contribute to a better world, people must think about the world in which they want to live. Put simply, it means thinking about social problems first and then thinking of technological solutions, rather than inventing technologies and trying to find problems they might solve.

We can’t do this while the people who design our technology and decide what is made are so unrepresentative of society. The most powerful companies in the world today – such as Microsoft, Apple and Google – are basically engineering companies and, whether in the US or Japan, they employ few women, minorities or people over 40. Recently, Jesse Jackson, the American civil rights leader, has called attention to the tiny number of women, Hispanics and African Americans employed by tech industries. Such skewed organisational demographics inevitably influence the kind of technology produced."

"Futuristic visions based on how technology can speed up the world tend to be inherently conservative, or even sometimes regressive. They do not pose imaginative or challenging questions about alternative social relationships and ways of life. The future on offer is one in which everything is faster and easier, but stays the same.

If we feel pressed for time today, it is not because of technology, but because of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set. Digital time is no different – ultimately it needs to be understood as a product of the ways in which humans use, interact with and indeed build technology. If we want technology to bring us a better future, we must contest the imperative of speed and democratise engineering. We must bring more imagination to the field of technological innovation. Most of all, we must ask bigger questions about what kind of society we want. Technology will follow, as it usually does."
technology  productivity  efficiency  2015  judywajcman  speed  digital  time  innovation  well-being  leisure  slow  parenting  busyness  hyperproductivity  environment  via:anne  society  work 
march 2015 by robertogreco
SOLARPUNKS [a snip from E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful]
"The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern — amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus, if the purpose of clothing is a certain amount of temperature comfort and an attractive appearance, the task is to attain this purpose with the smallest possible effort, that is, with the smallest annual destruction of cloth and with the help of designs that involve the smallest possible input of toil. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern west, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skilful draping of uncut material. It would be the height of folly to make material so that it should wear out quickly and the height of barbarity to make anything ugly, shabby or mean. What has just been said about clothing applies equally to all other human requirements. The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means."

— E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful [ ]
efschumacher  buddhism  smallisbeautiful  economics  simplicity  nonviolence  consumption  well-being  ownership  consumerism  comfort  effort  efficiency  clothing  1973 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich: Why Work Is Turning Into a Nightmare | Alternet
"How would you like to live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots' owners?

Meanwhile, human beings do the work that's unpredictable - odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours - and patch together barely enough to live on.

Brace yourself. This is the economy we're now barreling toward.

They're Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel's on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap's on-line doctors.

They're Mechanical Turks.

The euphemism is the "share" economy. A more accurate term would be the "share-the-scraps" economy.

New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they're needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment.

Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability.

The big money goes to the corporations that own the software. The scraps go to the on-demand workers.

Consider Amazon's "Mechanical Turk." Amazon calls it "a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence."

In reality, it's an Internet job board offering minimal pay for mindlessly-boring bite-sized chores. Computers can't do them because they require some minimal judgment, so human beings do them for peanuts -- say, writing a product description, for $3; or choosing the best of several photographs, for 30 cents; or deciphering handwriting, for 50 cents.

Amazon takes a healthy cut of every transaction.

This is the logical culmination of a process that began thirty years ago when corporations began turning over full-time jobs to temporary workers, independent contractors, free-lancers, and consultants.

It was a way to shift risks and uncertainties onto the workers - work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stressful than expected.

And a way to circumvent labor laws that set minimal standards for wages, hours, and working conditions. And that enabled employees to join together to bargain for better pay and benefits.

The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards completely.

In effect, on-demand work is a reversion to the piece work of the nineteenth century - when workers had no power and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost nothing.

Uber drivers use their own cars, take out their own insurance, work as many hours as they want or can - and pay Uber a fat percent. Worker safety? Social Security? Uber says it's not the employer so it's not responsible.

Amazon's Mechanical Turks work for pennies, literally. Minimum wage? Time-and-a half for overtime? Amazon says it just connects buyers and sellers so it's not responsible.

Defenders of on-demand work emphasize its flexibility. Workers can put in whatever time they want, work around their schedules, fill in the downtime in their calendars.

"People are monetizing their own downtime," says Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University's business school.

But this argument confuses "downtime" with the time people normally reserve for the rest of their lives.

There are still only twenty-four hours in a day. When "downtime" is turned into work time, and that work time is unpredictable and low-paid, what happens to personal relationships? Family? One's own health?

Other proponents of on-demand work point to studies, such as one recently commissioned by Uber, showing Uber's on-demand workers to be "happy."

But how many of them would be happier with a good-paying job offering regular hours?

An opportunity to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attractive in an economy whose median wage has been stagnant for thirty years and almost all of whose economic gains have been going to the top.

That doesn't make the opportunity a great deal. It only shows how bad a deal most working people have otherwise been getting.

Defenders also point out that as on-demand work continues to grow, on-demand workers are joining together in guild-like groups to buy insurance and other benefits.

But, notably, they aren't using their bargaining power to get a larger share of the income they pull in, or steadier hours. That would be a union - something that Uber, Amazon, and other on-demand companies don't want.

Some economists laud on-demand work as a means of utilizing people moreefficiently.

But the biggest economic challenge we face isn't using people more efficiently. It's allocating work and the gains from work more decently.

On this measure, the share-the-scraps economy is hurtling us backwards."
robertreich  2015  economics  sharingeconomy  society  work  labor  ondemand  uber  efficiency  unions  insurance  benefits  downtime  responsibility  wages  employment  freelance  regulation 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — The Inner Life of Rebellion | On Being
"The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin and Quaker wise man Parker Palmer come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change."

[Also here:

and in clips

“Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — Learning in Public”

“Courtney Martin — A New Relationship with Rebellion”

“Parker Palmer — Holding the Paradox of Chutzpah and Humility” ]
parkerpalmer  courtneymartin  comfort  persistence  rebellion  rebels  humility  burnout  discomfort  2015  depression  sustainability  resilience  mentalhealth  socialchange  savingtheworld  generations  agesegregation  intergenerational  interconnectedness  activism  reflection  service  idealism  privilege  success  efficiency  emotions  learning  howwelearn  piaget  listening  pause  ethics  busyness  resistance  soul  identity  maryoliver  attentiveness  attention  quakers  clinicaldepression  learninginpublic  living  love  flipflopping  mindchanging  malcolmx  victoriasafford  hope  jeanpiaget  onbeing  mindchanges  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Chain restaurants are killing us: Billionaire bankers, minimum-wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation -
"At both the corporate and the franchise level, industry officials are keeping their mouths shut about the strike, and for obvious reasons. Acknowledging worker discontent is a no-win situation for enterprises that have invested so much in depicting themselves as enclaves of family-friendly happiness. I mean, nothing deflates a carefully constructed brand image like an angry worker standing out front screaming about not being able to vaccinate her six-month-old on said brand’s lousy pay.

However, the industry’s D.C. attack dog, Rick Berman, felt no such compunction, and commenced snarling immediately. On the day of the strike in August 2013, his Employment Policies Institute ran a full- page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal featuring a big photo of a Japanese kitchen robot. The fast-food protests “aren’t a battle against management,” the ad proclaimed, but a “battle against technology.” Should workers push too hard for super-size wages, shiny automatons might well be deployed in restaurants across the country, making you-know-who totally redundant.

The ad’s implication was that companies employ humans as an act of charity. If those ingrate humans mouth off too much, those noble companies will just go ahead and take the bottom-line steps they’ve magnanimously refrained from taking until now. “Hard work” and an “honest living” actually mean nothing in this world; capital means everything. Look on my technology, ye powerless, and despair!

I thought about that nightmare of automation for quite a while after Berman’s ad ran. It has a grain of truth to it, of course. Journalists have been replaced with bloggers and crowdsourcing. Factory hands have been replaced with robots. University professors are being replaced with adjuncts and MOOCs. What else might the god Efficiency choose to de-skill?

Here’s a suggestion: the ideological carnival barkers in D.C. As I watched the creaking libertarian apparatus go into action, sending its suit-and-tie spokesmen before the cameras to denounce unions and order fast-food workers to shut up, I wondered how long capital would tolerate its old-fashioned existence. In many cases, these people haven’t had an original thought in years. Their main job is to appear concerned on Fox News and collect a six-figure sinecure at some industry-subsidized think tank. To say that they “work hard” for an “honest living” is to bend meaning to the point where its fragile chicken bones snap beneath its rubbery flesh. In a sane world, they are the ones who would be most profitably replaced, their space in the CNBC octobox taken by Hatsune Miku–style projections, attractive Republican holograms whose free-market patter could be easily cued up by a back-office worker in Bangalore."
fastfood  2014  thomasfrank  chains  economics  capitalism  globalization  banking  minimumwage  us  technology  ideology  health  cities  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cars  deproffessionaliazation  automation  efficiency  productivity  obesity  power  control  inequality  work  labor 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future — Medium
'Living under permanent surveillance and what that means for our freedom'

"Put a collar with a GPS chip around your dog’s neck and from that moment onwards you will be able to follow your dog on an online map and get a notification on your phone whenever your dog is outside a certain area. You want to take good care of your dog, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the collar also functions as a fitness tracker. Now you can set your dog goals and check out graphs with trend lines. It is as Bruce Sterling says: “You are Fluffy’s Zuckerberg”.

What we are doing to our pets, we are also doing to our children.

The ‘Amber Alert’, for example, is incredibly similar to the Pet Tracker. Its users are very happy: “It’s comforting to look at the app and know everyone is where they are supposed to be!” and “The ability to pull out my phone and instantly monitor my son’s location, takes child safety to a whole new level.” In case you were wondering, it is ‘School Ready’ with a silent mode for educational settings.

Then there is ‘The Canary Project’ which focuses on American teens with a driver’s license. If your child is calling somebody, texting or tweeting behind the wheel, you will be instantly notified. You will also get a notification if your child is speeding or is outside the agreed-on territory.

If your child is ignoring your calls and doesn’t reply to your texts, you can use the ‘Ignore no more’ app. It will lock your child’s phone until they call you back. This clearly shows that most surveillance is about control. Control is the reason why we take pleasure in surveilling ourselves more and more.

