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Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology - The Atlantic
"In other words, is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems—and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive, and misguided? Can we find a synthesis in which technologists look at their work critically and work closely with the people they’re trying to help in order to build sociotechnical systems that address hard problems?

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, I’m grateful for Shane Snow’s surreal, Black Mirror vision of the future prison both because it’s a helpful jumping-off point for understanding how hard it is to make change well by using technology, and because the U.S. prison system is a broken and dysfunctional system in need of change. But we need to find ways to disrupt better, to challenge knowledgeably, to bring the people they hope to benefit into the process. If you can, please help me figure out how we teach these ideas to the smart, creative people I work with—people who want to change the world, and are afraid of breaking it in the process."
technology  technosolutionism  solutionism  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  2016  ethanzuckerman  design  blackmirror  shanesnow  prisons  socialchange  lawrencelessig  anthropology  medialab  courtneymartin  nutraloaf  soylent  codesign  evgenymorozov  olcp  wikipedia  bias  racism  empathy  suziecagle  mitmedialab  mit  systems  systemsthinking  oculusrift  secondlife  vr  virtualreality  solitaryconfinement  incarceration  change  changemaking  ethnography  chelseabarabas  participatory  participatorydesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Facebook the Colonial Empire - The Atlantic
[See also: https://backchannel.com/how-india-pierced-facebook-s-free-internet-program-6ae3f9ffd1b4#.lywam4h52 ]

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

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

1. ride in like the savior

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

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

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

5. partner with local elites and vested interests

6. accuse the critics of ingratitude

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Basics might be stoppable. But is Facebook?

“It is an uncomfortable truth that, in emerging economies, Facebook had already won the Internet well before Internet.org and the FreeBasics campaign began,” Steve Song, a telecommunications policy activist, wrote in a blog post this week. “Facebook became the de facto Internet for many people because it did the most profoundly useful thing the Internet can do: Connect people.”"
facebook  colonialism  imperialism  india  freebasics  internet  2016  adriennelafrance  markzuckerberg  marcandreessen  class  whiteman'sburden  ethanzuckerman  web  online  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Do Not Track: revolutionary mashup documentary about Web privacy - Boing Boing
"Brett "Remix Manifesto" Gaylor tells the story of his new project: a revolutionary "mashup documentary" about privacy and the Web."

[This article refers to:
https://donottrack-doc.com/en/episode/1
https://donottrack-doc.com/en/episode/2
https://donottrack-doc.com/en/episode/3
https://donottrack-doc.com/en/episode/4 ]

"I make documentaries about the Internet. My last one, Rip! A Remix Manifesto, was made during the copyright wars of the early 2000s. We followed Girl Talk, Larry Lessig, Gilberto Gil, Cory and others as the Free Culture movement was born. I believed then that copyright was the Internet's defining issue. I was wrong.

In the time since I made Rip, we’ve seen surveillance from both corporate and state actors reach deeper into our lives. Advertising, and the tracking that goes with it, have become the dominant business model of the web. With the Snowden revelations, we've seen that this business model has given the NSA and other state agencies access to the intimate details of our online lives, our location, our reading lists, and our friends.

So with my colleagues at Upian in Paris, the National Film Board of Canada, AJ+, Radio-Canada, RTS, Arte and Bayersicher Rundfunk, I decided to make a documentary series about this. The trouble is, privacy is a difficult issue for most people. They either quickly pull out the "nothing to hide" argument, or they give the shruggie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. We wanted to find a way to make this personal for people, so we decided to use the viewer's own data to create each episode.

When you open Episode One, the narrator you hear will depend on your location. You'll likely see me if you link from Boing Boing -- I'm the English narrator on desktop. But if you connect on mobile, you'll meet Francesca Fiorentini from AJ+. In Quebec, you'll meet Sandra Rodriguez. In France, it'll be journalist Vincent Glad. The tone is conversational. You'll meet someone who speaks your own language discussing their online sharing addiction.

Once you've met us, we'll say different things to you. If it's raining where you are, we'll know it, because we've plugged into a weather API. This API will communicate with Giphy's API and present different GIFs. It's all edited together like a movie, but a movie that is created on the spot, just for you.

To go further, we ask you to tell us a bit more about you. If you tell us where you go for your news, we've partnered with the service disconnect.me to show you the third party trackers that advertisers and analytics folks place on your computer to follow you around the Web.

In Episode Two, we then take this data to create personalized ads within the program - while we talk to Ethan Zuckerman and Julia Angwin about how advertising came to dominate the Web. We'll ask you how much you would be willing to pay for a version of Facebook or Google that didn't have ads, and compare that with how much they make from you.

In Episode Three, we created a a corporation called Illuminus that practices "future present risk detection". If you log in with your Facebook profile, the corporation uses an API developed at the University of Cambridge, "Apply Magic Sauce," to determine which one of the "Big Five Personality Traits" applies to you. We discover how lenders are dipping their toes into making risk assessments based on your social media activity.

We varied our style in Episode Four and made a privacy cartoon. Journalist Zineb Dryef spent months researching what information she discloses on her mobile phone, and then Darren Pasemko animated what she learned. We meet Kate Crawford, Julia Angwin, as well as Harlo Holmes and Nathan Freitas from the Guardian project. It’s an episode told in four parts, and you can watch the first part in the video below.

If you watch the rest of this episode on donottrack-doc.com, it will be geo-located and interactive.

Our next episode, available May 26th, is produced by the National Film Board of Canada's digital studio, who have a well deserved reputation for creating beautiful interfaces for new types of documentaries. In this episode, we'll explore big data - by making correlations as you watch, you'll determine the outcome, while you meet danah boyd, Cory Doctorow, Alicia Garza and Kate Crawford.

