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robertogreco : illegibility   21

Los Angeles, Houston and the appeal of the hard-to-read city
"This is not going to be a column about all the things the New York Times got wrong about the Los Angeles Times in its recent front-page story by Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, "A Paper Tears Apart in a City That Never Quite Came Together." It is not, for the most part, going to be about all the things the New York Times got wrong (or simply failed to mention) about Los Angeles itself in that article, which argued that recent turmoil at this newspaper is emblematic of the city's broader lack of support for its major institutions. Plenty of smart people have already weighed in on both fronts.

And yes, every word in the previous sentence links to one of those smart people. Here are a couple more for good measure. When Josh Kun, Carolina Miranda, Daniel Hernandez, David Ulin, Alissa Walker, Matthew Kang and Carolyn Kellogg are united in knocking your analysis of Los Angeles, it might, you know, be a sign.

Anyway. This is going to be a column, instead, about something slightly different: about the legibility (and illegibility) of cities more generally. About how we react — as reporters and critics and simply as people — when we're confronted with a city that doesn't make sense to us right away.

Ten days or so before that story appeared, I spent a long weekend in Houston, meeting up with three old friends ostensibly to see the Warriors, the NBA team I grew up rooting for, play the Rockets — but also just to hang out and eat barbecue and visit the Menil, my favorite museum building in America (just edging out another Texas landmark, the Kimbell in Fort Worth).

Houston is casually written off even more often than Los Angeles, which is saying something. Now the fourth largest city in the country in population — and gaining on third-place Chicago — it's an unruly place in terms of its urbanism, a place that (as Los Angeles once did) has room, or makes room, for a wide spectrum of architectural production, from the innovative to the ugly. Like Los Angeles, it's a city that invested heavily in freeways and other car-centric infrastructure last century and remains, in many neighborhoods, a terrible place to walk.

It's long been a place people go to reinvent themselves, to get rich or to disappear. The flip side of its great tolerance is a certain lack of cohesion, a difficulty in articulating a set of common civic goals. (Here's where I concede that the instinct behind the New York Times piece on L.A., if little about its execution, was perfectly reasonable.) As is the case in Los Angeles, the greatest thing and the worst thing about Houston are one and the same: Nobody cares what anybody else is doing. Freedom in both places sometimes trumps community. It also tends to trump stale donor-class taste.

Roughly one in four residents of Houston's Harris County is foreign-born, a rate nearly as high as those in New York and Los Angeles. Houston's relationship with Dallas, the third biggest city in Texas, is something like L.A.'s with San Francisco; the southern city in each pair is less decorous, less fixed in its civic identity and (at the moment, at least) entirely more vital.

I've been to Houston five or six times; I like spending time there largely because I don't know it as well as I'd like to. That's another way of saying that while I'm there, I'm reminded of the way in which much of the world interacts with and judges Los Angeles, from a position of alienation and even ignorance. I just happen to enjoy that sensation more than most people do.

If I had to put my finger on what unites Houston and Los Angeles, it is a certain elusiveness as urban object. Both cities are opaque and hard to read. What is Houston? Where does it begin and end? Does it have a center? Does it need one? It's tough to say, even when you're there — even when you're looking directly at it.

The same has been said of Los Angeles since its earliest days. Something Carey McWilliams noted about L.A. in 1946 — that it is a place fundamentally ad hoc in spirit, "a gigantic improvisation" — is perhaps even more true of Houston. Before you can pin either city down, you notice that it's wriggled out of your grasp.

People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there's one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that's it. Smart, accomplished people don't like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.

Their reaction to that feeling, paradoxically enough, is very often to attempt to write that feeling away — to conquer that sense of dislocation by producing a story that sets out to explain Los Angeles in its entirety. Because it's a challenge, maybe, or because they simply can't be convinced, despite all the evidence right in front of them, that Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.

Plenty of journalists have left Los Angeles over the years and moved to New York to work for the New York Times; none of them, as far as I know, has attempted, after two or three months on the job, to write a piece explaining What New York City Means. I can think of many New Yorkers — each of them highly credentialed academically or journalistically or both, which is perhaps the root of the problem — who have come to Los Angeles and tried to pull off that same trick here.

That tendency — to attempt the moon shot, the overarching analysis, too soon — is equal parts hubris and panic. It usually goes about as well as it went this time around for Arango, not incidentally a brand-new arrival in the New York Times bureau here, and Nagourney.

Among the most dedicated scholars of Houston's urban form in recent years has been Lars Lerup, former dean of the Rice University School of Architecture. In his new book of essays, "The Continuous City," he argues that the first step in understanding Houston and cities like it is to begin with a certain humility about the nature and scale of the task.

This kind of city has grown so large — in economic and environmental as well as physical reach — that it begins to stretch beyond our field of vision. The best way to grasp it, according to Lerup, is to understand that it is not Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago — to recognize it instead as "a vast field with no distinct borders."

"The old city was a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a collectively constructed wall; the new city is everywhere," he writes. "Only when we accept that we can only attain a partial understanding can work begin."

Lerup stresses that huge, spread-out cities like Houston — which he also calls "distributed cities," places where "the spiky downtown is just a blip in the flatness" — have long been tough to read, in part because they are "always in the throes of change." But the relationship between urbanization and climate change has added a new layer of complexity, because big metro regions and their pollution are exacerbating the ecological crisis. The city now "owns everything" and must answer for everything, "even the raging hurricane bearing down on its coast." The vast city has grown vaster still.

If there's one place I part ways with Lerup, it has to do with his insistence that "few conceptual tools have evolved" to help us grapple with the distributed city and its meanings. At least in the case of Los Angeles, the literature on this score is richer, going back many decades, than even many locals realize.

There's not only McWilliams' superb, clear-eyed book "Southern California: An Island on the Land," which I would make required reading for every new hire if I were running the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times. (Especially the part where McWilliams admits that he hated Los Angeles when he arrived and that it took him "seven long years of exile" to understand and appreciate the city. Seven years! And that was with a brain bigger and more nimble than most.) There's also architect Charles Moore's 1984 guidebook, "City Observed: Los Angeles," which he wrote with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell.

Right at the beginning, Moore, as if to anticipate Lerup, reminds his readers that L.A. is "altogether different from the compact old centers of Manhattan and Boston." (It is not a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill.) Making sense of it, as a result, requires "an altogether different plan of attack."

That simple bit of advice is the only one journalists newly arrived in Los Angeles really need to get started on the right foot. It's also one those journalists have been ignoring for 34 years and counting."
houston  losangeles  cities  illegibility  vitality  urban  urbanism  nyc  christopherhawthorne  2018  socal  california  larlerup  manhattan  boston  sanfrancisco  chicago  nytimes  careymcwilliams  joshkun  carolinamiranda  danielhernandez  davidulin  latimes  alissawalker  matthewkang  carolynkellogg  timarango  adamnagourney  elitism  legibility  population  place  identity  elusiveness  hubris  panic  urbanization  climatechange  complexity  charlesmoore 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, "Michael Brown" [.pdf]
[Also here: https://www.academia.edu/17216167/Michael_Brown_by_Stefano_Harney_and_Fred_Moten ]

"We fall so we can fall again, which is what ascension really means to us. To fall is to lose one’s place, to lose the place that makes one, to relinquish the locus of being, which is to say of being single. This radical homelessness—its kinetic indigeneity, its irreducible queerness—is the essence of blackness. This refusal to take place is given in what it is to occur."