I won’t go into the ‘Quantified Self’ movement and our tendency to put an endless amount of sensors on our body attempting to get “self knowlegde through numbers”. As we have already taken the next step towards control: algorithmic punishment if we don’t stick to our promises or reach our own goals."

"Normally his self-measured productivity would average around 40%, but with Kara next to him, his productiviy shot upward to 98%. So what do you do with that lesson? You create a wristband that shocks you whenever you fail to keep to your own plan. The wristband integrates well, of course, with other apps in your “productivity ecosystem”."

"On Kickstarter the makers of the ‘Blink’ camera tried to crowdfund 200.000 dollars for their invention. They received over one millions dollars instead. The camera is completely wireless, has a battery that lasts a year and streams HD video straight to your phone."

"I would love to speak about the problems of gentrification in San Francisco, or about a culture where nobody thinks you are crazy when you utter the sentence “Don’t touch me, I’ll fucking sue you” or about the fact this Google Glass user apparently wasn’t ashamed enough about this interaction to not post this video online. But I am going to talk about two other things: the first-person perspective and the illusionary symmetry of the Google Glass.

First the perspective from which this video was filmed. When I saw the video for the first time I was completely fascinated by her own hand which can be seen a few times and at some point flips the bird."

"The American Civil Liberties Union (also known as the ACLU) released a report late last year listing the advantages and disadvantages of bodycams. The privacy concerns of the people who will be filmed voluntarily or involuntarily and of the police officers themselves (remember Ai Weiwei’s guards who were continually watched) are weighed against the impact bodycams might have in combatting arbitrary police violence."

"A short while ago I noticed that you didn’t have to type in book texts anymore when filling in a reCAPTCHA. Nowadays you type in house numbers helping Google, without them asking you, to further digitize the physical world."

"This is the implicit view on humanity that the the big tech monopolies have: an extremely cheap source of labour which can be brought to a high level of productivity through the smart use of machines. To really understand how this works we need to take a short detour to the gambling machines in Las Vegas."

"Taleb has written one of the most important books of this century. It is called ‘Anti-fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder’ and it explores how you should act in a world that is becoming increasingly volatile. According to him, we have allowed efficiency thinking to optimize our world to such an extent that we have lost the flexibility and slack that is necessary for dealing with failure. This is why we can no longer handle any form of risk.

Paradoxically this leads to more repression and a less safe environment. Taleb illustrates this with an analogy about a child which is raised by its parents in a completely sterile environment having a perfect life without any hard times. That child will likely grow up with many allergies and will not be able to navigate the real world.

We need failure to be able to learn, we need inefficiency to be able to recover from mistakes, we have to take risks to make progress and so it is imperative to find a way to celebrate imperfection.

We can only keep some form of true freedom if we manage to do that. If we don’t, we will become cogs in the machines. I want to finish with a quote from Ai Weiwei:
“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.”
aiweiwei  surveillance  privacy  china  hansdezwart  2014  google  maps  mapping  freedom  quantification  tracking  technology  disney  disneyland  bigdog  police  lawenforcement  magicbands  pets  monitoring  pettracker  parenting  teens  youth  mobile  phones  cellphones  amberalert  canaryproject  autonomy  ignorenomore  craiglist  productivity  pavlok  pavlov  garyshteyngart  grindr  inder  bangwithfriends  daveeggers  transparency  thecircle  literature  books  dystopia  lifelogging  blink  narrative  flone  drones  quadcopters  cameras  kevinkelly  davidbrin  googleglass  sarahslocum  aclu  ferguson  michaelbrown  bodycams  cctv  captcha  recaptcha  labor  sousveillance  robots  humans  capitalism  natashadowschüll  design  facebook  amazon  addiction  nassimtaleb  repression  safety  society  howwelearn  learning  imperfection  humanism  disorder  control  power  efficiency  inefficiency  gambling  lasvegas  doom  quantifiedself  measurement  canon  children 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Good Life is a fiction — Medium
"We offload physical effort onto our technologies, but are hence increasingly obliged to engage in other forms of labour in order to sustain the infrastuctures on which those technologies depend; the increasing interdependencies of infrastructure act as multipliers of technological effectiveness, but as they do so they push us further out onto the brittle, skinny branches of the technological path-dependency tree."

For example: to run a tractor, you need diesel, which in turn requires the entire Byzantine global supply chain of the petrochemical industry (not to mention the global military-industrial complex with which it is locked in a seemingly inextricable symbiotic embrace); the electronic components in the tractor’s GPS required small but crucial quantities of the increasingly well-named rare earth metals, plus copper, aluminium, and a whole bunch of other interestingly toxic or inaccessible things; ideas, materials and various forms of energy are collected, processed, distributed and harnessed in countless complex and unseen ways before you can observe them manifest as a tractor ploughing a field. So if you’re really going back to the land, you can’t use any of that stuff, because in doing so you are extending your footprint far beyond your little croft. Perhaps you can find a local blacksmith with whom to barter for some basic tools — but where did he get those pigs of iron from, hmm? Whence came the hardwood of the handles, the coal that fuels the forge? How was it gathered, transported?

The problem here is infrastructure — or, more accurately, the illegibility thereof. I’ve unpacked this idea at greater length already, but for now it suffices to say that infrastructure is as old as argriculture, perhaps even as old as civilisation itself, and as such is one of the great unquestioned assumptions of our lives. You can perform an analysis much like the one I just performed on the tractor on pretty much anything and everything you touch and see in your everyday life — and I recommend you do so, even if just as an occasional exercise, because you will be equipping yourself with a pragmatic wisdom for the troubled years to come. It’s the antidote to Milton Friedman’s libertopian magical thinking about pencils: the market thinks about resources, capital and labour so you don’t have to!

The market makes infrastructure illegible, because everyone’s a sucker for a good magic trick, and who wants to think about where pencils come from?

In order for you to not need to know where pencils come from, many hundreds or thousands of people — hell, maybe even more — have to know a very great deal about where pencils come from. You pay the market price for a pencil because that is the cost of the pencil being Someone Else’s Problem.

But the infrastructural gotcha doesn’t just restrict you from using labour-saving devices; agriculture is even more deeply tied into global supply chains and economic flows than that. Centuries of selective breeding and, more recently, genetic engineering, have produced seed stock for growing plants that resist pests, that yield more or better fruits or seeds, that grow taller and stronger and more tightly, more times per year. But those breeds may be dependent on fertilisers, which are a product of the international chemical industry; they may require more water per hectare than is available in the immediate area, and which must be piped from elsewhere; they may need to be grown in specialist greenhouses with energy-hungry climate control systems, or to be shipped to an optimal market via one or more transport infratructures; they may require chilling or freezing before they make it to the consumer’s household, where they may require further chilling or freezing. In short, the agricultural yield of a plot of land is amplified hugely by the technological multipliers of global infrastructure; remove the influence of that infrastructure, and the yield drops spectacularly, to a point where there is nowhere near enough arable land on the surface of this planet to feed all the people currently living on it.

This is why we can’t go backwards, any more than we can keep running blindly forwards.

To detechnologise and deurbanise the human species and return to its mythological and romanticised agrarian roots, it would be necessary for the vast majority of the human species to die in a very short period of time. Ironically enough, this may well be exactly what comes to pass if we cannot solve the existential crises which solutionism and hairshirt primitivism alike both claim to and fail to address. Over-optimised and hyper-cybernetic systems running at capacity are prone to sudden phase changes and cascading chain-reaction failures; if solutionism simply kicks that can a bit further down the road, then primitivism chooses to pretend it never drank anything that came from a can. Both positions suffer from the same terminal lack of reflexivity that eats like a cancer at the heart of contemporary political discourse: a desperate denialist refusal to consider the wider context from which these problems have emerged."

"If I was to sum up what the Viridian Movement meant to me in practical terms, I’d say it taught me that the answer to bad technology is neither more technology or no technology, but better technology.

More technology is our current solutionist paradigm: if cars pollute, then we’ll make electric cars that displace the pollution somewhere we can’t see it; if cars kill people and clog cities, then we’ll add expert systems and automation to them, so that the roads can handle even more traffic than ever before. More technology has been our approach since the industrial revolution; it’s the approach that has bequeathed us rising global temperatures, psychotic emergent behaviours in stock markets, increasing alienation from our labour, from our world, from each other.

But no technology is pure reactionism, a refusal to acknowledge technology’s role in making your life something other than three score years and change of relentless, thankless labour. No technology is the cry of those who are, unwittingly, more dependent upon technology than anyone else; it is not a cry you will hear in squats, townships and refugee camps, but in leafy suburbs and expensively pristine tourist destinations. No technology is the cry of unchecked privilege, of bleeding-heart middle-class liberalism, of sublimated Puritan guilt manifesting as Protestant condescension, of ignorance mistaking itself for concern.

And better technology?

The first step toward better technology is to make a clear distinction between better technology and more technology.

The second is to realise that better technology doesn’t necessarily mean thinking about what a technology does or how it does it, but about why you wanted the technology in the first place, and what you definitely don’t want it to do; to start and finish every design or strategy by resituating it in its contexts, local and global alike.

The third step toward better technology is to realise that all technologies are effectively hyperspecialised extensions of our infrastructures; to not further obscure and occlude the supply chains and networks in which our lives are embedded, but to expose them, celebrate them, admire and fear and reimagine them; to recognise the role of infrastructure as the sole mediator between our species and the environment which both sustains and threatens us, and as the ultimate arbiter of our civilisational futurity.

The way out is through."
2013  paulgrahamraven  viridianmovement  technology  primitivism  solutionism  technosolutionism  reactionism  rural  urban  infrastructure  future  sustainability  climatechange  efficiency  systemsthinking  agriculture  behavior  complexity  simplicity 
november 2014 by robertogreco
How to Get Away with Uber — Matter — Medium
"The dick-swinging, the gluttony, the not-quite-lies and the full-on bullshit… All of these things, and in particular the spectacular combination of all of these things, are enough to dislike a company, and even to hate it. But it’s incredibly popular, too, because, man, if people vote with their feet — or in this case their fingers — then they keep voting, again and again, for Uber.