We’re still catching our breath while we produce the final two episodes. One thing we know - we want these to be personal. As we learned in our first episodes, people understand the issues around privacy and surveillance when we let them explore their own data. Depending on how you behaved during the series, we want these final episodes to adapt. We’ll be exploring how the filter bubble shapes your view of the world in our 6th episode, and how our actions can shape the future in our 7th. What these episodes look like is up to you."
brettgaylor  film  interactive  interactivefilm  mashups  documentary  towatch  privacy  web  online  internet  2015  nfbc  nfb  katecrawford  corydoctoow  aliciagarza  danahboyd  location  zinebdryef  darrenpasemko  harloholmes  nathanfreitas  juliaangwin  ethanzuckerman  advertising  tracking  francescafiorentini  sandrarodriguez  giphy  api  trackers  cookies 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Re:publica Keynote: The System is Broken – That’s the Good News | ... My heart’s in Accra
"…Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, in Sofia, Bulgaria. He worries that even if protests like the Indignados or Occupy succeed in ousting a government, much of what protesters are asking for is not possible. “Voters can change governments, yet it is nearly impossible for them to change economic policies.” When Indignados grows into Podemos, Krastev predicts that it’s going to be very hard for them to truly reverse policies on austerity – global financial markets are unlikely to let them do so, punish them by making it impossibly expensive to borrow

Krastev offers the example of how Italy finally got rid of Silvio Berlusconi – wasn’t through popular protest, but through the bond market – the bond market priced italian debt at 6.5%, and Berlusconi resigned, leaving Mario Monti to put austerity measures in place. You may have been glad to see Berlusconi go, but don’t mistake this as a popular revolt that kicked him out – it was a revolt by global lenders, and basically set the tone for what the market would allow an Italian leader to do. As Krastev puts it, “Politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market” – we’ve got an interesting test of whether this theory is right with Syriza, a left-wing party rooted in anti-austerity protests now in power, and facing possible default and exit from the Eurozone this month. What Krastev is saying is really chilling – we can oust bad people through protest and elect the right people and put them in power, we can protest to pressure our leaders to do the right things, and they may not be powerful enough to give us the changes we really want."



"These three approaches – building new institutions, becoming engaged critics of the institutions we’ve got, and looking for ways to build a post-institutional world – all have their flaws. We need the new decentralized systems we build to work as well as the institutions we are replacing, and when Mt. Gox disappears with our money, we’re reminded what a hard task this is. Monitorial citizenship can lead to more responsible institutions, but not to structural change. When we build new companies, codebases and movements, we’ve got to be sure these new institutions we’re creating stay closer to our values than those we mistrust now, and that they’re worthy of the trust of generations to come.

What these approaches have in common is this: instead of letting mistrust of the institutions we have leave us sidelined and ineffective, these approaches make us powerful. Because this is the middle path between the ballot box and the brick – it’s taking the dangerous and corrosive mistrust we now face and using it to build the institutions we deserve. This is the challenge of our generation, to build a better world than the one we inherited, one that’s fairer, more just, one that’s worthy of our trust."
ethanzuckerman  ivankrastev  quinnnorton  zeyneptufekci  democracy  politics  institutions  euope  us  protest  occupywallstreet  ows  voting  decentralization  internet  citizenship  civics  monotorialcitizenship  globalization  finance  capitalism  austerity  markets  indignados  government  power  control 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre: a study in contrasts
"There are many reasons why the attacks on targets in Paris have received vastly more media attention than the attacks in Baga.

Paris is a highly connected global city with thousands of working journalists, while Baga is isolated, difficult and dangerous to reach. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo targeted journalists, and it’s understandable that journalists would cover the death of their comrades. The attacks in Paris were a shock and a surprise, while deaths at the hands of Boko Haram have become distressingly common in an insurgency that has claimed over 10,000 lives since 2009.

The details of the Baga attacks, where civilians fled a marauding army into the swamps of Lake Chad, where they faced attacks from hippos, are almost impossible for audiences in developed nations to empathize with.

By contrast it’s tragically easy for most North Americans and Europeans to imagine terrorists striking in their cities.

The net effect: the attacks in Baga and Maiduguri seem impossibly distant, while the attacks in Paris seem local, relevant and pressing even to people equidistant from the two situations.

In part, it’s hard to imagine events in Nigeria because we encounter so little African news in general.

Dearth of African news impacts public debate

Media Cloud, a tool developed at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society measures comparative attention to topics and locations in different segments of the news media.

A study we conducted in April 2014 suggests that media outlets publish three to ten times as many stories about France than about Nigeria. This disparity is striking as Nigeria’s population (estimated at 173 million) is almost three times the size of France’s population (66 million).

There’s bad news for those hoping online media will change existing patterns of media attention: while broadcast news outlets ran 3.2 times as many stories about France as about Nigeria, online media outlets published more than ten times as many French as Nigerian stories (10.4 to be precise).

We tend to read about countries like Nigeria only when they are in crisis, from terrorist attack or epidemics like Ebola. Despite the shocking magnitude of the attacks in Baga, the story can feel predictable, as the news we get from Nigeria is generally bad news.

If the attacks in Nigeria feel like they are happening somewhere incomprehensibly far away, those in Paris feel close to home, and many commentators have reflected on the tragedy in Paris as a result."



"Most victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslim: between 82 and 97%, according to a study from the US National Counter Terrorism Center.

Attacks like the one on Paris are shocking, visible and rare, while attacks on Baga are common (though the scale of the Baga attack is unprecedented.)

When we understand extremist violence as attacks on urban, developed, symbolic targets, we’re missing a much broader, messier picture, where religious extremism blends with political struggles and where the victims are usually anonymous, uncelebrated and forgotten.

We miss the point that Islamic extremists are at war with other Muslims, that the source of terror is not a religion of 1.6 billion people, but a perverse, political interpretation held by a disenchanted few.

It’s right to mourn those killed in Paris, to celebrate the city’s resilience and to honor the heroes. But if we fail to mourn and to understand Baga as well, we see a picture of terrorism that’s simple, clear and deeply inaccurate."
ethanzuckerman  2015  bokoharam  media  charliehebdo  paris  france  nigeria  terrorism  protest  protests  islam  islamophobia  journalism  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  #JeSuisCharlie 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 6: Accident Blackspot
"AGE OF NON-CONSENT: On my way home from the airport last week, I got into a cab that had a TV screen in the passenger area (as is now common in Boston and other cities). As I always do, I immediately turned it off. A few minutes later, it turned itself on again. That got me thinking about this amazing piece [http://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-fantasy-and-abuse-of-the-manipulable-user ] by Betsy Haibel at Model View Culture, about ‘when mistreating users becomes competitive advantage’, about technology and consent (seriously, go read it; it’s more important that you read that than you read this). I had started thinking more about how technology is coercive and how it pushes or crosses the boundaries of users a few weeks ago, when I got a new phone. Setting it up was an exercise in defending my limits against a host of apps. No, you can’t access my Contacts. No, you don’t need access to my Photos. No, why the hell would you need access to my Location? I had to install a new version of Google Maps, which has crippled functionality (no memory of previous places) if you don't sign into Google, and it tries to convince you to sign in on every single screen, because what I obviously really want is for Google to track my phone and connect it to the rest of my online identity (bear in mind that the only objects that have have a closer average proximity to me than my phone does are pierced through bits of my body). Per that Haibel article, Google’s nagging feels exactly like the boundary-crossing of an unwanted suitor, continually begging for access to me it has no rights to and that I have no intention of providing.