"But what if together we can fall, because we’re fallen, because we need to fall again, to continue in our common fallenness, remembering that falling is in apposition to rising, their combination given in lingering, as the giving of pause, recess, vestibular remain, custodial remand, hold, holding in the interest of rub, dap’s reflex and reflection of maternal touch, a maternal ecology of laid hands, of being handled, handed, handed down, nurture’s natural dispersion, its endless refusal of standing. Hemphill emphatically announces the sociality that Luther shelters. Fallen, risen, mo(u)rnful survival. "



"The state can’t live with us and it can’t live without us. Its violence is a reaction to that condition. The state is nothing other than a war against its own condition. The state is at war against its own (re)sources, in violent reaction to its own condition of im/possibility, which is life itself, which is the earth itself, which blackness doesn’t so much stand in for as name, as a name among others that is not just another name among others.

That we survive is beauty and testament; it is neither to be dismissed nor overlooked nor devalued by or within whatever ascription of value; that we survive is invaluable. It is, at the same time, insufficient. We have to recognize that a state—the racial capitalist/settler colonial state—of war has long existed. Its brutalities and militarizations, its regulative mundanities, are continually updated and revised, but they are not new."



"The law of the state is what Ida B. Wells rightly calls lynch law. And we extend it in our appeals to it.

We need to stop worrying so much about how it kills, regulates, and accumulates us, and worry more about how we kill, deregulate, and disperse it. We have to love and revere our survival, which is (in) our resistance.We have to love our refusal of what has been refused. But insofar as this refusal has begun to stand, insofar as it has begun to seek standing, it stands in need of renewal, now, even as the sources and conditions of that renewal become more and more obscure, more and more entangled with the regulatory apparatuses that are deployed in order to suppress them. At moments like this we have to tell the truth with a kind of viciousness and, even, a kind of cruelty."



"The innovation of our survival is given in embrace of this daimonic, richly internally differentiated choreography, its lumpen improvisation of contact, which is obscured when class struggle in black studies threatens to suppress black study as class struggle."



"Michael Brown and his boys: black life breaking and making law, against and underneath the state, surrounding it. They had foregone the melancholic appeal, to which we now reduce them, for citizenship, and subjectivity, and humanness. That they had done so is the source of Darren Wilson’s genocidal instrumentalization in the state’s defense. They were in a state of war and they knew it. Moreover, they were warriors in insurgent, if imperfect, beauty."



"Rather than dissipate our preoccupation with how we live and breathe, we need to defend our ways in our persistent practice of them. It’s not about taking the streets; it’s about how, and about what, we should take to the streets. What would it be and what would it mean for us jurisgeneratively to take to the streets, to live in the streets, to gather together another city right here, right now?"
stefanoharney  fredmoten  michaelbrown  blackness  indigeneity  refusal  resistance  governance  illegibility  state  homelessness  queerness  survival  settlercolonialism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman at Duke University - YouTube
"The Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures after Property and Possession seeks to interrogate the relation between race, sexuality, and juridical and theological ideas of self-possession, often evidenced by the couplet of land-ownership and self-regulation, a couplet predicated on settler colonialism and historically racist, sexist, homophobic and classist ideas of bodies fit for (self-) governance.

The title of the working group and speaker series points up the ways blackness figures as always outside the state, unsettled, unhomed, and unmoored from sovereignty in its doubled-form of aggressively white discourses on legitimate citizenship on one hand and the public/private divide itself on the other. The project will address questions of the "black outdoors" in relationship to literary, legal, theological, philosophical, and artistic works, especially poetry and visual arts.

Co-convened by J. Kameron Carter (Duke Divinity School/Black Church Studies) and Sarah Jane Cervenak (African American and African Diaspora Studies, UNC-G)"



[Fred Moten (31:00)]

"Sometimes I feel like I just haven't been able to… well, y'all must feel this… somehow I just can't quite figure out a good way to make myself clear when it comes to certain things. But I really feel like it's probably not my fault. I don't know that it's possible to be clear when it comes to these kinds of things. I get scared about saying certain kinds of stuff because I feel like sometimes it can seem really callous, and I don't want to seem that way because it's not because I don't feel shit or because I don't care. But let's talk about it in terms of what it would mean to live in a way that would reveal or to show no signs of human habitation.

Obviously there's a field or a space or a constraint, a container, a bounded space. Because every time you were saying unbounded, J., I kept thinking, "Is that right?" I mean I always remember Chomsky used to make this really interesting distinction that I don' think I ever fully understood between that which was bounded, but infinite and that which was unbounded, but finite. So another way to put it, if it's unbounded, it's still finite. And there's a quite specific and often quite brutal finitude that structures whatever is going on within the general, if we can speak of whatever it is to be within the general framework of the unbounded.

The whole point about escape is that it's an activity. It's not an achievement. You don't ever get escaped. And what that means is whatever you're escaping from is always after you. It's always on you, like white on rice, so to speak. But the thing about it is that I've been interested in, but it's hard to think about and talk about, would be that we can recognize the absolute horror, the unspeakable, incalculable terror and horror that accompanies the necessity of not leaving a trace of human inhabitation. And then there's the whole question of what would a life be that wasn't interested in leaving a trace of human habitation? So, in church, just because my friend Ken requested it, fuck the human. Fuck human inhabitation.

It's this necessity… The phrase I use sometimes and I always think about specifically in relation to Fannie Lou Hamer — because I feel like it's me just giving a spin on a theoretical formulation that she made in practice — is "to refuse that which has been refused to you." That's what I'm interested in. And that doesn't mean that what's at stake is some kind of blind, happy, celebratory attitude towards all of the beautiful stuff we have made under constraint. I love all the beautiful stuff we've made under constraint, but I'm pretty sure I would all the beautiful stuff we'd make out from under constraint better.

But there's no way to get to that except through this. We can't go around this. We gotta fight through this. And that means that anybody who thinks that they can understand how terrible the terror has been without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror is wrong. there is no calculus of the terror that can make a proper calculation without reference to that which resists it. It's just not possible."
fredmoten  saidiyahartman  blackness  2016  jkameroncarter  fredricjameson  webdubois  sarahjanecervenak  unhomed  unsettled  legibility  statelessness  illegibility  sovereignty  citizenship  governance  escape  achievement  life  living  fannielouhamer  resistance  refusal  terror  beauty  cornelwest  fugitives  captives  captivity  academia  education  grades  grading  degrading  fugitivity  language  fellowship  conviviality  outdoors  anarchy  anarchism  constraints  slavery  oppression  race  racism  confidence  poverty  privilege  place  time  bodies  body  humans  mobility  possessions 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."



"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."