And that, in the end, is the real reason so many people hate Uber: Because whatever we do, we can’t stop ourselves from making it bigger and more successful and more terrifying and more necessary. Uber makes everything so easy, which means it shows us who, and what, we really are. It shows us how, whatever objections we might say we hold, we don’t actually care very much at all. We have our beliefs, our morals, our instincts. We have our dislike of douchebags, our mistrust of bad behavior. We have all that. But in the end, it turns out that if something’s 10 percent cheaper and 5 percent faster, we’ll give it all up quicker than we can order a sandwich."
uber  labor  ethics  morality  2014  efficiency  price  compromise  hypocrisy  sharingeconomy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Productivity is Taking Over Our Lives | New Republic
"The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defense against its own realization. 

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

Nor is there any downward cut-off point for “our current obsession with busyness”, as one researcher, Andrew Smart, describes it in his intriguing book Autopilot: the Art and Science of Doing Nothing. Smart observes, appalled, a genre of literary aids for inculcating the discipline of “time management” in children. (Time is not amenable to management: it just keeps passing, whatever you do.) Not allowing children to zone out and do nothing, Smart argues, is probably harming their development. But buckling children into the straitjacket of time management from an early age might seem a sensible way to ensure an agreeably docile new generation of workers."

"This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity—as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult—has nothing to do with its value. Economics does not know how to value Rainer Maria Rilke over a prolific poetaster in receipt of an official laureateship. (One can be confident that, while mooching around European castles and writing nothing for years on end, Rilke would never have worn a T-shirt that announced: “I’m doing work”.) And his life sounds like more fun than one recent Lifehacker article, which eagerly explained how to organise your baseball cap collection by hanging the headwear on shower-curtain hooks arrayed along a rail."
gtd  gttingthingsdone  productivity  control  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  idleness  stevenpoole  2013  time  management  efficiency  davidgraeber  andrewsmart  rainermariarilke 
october 2014 by robertogreco
You Are Asking The Wrong Questions About Education Technology
"Education technology is trendy. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read an article or have a conversation in which someone makes the familiar argument that “education is the one industry that hasn’t embraced the technologies of the 21st Century.” The world has changed–so the story goes–and while business has adapted, school hasn’t.

It sounds convincing. We should certainly embrace tools and technologies that will help educators become more impactful. But we should do it because it works, not for the sake of modern humanity’s obsession with progress, newness, innovation, and disruption. These buzzwords of the industrial age, let’s remember, paved the road that led to the current landscape of education.

The very notion of education as an industry is problematic. School is about transmitting values and principles from one generation to the next, not skillfully organizing labor toward productivity. Education is the child-rearing activity of civilization. We nurture our young into reflective citizens by teaching them the social and epistemological agreements of an increasingly global collective. Educators need to understand that reading, writing, and arithmetic are primarily just mutually agreed upon languages through which we make meaning out of human experience. These disciplines are essentially useful, but only fashionably industrial. That is to say: the languages themselves have much more longevity than the current applications.

For industry, however, applicability is always prioritized over ideology. Thus, running schools according to the wisdom of the business world is precisely the thought paradigm which led to the high stakes testing procedures that currently plague the United States. We account for learning outcomes as if they were profit margins. We measure the dividends returned on technology and infrastructure investments. We see children as industrial resources evaluated according to their ability to download ‘workplace skills.’ And for some bizarre reason–and despite all evidence to the contrary–we continue to expect that these metrics will somehow correlate with intelligent, ethical, and responsible adult individuals. We’ve chosen the wrong perspective.

Implicitly arguing that the problem is poor implementation of industrialization, education pundits around the world often blame inefficient government infrastructures for preventing schools from embracing the appropriate technologies. But when I look at the multi-national corporate world, I’m thankful that bureaucracy provides a necessary filter–it keeps us from moving too fast. After all, the global economy is itself evidence that the hastiness of the digital revolution has been as tumultuous as it has been beneficial. Popular technologies have, in many cases, increased corporate productivity and profitability at the expense of the humans who operate them.

What works for industry will not work for education because, as one recent New York Times article aptly noted, “teaching is not a business.” By now, we should know better than to transplant the intellectual structures of one human activity onto another. The trouble, however, is that we mistakenly believe we can separate the medium from the message.

The Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University’s Graduate School Of Education, has already explained that students see how adults’ actions can betray the intended rhetoric. Studies show that while adults say they value empathy, compassion, and critical thinking, children learn to value achievement measured by grade points. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Students read systems’ implicit messaging while ignoring the explicit talking points. When schools are run according to the conventions of for-profit organizations, we move with impressive efficiency toward a world full of graduates who mistakenly believe enterprising entrepreneurship is a defining value system rather than an important skill set.

Alternatively, we might understand that school is ultimately a ‘technology of the self’ (to borrow a phrase from Michel Foucault). Then, we would first focus on the systematic process through which we nurture individuals’ sense of agency, decorum, and responsibility. School itself becomes the tool which refines individuals into reflective citizens and prioritizes opportunities for emerging human dignity. Education becomes the structure within which narratives of personal and collective identity are contextualized using the intellectual structures and academic skills that we’ve inherited from preceding generations.

Digital tools have the ability to enhance these educational technologies of the self. But we need to make sure that these tools are also aligned with learning outcomes which prioritize human dignity rather than haste, consumption, and algorithmic metrics. Game-based learning is especially useful because the presence of avatars encourages players to step outside of their familiar perspectives and embody alternate ones. Therefore, they nurture the kind of intellectual self-reflection that education psychologists call “metacognitive skills.” Learning games make the question of identity development explicit and therefore truly empower students with the agency to construct their own personal narratives.

Thus far, however, we’ve unfortunately been brainwashed into thinking that educational technologies are neutral. We imagine that tablets and computers are merely tools that transmit unbiased academic content to students. On the contrary, they do much more than that. Embedded in every technological solution is a moral/ethical stance, an image of the good life, and a narrative of the idealized self. The worldwide success of Apple’s marketing is evidence enough that digital gadgets are not only tools with which we manipulate our environment, but also props in a performed identity narrative.

Technologies teach our children how to make sense of the world, how to think about knowledge and information, and how to relate to themselves and to one another. Making sure we agree, in principle, with the tool’s implicit messaging is the most important question we can ask. Yet, it is the one question we most often skip."
jordanshapiro  2014  edtech  technology  luddism  neoluddism  education  learning  howwelearn  ideology  empathy  compassion  criticalthinking  competition  grades  grading  efficiency  entrepreneurship  foucault  agency  decorum  humanism  responsibility  empowerment  games  gaming  howweteach  schools  children  slow  michelfoucault 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Speed Kills: Fast is never fast enough - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster."

"The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."

"The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out."
speed  health  life  trends  2014  via:anne  marktaylor  filippomarinetti  futurists  futuristmanifesto  modernism  modernity  charliechaplin  efficiency  living  slow  thorsteinveblen  wealth  inequality  values  us  growth  economics  writing  finance  education  highered  highereducation  communication  internet  web  online  complexity  systemsthinking  systems  humanities  liberalarts  stem  criticalthinking  creativity  reflection  productivity  reading  howweread  howwewrite  thinking  schools  schooling  evaluation  assessment  quantification  standardization  standardizedtesting  society  interdisciplinary  professionalization  specialization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  learning  howwelearn  howwethink  neuroscience  slowness  deliberation  patience  generosity  consumption  competition  competitiveness  subtlety  sustainability  community  cooperation  nietzsche  capitalism  latecapitalism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Pitfalls of Productivity -
"There’s also the question of who really benefits when workers get more done. Mr. Poole writes critically of companies’ productivity initiatives:

“The latest wheeze is the Big Data field of ‘workforce science,’ in which everything – patterns of emails, the length of telephone calls — may be measured and consigned to a comparative database to create a perfect management panopticon. It is tempting to suspect that the ambition thus to increase ‘worker productivity’ is aimed at getting more work out of each employee for the same (or less) money.”

And while workers who get more productive may initially see raises or promotions, the labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein told Op-Talk, companies will soon come to expect that higher level of productivity from everybody: “over time, and not very much time, the corporation will say ‘this is the new work norm.’” This has already happened, he added, with the expectation that workers be reachable around the clock. A better approach, he said, would be to improve job protections and stability, since workers are actually more productive when their employment is more secure.

For Mr. Bailey, though, productivity doesn’t necessarily mean working more at your job: “I think everybody has a different reason for wanting to become more productive, and I think you should figure that out before you invest in your productivity,” he said. “I think of productivity as way to accomplish more meaningful things in a short amount of time, so you can make more time for the things that are actually important to you.”

And Dr. Gregg suggested that the systems we use to organize our work could be used to bring us together rather than to drive us apart. “I would like to encourage a kind of mindfulness that is less individual and more collective,” she said. Her hope for productivity apps and other technologies is that “they’ll allow us to have a better conversation about collective work practices, and what are the conditions that individuals feel that they need to get done what’s being asked of them in the workplace.”

“Mindfulness can also mean being mindful of others,” she said, “and that’s really the collective labor tradition that I would like to see continue.”"
gtd  gettingthingsdone  productivity  busyness  2014  annanorth  chrisbailey  stevenpoole  frederickwinslowtaylor  efficiency  melissagregg  slow  taylorism  jessicalamb-shapiro  bigdata  nelsonlichtenstein  mindfulness  labor  work  capitalism  industrialization 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Pirates Propose Guaranteed Basic Income - The Reykjavik Grapevine
"Pirates have proposed a congressional statement, directing the Welfare Minister to implement a guaranteed minimum income, what in recent years has also gone under the name of universal basic income or citizen wage.

More precisely, the proposal, made by Halldóra Mogensen, Jón Þór Ólafsson and Birgitta Jónsódttir on Monday, would instruct the Minister to form a team to “map ways to ensure an unconditional minimum income for all the country’s citizens, with the aim to support economic and social rights and eliminate poverty.”

The minimum income movement has risen and gained grounds in various countries in recent years. As cited in the exposition, Switzerland will vote on an implementation of the idea in 2016.

‘Liberty, Equality, Efficiency and Solidarity’

The proposal’s exposition states that in 2013, over 42 thousand people in Iceland, 13,7% of the population, subsisted below the low-income benchmark and/or in danger of social exclusion.

