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robertogreco : humanness   4

The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
What is not machine-like
"
“REJOICE IN HUMANNESS! Machines can’t make mistakes. If you compete with a machine on its terms YOU LOSE! So don’t reduce your writing to be like type. YOU ARE NOT A TYPEWRITER! Admit mistakes, correct them, & go right on.
—Jacqueline Svaren, Written Letters

Andy Warhol said, “I want to be a machine,” but we’ve been there and done that, and besides, he was delight-full of crap, like all great artists, because when I stood in front of those big silk-screened flowers last week they sure didn’t feel like they were made by machines. You could sense the human behind them…

[blackoutpoem: "hire a heart with an eye
No tech can know its algorithm"]
“These are not yet automata.”
—Studs Terkel, Working

I remember a few years ago how triumphant I felt when the Twitter spam account @horse_ebooks turned out to be a human pretending to be a machine. Some were disappointed, but the feed seemed too weird and beautiful to me to be completely random. I was happy to see a human behind it.

[blackout poem: “Machines help you act machine like”]
“The next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.”
—Wendell Berry

I like my machines just fine, but I’m not interested in turning into one. I’d like to remain a person. I truly believe one of the most subversive things you can do today is spend as much of your time as possible nurturing what is not machine-like in you."
austinkleon  2017  machines  cyborgs  humans  humanism  studsterkel  jacquelinesvaren  wendellberry  humanness  automata  imperfection  technology  automation 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Arash Daneshzadeh on Twitter: "The canon of John Dewey is trash, stop hyping his basicness. Especially when we have far more critical scholars of melanin. [A thread]"
[***d sections, separated out, are those that I retweeted on Twitter]

"The canon of John Dewey is trash, stop hyping his basicness. Especially when we have far more critical scholars of melanin. [A thread]

When I read Dewey (revered as the granddaddy of progressive education) I notice how “white” (read: basic) curriculum studies is.

***There is an expectation that we should all know the authors of school desegregation curriculum (many of whom are white) but no expectation that students know anti-racist and decolonial scholars like Freire, Du Bois or Lorde.***

As I read John Dewey and others, I experience an unenthusiastic physical reaction to their unimaginative words and ideas on education, as they fundamentally contradict the dialectic relationship between learners and systems. Perhaps because their notions of teaching and learning were associated primarily w the reproduction of social hierarchies through models of efficiency and democratic nation-building in order to anchor capitalism—a logic of white supremacy—in place.

Racial hegemony was accomplished not only through relations of accumulation of property and capital, but also through knowledge/knowledge production which caping for dry Dewey analysis advances. As Said highlighted, colonialism was not simply about the removal of ivory and slaves, but also about the need to "improve" populations, an explicit relationship between property and knowledge.

***Ngugi makes similar suggestions, that the colonial improvement project took place through the “cultural bomb” that reshaped existing structures of human knowledge through a misrepresentation of reality and the erasure of memories of pre-colonial cultures and history, a way of installing the dominance of new, more insidious forms of colonialism.***

The issue isn't simply regarding Whitening ed curriculum, but rather privileging this social history in the formation of education, as well as the formulation of a list that articulates which knowledge is most worthy of knowing.

In Democracy and Education, Dewey emphasizes a relationship between schooling and democracy as central to nation-building. For Dewey, democracy meant the development and expansion of the nation, in which schooling (and its democratization) was a site that could further develop the nation. Within liberal democracies, capitalism is the way civilization aspires to organize itself economically, and democracy becomes the model of choice for political power. Such aspirations need to be thought about carefully. This is because the promotion of democracy that Dewey advocated is premised on hierarchical and elective approaches to governance that are inherently linked to the capitalist order, in turn marginalizing other modes of existence.

There is a stark contrast between curriculum that emerges from the work of Black scholars and curriculum that happens to "include" Black scholars.

***Janet Miller writes about working in “communities of dissensus”--the idea that rather than working toward reconciliation we must push discomfort through confronting white fears and insecurities when it comes to dealing with centering Black epistemologies.***

As a doctoral student in Education, I struggled with feelings of belonging and non-belonging, placeness & placelessness like my grad students. Throughout my doctoral journey of critique and resistance, my alienation grew further as my white peers (primarily teachers) all seemed to relate their practice to these theories.

***Anti-colonial thinkers Said, Fanon and Wynter suggest that White epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies created universal values defined what l it meant to be human and who constituted the human through what Wynter calls the "descriptive statement".***

This descriptive statement of the human is based upon the biocentric model to which the name "race" has been given.

Knowledge arrangements have been shaped by the epistemic constitution of caping for liberal multicultural capitalists like Dewey on the basis of the ordering of disciplinary fields. Even the term “canon” itself connotes a certain ideological foundation.

***Since white liberals like Dewey's basic self are some of the primary actors that have served to maintain the Western-bourgeois system of Human-making (through standards, and disciplines), they must radically unlearn by moving beyond schooling to identify "human-ness". Tuck calls this participatory unlearning process via an anti-colonial curriculum, a “methodology of rematriation/repatriation”. ***

Finally, Dewey is basic and his scholarship was trash. But mostly, there is no solidarity w/out curriculum constructed in(not on) communities."

[Response to my retweet (specifically of the Ngugi line): "@A_Daneshzadeh @rogre yes! been teaching this particular aspect for years, powerful & true, was blessed to have Ngugi as prof many yrs ago"
https://twitter.com/DenengeTheFirst/status/810197262311784449 ]
arashdaneshzadeh  johndewey  audrelorde  place  frantzfanon  edwardsaid  janetmiller  canons  education  ngugi  rematriation  repatriation  capitalism  sylviawynter  curriculum  race  racism  resistance  canon  multiculturalism  humanness  unlearning  participatory  values  belonging  civilization  society  schools  deschooling  unschooling  horizontality  hierarchy  marginalization  governance  democracy  evetuck  schooling  sfsh  cv  alienation  webdubois  paulofreire  erasure  reality  whitesupremacy  ngũgĩwathiong'o  ngugiwathiong’o  ngũgĩ 
december 2016 by robertogreco
The centripetal force of life
"I don't quite know what I'm doing to myself these days. Last night was an episode of The Americans in which a marriage was ending, another family was trying to keep itself intact, and a young boy struggles to move on after his entire family dies. This morning, I watched an episode of Mad Men in which a mother tries to reconcile her differences with her daughter in the face of impending separation. And then, the absolute cake topper, a story by Matthew Teague [http://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a34905/matthew-teague-wife-cancer-essay/ ] that absolutely wrecked me. It's about his cancer-stricken wife and the friend who comes and rescues an entire family, which is perhaps the truest and most direct thing I've ever read about cancer and death and love and friendship.
Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, I had loved her with my whole self. Only now can I look back on the fullness of our affection; at the time I could see nothing but one wound at a time, a hole the size of a dime, into which I needed to pack a fistful of material. Love wasn't something I felt anymore. It was just something I did. When I finished, I would lie next to her and use sterile cotton balls to soak up her tears. When she finally slept, I would slip out of bed and go into our closet, the most isolated room in the house. Inside, I would wrap a blanket around my head, stuff it into my mouth, lie down and bury my head in a pile of dirty clothes, and scream.

There are very specific parts of all those stories that I identify with. I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can't tell them or show them how to do that because I'm me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I'm just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? God, this is way too much for a Monday."
parenting  cv  fathers  jasonkottke  children  self-doubt  humans  humanness  relationships  friendships  fatherhood  families  kindness  matthewteague  death  health  cancer  marriage  selflessness  love 
may 2015 by robertogreco

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