This week, of course, provided a glorious example of how technology companies have normalized being indifferent to consent: Apple ‘gifting’ each user with a U2 album downloaded into iTunes. At least one of my friends reported that he had wireless synching of his phone disabled; Apple overrode his express preferences in order to add the album to his music collection. The expected 'surprise and delight' was really more like 'surprise and delete'. I suspect that the strong negative response (in some quarters, at least) had less to do with a dislike of U2 and everything to do with the album as a metonym for this widespread culture of nonconsensual behaviour in technology. I've begun to note examples of these behaviours, and here are a few that have come up just in the last week: Being opted in to promo e-mails on registering for a website. Being forced by Adobe Creative Cloud into a trial of the newest version of Acrobat; after the trial period, it refused to either run Acrobat or ‘remember’ that I had a paid-up institutional license for the previous version. A gas pump wouldn't give me a receipt until after it showed me an ad. A librarian’s presentation to one of my classes was repeatedly interrupted by pop-ups telling her she needed to install more software. I booked a flight online and, after I declined travel insurance, a blinking box appeared to 'remind' me that I could still sign up for it. When cutting-and-pasting the Jony Ive quote below, Business Insider added their own text to what I had selected. The Kindle app on my phone won’t let me copy text at all, except through their highlighting interface. When you start looking for examples of nonconsensual culture in technology, you find them absolutely everywhere.

Once upon a time, Apple was on the same side as its users. The very first iMac, back in 1998, had a handle built into the top of it, where it would be visible when the box was opened. In Ive’s words, ‘if there's this handle on it, it makes a relationship possible…It gives a sense of its deference to you.’ Does anyone feel like their iPhone is deferential to them? What changed? Part of it is what Ethan Zuckerman called ‘the original sin’ of the Internet [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/advertising-is-the-internets-original-sin/376041/ ], the widespread advertising-based model that depends on strip-mining user characteristics for ad targeting, coupled with what Maciej Ceglowski describes as ‘investor storytime’ [http://idlewords.com/bt14.htm ], selling investors on the idea that they’ll get rich when you finally do put ads on your site. The other part is the rise of what Bruce Sterling dubbed “the Stacks” [http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/459/State-of-the-World-2013-Bruce-St-page01.html ]: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft. Alexis Madrigal predicted [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/bruce-sterling-on-why-it-stopped-making-sense-to-talk-about-the-internet-in-2012/266674/ ], “Your technology will work perfectly within the silo...But it will be perfectly broken at the interfaces between itself and its competitors”, and that can only be the case if the companies control what you do both inside and outside the silo. And, finally, of course, our willingness to play ball with them—ie why I didn't want to sign into Google from my phone—has eroded in direct proportion to our trust that the data gathered by companies will be handled carefully (not abused, shared, leaked, or turned over). Right now, a large fraction of my interactions with tech companies, especially the Stacks, feel coerced.

One of the reasons why I care so much about issues of consent, besides all the obvious ones (you know, having my time wasted, my attention abused, and my personal behaviours and characteristics sold for profit) is because of the imminent rise of connected objects. It’ll be pretty challenging for designers and users to have a shared mental model of the behaviour of connected objects even if they are doing their damnedest to understand each other; bring in an coercive, nonconsensual technology culture and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider how terrible they could be. The day before Apple’s keynote this week, London-based Internet of Things design firm BERG announced that they were closing their doors (although I prefer to think of them as dispersing, like a blown dandelion clock). The confluence of their demise with Apple’s behaviour made me extra-sad, because BERG were one of the few companies that worked in technology that really seemed to think of their users as people. Journalist Quinn Norton recently wrote a fantastic piece on the theory and practice of politeness, "How to Be Polite...for Geeks" [https://medium.com/message/how-to-be-polite-for-geeks-86cb784983b1 ], which could just as easily be "...for Technology Companies". The Google+ 'real name' fiasco and Facebook's myriad privacy scandals could have been averted if the companies had some empathy for their users, and listened to what they said, instead of assuming that we are all Mark Zuckerbergs [http://dashes.com/anil/2010/09/the-facebook-reckoning-1.html ]. As well as laying down some Knowledge about Theory of Mind and Umwelt [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umwelt ], Quinn notes that politeness is catchy--social norms are created and enforced by what everyone does. I commute by car daily in Boston but I spent a year on sabbatical in Seattle. The traffic rules in Boston and Seattle are virtually identical, but a significant chunk of driver behaviours (in particular, the ones that earn Boston drivers the epithet of 'Massholes') are the result of social norms, tacitly condoned by most of the community. And driving is regulated a lot more closely than tech companies are.

I don’t know what it’ll take to change technology culture from one that is nonconsensual and borderline-abusive to one that is about enthusiastic consent, and it might not even be possible at this point. All I really know is that it absolutely won’t happen unless we start applying widespread social pressure to make it happen, and that I want tech companies to get their shit together before they make the leap from just being on screens to being everywhere around us."
coercion  culture  privacy  technology  consent  debchachra  2014  maciejceglowski  anildash  ethanzuckerman  jonyive  berg  berglondon  quinnnorton  google  apple  facebook  data  betsyhaibel  functionality  behavior  alexismadrigal  socialnetworks  socialmedia  mobile  phones  location  socialnorms  socialpressure  ethics  abuse  jonathanive  maciejcegłowski 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Internet's Original Sin - The Atlantic
"Once we’ve assumed that advertising is the default model to support the Internet, the next step is obvious: We need more data so we can make our targeted ads appear to be more effective. Cegłowski explains, “We’re addicted to ‘big data’ not because it’s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.” So we build businesses that promise investors that advertising will be more invasive, ubiquitous, and targeted and that we will collect more data about our users and their behavior.