The exposition says that guaranteed minimum income differs from the conditional minimum income common in European welfare systems, by being paid to individuals rather than households, by being independent from other income and by not requiring the individual to have been employed or to be willing to take on any job available.

The authors cite guaranteed income experiments in the USA and Canada between 1968 and 1980, where such programs were found to have little effect on the job market, but ‘considerable effect’ on the physical and mental health of participants. The MINCOME program implemented in Manitoba, Canada between 1974 and 1979, for example, is said to have reduced total healthcare costs by 8.5%.

Authors referred to in support of the proposal include the 18th century English-American revolutionary philosopher Thomas Paine and the 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell, who suggested such an arrangement as early as 1918. The authors say that fundamental underlying notions include ‘liberty, equality, efficiency and solidarity, the earth as a common good of all its inhabitants’ and more.

Facing Future Challenges

The authors of the proposal also cite the 2013 Oxford University report ‘The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to computerization?’, where 47% of all jobs in the US are said in danger of extinction at the hands of technological progress. The fields of transport, communication, office work, administration and production are all predicted to be heavily affected. “It is clear,” states the exposition, “that the current social security system will not be able to handle the costs of this immense technological progress.”

The current social security system, composed of conditional income guarantees, unemployment benefits and municipal financial support, is said to be complex, costly and incoherent, while involving massive information gathering and surveillance. An unconditional guaranteed income may, according to the proposal, thus reduce public expenditure on multiple levels."
iceland  universalbasicincome  economics  policy  pirateparty  2014  solidarity  equality  inequality  poverty  efficiency  politics  labor  ubi 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Goddess of the Rainbow — My brain has been buzzing with ‘How did Solarpunk...
"My brain has been buzzing with ‘How did Solarpunk come to be?’ I think it started in two ways, with the people who had loads of money and the people who had none.

The poor started to live in a more sustainable way because it’s cheaper. They insulated their homes, used passive energy practices and collected solar energy because the power company was extortionate, collected rain-water and used grey-water because the city water was metered and the utility company was charging for every drop, they grew food because produce at the supermarket was unaffordable. Recycling, re-purposing, re-using are all cheaper then buying brand new. An earthship home can be built using trash which they can get for free and build themselves with the help of friends and family. Getting together with your neighbors and helping each other means you can save on childcare, medical care (community clinics and home remedies), education (workshops, sharing knowledge and informal apprenticeships), you can swap good and services instead of paying for them. It’s a much cheaper way of living, but doing it all low-tech and on a shoestring means that there’s a lot of drudgery involved and while they have become more resource rich they have become time-poor.

The rich started to live in a more sustainable way because they could just hand over the cash and then feel good about themselves. There’s exciting, cutting edge, sustainable tech being created but it’s beyond the price range of the poor and even the middle class. The rich start living in sustainable, multi-use, skyscrapers with aquaponic farms and sky gardens. They fill their homes with furniture hand crafted from plantation timber (carbon credits, to offset the mileage of import, built into the price), lovely antiques (hey that’s re-using) and brand new items made with 90% recycled materials. They fork over more and more money to the people inventing, producing and maintaining sustainable tech. The oil barons fall and sustainability tzars rise. But they’re disconnected from their tech, they didn’t make it, so when things break down they either have to pay ever greater amounts to the tzars to fix it or they have to replace it which isn’t really sustainable at all. And they’re disconnected from each other, not needing to go out because their homes produce everything they need and social media brings the world to them.

This is where the two classes look to each other. The poor see that some of that tech could reduce their drudgery and give them leisure time. The rich see that the poor are inventive, resourceful and can find ways to repair or work around anything; they have close-knit communities who share and problem-solve to make everyone’s lives better. So trade begins, tech for ideas. It starts with just the rich hiring the poor to fix thing but it grows into so much more. The rich give the poor the means to free up their time and the poor teach the rich how to live closer to their resources and get their hand dirty. This mixing is especially popular with the young. Young people have always loved new ideas and breaking social barriers, and they lead the charge in the merging of these two societies. They share music and art and fashion. They look to the past for inspiration and re-invent Art Nouveau - it starts as a fad but is soon embraced by everyone. Community forms, with different groups coming together to solve problems and share ideas. As the young people become adults there is intermarriage and children are born who grow up in both worlds. Then the next generation is born into a world where the divide has all but disappeared, the two societies have merged to a point where you can only see the echoes of how they started.

A vibrant culture of people who live everyday with extremely high tech but who still get their hands in the dirt is realized."

[See also: ]

[both via: ]
solarpunk  sustainability  2014  technology  class  leisure  artleisure  community  socialmedia  time  energy  repurposing  reuse  recycling  frugality  efficiency  slow  leisurearts 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Splendid Vagabond: VERY QUICKLY

[Post peak oil resilient communities]

+ [low-energy computing]

+ [internet of things]

+ [adaptation of past technologies]


solarpunk  resilience  peakoil  technology  adaptation  internetofthings  energy  efficiency  iot 
october 2014 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] personal brand as the non-state actor of influence
[audio version: ]

"Access and access at the time of your own choosing is a subtle but important distinction and if we are talking about the opportunity of the Network itself, it is this.

Imagine a world in which access to an exchange of culture required we all have to gather around our computers at the same time in order to read Maciej's latest blog post. Some of us can and if you asked I would tell you it sucked.

When television was the only opporunity we had to gather together outside of and to imagine a world larger than our immediate surroundings we managed to craft genuinely meaningful experiences from it. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise but it would equally wrong to ignore how quickly we opted for the alternative modes – opportunities – that the web provided.

I think that should tell us something and that it is perhaps a quality of the Network being overlooked and perhaps being lost entirely as we devote more and more time and infrastructure in an effort to going viral.

Because we are not all, or will not always be, the kinds of people seeking an audience of many. What the web made possible – at a scale never seen before – was the ability for a individual to discover their so-called community of five. In time. It was the ability for one person to project their voice and for it to echo out across the Network long enough for someone else to find it. It gave us the ability to warm up to an idea, to return to it.

That access to recall is what makes the Network special to me. That is the opporunity which has been granted to us which we would be wrong to confuse with success or even discoverability. We all suffer from degrees of not-in-my-lifetime-itis but that is a kind of deviant behaviour we have already perfected so maybe we should not apply its metrics to the Network, for everyone's benefit.

As has been mentioned I work at a museum. As part of the museum's re-opening in December we are building, from scratch, a custom NFC-enabled stylus which we will give to every vistor upon entry. The stylus (or pen) will allow you to manipulate objects on interactive tables as well as to sketch and design your own creations. That is, literally, what the pointy end of the stylus is for.

The other end is used to touch an object label and record the ID of the object associated with it. That's it. Objects are stored on the pen as you wander around the museum and are then transferred back to the museum during or at the end of your visit and are available for retrieval via a unique shortcode assigned to every visit.

If you buy a ticket online and we know who you are then all the items you've collected or created should already be accessible via your museum account waiting for you by the time you get home or even by the time you get your phone out on the way to the subway. (If you don't already have an account then the visit is considered anonymous and that's just fine, too.)

The use of the pen to collect objects has a couple of objectives:

1. To simply do what people have always wanted to be able to in museums and been forced to accomplish themselves: To remember what you saw during your visit. People take pictures of wall labels, I think, not because they really want to but because there is no other mechanism for recall.

2. To get out of the way; to be intensely quiet and polite. The pen will likely enjoy a certain amount of time in the spotlight but my hope is that it will be successful enough that, when that attention fades, it might simply be taken for granted. To be a necessary technology in the service of memory, that dissolves in to normalcy, rather than being something you need to pay attention to or have an experience with.

3. To give people the confidence to believe that they don't necessarily need to do anything with the things they collect in the moment. To have the confidence to believe that we will keep the things they collect during their visit safe for a time when they will once again be relevant to them. For a person to see the history of one visit in association with all their other visits.

The pen itself is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology because it turns out that taking the conceptually simple act of bookmarking objects in real-life and making it simple in hardware and software is still actually hard. We are not doing this simply for the sake of the challenge but because it provides a way for the museum itself to live with the Network. In these ways we are trying to assert patience. We are, after all, a museum and our only purpose is to play the long game.

I totally didn't say that last paragraph on stage. I should have, though. Instead I talked a little bit about oh yeah, that which is a photo-sharing website which lets you upload a photo and then doesn't let you see it for a year. I talked about it as an experiment in a kind of enforced patience with the Network. I also talked about it an exercise in trying to build a tool that could operate without the adult supervision of my time or money (or much of it, anyway) such that it not be subject to the anxieties of being immediately successful. This, it seems to me, is the work ahead of us. It is not about oh yeah, that or any particular class of applications but about understanding why we are doing this at all and building things to those ends."

If you haven't read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century I would recommend you do. One of the things that makes the book so powerful is that Piketty has been able to shape an argument through the rigorous use of historical data across a number of countries. The data is incomplete in historical terms: The data for the UK is only available from about the 1840s onwards, for the US data becomes available in the 1920s and so on. The one country where the data is available in a comprehensive manner is France. Because they went to the trouble of collecting it. One of the first acts of the state following the French Revolution was to perform an audit of and to continue collecting reliable estimations of wealth and property.

It is that diligence in record-keeping which made it possible for Piketty to illustrate his point in fact rather than intuition. On the web we have been given a similar opportunity to project our stories outwards in the future; to demonstrate a richer past to the present that will follow this one. It is unlikely that it will or even should yield the same fact-based analysis as Piketty's book. That is not the point. The point is that if we subscribe to a point world view that values a multiplicity of stories and understands that history is nuanced across experience and which recognizes that the ability to look backwards as much as forwards is where opportunity lies then we would do well to remember that many of those aspirations are afforded by the Network and in particular the web.

Those qualities are not inherent in the Network no more than access to opportunity guarantees success. They require care and consideration and if it seems like the Network has turned a bit poison we might do well to recognize that maybe we have also been negligent in our expectations, both of the Network and of ourselves.

Damn... you can almost see me exploding in to a TED-sized supernova of emotive jazz-hands at this point. As above, I did not in fact say this while on stage. I tried to say something like it, though, because I think it's true.