"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Asemic writing - Wikipedia
[See also: https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/877535553671090176

Lyn Hejinian: "In responding to the Dubravka Djuric's question about the origins of my interest in writing, I said that it as the materiality of writing that first drew me to it, the prospect of working with 'the typewriter and the dictionary.'"
https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/877535553671090176

[See also:
"Definition Not Found: The last refuge from #content might just be asemic writing" by Rahel Aima
http://reallifemag.com/definition-not-found/

"Asemic writing might be better understood not as illegible but as ‘post-literate’"



"Within the sphere of green anarchist thought there is a current that bills itself as primitivist, with all the condescending fetishism that “primitive” invokes. Avowedly anti-technology, the anti-civilizationist critique of capitalism extends beyond the environmental degradation and forms of domination of contemporary production to rail against the concept of civilization itself. The sphere of alienation is extended beyond labor; as theorist John Zerzan lays out in Running on Emptiness, it is the regime of symbolic thought that is believed to most deeply distance us from our authentic selves, which are arbitrarily defined as the way we once existed as hunter-gatherers. Art, music, mathematics, literature, speech: any mode of representation is highly suspect. It’s the paleo diet, but for culture. Zerzan’s vision for the “future primitive” would have us living in a silent, pre-pastoralist utopia where we exist wordlessly amongst the trees — beyond art and agriculture and beyond semiotics, or perhaps more aptly, before and unsullied by it. While Zerzan’s concepts seem attractive as a thought exercise, they are unconvincingly and rather petulantly argued. Who would want to do away with the back catalogue of some of the only good things to come out of the morass of humanity as we know it? Perversely, a reading of these texts makes me wonder about the possibility of an asemic writing made not by humans, but by bots and other algorithms.

In 2011, So Kanno and Takahiro Yamaguchi created the Senseless Drawing Bot, a kinetic drawing machine that is Jean Tinguely-meets-Mars rover. It pairs a motorized skateboard with an arduino, and a long-short double pendulum that induces an element of chaos, to spray graffiti on the wall. There’s a lot of empty swinging and swaggering, a louche calisthenics. It makes a mark only when its randomized wobbles pass a certain pre-coded threshold, when it’s sure all eyes are on it, and then its gestures are fast, flashy, and nonchalant, as if drawn from immense, tumescent muscle memory. It’s all big words and it’s trying hard to flex; if ever a bot has seemed like a blustery fuckboy, this is it. The outcome is surprisingly great, a dense accumulation of multicolored freneticism, neat on the bottom and looping wildly on top like an overgrown hedge. Unlike the aforementioned Tag Clouds, it points to a machinic tagging that does not mandoline work into strict taxonomies, is unreadable by human viewers, and does not — yet — appear to be machine readable, either, as well as the delightful paradox of generative bots which are programmed by people, yet also enjoy their own agency.

In the realm of graphic notation, Emma Winston’s @GraphicScoreBot tweets out an image resembling a graphic score every hour. Each tweet features an outlined white rectangle, usually with stave lines, and often with a bass or treble clef and dynamic markings, so it’s clear we are to read this as music. Except, instead of conventional note forms, its markup includes an array of colorful geometric shapes, squiggles, and dashes. Circles of varying sizes and transparencies especially make the images feel like musical infographics (to me, they seem to suggest duration; others might see in them chords or orchestra stabs). There are semantic ruptures: the bot will, at random, tweet out cards from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, entreaties like “Trust in the you of now,” “A very small object. Its center,” and “Slow preparation, fast execution.” Less bombastic are the double-spaced “B E G I N” and “E N D” that pepper the scores, which Winston suggests can be taken as start and end points or altogether ignored. Though the scores are generally sparse, occasional plaintive adverbs and phrases like “sadly,” “casually,” and “as if tired” make suggestions as to mood. Cameos by Italian terms like con moto (with movement), andante (at a walking pace), and quasi niente (fade away to nothing) make the scores feel somehow more official. If the “post-literate” leads us to interrogate what we consider to be writing, this bot’s relative adherence to notational convention, more Fauvism than De Stijl, does the same for the musical score.

Also on Twitter, Darius Kazemi’s @reverseocr tweets out asemicisms more akin to those absentminded doodles, each cryptic scrawl accompanied by a random word, like “subtlety,” four times a day. It’s a study in impenetrable handwriting, only here the writer is not a shrink with a prescription pad but a bot. Without that accompanying word, the marks, while elegantly spare, are unrecognizable as anything but marks. So far, so asemic. Yet the way the bot works is by selecting a word and then trying — badly, endearingly — to draw it out. It keeps drawing, and failing, until an OCR or Optical Character Recognition program (the question of literacy is transposed to the algorithm, here) identifies a character. If that character matches the first letter of the word, “s” in the case of “subtlety,” that character gets drawn and the bot turns its attentions to the second character, “u.” If not, it perseveres until it gets a match, and eventually it manages, through trial and a lot of error, to draw out the whole word; we only see these successes. Of course all of these computational processes happen at lightning speed, but in a 2014 adaptation of the work for a show at Boston’s now-shuttered Find and Form Space Kazemi slows the algorithm down to a human timescale and makes visible the otherwise hidden work performed by the bot. The word here is, appropriately, “labor.” Yet there’s something in @reverseocr’s yearning to be understood — to be read, to be recognized by another — that makes me think it’s a kind of unrequited love. There is a 1973 interview with James Baldwin in the Black Scholar in which he says, in response to a question about the role of political themes in his writing,
The people produce the artist, and it’s true. The artist also produces the people. And that’s a very violent and terrifying act of love. The role of the artist and the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. Insofar as that is true, in that effort, I became conscious of the things that I don’t see. And I will not see without you, and vice versa, you will not see without me. No one wants to see more than he sees. You have to be driven to see what you see. The only way you can get through it is to accept that two-way street which I call love. You can call it a poem, you can call it whatever you like. That’s how people grow up. An artist is here not to give you answers but to ask you questions.

Kazemi’s bot expands the field of how we might understand asemic writing. Illegible though its drawings may be to our eyes, it is without doubt trying very, very hard to communicate meaning. Humans are not its intended audience; rather, its visual language, like barcodes or the computer vision markup of Amazon warehouses, is entirely for bots, machines, scripts, and other denizens of the algorithmic world. It’s a robot laughing alone with salad, and its inner life, its own well of lactic acid that it draws from to express itself, is off-limits to us. We, however, are on view to them, from the moment we press our thumbprints into our iPhones in the morning to the moment we touch-type a 2 a.m. text message whose characters are so drunkenly scrambled as to form complete non-words, which an algorithm gently corrects to other words we did or did not mean, so long as they’re legible. Perhaps this is an imposition on our freedoms; perhaps this is that two-way street between us and the algorithms, learning from each other; perhaps this is love."

via: "This @_reallifemag essay on asemic writing by @cnqmdi might be the best unwitting 'take' on Trump, covefefefe, etc."
https://twitter.com/eyywa/status/875099774059507716 ]
writing  asemicwriting  scribbling  randomness  typewriters  dictionaries  howwewrite  materiality  rahelaima  jeremybushnell  lynhejinian  dubravkadjuric  content  joséparla  apophenia  oseneworkekosrof  scat  scatsinging  conlang  language  experession  hélènesmith  medewianta  mirthadermisache  zhangxu  marcogiovenale  timgaze  jimleftwich  dariuskazemi  bots  emmawinston  horse_ebooks  huaisui  cursive  legibility  illegibility  avakofman  covfefe  literacy  postliteracy  ocr 
june 2017 by robertogreco
NONSTOP WITH CASEY GOLLAN & VICTORIA SOBEL — Lookie-Lookie
"Casey Gollan: The work we’re involved in definitely slips in and out of legibility. So I think it’s possible to care deeply and be intentional about shapeshifting within a chaotic system, understanding that it can be strategic or nonstrategic to explain what you’re doing. Just because the hacking of the Muni wasn’t immediately claimed by anyone doesn’t mean it’s not part of someone’s ongoing thing.

