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robertogreco : homemaking   3

rant of the day - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"Fantastic rant this morning from Maciej Ceglowski, creator of the invaluable Pinboard, about this new service:

“Hello Alfred Raises $10.5M To Automate Your Chores”. Part of the white-hot trend in scriptable people.
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

“Customers are assigned their own home manager, also called an Alfred, and those nameless managers take care of the work”
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

I’ve seen luxury apartments with a built-in “servant call” button resembling a doorbell, but I never expected the world wide web to get one
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

A nameless, fungible class of domestic workers is antithetical to a democratic society. That’s what undocumented immigrants are for
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

Next up: on-demand service that offshores your guilt about creating, enabling and participating in a new Gilded Age
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

The chief reason I keep arguing with Ned O'Gorman about whether things can want — latest installment here — is that I think the blurring of lines between the agency of animals (especially people) and the agency of made objects contributes to just this kind of thing: if we can script the Internet of Things why not script people too? Once they're scripted they want what they've been scripted to do. (Obviously O'Gorman doesn't want to see that happen any more than I do: our debate is about the tendencies of terms, not about substantive ethical and political questions.)"
alanjacobs  nedo'gorman  maciejceglowski  labor  inequality  iot  internetofthings  2015  helloalfred  alfred  servants  gildedage  siliconvalley  californianideology  domesticworkers  distancing  othering  taskrabbit  sharingeconomy  outsourcing  chores  homemaking  domesticwork  ethics  agency  capitalism  latecapitalism  maciejcegłowski 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Who Cares – The New Inquiry
"The supposedly natural emotions of love and compassion are used to compel many people, especially women, to work for free."

"Reports of neglect and abuse in hospitals and care homes appear with alarming regularity. Received narratives blame “burn-out”: understaffing, low wages and squeezed margins transform overworked and overstressed carers into monsters. The proposed solution is extra vigilance and “Compassion Training.” Shifting the question of working practices and worker wellbeing onto the terrain of compassion is a sleight of hand. It implies that care workers should police themselves and their colleagues rather than fight collectively for better pay and conditions. By this account, compassion flows in one direction only, from nurse to patient, and never between nurses, or from the nurse to her or his own family and friends."

"Of course, the majority of care workers—parents but mostly mothers, children but mostly daughters, spouses but mostly wives—never receive any wages at all. Within families, and other close interpersonal relationships, love and guilt are the mechanisms by which caring labor (cleaning, wiping, feeding and so on) is extorted from a largely female workforce. Perhaps this is what nurse-lecturers are really alluding to when they ask students to imagine their patients as their mothers. When women, who dominate caring professions, take their capacity to care away from the private sphere and sell it on the labor market instead, the same mechanisms—love and guilt—are called upon to bridge the shortfall in staff, resources and wages that characterize many caring institutions, whether they are run for profit or by the state."

"In the SCUM Manifesto, Valerie Solanas proposes that “thrill-seeking females overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.” In her vision of post-revolution society, all work will be performed by machines. Caring labor will be eliminated and will no longer be constitutive of expressions of love between individuals. Instead, women will spend their newfound leisure time expressing love for each other through intellectual discourse and great projects (e.g. curing death).

While increased leisure time and revolutionized interpersonal relationships have not yet been forthcoming, technology has already been employed in a range of caring tasks from baby formula milk or TV as babysitter to animal robots. However, we remain a long way from machines raising the next generation of workers and carers. As demonstrated by Harry Harlow’s heartbreaking experiments raising baby monkeys in isolation chambers with inanimate robot mothers, the task of reproducing socialized primates is complex and nuanced. So far, despite the deficiencies of some human carers, we do not have a machine that can care for the sick or bring up a child.

Many feminist theorists disagree with Solanas’s analysis. They argue that while in patriarchal capitalist societies women are overburdened with the tasks of love and care, these tasks are an inherent part of what it means to be human. For example, Selma James, co-founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign, defends care work like this: “Mothers feeding infants, in fact all caring work outside any money exchange, is basic to human survival—not exactly a marginal achievement. What, we must ask in our own defense and in society’s, is more important than this?”"

"Is it possible to imagine a restructured society in which love remains the primary motivation for engaging in care work but where this labor is provided freely, without exploitation? We might assume that rich women love their families, but just as they don’t work in the factories where their iPhones are made, they rarely perform the hard graft of caring labor themselves. Instead they employ nurses and nannies. The reason that some working class women perform care work for rich people as well as for their own families and communities is not that they experience love more intensely. Or if they do, perhaps they experience it more intensely because they are required by capitalism to perform this labor. Ultimately they do it because they do not have a choice.

There are potentially a million different possible ways to treat the sick, raise children or organize intimacy. It’s at least imaginable that in a different social form we could cure ourselves with shared knowledge of pharmacologically active substances, or that sick people might choose to meditate on their pain alone, or countless other examples. In a fully communized society, it might be possible to retain both love and iPhones, but the conditions of their production and consumption would need to be radically transformed. It might be necessary, as Solanas suggests, to de-couple love from care work. Whatever happens, we must stop taking it for granted that women care and want to care. And we must begin to investigate the meaning of that caring."
care  caring  emotionallabor  2014  economics  lauraannerobertson  love  healthcare  gender  aging  children  parenting  childcare  eldercare  housework  homemaking  capitalism  labor  work  valeriesolanas  patriarchy  silviafederici  employment 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets
[Update 23 Jan 2015: a new version of this is now at The Atlantic: ]

"HOMO FABBER: Every once in a while, I am asked what I ‘make’. When I attended the Brighton Maker Faire in September, a box for the answer was under my name on my ID badge. It was part of the XOXO Festival application for 2013; when I saw the question, I closed the browser tab, and only applied later (and eventually attended) because of the enthusiastic encouragement of friends. I’m always uncomfortable identifying myself as a maker. I'm uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity (‘maker’, rather than ‘someone who makes things’). But I have much deeper concerns.