* * *

I have come to believe that advertising is the original sin of the web. The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services. Through successive rounds of innovation and investor storytime, we’ve trained Internet users to expect that everything they say and do online will be aggregated into profiles (which they cannot review, challenge, or change) that shape both what ads and what content they see. Outrage over experimental manipulation of these profiles by social networks and dating companies has led to heated debates amongst the technologically savvy, but hasn’t shrunk the user bases of these services, as users now accept that this sort of manipulation is an integral part of the online experience."



"There is no single “right answer” to the question of how we pay for the tool that lets us share knowledge, opinions, ideas, and photos of cute cats. Whether we embrace micropayments, membership, crowdfunding, or any other model, there are bound to be unintended consequences.

But 20 years in to the ad-supported web, we can see that our current model is bad, broken, and corrosive. It’s time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us—the users and our attention—as the product."
advertising  internet  web  2014  privacy  ethanzuckerman  pinboard  reddit  facebook  instagram 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Google cars versus public transit: the US’s problem with public goods | ... My heart’s in Accra
"There’s something very odd about a world in which it’s easier to imagine a futuristic technology that doesn’t exist outside of lab tests than to envision expansion of a technology that’s in wide use around the world. How did we reach a state in America where highly speculative technologies, backed by private companies, are seen as a plausible future while routine, ordinary technologies backed by governments are seen as unrealistic and impossible?

The irony of the Google car for my circumstances is that it would be inferior in every way to a train. A semi-autonomous car might let me read or relax behind the wheel, but it would be little faster than my existing commute and as sensitive to traffic, which is the main factor that makes some trips 2.5 hours and some 4 hours. Even if my Google car is a gas-sipping Prius or a plug-in hybrid, it will be less energy efficient than a train, which achieves giant economies of scale in fuel usage even at higher speeds than individual vehicles. It keeps me sealed in my private compartment, rather than giving me an opportunity to see friends who make the same trip or meet new people.

There’s a logical response to my whiny demands for an easier commute: if there were a market for such a service, surely such a thing would exist. And if train service can’t be profitably provided between Pittsfield and Boston, why should Massachusetts taxpayers foot the bill for making my life marginally easier?

This line of reasoning became popular in the US during the Reagan/Thatcher revolution and has remained influential ever since. What government services can be privatized should be, and government dollars should go only towards services, like defense, that we can’t pay for in private markets. As the US postal service has reminded us recently, they remain open during the government shutdown because they are mandated by Congress to be revenue neutral. Ditto for Amtrak, which subsidizes money-losing long distance routes with profitable New England services and covers 88% of expenses through revenue, not through government support. Our obsession with privatization is so thorough in the US that we had no meaningful debate in the US about single payer healthcare, a system that would likely be far cheaper and more efficient than the commercial health insurance mandated under the Affordable Care Act – even when governments provide services more efficiently than private markets, the current orthodoxy dictates that private market solutions are the way to go.

The problem with private market solutions is that they often achieve a lower level of efficiency than public solutions. Medicare has tremendous power to negotiate with drug manufacturers, which brings down healthcare costs. Private insurers have less leverage, and we all pay higher prices for drugs as a result, especially those whose healthcare isn’t paid for my a government or private organization and who have no negotiating power. The current system works very well for drug companies, but poorly for anyone who needs and uses healthcare (which is to say, for virtually everyone.)"



"This unwillingness to consider the creation of new public goods restricts the solution space we consider. We look for solutions to the crisis in journalism but aren’t willing to consider national license models like the one that supports the BBC, or strong, funded national broadcasters like NHK or Deutsche Welle. We build markets to match consumers with health insurance but won’t consider expanding Medicare into a single-payer health system. We look towards MOOCs and underpaid lecturers rather than considering fundamental reforms to the structure of state universities. We consider a narrow range of options and complain when we find only lousy solutions."
government  infrastructure  politics  rail  transportation  ethanzuckerman  trains  googlecars  cars  self-drivingcras  2013  publicgoods  commuting  privatization  crowdfunding 
january 2014 by robertogreco
INTERVIEW: MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman on ‘Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection’ – Next City
"Sometimes I think the obsession with cities and data in particular is taking us back to this very modernist, planned set of assumptions, where all the data is going to be the same in all places. There was an IBM group analyzing traffic flow in Côte d’Ivoire that came up with the remarkable finding that if Côte d’Ivoire would just follow IBM’s advice, their transportation system would be 10 percent more efficient. I find myself going, ‘We all know what happened when RAND tried to plan the New York City Fire Department and the Bronx burned down.’ But beyond that, the best we can do for the city of Abidjan is 10 percent, based on surveilling everybody in the city for a year? These solutions are not actually all that impressive. There are probably much more interesting solutions to traffic in Abidjan that are probably based on going to Abidjan, something other than doing data analysis somewhere far away from the city."



"I have to be completely honest that I don’t live in a city. I live in a town of 3,000 people out in western Massachusetts. I do commute into a city, and I periodically turn to my city-dweller friends and talk about what to me seems like a certain species of insanity. [Laughs.] Living in a subset of American cities, particularly New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, just to me seems willfully obtuse. You are being ripped off. There are no two ways about it. The amount of money that people pay here in Boston and Cambridge for a reasonable place to live to me just seems insane. For all these very good arguments about the efficiencies and vibrancy of cities, I kind of feel like it’s a conspiracy to make people feel good about how they’re getting ripped off by the real estate market. So I have to talk about cities as someone who has opted out in a big way.

To me, smaller cities make a lot of sense. But this is where I think the city as a construct gets very, very complicated. Does it make sense to talk about New York, London or Berlin as hotbeds of cosmopolitanism? Yeah, I’m sure it does. I’m not sure I feel the same way about Guangzhou in southern China, where I was for a bit of the summer: Massive city, giant manufacturing and mostly Han Chinese. Not a whole lot of obvious cultural manifestation."