CH: Is it then a puzzle piece falling into place later for the larger structure?

CG: Maybe, but I think not necessarily trickily; for me it’s the difference between a prank and deep engagement. I like what Jill Magid said, that a prank is when you throw something into the mix to see what happens, almost like trolling. And I can see how, looking at one piece of an unknowably larger project at a time, it’s difficult to parse commitment from a string of pranks.

CH: Yeah there are different categories of trolls; from the watch-the-world-burn troll to the more long-game insidious troll, but on the surface it’s impossible to distinguish them.

CG: And then, thinking back to Keller, someone who’s attempting to co-opt or utilize “trolling” from outside that spectrum.

VS: I want to go back to this question of the articulated demand, or the non-demand. It’s such a pivotal question for someone like me who came into adulthood in the midst of global and local movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, seeing these really large mass mobilizations break with the history of the articulated, clear demand. So since 2011, going back and forth between the demand and the non-demand has become a really good prompt. It was very much at the forefront of the thinking within Free Cooper, if it would be strategic to articulate a demand, and if so how. We were talking about if it would be legible to issue a sort of non-demand, given that the school hadn’t begun to charge tuition yet, and what we were doing was to raise awareness, and activate not only the local community, but create a platform that could speak to other issues. What we came up with was a list of demands and principles – principles that couldn’t be satisfied via the demands being met. Because in this day and age the articulation of demands can often lead to an undue burden on organizers to satisfy their own demands: “You’ve articulated that you want this so why don’t you go do it yourself? It’s not the system that’s broken, it’s you that needs to work harder!” The script can often be flipped."



"CG: Recalibration is something that I hear people calling on others to not do right now: “Don’t normalize this.” Goldman Sachs and all these investors, however, are already saying, “Well, maybe it was terrible that this happened, but you should get the best investment returns out of the tax breaks that we forecast are coming,” so investors almost automatically calibrate to new economic conditions, as if isn’t up to them. Ursula Franklin said that her sense of ethics or morals is something she tunes — like an instrument — over time. An electronic tuner that’s calibrated could measure if an instrument is in tune, but really the range of an instrument is infinitely more complex than what a machine could understand. Ultimately it’s beyond measurement."
legibility  illegibility  caseygollan  2016  victoriasobel  systemsthinking  christinahendricks  ursulafranklin  normalization  ethics  meadurement 
december 2016 by robertogreco
From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy [.pdf]
Gustavo Esteva
Madhu S. Prakash
Dana L. Stuchul

"At the end of his life, Freire wrote a short book, Pedagogía de la autonomía. (Freire, 1997) In it, he offers a meditation on his life and work, while returning to his most important themes. Freire reminds us that his education, his pedagogy, is pointedly and purposively ideological and interventionist. It requires mediators. Here again, it addresses those mediators: a final call to involve them in the crusade.
The leitmotiv of the book, the thread woven through every page as it occurred everyday in the life of Freire, is the affirmation of the universal ethic of the human being --- universal love as an ontological vocation. He recognizes its historical character. And he reminds us that it is not any ethic: it is the ethic of human solidarity. (Freire, 1996, p.124) Freire promotes a policy of human development, privileging men and humans, rather than profit. (Freire, 1996, p.125) He proclaims solidarity as a historical commitment of men and women, as one of the forms of struggle capable of promoting and instilling the universal ethic of the human being. (Freire, 1997, p.13)

Similar to liberation theology (an option for the poor) courageously adopted by an important sector of the Catholic Church in Latin America, Freire finds a foundation and a destiny for his theory and practice in the ideal of solidarity. Solidarity expresses an historical commitment based on a universal ethics. Solidarity legitimizes intervention in the lives of others in order to conscienticize them. Derived from charity, caritas, the Greek and Latin word for love, and motivated by care, by benevolence, by love for the other, conscientization becomes a universal, ethical imperative.

Certainly, Freire was fully aware of the nature of modern aid; of what he called false generosity. He identified clearly the disabling and damaging impact of all kinds of such aid. Yet, for all of his clarity and awareness, he is unable to focus his critique on service: particularly that service provided by service professionals. Freire's specific blindness is an inability to identify the false premises and dubious interventions --- in the name of care --- of one specific class of service professionals: educators.

In its modern institutional form, qua service, care is the mask of love. This mask is not a false face. The modernized service-provider believes in his care and love, perhaps more than even the serviced. The mask is the face. (McKnight, 1977, p.73) Yet, the mask of care and love obscure the economic nature of service, the economic interests behind it. Even worse, this mask hides the disabling nature of service professions, like education.

All of the caring, disabling professions are based on the assumption or presupposition of a lack, a deficiency, a need, that the professional service can best satisfy. The very modern creation of the needy man, a product of economic society, of capitalism, and the very mechanism through which needs are systematically produced in the economic society, are hidden behind the idea of service. Once the need is identified, the necessity of service becomes evident. It is a mechanism analogous to the one used by an expert to transmogrify a situation into a "problem" whose solution --- usually including his own services --- he proposes.

In this way, Freire constructed the human need for the conscience he conceived. In attributing such need to his oppressed, he also constructed the process to satisfy it: conscientization. Thus, the process reifies the need and the outcome: only conscientization can address the need for an improved conscience and consciousness and only education can deliver conscientization. This educational servicing of the oppressed, however, is masked: as care, love, vocation, historical commitment, as an expression of Freire's universal ethic of solidarity. Freire's blindness is his inability to perceive the disabling effect of his various activities or strategies of conscientization. He seems unaware that the business of modern society is service and that social service in modern society is business. (McKnight, 1997, p.69) Today, economic powers like the USA pride themselves in being post-industrial: that is, the replacement of smoke stacks and sweatshops moved to the South, with an economy retooled for global supremacy in providing service. With ever increasing needs, satisfaction of these needs requires more service resulting in unlimited economic growth.

Freire was also unaware that solidarity, both the word and the idea, are today the new mask of aid and development, of care and love. For example, in the 1990s, the neoliberal government of Mexican president Carlos Salinas used a good portion of the funds obtained through privatization to implement the Programa Nacional de Solidaridad. The program was celebrated by the World Bank as the best social program in the world. It is now well documented that, like all other wars against poverty, it was basically a war waged against the poor, widening and deepening the condition it was supposed to cure, a condition that, in the first place, was aggravated by the policies associated with the neoliberal credo.