Walk through a museum. Look around a city. Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women. As a teenager, I read Ayn Rand on how any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavour. My response to this was to stop making my bed every day, to the distress of my mother. (While I admit the possibility of a misinterpretation, as I haven’t read Rand’s writing since I was so young my mother oversaw my housekeeping, I have no plans to revisit it anytime soon.) The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling things), and from what Ursula Franklin describes as prescriptive technologies to ones that are more holistic, it mostly reinscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not.

In light of this history, it’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into ‘making’. Consider the instant gratification of seeing ‘hello, world’ on the screen; it’s nearly the easiest possible way to ‘make’ things, and certainly one where failure has a very low cost. Code is 'making' because we've figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men. But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviours from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s 'Chinese room' take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviours. We call the latter 'education', and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost. Consider the economics term ‘Baumol's cost disease’: it suggests that it is somehow pathological that the time and energy taken by a string quartet to prepare for a performance--and therefore the cost--has not fallen in the same way as goods, as if somehow people and what they do should get less valuable with time (to be fair, given the trajectory of wages in the US over the last few years in real terms, that seems to be exactly what is happening).

It's not, of course, that there's anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). It's that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it's nearly always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.

I am not a maker. In a framing and value system that is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is, at least superficially, the same year after year. That's because all of the actual change is at the interface between me, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like 'design learning experiences', which is mistaking what I do for what I’m actually trying to elicit and support. The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.

My graduate work in materials engineering was all about analysing and characterizing biological tissues, mostly looking at disease states and interventions and how they altered the mechanical properties of bone, including addressing a public health question for my doctoral research. My current education research is mostly about understanding the experiences of undergraduate engineering students so we can do a better job of helping them learn. I think of my brilliant and skilled colleagues in the social sciences, like Nancy Baym at Microsoft Research, who does interview after interview followed by months of qualitative analysis to understand groups of people better. None of these activities are about ‘making’.

I educate. I analyse. I characterize. I critique. Almost everything I do these days is about communicating with others. To characterize what I do as 'making' is either to mistake the methods—the editorials, the workshops, the courses, even the materials science zine I made—for the purpose. Or, worse, to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminishing their own agency and role in sensemaking, as if their learning is something I impose on them.

In a recent newsletter, Dan Hon wrote, "But even when there's this shift to Makers (and with all due deference to Getting Excited and Making Things), even when "making things" includes intangibles now like shipped-code, there's still this stigma that feels like it attaches to those-who-don't-make. Well, bullshit. I make stuff." I understand this response, but I'm not going to call myself a maker. Instead, I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else. Instead of calling myself a maker, I'm proud to stand with the caregivers, the educators, those that analyse and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things and all the other people who do valuable work with and for others, that doesn't result in something you can put in a box and sell."

[My response on Twitter:

Storified version:

and as a backup to that (but that doesn't fit the container of what Pinboard will show you)…

“Great way to start my day: @debcha on invisible infrastructure of (often intangible) labor, *not* making, & teaching.”

“[pause to let you read and to give you a chance to sign up for @debcha’s Metafoundry newsletter ]”

““behind every…[maker] is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in…various aspects—…mostly performed by women” —@debcha”

“See also Maciej Cegłowski on Thoreau.”

““Thoreau had all these people, mostly women, who silently enabled the life he thought he was heroically living for himself.” —M. Cegłowski”

“And this reminder from @anotherny [Frank Chimero] that we should acknowledge and provide that support: “Make donuts too.””

“small collection of readings (best bottom up) on emotional labor, almost always underpaid, mostly performed by women”

““The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.” —@debcha”

““to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminish[es] their own agency & role in sensemaking” —@debcha”

“That @debcha line gets at why Taylor Mali’s every-popular “What Teachers Make” has never sat well with me.”

““I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else.” —@debcha”

“This all brings me back to Margaret Edson’s 2008 Commencement Address at Smith College. +”

“Edson’s talk is about classroom teaching. I am forever grateful to @CaseyG for pointing me there (two years ago on Tuesday).”

““Bringing nothing, producing nothing, expecting nothing, withholding … [more]
debchachra  2014  making  makers  makermovement  teaching  howweteach  emotionallabor  labor  danhon  scubadiving  support  ursulafranklin  coding  behavior  gender  cv  margaretedson  caseygollan  care  caretaking  smithcollege  sensemaking  agency  learning  howwelearn  notmaking  unproduct  frankchimero  maciejceglowski  metafoundry  independence  interdependence  canon  teachers  stigma  gratitude  thorough  infrastructure  individualism  invisibility  critique  criticism  fixing  mending  analysis  service  intangibles  caregiving  homemaking  maciejcegłowski 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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