"The whole book is basically a conversation about potential and reality. The potential of the Internet is that we’re going to get information from all over the world. And the reality is that, a lot of the time, we’re mostly getting information from people we went to high school with. The potential of the city is that we’re going to benefit from the fact that there’s a Uygur population somewhere over in Flushing, Queens, that we have so much to learn from all the different cultures, that I can go eat Senegalese food tonight, and that I’m going to brush shoulders with people from all over the world all the time. The reality is, it’s really easy to stay in your apartment and eat takeout food. You can fool yourself into being a cosmopolitan when you’re pretty isolated in your physical space.

Robert Putnam of Bowling Alone for years has been bemoaning how the Internet is going to separate us and how we’re losing the social fabric of mixing in public. But he’s done recent work that is much, much less discussed, because it’s really uncomfortable. He’s found that when you’re living in a city where you’re a minority, you’re probably going to hunker down. You’re probably not going to mix much with your neighbors. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time watching TV. Confronted with high degrees of cultural diversity, people, for the most part, don’t seem to step up to the challenge and meet their neighbors. In many ways, they hide from them. A lot of cities that have the highest degrees of civic participation are pretty ethnically homogenous.

I would love to be able to say, yes, cities are serendipity engines, and if you just fully embrace the city, and take advantage of all the cultural richness and diversity that’s available there, you’re going to find a way to get as much of that encounter as you get from having the Internet. But there’s no guarantee that you’re going to do it in the city. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to do it online, either, and my encouragement [in the book] is to look for bridge figures, look for translators and look for structured serendipity. And all of that is as applicable in an urban environment as it is in the online environment."
cities  2013  diversity  serendipity  ethanzuckerman  nancyscola  digital  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  adamgreenfield 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Beyond “The Crisis in Civics” – Notes from my 2013 DML talk | ... My heart’s in Accra
"Rather than concluding that civics is in crisis, it’s worth considering that the practice of civics may be changing shape. We may be used to teaching that is inaccessible and unpersuasive to students at best, and disempowering and conformist at worst. We need to understand the new shapes civics is taking so we can teach people to engage in ways that allow them to effectively assert agency, to bring about the changes, large and small, they want to see in the world."



"With the rise of social media in the 21st century, media has become more personal and less homogenous, leading to concerns that individuals are occupying filter bubbles or echo chambers that make it harder for people to empathize and find common ground with those who hold different opinions. Social media has helped people find micropublics, circles of friends who share an interest or a common history and tend to be highly responsive to each other’s posts, updates and online sharings. People are becoming used to creating “content” of all sorts, and receiving feedback on this content, whether a post about their personal life or their political beliefs."



"If we want civic participation that is thick, impactful and scaleable:

- We need to get beyond distinctions between politics and activism and think about agency – our goal is to help people bring about the change they want to see in the world.

- We can’t just develop new digital tactics – we need to think about levers of change and understand who we’re hoping to impact and why we believe they can help us make change.

- We need to help people climb ladders of engagement while broadening their understanding of issues, so they can build their own ladders for others to climb.

- We need to understand that thick participation at scale means devolving control away from the center and trusting that the people we are inviting into our movements will shape them going forwards."
ethanzuckerman  2013  civics  generations  population  us  participation  engagement  politics  government  socialmedia  change  scale 
july 2013 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Teju Cole: Every Day is for The Thief
"One of the loveliest blogs of the past few years was Teju Cole’s…has subsequently disappeared, leaving dozens of dead links…Blogs usually don’t work like this – they outlive the enthusiasm of their authors, lying neglected & silent. The Japanese call dead blogs “ishikoro” – pebbles. A missing blog is something else, a hole, like a dropped stitch in a row of knitting…

I’ve been exhuming the digital remains of Teju Cole…via the Wayback Machine…in the wake of reading his lovely & all too short “Every Day is for The Thief“…one of the best books I’ve read this year…one that I plan to press into the hands of friends travelling to West Africa for the first time…especially into the hands of African friends returning home.

I don’t know why Cole took down his brilliant blog, or why this beautiful book ends on a lovely but abrupt note. But if I respect a man’s right to speak, I’ve also got to respect his silence."
nigeria  lagos  thirdculture  identity  belonging  2008  writing  ishikoro  waybackmachine  silence  blogging  blogs  ethanzuckerman  everydayisforthethief  tejucole  books  africa 
may 2012 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Linguistic isolation
"As some of my readers know, I’m finishing writing a book on cosmopolitanism in a digital age. There’s lots of ways to think about cosmopolitanism; in my case, I’m thinking of the ways in which people build ties of friendship and information sharing across borders of language, nation and culture. People who have a lot of these ties are cosmopolitan, by my definition, while those whose ties are more locally bound are less cosmopolitan. One of the central questions of the book is whether the rise of the internet is leading towards higher levels of cosmopolitanism. (The answer: not necessarily, and not automatically.)

All well and good, but can we quantify these ideas?"
sociology  borders  online  web  media  news  internet  ethanzuckerman  2012  cosmopolitanism  language  technology 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Agenda | Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World
"This symposium will bring together computer scientists, ethnographers, architects, historians, artists and legal scholars to discuss how design influences privacy and public space, how it shapes and is shaped by human behavior and experience, and how it can cultivate norms such as tolerance and diversity."
hyper-public  jonathanzittrain  danahboyd  ethanzuckerman  genevievebell  pauldourish  adamgreenfield  nicholasnegroponte  davidweinberger  events  law  legal  privacy  ethnography  history  art  architecture  publicspace  behavior  experience  2011  tolerance  diversity 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The Twitter Revolution Must Die
"My sarcasm is, of course, a thinly veiled attempt to point out how absurd it is to refer to events in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere as the Twitter Revolution, the Facebook Revolution, and so on. What we call things, the names we use to identify them, has incredible symbolic power, and I, for one, refuse to associate corporate brands with struggles for human dignity."
twitter  facebook  politics  egypt  tunisia  ulisesmejias  ethanzuckerman  malcolmgladwell  clayshirky  corydoctorow  democracy  terminology  socialnetworking  2011  revolution 
january 2011 by robertogreco
DSGN AGNC: Good News
"The theme of TEDGlobal 2010 was "And now the good news..." It was a nonstop week of intense ideas exchange -- listening to great talks and meeting dynamic people, especially the other TED Fellows and Senior Fellows. But for me the good news was that "the Future" has arrived.

Several TED talks this year reassured me that if not yet fully arrived, then "the Future" is under development and in beta.