Freire could not perceive the corruption of love through caring, through service. Furthermore, he was unable to perceive that the very foundation of his own notion of universal, globalized love, God's love for his children through Christ, is also a corruption of Christianity. (Cayley, 2000)

Freire was particularly unable to perceive the impact of the corruption which occurs when the oppressed are transformed into the objects of service: as clients, beneficiaries, and customers. Having created a radical separation between his oppressed and their educators, Freire was unsuccessful in bringing them together, despite all his attempts to do so through his dialogue, his deep literacy --- key words for empowerment and participation. All these pedagogical and curricular tools of education prove themselves repeatedly to be counterproductive: they produce the opposite of what they pretend to create. Instead of liberation, they add to the lives of oppressed clients, more chains and more dependency on the pedagogy and curricula of the mediator.iii.

During the last several centuries, all kinds of agents have pretended to "liberate" pagans, savages, natives, the oppressed, the under-developed, the uneducated, under-educated, and the illiterate in the name of the Cross, civilization (i.e. Westernization), capitalism or socialism, human rights, democracy, a universal ethic, progress or any other banner of development. Every time the mediator conceptualizes the category or class of the oppressed in his/her own terms, with his/her own ideology, he is morally obligated to evangelize: to promote among them, for their own good, the kind of transformation he or she defines as liberation. Yet, a specific blindness seems to be the common denominator among these mediators: an awareness of their own oppression. In assuming that they have succeeded in reaching an advanced level or stage of awareness, conscience, or even liberation (at least in theory, in imagination, in dreams), and in assuming, even more, that what their oppressed lack is this specific notion or stage, they assume and legitimate their own role as liberators. Herein, they betray their intentions.

In response to colonization, Yvonne Dion-Buffalo and John Mohawk recently suggested that colonized peoples have three choices: 1) to become good subjects, accepting the premises of the modern West without much question, 2) to become bad subjects, always resisting the parameters of the colonizing world, or 3) to become non-subjects, acting and thinking in ways far removed from those of the modern West. (Quoted in Esteva and Prakash, 1998, p.45)"



"In his denunciation of the discrimination suffered by the illiterate, Freire does not see, smell, imagine or perceive the differential reality of the oral world. While aspiring to eliminate all these forms of discrimination from the planet, he takes for granted, without more critical consideration, that reading and writing are fundamental basic needs for all humans. And, he embraces the implications of such assumptions: that the illiterate person is not a full human being.

Freire's pedagogic method requires that literacy should be rooted in the socio- political context of the illiterate. He is convinced that in and through such a process, they would acquire a critical judgement about the society in which they suffer oppression. But he does not take into account any critical consideration of the oppressive and alienating character implicit in the tool itself, the alphabet. He can not bring his reflection and practice to the point in which it is possible, like with many other modern tools, to establish clear limits to the alphabet in order to create the conditions for the oppressed to critically use the alphabet instead of being used by it."



"IV. Resisting Love: The Case Against Education

Freire's central presupposition: that education is a universal good, part and parcel of the human condition, was never questioned, in spite of the fact that he was personally exposed, for a long time, to an alternative view. This seems to us at least strange, if not abhorrent.
Freire was explicitly interested in the oppressed. His entire life and work were presented as a vocation committed to assuming their view, their interests. Yet, he ignored the plain fact that for the oppressed, the social majorities of the world, education has become one of the most humiliating and disabling components of their oppression: perhaps, even the very worst.



"For clarifying the issues of this essay, we chose to reflect on the life, the work, and the teachings of Gandhi, Subcommandante Marcos and Wendell Berry. Purposely, we juxtapose them to exacerbate their radical and dramatic differences. Is it absurd to even place them under the umbrella of public and private virtues we dwell on as we … [more]
gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  liberation  pedagogy  pedagogyoftheoppressed  wendellberry  solidarity  care  love  caring  carlossalinas  neoliberalism  teaching  howweteach  education  conscientization  liberationtheology  charity  service  servicelearning  economics  oppression  capitalism  mediators  leadership  evangelization  yvonnedion-buffalo  johnmohawk  legibility  decolonization  colonialism  karlmarx  ivanillich  technology  literacy  illegibility  bankingeducation  oraltradition  plato  text  writing  memory  communication  justice  modernism  class  inequality  humility  zapatistas  comandantemarcos  parochialism  globalphilia  resistance  canon  gandhi  grassroots  hope  individuality  newness  sophistication  specialization  professionalization  dislocation  evolution  careerism  alienation  self-knowledge  schooling  schools  progress  power  victimization  slow  small 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Refusal as Research Method in Discard Studies « Discard Studies
"Researchers examining waste issues have the potential to uncover particularly sensitive information—that specific places, people or animals might be contaminated— that has very real social and material consequences for communities being studied. We also might be given access to report on potentially painful community events and experiences. As researchers interested in social justice, how do we proceed helpfully in our research?

The concept of ‘ethnographic refusal’ is one way forward. Ethnographic refusal is a practice by which researchers and research participants together decide not to make particular information available for use within the academy. Its purpose is not to bury information, but to ensure that communities are able to respond to issues on their own terms. An ethnographic refusal is intended to redirect academic analysis away from harmful pain-based narratives that obscure slow violence, and towards the structures and institutions that engender those narratives. It is a method centrally concerned with a community’s right to self-representation.

This method comes out of an ethical commitment to decolonize research. For example, the recent ‘ontological turn’ in discard studies encourages researchers to engage with Indigenous knowledge systems and ontologies, as a way of better understanding how issues of contamination and waste are understood and experienced within Indigenous communities—something that is easily (and often) misconstrued by non-community members, including academics. In turn, researchers might have access to internal conversations, knowledge that is considered sacred, or that the academy otherwise “doesn’t deserve” (Tuck and Yang 2014a: 813). Engaging in ethnographic refusal as method, then, is intended as an ethical intervention that provides research participants the opportunity to dictate whether knowledge is to be made available within the academy (among other places), how environmental and human health issues are responded to, and by whom.

The following annotated bibliography is an introduction to ethnographic refusal. The first two texts in this bibliography (Tuhiwai Smith 1999; Zavala 2013), provide overviews of decolonization as a methodology, outlining the colonial traditions that inform contemporary anthropological practices and the need for decolonizing research. Both texts indicate the importance of research collaboration and emphasize efforts by Indigenous people to take control over their representation in research. The more recent piece (Zavala 2013), suggests that decolonial research must place Indigenous perspectives and interests as the marker through which research is evaluated and practiced. Based on readings written primarily by Indigenous researchers, I suggest that ‘ethnographic refusal’— whereby certain information about Indigenous knowledge and experiences is kept out of the academy— is a method that helps keep researchers accountable to the communities they research. The different perspectives on ‘ethnographic refusal’ held by Ortner (1995) and Simpson (2007) showcase how the method developed through two different bodies of literature, driven by very different goals and objectives. The final papers by Tuck and Yang (2014a & b) provide examples of ways that researchers can incorporate ‘refusals’ throughout their research process."
ethnography  method  refusal  2016  via:javierarbona  research  representation  self-representation  fieldwork  decolonization  ethnographicrefusal  illegibility  legibility 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Continuous Monuments and Imaginable Alternatives - Amateur Cities
"In 1969, Superstudio, a radical Italian design group, made a proposal for what they called the ‘Continuous Monument’. It was a homogenous block of architecture that would encircle the earth depicting the global and total dimension of design and architecture of that time. We currently live in the time of a similar monument that harvests and feeds off ‘data’ – the golden ambrosia of the 2010s."