One refrain I hear a lot these days is that it's all gotten too hard. That the effort required to create something on the Network and effort to ensure its longevity has morphed in to something far beyonds the means of the individual. I am always struck by these comments not because I think we ought to be leveraging-the-fuck out of the latest, greatest advances in application framework or hosting solutions but for the simple reason that:

We managed to build a lot of cool shit on the back of 56Kb modems. We built a lot of cool shit – including entire communities – on top of a technical infrastructure that is a pale shadow of what we have available to us today. We know how to do this.

It is important to remember that the strength of the web is in its simplicity but in that simplicity – a Network of patient documents – is the opportunity far fewer of us enjoyed before it existed. The opportunity to project one's voice and to posit an argument which might have even a little more weight, or permanance, in the universe than shouting in the wind which is all most people have ever enjoyed. The opportunity to be part of an historical dialog because having an opinion is not de-facto over-sharing.

It is important to remember that the Network has given us the opportunity of a different measure of success."
networks  aaronstraupcope  2014  dconstruct  dconstruct2014  museums  archives  memory  memories  digital  internet  web  history  object  socialobjects  social  proxyobjects  socialnetworks  thomaspiketty  collections  simplicity  williamgibson  technology  cooper-hewitt  maps  mapping  osm  sopenstreetmap  clickbait  coolhunting  anabjain  efficiency  economics  opportunities  maciejceglowski  power  time  cynthiasmith  efficiencies  virality  scalehigh-speedtrading  access  accessibility  recall  nfc  attention  quietness  quiet  normalcy  everyday  maciejcegłowski 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Lying is the best and often also the most ethical way to get a job. at Everything In Between
"For $150, this guy bought a fake résumé & callable references in an industry he’s never worked in. And got hired:
For a small fee, promises to not only craft an elaborate lie based on your exact job specifications but to see it through for as long as necessary. The site will provide a live HR operator and staged supervisor, along with building and hosting a virtual company website—complete with a local phone number and toll-free fax. CareerExcuse will even go so far as to make the fake business show up on Google Maps.

William Schmidt started the site in 2009, after being let go from his job in a round of layoffs during the lowest depths of the recession.

“While we were all unemployed, a couple of my former coworkers asked me to act as their reference for job interviews,” Schmidt recalled. “I did it for free for my friends, but then I realized that this is some there’s a pretty big demand for. It was something I could take to the public.”

He was right. Within the first 24 hours of launching the CareerExcuse site, Schmidt had already received multiple order for his services. He’s quick to brush off ethical concerns, citing horror stories from his clients about being mistreated by their former employers (and thus being unable to acquire a reference) and noting that it becomes more difficult to land a job the longer someone’s been unemployed.

Employment is a racket. So is college.

I dropped out of middle school and never went back to any educational institution, because they’re liars and thieves. All “employable” skills I have I learned while on the very same jobs that I told my hiring managers I already knew how to do, but didn’t until after I got hired, of course.

My first job was in telemarketing, and I was terrible because I spent most of my time trying to find ways around the Windows kiosk so I could play minesweeper. Then they “promoted” me to the office, and I automated my admin assistant job to the point of the push of a button. I’d come to work, press my “do my job” button, and spend the rest of my day reading programming books and learning about Web servers.

I never told my boss that I had automated my job. Why would I? Jobs are intended to take the one thing that’s most valuable away from you: your time.

Eventually, of course, my bosses were finally so impressed with my “efficiency” that they wanted to promote me to an Assistant Database Administrator position with the actual IT department of the company, as opposed to the administrative office assistant position. They thought they were offering me something awesome: a decent raise and a lot more “challenging work.” So, obviously, when presented with the promotion opportunity, I quit on the spot.

The look of surprise on their faces was absolutely priceless.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Now I live out of my car because I recognize that jobs are fundamentally unethical and coercive way of organizing human labor. Jobs are what people do when they are being crushed by the system. Jobs don’t produce social value. They’re a starvation mitigation strategy."
meitarmoscovitz  2014  employment  jobs  education  liars  lying  capitalism  efficiency  productivity  work  labor  resumes  jobapplications  williamschmidt  careerexcuse  dropouts  unschooling  deschooling  learning  automation 
august 2014 by robertogreco
New Statesman | Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary: Sleep is a standing affront to capitalism
"When hungry digital companies measure success in "eyeballs" is sleep the last remaining zone of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity?"

"When I close my laptop, it goes to sleep. It’s a curiously domestic metaphor but it also implies that sleep in humans and other animals is just a kind of low-power standby mode. (Do computers dream of electric sleep?) Last year, Apple announced a twist on this idea: a new feature for the Mac operating system called “Power Nap”. Using Power Nap, your computer can do important things even while asleep, receiving updates and performing backups.

The name Power Nap comes from the term describing the thrusting executive’s purported ability to catch a restorative forty winks in 20 minutes but the functioning of Apple’s feature symbolically implies a yet more ultra-modern and frankly inhuman aspiration: to be “productive” even while dozing. It is the uncanny technological embodiment of the dream most blatantly sold to us by those work-from-home scams online, which promise that you can “make money even while you sleep”.

Sleep, indeed, is a standing affront to capitalism. That is the argument of Jonathan Crary’s provocative and fascinating essay, which takes “24/7” as a spectral umbrella term for round-the-clock consumption and production in today’s world. The human power nap is a macho response to what Crary notes is the alarming shrinkage of sleep in modernity. “The average North American adult now sleeps approximately six and a half hours a night,” he observes, which is “an erosion from eight hours a generation ago” and “ten hours in the early 20th century”.

Back in 1996, Stanley Coren’s book Sleep Thieves blamed insufficient rest for industrial disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown. Crary is worried about the encroachment on sleep because it represents one of the last remaining zones of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity. Isn’t it quite disgusting that, as he notices, public benches are now deliberately engineered to prevent human beings from sleeping on them?

While Apple-branded machines that take working Power Naps are figured as a more efficient species of people, people themselves are increasingly represented as apparatuses to be acted on by machines. Take the popular internet parlance of getting “eyeballs”, which means reaching an audience. “The term ‘eyeballs’ for the site of control,” Crary writes, “repositions human vision as a motor activity that can be subjected to external direction or stimuli . . . The eye is dislodged from the realm of optics and made into an intermediary element of a circuit whose end result is always a motor response of the body to electronic solicitation.”

You can’t get more “eyeballs” if the people to whose brains the eyeballs are physically connected are asleep. Hence the interest – currently military; before long surely commercial, too – in removing our need for sleep with drugs or other modifications. Then we would be more like efficient machines, able to “interact” with (or labour among) electronic media all day and all night. (It is strange, once you think about it, that the phrase “He’s a machine” is now supposed to be a compliment in the sporting arena and the workplace.)

Crary’s denunciation of the 24/7 world’s saturation in web-enabled media results in some splendid formulations – such as when he argues that activists who organise on the internet “voluntarily kettle themselves in cyberspace, where state surveillance, sabotage and manipulation are far easier than in lived communities”.

It also tempts him into some portentous exaggeration. He claims, for instance, that “wireless technologies” have accomplished an “annihilation of the singularity of place and event”. (Radical thinkers often seem to take pleasure in noticing some putative extreme violence in cultural change.)

There is an unfortunate passage arguing that our age has universally dulled everyone’s faculties – except, implicitly, those of the percipient critic: “24/7 is part of an immense incapacitation of visual experience,” Crary declares. “The contingency and variability of the visible world are no longer accessible.” Really, to no one? What’s more, he writes: “Contrary to many claims, there is an ongoing diminution of mental and perceptual capabilities rather than their expansion or modulation.” To this sentence is appended no footnote offering evidence.

Despite such rhetorical surfeit, Crary’s book is, on the whole, a humane and bracingly splenetic counterblast, with a lot of interesting micro-theses along the way. (Forget the heavy breathing of the celebrants of gadgets and networks; according to Crary, “the most important techniques invented in the last 150 years” are “the various systems for the management and control of human beings”.)

Into the baleful realm of 24/7 he draws, too, the diagnostic inflation of the pharmaceutical industry (always “discovering” new mental disorders for which it solicitously offers new pills), the pseudo-mandatory self-fashioning of social media and what he sardonically calls “the absolute abdication of responsibility for living” represented by all those bestselling “bucket-list” books that instruct us on “the 1,000 movies to see before we die”.

For him, the antidote to all of that is sleep and also its cousin daydream or “reverie”. At the end of the book, Crary waxes poetic about this and laments that few people these days besides New Agers are interested in their dreams. Crary complains that films such as The Matrix portray societies of sleepers as inert and duped and so work as propaganda for 24/7. So, too, he argues, do films such as Inception, in portraying dreams as, in essence, like movies: in theory, commodifiable and “sharable”.

After finishing this book, I had a dystopian nightmare. One day, through clever magnetic stimulation of the brain, it might be possible to insert adverts into our dreams. You could even volunteer to have them interpolated into your sleeping life in exchange for money. (“My dream last night was sponsored by Facebook and Walkers Crisps.”) If that day ever comes, we won’t be safe anywhere – even in the arms of Morpheus."
capitalism  latecapitalism  sleep  production  productivity  2014  stevenpoole  jonathancrary  efficiency  media  mentalhealth 
august 2014 by robertogreco
World Processor | The Baffler
[via: ]

"As Processed World veteran Dennis Hayes explained it to me, “We were really examining social history. We were asking questions that went unasked. We were asking, ‘What’s the value of a job that creates no value? Or that simply creates more work?’”"

"As Daniel Brook recounts in his book The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Carlsson and friends liked to “dress up as investment bankers and bow in unison at the stock ticker in front of the Charles Schwab building.” Marina Lazzara, one of the magazine’s poetry editors, recalled this period fondly. “I miss those days,” she told me. “We were really out in the streets.”"

"This was but one among the magazine’s darkly comic dispatches from the absurdist trenches of the overmanaged workplace. Others gestured at something more haunting, such as the anonymous San Franciscan who wrote in issue 7, “I’m unemployed now and should be typing my resume. Typing a resume becomes more and more like typing a suicide note, and yet choosing not to work is a kamikaze mission.” It was to this group—torn between the exigencies of white-collardom and the seeming impossibility of living as one chooses—that Processed World ultimately spoke."