[Some short talk summaries here.]

Major transformations of society and technology -- such as how we relate to nature, products and things that compute -- will reshape humanity through design. The good news is that the future is what we make it."
tedglobal  ted  future  design  selfdetermination  humanity  nature  productdesign  ubicomp  society  optimism  2010  ethanzuckerman 
august 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » What if search drove newspapers?
"My concern is this – we’ve got great tools to help us find what we’re interested in online – search engines. We’re building strong tools to let us see what our friends and people who share our interests are interested in – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Digg. Who’s building tools to help us encounter stories we didn’t know we were interested in, and which our friends haven’t already found? Who’s building online tools that go beyond search and social towards serendipity?"
ethanzuckerman  future  journalism  newspapers  search  serendipity  diversity  online  internet  web  twitter  facebook  reddit  digg 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Ethan Zuckerman: Listening to global voices | Video on TED.com
"Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don't even know."

[script here: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2010/07/14/a-wider-world-a-wider-web-my-tedglobal-2010-talk/ ]
infrastructure  bilingualism  blogging  blogs  globalization  global  ted  world  curation  ethanzuckerman  filterbubble  tcsnmy  classideas  toshare  topost  news  media  language  socialmedia  translation  internet  xenophily  xenophiles  perspective  globalvoices  languages  googlechrome  nicholasnegroponte  imaginarycosmipolitans  education  learning  understanding  flocks  GDPbias  gdp  newscoverage  tedglobal  brazil  technology  globalvillage  listening  globalism  communication  knowledge  twitter  collaboration  brasil 
july 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » A wider world, a wider web: my TEDGlobal 2010 talk
"world is much wider than we generally perceive it....Tools like twitter can trap us in...“filter bubbles”–internet is too big to understand, so we get picture of it that’s similar to what our friends see...wider world is click away, but we’re usually filtering it out...wasn’t how it was supposed to work...in 1970s, 35-40% of average nightly newscast focused on international stories...now 12-15%...same phenomenon in quality US newspapers...pays far closer attention to wealthy nations than poor ones...Most media show this GDP bias...internet isn’t flattening world as Nicholas Negroponte thought it would...making us “imaginary cosmopolitans”

[video here: http://blog.ted.com/2010/07/listening_to_gl.php ]
infrastructure  bilingualism  blogging  blogs  globalization  global  ted  world  curation  ethanzuckerman  filterbubble  tcsnmy  classideas  toshare  topost  news  media  language  socialmedia  translation  internet  xenophily  xenophiles  perspective  globalvoices  languages  googlechrome  nicholasnegroponte  imaginarycosmipolitans  education  learning  understanding  flocks  GDPbias  gdp  newscoverage  tedglobal  brazil  technology  globalvillage  listening  globalism  communication  knowledge  twitter  collaboration  brasil 
july 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » TEDGlobal: Steve Johnson – Chance favors the connected mind
"Johnson has been thinking about coffeehouses because he’s interested in question, Where Do Good Ideas Come From? (more or less...his new book.) He tells us that we have shortcomings in our language in discussing ideas. Our language – flash of insight, stroke of genius, epiphany – focus on ideas as atomic & disconnected. But an idea is a network – it’s a new configuation w/in your brain. How do you get your brain into new places where ideas can form?...

Great ideas aren’t flashes of insights – they’re the cobbling together of diverse ideas into a new configuation. So we need to let go of the image of Netwon, the apple & discovery of gravity. It’s rarely about individual contemplation – it’s more about the sort of chaotic, free-flowing ideas that happen in the coffeehouse or around dinner table. We need to build spaces like this, including in their offices...

People tend to compress their stories of discovery into a Eureka moment. In truth, most great ideas a “slow hunches”."
stevenjohnson  ted  chance  crosspollination  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  connections  innovation  mind  hunches  coffeehouses  ideas  conversation  design  ethanzuckerman  brain  discovery  howwework  workplace  tcsnmy  lcproject  schooldesign  science 
july 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » TEDGlobal: Transforming voting, and education
"Emily Pilloton has big idea for small community. She & her design firm, Project H are focused on transforming education in Bertie County, NC...

firm focuses on 6 principles: Design through action. Design with, not for. Design systems, not stuff. Document, share & measure. Start locally and scale globally. Build.

In the spirit of 5th principle – & because she fell in love w/ community – she & Matt now live there...working on 3 projects designed to transform local education system through design.

[1] rebuilds computer labs from place designed for “kill & drill”, getting students to take tests. Now it’s a creative, open space for exploration & interaction... [2] educational playground system invites students to learn kinetically... [3] project to teach design within public schools...

While this is a small story – 1 course, 13 students, 1 year – it’s a model for how design could lead education in future & how small communities might use education to transform themselves."
emilypilloton  projecthdesign  northcarolina  ethanzuckerman  2010  design  designthinking  tcsnmy  small  rural  problemsolving  ict  education  schools  openstudio  openstudioproject  do  doing  tinkering  exploring  making  creativity  activism  community  lcproject  systems  action  building  change  gamechanging  unschooling  deschooling  projecth 
july 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » TEDGlobal: Sugata Mitra, beyond Hole in the Wall
"experiment in Hyderabad asked children who spoke English with a strong Telugu accent to use a voice recognition system on a computer. 2 months later, their accents had changed & were closer to the neutral British accent of the speech synthesizer.

Mitra had a conversation w/ Arthur C. Clarke [who] said, “If a teacher can be replaced with a machine, he should be.” & Clarke told him that student interest is the most important thing in education...

Maybe the most amazing experiment comes from Turin, where Mitra went to a primary school and started writing questions on the white board in English for students who speak only Italian. Using Google translate, students were answering questions like “Who was Pythagoras and what did he do?” in a few minutes.