"In an ideal situation the model of a mesh network has the potential to become a platform for broadly horizontal networked politics as defined by its inherent structure. It could bring a new type of commons in the face of the death of network neutrality, government and corporate surveillance and exploitation as embodied by the current network structure.

Too often we are confronted with visions and stories of the future that say: ‘In the future everyone will live this way or that way. In the future everyone will have these things. In the future everyone will want that thing.’ This can often lead to acceptance of the idea that the future has been predetermined by powers greater than us. We need to imagine instead, what futures might bring. There are dozens of other small, niggling but significant alternatives that can challenge the theoretical basis for how the future might open up to a plethora of possible imaginable alternatives. Take for instance; domestic solar power, crypto currencies, end-to-end encryption or personal manufacturing. They are but a few that have the potential to either become incredibly empowering or to be sucked into our current continuous monument.

It is often said by military strategists, business leaders and alike that knowledge is the most powerful weapon. But imagination is also a significant one.

The political theorist David Graeber writes about how, since the protests of the late 1960s, the same entities pursuing the project of legibility have pursued a ‘. . . relentless campaign against the human imagination.’ It has resulted in ‘. . . the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future.’

Activating imagination in everyday practice is hard. Financial imperatives and competition do not give space and time to explore alternatives and freely play with ideas without consequences. But there is a great reward in giving time to exploration. Inspiration can be found in things like mesh networks, but there are other examples. Jugaad culture – the repurposing of technology predominantly occurring in India is an excellent example. It provides an alternative by giving a particular design a different lifespan and shows how, in William Gibson’s words – ‘the street find its own uses.’ The speculative design cannon proposes objects and systems that are not intended for our world. They aim to stimulate our imagination about the hidden effects and repercussions of our design culture.

The purpose of such design and of introducing imagination is to widen the scope of possibilities. It could prevent the carte blanche master plan of the Smart City to become the inevitable endpoint of the current technological narrative. Furthermore it could perhaps lead to the development of real, functioning designs, such as mesh networks that will work better for people.

Knowledge of the systems, structures and technologies at play in our own continuous monument is vital for technologists, designers, urbanists, architects and everyone involved. It is impossible to be a wholesome practitioner and to remain ignorant of the wider context in which one situates one’s work. But what is equally as important is the activation of imagination; imagining beyond the given context to what could be, not just what, as is often presented, inevitably will be."
tobiasrevell  superstudio  architecture  government  resistance  cities  data  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  infrastructure  internet  privacy  surveillance  technology  design  systemsthinking  smartcities  legibility  illegibility  imagination  meshnetworks  2015 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits - The Washington Post
"Sometimes these laws are cast as protection for the poor, ensuring that aid is steered in ways that will help them the most. Other times they're framed as protection for the taxpayer, who shouldn't be asked to help people who will squander the money on vices anyway.

But the logic behind the proposals is problematic in at least three, really big ways.

The first is economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way. The idea that they do defies Maslow's hierarchy — the notion that we all need shelter and food before we go in search of foot massages. In fact, the poor are much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have less of it (quick quiz: do you know exactly how much you last spent on a gallon of milk? or a bag of diapers?). By definition, a much higher share of their income — often more than half of it — is eaten up by basic housing costs than is true for the better-off, leaving them less money for luxuries anyway. And contrary to the logic of drug-testing laws, the poor are no more likely to use drugs than the population at large.

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.

That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the "submerged state." Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they're submerged. They come to us in round-about ways, through smaller tax bills (or larger refunds), through payments we don't have to make to doctors (thanks to Medicare), or in tuition we don't have to pay to universities (because the G.I. Bill does that for us).

Mettler's research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don't think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don't realize they rely on government themselves.

Mettler raises a lot of concerns about what the submerged state means for how we understand the role of government. But one result of this reality is that we have even less tolerance for programs that help the poor: We begrudge them their housing vouchers, for instance, even though government spends about four times as much subsidizing housing for upper-income homeowners.

That's a long-winded way of saying that these proposed laws — which insist that government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy, that they spend government money how the government wants them to, that they waive their privacy and personal freedom to get it — are also simply a reflection of a basic double-standard."
us  poverty  government  benefits  2015  politics  discrimination  patronization  legibility  illegibility  indignity  emilybadger  privacy  freedom  control  suzannemettler  law  legal  morality  inequality 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Channel — Walker Art Center
"K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way.

In the process, the group frequently coins new terms to articulate their ideas, such as “Youth Mode”: a term used to describe the prevalent attitude of youth culture that has been emancipated from any particular generation; the “Brand Anxiety Matrix”: a tool designed to help readers understand their conflicted relationships with the numerous brands that clutter their mental space on a daily basis; and “Normcore”: a term originally used to describe the desire not to differentiate oneself, which has since been mispopularized (by New York magazine) to describe the more specific act of dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. (In 2014, “Normcore” was named a runner-up by Oxford University Press for “Neologism of the Year.”)

Since publishing K-HOLE, the collective has taken on a number of unique projects that reflect the manifold nature of their practice, from a consulting gig with a private equity firm to a collaboration with a fashion label resulting in their own line of deodorant. K-HOLE has been covered by a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Fast Company, Wired UK, and Mousse.

Part of Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series."

[direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMPN5f5cQ ]
k-hole  consumption  online  internet  communication  burnout  normcore  legibility  illegibility  simplicity  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  trends  fashion  art  design  branding  brands  socialmedia  groupchat  texting  oversharing  absence  checkingout  aesthetics  lifestyle  airplanemode  privilege  specialness  generations  marketing  trendspotting  coping  messaging  control  socialcapital  gregfong  denayago  personalbranding  visibility  invisibility  identity  punk  prolasticity  patagonia  patience  anxietymatrix  chaos  order  anxiety  normality  abnormality  youth  millennials  individuality  box1824  hansulrichobrist  alternative  indie  culture  opposition  massindie  williamsburg  simoncastets  digitalnatives  capitalism  mainstream  semiotics  subcultures  isolation  2015  walkerartcenter  maxingout  establishment  difference  89plus  basicness  evasion  blandness  actingbasic  empathy  indifference  eccentricity  blankness  tolerance  rebellion  signalling  status  coolness  aspiration  connections  relationships  presentationofself  understanding  territorialism  sociology  ne 
march 2015 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] interpretation roomba
"Part of the reason these two quotes interest me is that I've been thinking a lot about origin stories and creation myths. I've been thinking about how we recognize and choose the imagery and narratives — the abstractions — that we use to re-tell a story. There's nothing a priori wrong with those choices. We have always privileged certain moments over others as vehicles for conveying the symbolism of an event."



"I've been thinking about history as the space between the moments that come to define an event. History being the by-product of a sequence of events pulling apart from each, over time, leaving not just the peaks a few dominant imagery but the many valleys of interpretation.