"Many of us know we work bullshit jobs; others would be only too happy to have one, to escape the suffocating anxieties of living on the margins. Those employed in socially useful jobs—teachers, nurses, social workers—must contend with low pay or, if they agitate for something more, being vilified."

"Along the way, the sense of community and common cause epitomized by Processed World has been sublimated into the incessant branding and self-promotion from which none of us appears immune. We are all living precariously, and so we tread water by competing for the occasional life preserver thrown out by the attention economy. Do your job well and maybe the Washington Post, the Daily Beast,or the latest buzzy new-media property will hire you as its token leftist columnist. Hit the jackpot, and you’ll become the next Chris Hayes.

Who can blame them? It’s now so expensive to live in a coastal metropolis that one hopes to sell out at least a little bit."
jacobsliverman  culture  society  economics  siliconvalley  2014  1981  processedworld  bullshitjobs  labor  via:audreywatters  chrishayes  marinalazzara  chriscarlsson  caitlinmanning  technology  efficiency  productivity  jobs  unemployment  employment  busyness  capitalism  sellingout  sellouts  attention  attentioneconomy  markets  precarity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter / audreywatters: Efficiency is bullshit. ...
[mentioned here: ]

"Every time I think I agree with "learn to code" efforts as part of a new literacy, I see the invocation of "efficiency" and I barf"

"Efficiency is bullshit. Efficiency is the demand of an industrial system wanting us to bend humanity to the demand of money and machine"
[the one with the thread]

"Fuck you. I am inefficient. Fuck you. I am human."

"I am "inefficient" because I'm a woman. Because I'm a mom. Because I grieve. Because I write poetry, I read novels. Because I'm angry."

"I'm inefficient because I recognize that efficiency is sad and empty and bitter and exploitative."

"@alexismadrigal yes I wrestle with Illich a lot. Who can dismiss institutions (edu specifically). Who relies on them for justice?"
audreywatters  efficiency  edtech  productivity  2014  ivanillich  technology  jaquesellul  labor  education  deschooling  unschooling  socirty  values  inefficiency  exploitation  shrequest1 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Jagged Thoughts for Jagged Times: 105 - Nicholas Bate
"Imagination, love, desire, curiosity, tenderness, thoughtfulness, reflection, passion, distillation, synthesis, wonder, purpose, more tenderness, compassion, understanding, empathy, serenity, lightheartedness and a billion other fragile states experienced by human beings. Such states become so easily lost and damaged when doing becomes more important than being."
2014  nicholasbate  being  doing  love  imagination  desire  curiosity  tenderness  thoughtfulness  reflection  passion  distillation  synthesis  wonder  purpose  compassion  understanding  empathy  serenity  lightheartedness  productivity  efficiency  capitalism 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Miseducation of America - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"While I was watching Ivory Tower, a documentary about the state of college in America that appears in select theaters this month (the movie also airs on CNN this fall), it occurred to me that of the many problems with higher education these days, not the least concerns the way we talk about it. "Efficiency," "art-history majors," "kids who graduate with $100,000 in debt," "the college bubble," the whole rhetoric of crisis and collapse: The public discourse is dominated by sound bites, one-liners, hearsay, horror stories, and a very great deal of misinformation.

Higher ed is not unique in this respect, of course, but it is particularly bad. College, as the movie points out, was always treated as a black box: 18-year-olds were inserted at one end, 22-year-olds came out the other, and as long as the system appeared to be working, no one bothered to inquire what happened in between. Americans, as a result, have very little understanding of what college is about—how it works, what it’s for, what larger social benefits it offers—and those employed in higher education have had very little practice in explaining it to them. The debate has been left to the politicians, the pundits, and increasingly, the hustlers and ideologues. Few who talk about college in public understand it, and few who understand it talk about it.

Ivory Tower, for the most part, is an honorable exception."

"Ivory Tower shows us why it’s so important that we get this right: that we think with facts, with respect to college costs and what they get you, not emotions. When we cherry pick the scariest stories and numbers, we do two things: We open the door to hucksters selling easy answers, and we forget what college is really for. Apocalypticism leads to messianism. Close behind the anxious parents whom we see on college tours at Wesleyan and NYU—variously blithe or glum adolescents in tow—come, like vultures to a kill, a pair of now-familiar figures: Peter Thiel and Sebastian Thrun."

"The truth is, there are powerful forces at work in our society that are actively hostile to the college ideal. That distrust critical thinking and deny the proposition that democracy necessitates an educated citizenry. That have no use for larger social purposes. That decline to recognize the worth of that which can’t be bought or sold. Above all, that reject the view that higher education is a basic human right.

The film recounts the history and recent fate of that idea: its origin among the philanthropists of the industrial age, figures like Peter Cooper, founder of his eponymous Union; its progressive unfolding through the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the GI Bill of 1944, the postwar expansion of the University of California, and the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created the federal student-loan and grant programs; and its deliberate destruction under Ronald Reagan and his ideological heirs.

Free, high-quality higher education (just like free, high-quality school, which we continue to at least pretend to endorse): that is what we used to believe in; that’s what many other countries still believe in; that is what we must believe in once again. The filmmakers undoubtedly knew what they were doing when they chose to show us the moment, during that seminar at Deep Springs, when the students are debating Hegel’s proposition that, as their professor puts it, "you need to have a common identity as citizens, because it creates the bonds of affection." Or in Delbanco’s words, "What kind of society do we want to be?" Cooper Union’s commencement speaker, that tumultuous spring of 2013, turns out to have been none other than Michael Bloomberg. "The debate you’re having really isn’t about whether education is free," we see him tell the students. "It’s really about who can and who is willing to pay for it."

On this the billionaire and I agree. In terms of the "can" (and it’s hard to believe the word could even pass his lips), the answer is clear. Not just the plutocrats, not just the upper class, but the upper middle class, as well. Everybody knows by now that the share of national income that accrues to the famous one percent has risen to about 23 percent, higher than at almost any time since 1928. But the share that accrues to the top 10 percent as a whole, which stayed around 33 percent from the 1950s through the 1970s, has risen to its highest level ever (or at least, since record-keeping started), more than 50 percent. In a $17-trillion economy, the difference represents a premium of nearly $3-trillion a year, about five times the federal deficit and more than enough for this and many other public purposes.

The problem of costs, to be sure, is not a one-way street. Higher education must indeed increase efficiency, but how? Institutions have been willing to spend on everything in recent years except the thing that matters most: instruction. Dorms, deans, sports, but not professors. Piglike presidential salaries, paid for by hiring adjuncts. Now, with MOOCs and other forms of online instruction, the talk is more of the same. My friends, they are coming for you. The professoriate no longer has the luxury of thinking that all this is someone else’s problem. If you want to save your skins, let alone ensure the future of the enterprise, you need to wake up and organize against the people who are organizing against you. The fact is that by focusing exclusively on monetary issues, the current conversation prevents us not only from remembering the higher objectives of an undergraduate education, but also from recognizing just how bad a job our institutions have been doing at fulfilling them. Colleges and universities have a lot to answer for; if they want to regain the support of the larger society, they need to prove that they are worthy of it.

Ivory Tower ends, in the manner of such films today, by referring us to a website. Under the rubric "Take Action," the site encourages us to sign a petition that calls on Congress to pass legislation, of the kind proposed by Elizabeth Warren (and just blocked by Senate Republicans), allowing individuals to refinance their student loans. That would certainly be a good thing, but we need to set our sights a great deal higher. If service workers can demand a $15 minimum wage, more than double the federal level, then those who care about higher education can insist on the elimination of tuition and fees at state institutions and their replacement by public funding furnished by taxes on the upper 10 percent. As with the minimum wage, the campaign can be conducted state by state, and it can and should involve a large coalition of interested groups: students, parents, and instructors, to start with. Total enrollment at American colleges and universities now stands at 20 million, on top of another million-plus on the faculty. That’s a formidable voting bloc, should it learn to exercise its power. Since the Occupy movement in 2011, it’s clear that the fight to reverse the tide of growing inequality has been joined. It’s time we joined it."
2014  williamderesiewicz  highered  highereducation  education  policy  politics  finance  money  studentloands  ivorytower  reform  faculty  solidarity  ows  occupywallstreet  inequality  purpose  canon  funding  publicfunding  mooc  moocs  unions  labor  deepspringscollege  colleges  universities  liberalarts  society  learning  criticalthinking  uncollege  dalestephens  peterthiel  sebastianthrun  peterschiff  efficiency  cooperunion  communitycolleges  debt  studentdebt  employment 
june 2014 by robertogreco
cityofsound: Essay: 'Designing Finnishness', for 'Out Of The Blue: The Essence and Ambition of Finnish Design' (Gestalten)
"Knowing what to do when there is nothing to do
"The press conference is over, and in comes Jari Litmanen, from behind the door. And I looked at his face and I looked at his eyes, and I recognised something in those eyes. And I thought, this is a man with a great willpower. Because he was not shy, not timid, but he was modest. He is not a man who will raise his voice, or bang with his fist on the table and say, ‘We do it this way.’ No, he was more of a diplomat, not wanting to be a leader, but being a leader." [Former AFC Ajax team manager David Endt, on legendary Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen]

Finland has proven that it can take care of itself locally and globally. At home, its sheer existence is a tribute to fortitude, guile and determination, never mind the extent to which it has lately thrived. Globally, through Nokia, Kone, Rovio and others, through its diplomatic and political leadership, and through its design scene in general, it has punched well above its weight. Having been a reluctant leader, like Litmanen, will Finland once again step up to help define a new age, a post-industrial or re-industrial age? Unlike 1917, there are few obvious external drivers to force Finns to define Finnishness. So where will the desire for change come from?

Finland, and Finnishness, is not immune to the problems facing other European countries; the Eurocrisis, domestic xenophobia, industrial strife. Challenging these is difficult for an engineering culture not yet used to working with uncertainty, and in collaboration.