Mitra tells us that he future of education is self-organized learning environments. They let students learn together, use resources and people they can access online & explore on their own, & he plans on testing this going forward."
sugatamitra  holeinthewall  outdoctrination  learning  education  unschooling  deschooling  turin  torino  testing  self-organizedlearning  autodidacts  colaboration  cheating  sharing  motivation  2010  pln  teaching  technology  ted  ict  edtech  biotech  math  google  ethanzuckerman  self-organizedlearningenvironment 
july 2010 by robertogreco
interactions magazine | The Art of Editing: The New Old Skills for a Curated Life
"Whether we see it or not, we’re becoming editors ourselves. In the Gutenberg era, the one-to-many relationship, in which an editor dictated the content for the masses, was common. In the post-Gutenberg era, our reliance became more democratic: We sought out editors who could sift through the staggering amount of information for us, signal where to look, what to read, and what to pay attention to. Now there’s another shift at play; you may have seen it reblogged or retweeted recently, in fact. With new tools allowing an unlimited degree of flexibility and freedom, we’re gaining comfort in editing our own media. We are, for the first time, accepting the role of editor, and exhibiting our editorial qualities outward. We’re gaining followers and pointing the way forward for others. But without any training, how are we doing it?"
culture  curation  narrative  convergence  collections  blogging  editing  editors  content  iraglass  via:cervus  cv  ethanzuckerman  lizdanzico  coherence  twitter  tumblr  clayshirky  infooverload  googlereader  rss  intuition  voice  tempo  socialmedia  information  design  writing  media  danahboyd  news 
may 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Geocaching: Augmenting Reality for Enhanced Serendipity
"I love the idea of geohashing – the arbitrary nature of the algorithm has a purity to it that appeals to me. But I haven’t gone to find a hash yet. A cache implies that someone else thought a spot was worthy, in some way, to be encountered & appreciated – a hash has none of that baggage, for better or worse.

I’m interested in building structures that facilitate serendipity, because I worry that I, you & everyone else spends too much time walking familiar paths & too little time wandering in the wilderness. I worry about this in terms of news and information most often, wondering how we find ways to filter the rich information flows of the Internet without filtering out the unfamiliar & provocative. I’ve been making the case that we should stumble into unfamiliar territory because it’s good for us. But that’s about as effective as telling me that I should hike because I’m fat. Perhaps someone (me?) needs to start hiding caches of rubber ducks in strategic corners of the Internet."

[later: http://artichoke.typepad.com/arti_choke/2010/02/i-worry-about-a-world-with-less-risk.html ]
ethanzuckerman  geocaching  geohashing  augmentedreality  serendipity  tcsnmy  discovery  travel  projectideas  glvo  web  internet  artichokeblog  pamhook  ar 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Mediactive » Toward a Slow-News Movement
"Like many other people who've been burned by believing too quickly, I've learned to put almost all of what journalists call "breaking news" into the categories of gossip or, in the words of a scientist friend, "interesting if true." That is, even though I gobble up "the latest" from a variety of sources, the closer the information is in time to the actual event, the more I assume it's unreliable if not false.

It's my own version of "slow news" -- an expression I first heard on Friday, coined by my friend Ethan Zuckerman in a wonderful riff off the slow-food movement. We were at a Berkman Center for Internet & Society retreat in suburban Boston, in a group discussion of ways to improve the quality of what we know when we have so many sources from which to choose at every minute of the day... "

[via: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/08/slow-news-designing.html ]
slow  news  literacy  journalism  slownews  dangillmor  speed  quality  media  criticalthinking  online  realtime  gossip  ethanzuckerman 
november 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » On connecting the dots – a response to Lessig on transparency
"while we should embrace the tools that allow us to connect dots (the blogs, the databases, the fruits of the transparency movement), we are challenged to understand the dangers of our own zeal, as well as that of those that surround us. The solution is not to fight against transparency, or even for the reform of campaign finance – it’s to understand that a world in which we can all connect dots and share our zeal, we all need to learn how to read and listen in a way that’s careful, cautious and skeptical, especially when the data we see leads to the conclusions we’d like to draw."
ethanzuckerman  journalism  transparency  larrylessig  davidweinberger  politics  policy  government  corruption 
october 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Fighting the four-year myth
"To conclude:
- Not enough get in
- Even fewer get out
- Those that do are broke and unsatisfied

We need to rethink the whole four year college experience – this isn’t working, and it may be setting us further back as a society."
colleges  universities  economics  policy  us  education  dropouts  ethanzuckerman  society  learning  alternative  reform  change  gamechanging  admissions 
october 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Fun and games with human misery
"For me, either the suspiciously accurate novel or the eminently readable comic go a long way in turning a distant – though critical – concern into a real, tangible problem. It makes me wish that more journalists and activists would look for creative ways to tell these stories and make them more real to readers."
education  learning  comics  games  gaming  simulations  science  politics  piracy  africa  ethanzuckerman  tcsnmy 
july 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Jonathan Lyons on the Islamic resolution of science and monotheism
"This led him to the exploration of Islam’s influence on what we think of as western science and society. He focuses in particular on Adelard of Bath, wondering what kind of person goes to the Holy Land during the crusades not to kill, but to learn Arabic and bring back that scholarship?

His book, “The House of Wisdom“, starts with a description of the unschooled, barbarian European masses knocking on the gates of the learned and sophisticated Islamic lands. He explains that Fibonnaci’s father sent him to a Muslim family to learn his math - he would have learned double-entry bookkeeping, an innovation that hadn’t yet reached the North.