When I think of it this way I am always reminded of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics in which he celebrates "the magic in the gutter". The "gutter" being the space between frames where action is unseen and left to imagination of the reader. These are the things I think of when I consider something like the 9/11 Memorial and the construction of a narrative around the event it commemorates.

Not much is left to abstraction and so it feels as though the memorial itself acts as a vacuum against interpretation, at all. It is a kind of "Interpretation-Roomba" that moves through your experience of the venue sucking up any space in which you might be able to consider the event outside of the master narrative."



"After the panel some of us went out for drinks and for people of a certain it was difficult not to fall prey to moments sounding exactly like our parents and saying things like: The kids today, they don't know what it was like back in the day when all we had were bulletin board systems... I mention this for a couple reasons.

The first is to ask the question: Is a slow network akin to no network at all? It is hard to imagine going back to the dial-up speeds of the 1990's Internet and I expect it would be a shock to someone who's never experienced them but I think we would all do well to keep Staehle's comments about the time to broadcast and the time to relay in mind.

The second is that as we were all sitting around the table waxing nostalgic about 28.8 Kbps modems I remember thinking: Actually, when I first discovered the web I wanted the next generation to be able to take this for granted. I wanted the "kids" to live in a world where the Internet was just part of the fabric of life, where it didn't need to be a philosophical moment everytime you got online.

The good news is that this has, by and large, happened. The bad news is we've forgotten why it was important in the first place and if it feels like the Network is governed by, and increasingly defined, by a kind of grim meathook fatalism I think maybe that's why.

Somewhere in all the excitement of the last 20 years we forgot, or at least neglected, the creation myth and the foundational story behind the Network and in doing so we have left open a kind of narrative vacuum. We have left the space to say why the Network exists at all to those who would see it shaped in ways that are perhaps at odds with the very reasons that made it special in the first place."



"A question I've been asking myself as I've been thinking about this talk is: Does a littlenet simply transit data or does it terminate that data? Is a littlenet specific to a place? Are littlenets defined by the effort is takes to get there? That seems a bit weird, almost antithetical to the idea of the Network, right?

Maybe not though or maybe it's less about littlenets acting like destinations or encouraging a particular set of rituals but instead simply taking advantage of the properties the Network offers to provide bespoke services. For example, what if bars ran captive portal networks that you couldn't get out of, like Dan Phiffer's Occupy.here, but all they did was offer access to a dictionary?

That might seem like an absurb example at first but let it sink in for a minute or two and if you're like me you'll find yourself thinking that would be kind of awesome. A dictionary in a bar is a polite of saying We're here to foster the conversation on your own terms rather than dictate it on ours.

A dictionary in a bar would be a "service" in the, well, service of the thing that bars don't need any help with: conversation, socializing, play. People aren't going to stop frequenting bars that they don't have dictionaries in them, but a bar with a dictionary in it is that much better.

If a littlenet does not terminate then does it or should it engage in traffic shaping? What separates littlenet from a fake cell phone towers? What about deep packet inspection (DPI) ? What about goatse? If a littlenet does not drink the common carrier Kool-Aid is it still a Network or just gated-community for like minded participants?

None of these problems go away just because a network is little and, in fact, their little-ness and the potential ubiquity of littlenets only exascerbates the problem. It casts the questions around an infrastructure of trust as much as an infrastructure of reach in to relief.

We have historically relied on the scarcity and the difficulty of access to the tools that can manipulate the Network at, well, the network layer as a way to manage those questions of trust. Ultimately, littlenets force those larger issues of how we organize (and by definition how we limit) ourselves as a community to the fore. It speaks to the question of public institutions and their mandates. It speaks to the question of philosophy trumping engineering.

It speaks to the question of how we articulate an idea of the Network and why we believe it is important and what we do to preserve those qualities."



"It goes like this: If we liken the network to weather what does it mean to think of its climate as too hostile for any one person to survive in isolation? What would that mean, really? I have no idea and I recognize that this is one line of argument in support of a benevolent all-seeing surveillance state but perhaps there are parallels to be found in the way that cold-weather countries organize themselves relative to the reality of winter. Regardless of your political stripes in those countries there is common cause in not letting people face those months alone to die of exposure.

I really don't know how or whether this translates to the Network in part because it's not clear to me whether the problem is not having access to the Network, not having unfettered access to the Network (think of those Facebook-subsidized and Facebook-only data plans for mobile phones) or that the Network itself, left unchecked, is in fact a pit of vipers.

Should the state suspend reality in the service of a mandate for the Network the way that they sometimes do for universal health care or, if you live in the US, the highway system? Is that just what we now call network neutrality or should we do more to temper the consequences of assuming the Network is inherently hostile? To activiely foster a more communitarian sensibilities and safeguards?

You're not supposed to say this out loud, particularly in light of events like the Snowden revelations, but the reality is that societies announce that 2+2=5 because "reasons" all the time."



"My issue is that we have spent a good deal of the last 500 years (give or take) trying to make visibility a legitimate concern. We have spent a lot of time and lot of effort arguing that there is a space for voices outside the dominant culture and to now choose to retract in to invisibility, as a tactic, seems counter-productive at best and fitting the needs of people who were never really down the project at worst.

The only reason many of know each other is because we were willing, because we desired, to stick our head above the parapet and say "I am here". Acting in public remains complicated and is still decidedly unfair for many but if the creation myth of visibility is one of malice-by-default then we might have a bigger problem on our hands."



"The problem I have with littlenets is that I want to live in a world with a "biggernet" that doesn't make me sad or suspect or hate everyone around me. The concern I have with littlenets is that they offer a rhetorical bluff from which to avoid the larger social questions that a networked world lay bare. And that in avoiding those questions we orphan the reasons (the creation myths) why the Network seemed novel and important in the first place.

There's a meme which has bubbling up more and more often these days, advanced by people like Ingrid and others, that perhaps libraries should operate as internet service providers. That the mandate of a publicly-minded institution like a library is best suited to a particular articulation of the Network as a possibility space.

Libraries lend books on the principle that access to information is value in and of itself not because they know what people will do with that knowledge. Libraries have also been some of the earliest adopters of littlenets in the service of that same principle in the form of electronic distribution hubs. I bet some of those littlenets even have dictionaries on them.

So, despite my reservations and in the interests of defaulting to action maybe we should all endeavour to run our own read-only littlenets of stuff we think is worth preserving and sharing. If the politics and the motives surrounding the Network are going to get all pear-shaped in the years to come then maybe littlenets are our own samizdat and the means to save what came before and to say as much to ourselves as to others: This is how it should be."
aaronstraupcope  2014  history  storytelling  time  memory  scottmccloud  abstraction  gaps  memorial  objects  artifacts  shareholdervalue  motive  confidence  internet  web  purpose  networks  littlenets  meshnetworks  community  communities  occupy.here  visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  samizdat  realpolitik  access  information  ingridburrington  libraries  sharing  online  commons 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Homo Sacer | booktwo.org
"The paradox of that invisibility, which I have been exploring for some time, is that while the digital defaults to illegibilty, it also renders that operation more legible to those who can read it, who do have access, because its logical nature, the nature of its operation, means it must be written down. Unlike previous forms of power, intention must be explicitly encoded into the machine. This intention can be hidden, but it’s always present. Neither good nor bad, nor neutral; invisible, but never wholly illegible."