That requires this sense of openness to ambiguity, to non-planning, which is quite unlike the traditional mode of Finnishness. And yet there are also valuable cues in Finnishness, such as in the design—or undesign, as Leonard Koren would have it—of Finnish sauna culture.
"Making nature really means letting nature happen, since nature, the ultimate master of interactive complexity, is organized along principles too inscrutable for us to make from scratch. … Extraordinary baths … are created by natural geologic processes or by composers of sensory stimulation working in an intuitive, poetic, open-minded—undesign—manner." (Koren, ibid.)

Equally, the päiväkoti day-care system demonstrates a learning environment built with an agile structure that can follow where children wish to lead. The role of expertise—and every teacher in Finnish education is a highly-qualified expert—is not to control or enforce a national curriculum, but to react, shape, nurture and inspire. As such it could be a blueprint not only for education generally, but also for developing a culture comfortable with divergent learning, with exploration and experiment, with a broader social and emotional range, and with ambiguity.

Chess grandmaster Savielly Tartakower once said “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” Indeed, Finland's early development was driven by tactics—survival, consolidation and then growth in the face of a clear set of "things to do"; defeat the conditions, resist the neighbours, rebuild after war.

With that, came success, comfort and then perhaps the inevitable lack of drive. The country is relatively well off and stable, and perhaps a little complacent given the recent accolades.

Design in recent years has seen a shift towards the ephemeral and social—interaction design, service design, user experience design, strategic design and so on. Conversely, there has been a return to the physical, albeit altered and transformed by that new modernity, with that possibility of newly hybrid “things”: digital/physical hybrids possessing a familiar materiality yet allied with responsiveness, awareness, and character by virtue of having the internet embedded within. With its strong technical research sector, and expertise in both materials and software, Finland is well-placed. Connect the power of its nascent nanotech research sector—interestingly, derived from its expertise with wood—to a richer Finnish design culture capable of sketching social objects, social services and social spaces and its potential becomes tangible, just as with the 1930s modernism that fused the science and engineering of the day with design in order to produce Artek.

Finnish design could be stretched to encompass these new directions, the aforementioned reversals towards openness, ambiguity, sociality, flexibility and softness. Given that unique DNA of Finnishness — both designed and undesigned, both old and young—Finland is at an interesting juncture.

The next phase, then, is knowing what to do, despite the appearance of not having anything to do.

Buckminster Fuller, a guest at Sitra's first design-led event at Helsinki’s Suomenlinna island fortress in 1968, once said “the best way to predict the future is to design it.” Finland has done this once before; it may be that now is exactly the right time to do it again."
finland  2014  design  danhill  cityofsound  sitra  buckminsterfuller  education  strategy  culture  exploration  experimentation  ambiguity  emergentcurriculumeurope  undesign  leonardkoren  nature  complexity  simplicity  davidendt  jarilitmanen  unproduct  efficiency  inefficiency  clarity  purity  small  slow  sisu  solitude  silence  barnraising  helsinki 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Jeremy Rifkin: "The Zero Marginal Cost Society" | Authors at Google - YouTube
"In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin describes how the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.

Rifkin uncovers a paradox at the heart of capitalism that has propelled it to greatness but is now taking it to its death—the inherent entrepreneurial dynamism of competitive markets that drives productivity up and marginal costs down, enabling businesses to reduce the price of their goods and services in order to win over consumers and market share. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring marginal costs to near zero, making goods and services priceless, nearly free, and abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.

Now, a formidable new technology infrastructure—the Internet of things (IoT)—is emerging with the potential of pushing large segments of economic life to near zero marginal cost in the years ahead. Rifkin describes how the Communication Internet is converging with a nascent Energy Internet and Logistics Internet to create a new technology platform that connects everything and everyone. Billions of sensors are being attached to natural resources, production lines, the electricity grid, logistics networks, recycling flows, and implanted in homes, offices, stores, vehicles, and even human beings, feeding Big Data into an IoT global neural network. Prosumers can connect to the network and use Big Data, analytics, and algorithms to accelerate efficiency, dramatically increase productivity, and lower the marginal cost of producing and sharing a wide range of products and services to near zero, just like they now do with information goods.

Rifkin concludes that capitalism will remain with us, albeit in an increasingly streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to flourish as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, says Rifkin, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons.

About the Author: Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. He has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade.

Mr. Rifkin also served as an adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security.

Mr. Rifkin is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable Third Industrial Revolution economies.

Mr. Rifkin holds a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University."
socialcommons  cooperatives  2014  jeremyrifkin  internetofthings  zeromarginalcostsociety  society  economics  sharing  sharingeconomy  consumers  prosumers  marginalcosts  markets  collaborativecommons  collaboration  capitalism  bigdata  analytics  efficiency  technology  abundance  commons  exchange  networks  qualityoflife  climatechange  google  geopolitics  biosphereconsciousness  cyberterrorism  biosphere  iot 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Should We Automate Education? | EdTech Magazine
"In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, a historical account of the influence that “scientific management” (also known as “Taylorism,” after its developer, Frederick Taylor) had on American schools in the early 20th century — that is, the push to run schools more like factories, where the productivity of workers was measured, controlled and refined.

Callahan’s main argument was that the pressures on the education system to adopt Taylorism resulted neither in more refined ways to teach nor in better ways to learn, but rather, in an emphasis on cost cutting. Efficiency, he argued, “amounted to an analysis of the budget. … Decisions on what should be taught were not made on educational, but on financial grounds.”

Fifty years later, we remain obsessed with creating a more “efficient” educational system (although ironically, we object to schools based on that very “factory model”). Indeed, this might be one of the major promises that educational technologies make: to deliver a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more efficient way to manage schooling.

Deciding What We Want From Education

Adaptive learning — computer-based instruction and assessment that allows each student to move at her or his pace — is perhaps the latest in a series of technologies that promise more ­efficient education. The efficiency here comes, in part, from the focus on the individual — personalization — instead of on an entire classroom of students.

But it’s worth noting that adaptive learning isn’t new. “Intelligent tutoring systems” have been under development for decades now. The term “intelligent tutoring” was coined in the 1980s; research into computer-assisted instruction dates to the 1960s; and programmed instruction predates the computer altogether, with Sidney Pressey’s and B. F. Skinner’s “teaching machines” of the 1920s and 1950s, respectively.

“Education must become more efficient,” Skinner insisted. “To this end, curricula must be revised and simplified, and textbooks and classroom techniques improved.”

Rarely do we ask what exactly “efficiency” in education or ed tech ­entails. Does it mean a reduction in ­errors? Faster learning? Reshaping the curriculum based on market demands? Does it mean cutting labor costs — larger classroom sizes, perhaps, or teachers replaced by machines?

We also often fail to ask why efficiency would be something we would value in education at all. Schools shouldn’t be factories. Students aren’t algorithms.

What happens if we prioritize efficiency in education? By doing so, are we simply upgrading the factory model of schooling with newer technologies? What happens to spontaneity and messiness? What happens to contemplation and curiosity?

There’s danger, I’d argue, in relying on teaching machines — on a push for more automation in education. We forget that we’re teaching humans."
audreywatters  automation  education  edtech  learning  children  humanism  humans  efficiency  2014  1962  raymondcallahan  management  taylorism  factoryschools  schools  industrialeducation  schooling  adaptivelearning  bfskinner  sidneypressey  computers  computing  technology  curiosity  messiness  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Feeding 9 Billion | National Geographic
"Where will we find enough food for 9 billion?"

"A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World: It doesn't have to be factory farms versus small, organic ones. There's another way."
food  gobalization  agriculture  farming  2014  classideas  peojectideas  jonathanfoley  foodproduction  us  india  china  global  brazil  brasil  africa  mali  perú  ukraine  uk  ethiopia  bangladesh  efficiency  diet 
april 2014 by robertogreco
La Forme de Flâner — Dorian Taylor
""Never run for the train," proclaimed Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan. It's something of a gnomic statement, coming from an independently wealthy, born-again slacker, albeit one who I believe is on to something. I think about this statement a lot, because it embodies something we don't have very good language for in the professional discourse around things made of pure thought-stuff.

Our dominant paradigm is couched in language of comparative efficiency. We focus on becoming lean from trimming off the fat of bureaucratic processes, and remaining agile to respond quickly to the bewilderingly capricious environment that snares lumbering megafauna. This is an enormous achievement. It is also enormously limiting.

My problem with this paradigm is that we can only get so lean before becoming anorexic, and only so agile before burning out. It's unsustainable and we have to stop eventually. Perhaps most significant, though, is that efficiency is antithetical to what we do.

Our raw material is information, which, despite tremendous advances in its storage, transport and manipulation, still exhibits peculiar properties. It must be recognized, gathered, concentrated, operated on, arranged, displayed, communicated and understood. Information is scattered around space and time, and often buried far from the surface. It is also rarely substitutable: if we need a particular piece of information, we must expend exactly the effort required to get it. It follows that in order to know how to optimize the work around information, we must already have done it.
If that statement was false, there would be no need for empiricism at all, because all knowledge could be reasoned, including knowledge about how long it takes to reason.

I worry that our fervour to get leaner and more agile will eventually starve us of our perceptual acuity, memory, and ultimately our wisdom. But I'm not precisely advocating slowing down, as much as I am suggesting aligning with the cosmos in a way that makes fast not necessary.

The ethos that embodies such an alignment, I believe, is that of the flâneur. To flâne is to amble about with no outwardly discernible mission, taking interest in whatever presents itself wherever and whenever you are. We don't have a word for this in English, at least not one that doesn't import some form of morally reprehensible, even parasitic quality.

The inscrutability of the state of flâner does not necessarily entail that it is unproductive. Certain results are indeed either better or only achieved en flânant, namely those that depend on a complex synthesis of diverse material from disparate and eclectic sources. Like the kind of precursor material you need to write a book. Or a song. Or an app.

Flânerie has found its way into design literature, albeit not always explicitly. Bill Buxton mentions phases of divergence interspersed with those of convergence, to arrive eventually at a successful outcome. Herbert Simon wrote that when designing a system, we should operate for a period with no objective in mind whatsoever. In a keynote, Alan Cooper argued the futility of racing to be second to market versus waiting for the precocious to make their mistakes—the iPod to the Archos Jukebox. This is the kind of sentiment I want to harness.