When European monestaries might hold a couple of dozen volumes, Arabic libraries held hundreds of thousands of books. When the sultan decided to donate books to a new school, he sent 80,000 from his personal collection."
science  history  spain  iran  islam  religion  philosophy  arabic  translation  ethanzuckerman  jonathanlyons  españa 
july 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Tim O’Reilly on Government 2.0
"Somehow, Tim says, we got lost and turned to “vending machine government”, a model where we put in taxes and take out services. Can we undo this, and build government that enables four types of interaction: - Government to citizen - providing services and information to citizens - Citizen to government - citizens report on probelms that need government assistance - Citizen to citizen - not every problem needs to be solved by government - Government to government - we need better cooperation within government agencies. Tim suggests that there are some lessons from the technology space that could be useful in building Government 2.0. ... government needs to be a vehicle for collective action, a convener first, and a problem-solver second. ... Fixing complex problems requires figuring out what government needs to do, what private entites can do and what coordinated citizens can do. If we build systems that allow all these behaviors, we’ll see ... positive change through Government 2.0."
government  timoreilly  change  systems  us  problems  community  cooperation  mistakes  web2.0  failure  innovation  socialmedia  via:preoccupations  privatepubicpartnership  activism  grassroots  collectiveaction  ethanzuckerman 
july 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » John Hagel on serendipity
"I’m interested in questions of how we stumble onto information and ideas we’d be unlikely to find within our present sphere of weak ties. One possibility is to radically expand that circle of weak ties - start paying attention to the perspectives and opinions of people far outside our realms of ordinary experience. This isn’t easy to do - it tends to require the assistance of bridge figures, who’ve got connections to our circles and to very different circles. I also wonder whether serendipity always needs to focus on personal connection - I think we often get serendipity from media, from pop culture, from news. All that said, I like Hagel’s idea that we can change environments to increase serendipity."
ethanzuckerman  johnhagel  serendipity  homophily  online  media  information  trends  weakties  crosspollination  discovery  inspiration  casualconnections  change  informallearning  via:preoccupations 
july 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » The importance of being a dork
"my blanket prescription for making friends in other countries: Your best chances to connect with people in other cultures...eating, drinking, playing music, dancing, playing football (soccer)...“play with kids”...Are plane tickets the first ingredient in these equations? Do they need to be? I live just north of Pittsfield, MA, a city of fewer than 50,000 people. For years, the city has held an annual Ethnic Fair...My guess is that there’s an opportunity for me to learn something about Brazilian culture beyond enjoying the two Brazilian restaurants that have opened in town. I suspect it involves losing fifty pounds and playing soccer in a local league. Or putting on my best clubbing clothes and hanging out at Latin Night on Saturday at the Ecuadorian restaurant and dance club. I haven’t done either, and I find myself wondering if part of the equation is that I’m more comfortable looking like a dork in Dakar than in Pittsfield."
learning  culture  travel  ethanzuckerman  society  internet  psychology  music  communication  world  glvo  cv  local  immigration  inhibition  myexperience  sports  food  dance  children  immersion 
may 2009 by robertogreco
Worldchanging: Bright Green: Argentine Economics And Maker Culture
"My guess is, so long as the US dollar remains the global reserve currency, it’s going to be tough for local food and fashion to become a mass movement instead of a conscious political statement. While that may not be great news for the makers, it’s probably good economic news - as much as I like the steak, I’d be pretty unhappy if the Obama administration started looking to Argentina for macroeconomic advice."
argentina  economics  diy  culture  fashion  handmade  food  ethanzuckerman  worldchanging 
april 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Liz Coleman reinvents liberal arts education
"Coleman challenges us with the idea that “liberal arts education no longer exists.” The liberal arts no longer provides the breath of knowledge and capacity for civic engagement we count on it to provide. This is why educators in the former Soviet Union looked to liberal arts as the model to rebuild their educational system after the fall of communism. But liberal arts is in crisis. The expert has dethroned the generalist. “Expertise has its moments, but the price of its dominance is enormous.” Subjects are broken into smaller pieces, with an emhpasis on the technical and obscure. This, combined with the idea that neutrality is a condition of academic integrity creates an environment that’s toxic if we try to connect education and public good."

[See also: http://snarkmarket.com/2009/2521 ]
ethanzuckerman  lizcoleman  highereducation  liberalarts  education  learning  society  politics  colleges  universities 
february 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » My talk at Berkman: Mapping a connected world
"When we don’t know about the infrastructure that connects us, we don’t know who we could be connected to and who we’re prevented from connecting to. When we don’t know what flows over this infrastructure, we can overestimate some kinds of connection (and underestimate others). To understand how the world really works, we need maps, not just of infrastructure, but of flow. We need maps not just of the internet and shipping lanes, but maps that help us understand who and what we pay attention to, how we get information, what we know and what we don’t know."
data  infrastructure  flow  via:preoccupations  ethanzuckerman  maps  globalization  mapping 
february 2009 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Cultural appropriation of the kick-ass kind
"Performing haka in north Texas isn’t an act of random cultural appropriation. The offensive and defensive lines of the Trojans are filled with Tongan players, representing 4,000 people of Tongan descent who live in town of 52,900. The size, speed and skill of these players has a lot to do with the emergence of Trinity as a football powerhouse - in a recent NPR piece on the team, one coach of the team remarked that his offensive line currently outweighed that of Washington Redskins...What’s fascinating to me is the way in which the Haka made it into Euless...wasn’t through elders communicating a dance tradition to children. Instead, some of the players watched the New Zealand rugby team perform the haka on YouTube and began learning the moves in a local park. With the permission and blessing of the local Tongan community, they began performing the dance at community events. It later worked its way onto the football field, where it’s become a critical part of Trinity football culture."
society  culture  sports  football  dance  haka  ethanzuckerman  via:migurski  yotube  culturalappropriation 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven: Ennea
"Ennea records real-life data by looking at social contact and interaction between pupils within a school environment. This is done with mobile-networked objects, which can be carried around by the pupils."
social  children  youth  teens  interaction  personalinformatics  ethanzuckerman  microsoft  finance  mobilephones  behavior  design  socialnetworks  arduino  surveillance  privacy  socialization  schooling  edg  xbee  wireless  microcontrollers 
july 2008 by robertogreco
WorldChanging: Social Lions, Fiscally-Literate Mobile Phones
"set of small, cute, wireless-aware objects that students carried with them for a few weeks. The objects measured interactions between children, timing the interactions each child had, and whether they were with individuals or groups."
social  children  youth  teens  interaction  personalinformatics  ethanzuckerman  microsoft  finance  mobilephones  behavior  design  socialnetworks  arduino  surveillance  privacy  socialization  schooling  edg  xbee  wireless  microcontrollers 
july 2008 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia
“Homophily can make you stupid…[I]t’s possible to miss huge trends, changes and opportunities by talking solely to people who agree with you…xenophiles are uniquely equipped to thrive in a globalizing world"
journalism  homophily  media  internet  culture  serendipity  ethanzuckerman  global  empathy  citizenjournalism  activism  xenophobia  xenophily 
april 2008 by robertogreco
WorldChanging: The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism
If there’s single message to talk...activists are going to use your tools if your tools are any good - watch them, pay attention to them, protect them and learn from them. They’ll make tools better, they’re one of reasons to make social software in
activism  internet  web  ethanzuckerman  worldchanging  web2.0  twitter  presentation  politics  lolcat  etech  socialsoftware  tools 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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