Why not run for the train? Because another train will be along shortly. Such is the nature of trains. Running will cause you to miss everything between you and your object, and more often than not leave you disappointed and out of breath.

To flâne is to be neither lean nor agile, but comfortably plump. Relaxed. Zaftig even. A flâneur never runs for the train because of his commitment to serendipity, and because he was clever enough to invest in a schedule."
design  flaneur  walking  doriantaylor  meandering  noticing  dérive  derive  efficiency  information  patternrecognition  understanding  slow  haste  relaxed  agile  nassimtaleb 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism | Molleindustria
"We are only learning to speak of immeasurable qualities through videogames. It’s a slow and collective process of hacking accounting machines into expressive machines. Computer games need to learn from their non-digital counterparts to be loose interfaces between people. A new game aesthetic has to be explored: one that revels in problem-making over problem-solving, that celebrates paradoxes and ruptures, that doesn’t eschew broken and dysfunctional systems because the broken and dysfunctional systems governing our lives need to be unpacked and not idealized.

Strategies are to be discovered: poetic wrenches have to be thrown in the works; gears and valves have to grow hair, start pulsing and breathing; algorithms must learn to tell stories and scream in pain."

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videogames  gaming  paolopedercini  molleindustria  games  art  design  capitalism  economics  efficiency  control  rationalization  marxism  bureaucracy  consumption  commerce  standardization  socialnetworks  quantification  sybernetics  gamification  goals  society  taylorism  relationships  pokemon  facebook  farmville  zynga  management  power  labor  addiction  addictiveness  badges  behavior  measurement  commodification  rogercaillois  play  idleness  ludism  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  maxweber  resistance  consciousness  storytelling  notgames  taleoftales  agency  proteus  richardhofmeier  cartlife  simulation  2014  douglaswilson  spaceteam  henrysmith  cooperativegames  collaborativegames  tamatipico  tuboflex  everydaythesamedream  unmanned  systemsthinking  human  humans  oligarchy  negativeexternalities  gamedesign  poetry  johannsebastianjoust  edg  srg  shrequest1  simulations  pokémon 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Why I care — Zero Net Positive
"So why do I care to spend time exploring the core ideas of the Zero Net Positive Initiative? At the center is a selfishness – I’d really like to put my energy something that efficiently does good for the world. So I’d like to work for one of these new types of companies, and if there were great examples right now I’d jump on them.

At the essence of this desire is a strong feeling that I want the surplus value of the energy I spend on work to go directly to positive ends. To improving the human condition and making the world a better place. It feels inefficient to me for all the extra value I create to go primarily to people who are already wealthy enough to be able to invest their own excess capital. Many will just spend those returns on fancier cars, bigger houses and other luxuries. The wealthiest among them do often end up giving much of their money to great causes, like Gates, Carnegie, Rockefeller and more. But that feels inefficient to me – years accumulating capital, then many more years to try to give it all away."

"I actually don’t have an interest in making gargantuan amounts of money. Sure, I’d like security, and to be able to support myself and my family. But I don’t think that requires a billion dollars, or even $20 million. And so I don’t want to spend all my energy making millions for other (already wealthy) people, who run venture funds or put their money in to those funds. If my work does generate a lot of value I’d like some control over where the excesses go, but I don’t need it personally. What I care about much more is meaningful work, and I don’t believe large amounts of money are going to lead me to happiness, or even to meaningful work.

I believe there is at least a small minority of people who feel like I do. And I believe most of them are too busy trying to change the world in some positive way to try to invent for themselves structures that do better. So they fall in to one of the existing options and retain control to have the flexibility to do what they want.

My hope is to spend the next couple years researching and thinking about out alternate structures that can work. Generalizing the unique structures that have come before to make templates for others. I hope that the research of the zero net positive initiative will be useful to others who also want a structure that lines up more with their values, who don’t want to sell ownership of their life work to entities whose primary concern is the return of their capital. And even if no one else is interested, I hope at least to be able to put my energy towards such a structure."

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zeronetpositive  charitableindustrialcomplex  sustainability  chrisholmes  wealth  efficiency  inefficiency  capitalism  nonprofit  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  power  control 
january 2014 by robertogreco
In Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem | e-flux
"HUO: You have written a lot on life, not survival. What is the difference?

RV: Survival is budgeted life. The system of exploitation of nature and man, starting in the Middle Neolithic with intensive farming, caused an involution in which creativity—a quality specific to humans—was supplanted by work, by the production of a covetous power. Creative life, as had begun to unfold during the Paleolithic, declined and gave way to a brutish struggle for subsistence. From then on, predation, which defines animal behavior, became the generator of all economic mechanisms.

HUO: Today, more than forty years after May ‘68, how do you feel life and society have evolved?

RV: We are witnessing the collapse of financial capitalism. This was easily predictable. Even among economists, where one finds even more idiots than in the political sphere, a number had been sounding the alarm for a decade or so. Our situation is paradoxical: never in Europe have the forces of repression been so weakened, yet never have the exploited masses been so passive. Still, insurrectional consciousness always sleeps with one eye open. The arrogance, incompetence, and powerlessness of the governing classes will eventually rouse it from its slumber, as will the progression in hearts and minds of what was most radical about May 1968."

"RV: The moralization of profit is an illusion and a fraud. There must be a decisive break with an economic system that has consistently spread ruin and destruction while pretending, amidst constant destitution, to deliver a most hypothetical well-being. Human relations must supersede and cancel out commercial relations. Civil disobedience means disregarding the decisions of a government that embezzles from its citizens to support the embezzlements of financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to the bankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug the sinkhole of corruption, when we could allocate them instead to the self-management of free power networks in every local community? The direct democracy of self-managed councils has every right to ignore the decrees of corrupt parliamentary democracy. Civil disobedience towards a state that is plundering us is a right. It is up to us to capitalize on this epochal shift to create communities where desire for life overwhelms the tyranny of money and power. We need concern ourselves neither with government debt, which covers up a massive defrauding of the public interest, nor with that contrivance of profit they call “growth.” From now on, the aim of local communities should be to produce for themselves and by themselves all goods of social value, meeting the needs of all—authentic needs, that is, not needs prefabricated by consumerist propaganda."

"RV: The crisis of the ‘30s was an economic crisis. What we are facing today is an implosion of the economy as a management system. It is the collapse of market civilization and the emergence of human civilization. The current turmoil signals a deep shift: the reference points of the old patriarchal world are vanishing. Percolating instead, still just barely and confusedly, are the early markers of a lifestyle that is genuinely human, an alliance with nature that puts an end to its exploitation, rape, and plundering. The worst would be the unawareness of life, the absence of sentient intelligence, violence without conscience. Nothing is more profitable to the racketeering mafias than chaos, despair, suicidal rebellion, and the nihilism that is spread by mercenary greed, in which money, even devalued in a panic, remains the only value."

"HUO: My interviews often focus on the connections between art and architecture/urbanism, or literature and architecture/urbanism. Could you tell me about the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism?

RV: That was an idea more than a project. It was about the urgency of rebuilding our social fabric, so damaged by the stranglehold of the market. Such a rebuilding effort goes hand in hand with the rebuilding by individuals of their own daily existence. That is what psychogeography is really about: a passionate and critical deciphering of what in our environment needs to be destroyed, subjected to détournement, rebuilt.

HUO: In your view there is no such thing as urbanism?

RV: Urbanism is the ideological gridding and control of individuals and society by an economic system that exploits man and Earth and transforms life into a commodity. The danger in the self-built housing movement that is growing today would be to pay more attention to saving money than to the poetry of a new style of life.

HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You call Oarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?

RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future."

"HUO: Will museums be abolished? Could you discuss the amphitheater of memory? A protestation against oblivion?

RV: The museum suffers from being a closed space in which works waste away. Painting, sculpture, music belong to the street, like the façades that contemplate us and come back to life when we greet them. Like life and love, learning is a continuous flow that enjoys the privilege of irrigating and fertilizing our sentient intelligence. Nothing is more contagious than creation. But the past also carries with it all the dross of our inhumanity. What should we do with it? A museum of horrors, of the barbarism of the past? I attempted to answer the question of the “duty of memory” in Ni pardon, ni talion [Neither Forgiveness Nor Retribution]"

[long quote]

HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?

RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.

HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?

RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.

HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).

RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of."
raoulvaneigem  art  politics  economics  life  living  situationist  humans  consumerism  learning  education  unschooling  deschooling  curiosity  power  anarchism  anarchy  totalitarianism  creativity  johncage  détournement  psychogeography  models  derive  servitude  love  oarystis  humanity  everyday  boredom  productivity  efficiency  time  temporality  money  desire  chaos  solidarity  networks  guydebord  freedom  freeness  museums  culture  hansulrichobrist  2009  nomadiclearning  lcproject  openstudioproject  work  labor  artleisure  leisure  leisurearts  artwork  profiteering  explodingschool  cityasclassroom  flow  universallearning  cedricprice  thinkbelts  dérive  shrequest1 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Perennial Design, by Wilson Miner · Issue 4 · The Manual
"The modern practice of agriculture is based on a system of annual monoculture because it’s what gets results. Because the plants have no long-term systems to support, all their energy goes toward producing grains, which means bigger harvests. By planting huge fields with only one crop, the large commercial operations, where most of our food is produced, can operate as efficiently as possible. Year over year, annual monoculture feeds the most people the most efficiently. It’s also completely, transparently, inherently unsustainable.

We can’t afford to follow the same model. We’re beginning to recognize our own monocultures as the short-lived efficiencies we extracted from them begin to unravel. The premise that we can design for a manageable number of combinations of screen sizes, platforms, contexts, and devices is quickly eroding. The diversity of variables in our ever-changing digital environment demand thoughtful systems designed around principles durable enough to outlast increasingly brief cycles of obsolescence.

When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term."

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monoculture  farming  agriculture  wendellberry  wilson  miner  sustainability  2014  growth  slow  small  diversity  environment  efficiency  obsolescence  profit  renewal  wesjackson  thelandinstitute  systemsthinking  durability  time  longterm  shortterm 
january 2014 by robertogreco