"I was recently commissioned to produce a work for FACT in Liverpool, for an exhibition entitled “Science Fiction: New Death“, and for it I produced a hologram of my own. Entitled Homo Sacer, the hologram intones lines from various international agreements, treaties, national laws and public government statements. Beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 1948 directive “Everyone has the right to a nationality”, the monologue steps through the various laws which repeal this right, culminating in the text of the letter which stripped Mohamed Sakr – later killed by a drone strike – of his British citizenship, and the Home Office’s oft-repeated mantra “Citizenship is a privilege not a right”."



"If we’re to understand the complex role which technology plays in shaping the world around us, we need a better understanding of complex systems in general, of other kinds of invisible but occasionally legible frameworks, like the law. And in turn, we can take what we have learned in the study of computation and networks and turn that augmented understanding back on the world around us, as a mode of analysis, and perhaps as a lever with which to shift it."
visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  homesacer  2014  jamesbridle  holograms  surveillance  systems  systemsthinking  technology  law  nationality  citizenship 
july 2014 by robertogreco
6, 3: Seasteading
"So Jim is a blacksmith – a word I mostly hear these days in jokes about obsolescence. He lives on a small, rural island where he has the time and quiet to think and work very hard on small things that most people have not imagined. He is also one of the most globalized people I know. I’m counting people who had “major liquidity events” and whose Twitter profiles say their location is SoMa/SoHo or whatevs. Jim is narrowly specialized labor, enabled by things like oligopolistic global shipping companies.

And likewise, my family’s off-the-grid setup – solar panels, their own well, their own garden – relies on solar panel manufacturers, modern well-drilling rigs, and the internet.

Many visitors are offended by this. They have a rhetoric of simplicity that feels that e.g. buying gasoline to run a generator to have electric lights in winter is failing to live up to the promise of living in the woods. But for my family and others, that promise was never made. It’s a projection, an assumption, an outsider’s stereotype. They are not claiming or trying to be out of the world.

What do you get from living on a natural seastead oops I mean small island? Well, you get a different kind of time – a different set of distractions. Not simplicity, but a reallocation of complexity that suits some people. You get too many things to list here. The one I want to talk about is that you see your material dependencies more clearly. That is, you have to carry the gas that you buy. You know where your water comes from, even if it’s just as technologically mediated as a Brooklynite’s water – maybe more – because you have to replace the pump from time to time. It’s not that you have less of a supply chain, it’s that you pay more attention to it because you’re the last link in it. You unload your kit, your cargo, your stuff, from a literal-ass boat that goes across the water."

So here is what I can tell you: our material culture is vast. The substrate of comfortable, middle-class-as-portrayed-in-primetime American life is ginormous, far beyond anyone’s understanding in any depth. Years ago there was a Neal Stephenson Wired story called In the Kingdom of Mao Bell, from which I often think of the line (phrased in terms of Western culture, but mutatis mutandis):
For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.

Which is only to make a point that is easy to make but very hard to appreciate, and I have to practice making to myself in new ways all the time, re-estranging it to re-familiarize it: what we have going here, this system by which roads are paved, you can appeal a court ruling, you can just assume you got the right change back at Whole Foods, Whole Foods exists, etc., is so big and complicated that you can’t appreciate it. At best you can call upon cognitive intercessors, like thinky magazine features on the cold chain or whatever, to mediate between your grasp of the size of the culture and its reality. I say this as someone whose job is partly to look at enormous depictions of material culture – I mean staring at the Port of Tokyo–Yokohama, or Magnitogorsk, is kind of what I do all day, and I still take it for granted.

And the system has tremendous momentum. I am no historian, but my vague sense is that in recognizable form in the Euramerican sphere it goes back to things like the New Model Army and the aftermath of the French Revolution: the establishment of a bureauracy, i.e. a system of applied governance with accountability built in as paperwork and defined responsibilities, as opposed to something at best hollowed out like a nest of sticks inside feudalism.

And when I see bureaucracy around me doing things like getting all fetishistic about a piece of paper, I have to remind myself that yes, this is imperfect, but the point is that we enshrine the word, something roughly permanent and widely legible, as opposed to worshipping the squire, i.e., whatever he feels like today, that we can’t even examine directly to mutually identify and begin to debate whether it’s good. A whig history but I’m a whig."

[Related: http://masochuticon.com/2006/05/24/
via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484597685396045824
in this thread: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484483973767110656
follow-up http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-16-america-again ]
complexity  canon  interconnectedness  seasteading  frontier  waldronisland  bureaucracy  2014  charlieloyd  slow  change  purpose  purposefulness  civilization  interdependence  seeing  noticing  separateness  libertarianism  capitalism  globalization  materials  systems  systemsthinking  siliconvalley  laws  governance  government  society  nealstephenson  simplicity  distractions  bighere  dependencies  supplychains  legibility  illegibility  coffee  waldron  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What Your Culture Really Says — about work — Medium
[via: http://mike.teczno.com/notes/on-managers.html ]

"Toxic lies about culture are afoot in Silicon Valley. They spread too fast as we take our bubble money and designer Powerpoints to drinkups, conferences and meetups all over the world, flying premium economy, ad nauseam. Well-intentioned darlings south of Market wax poetic on distributed teams, office perks, work/life balance, passion, “shipping”, “iteration,” “freedom”. A world of startup privilege hides blithely unexamined underneath an insipid, self-reinforcing banner of meritocracy and funding. An economic and class-based revolt of programmers against traditional power structures within organizations manifests itself as an (ostensively) radical re-imagining of work life. But really, you should meet the new boss. Hint: he’s the same as the old boss.

The monied, celebrated, nuevo-social, 1% poster children of startup life spread the mythology of their cushy jobs, 20% time, and self-empowerment as a thinly-veiled recruiting tactic in the war for talent against internet giants. The materialistic, viral nature of these campaigns have redefined how we think about culture, replacing meaningful critique with symbols of privilege. The word “culture” has become a signifier of superficial company assets rather than an ongoing practice of examination and self-reflection.

Culture is not about the furniture in your office. It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly. The critique of startup culture that came in large part from the agile movement has been replaced by sanitized, pompous, dishonest slogans.

Let’s examine popular startup trends that are being called “culture” and look beneath the surface to find the real culture that may be playing out beneath it. This is not a critique of the practices themselves, which often contribute value to an organization. This is to show a contrast between the much deeper, systemic cultural problems that are rampant in our startups and the materialistic trappings that can disguise them.

We make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have implemented a loosely coordinated social policy to ensure homogeneity in our workforce. We are able to reject qualified, diverse candidates on the grounds that they “aren’t a culture fit” while not having to examine what that means - and it might mean that we’re all white, mostly male, mostly college-educated, mostly young/unmarried, mostly binge drinkers, mostly from a similar work background. We tend to hire within our employees’ friend and social groups. Because everyone we work with is a great culture fit, which is code for “able to fit in without friction,” we are all friends and have an unhealthy blur between social and work life. Because everyone is a “great culture fit,” we don’t have to acknowledge employee alienation and friction between individuals or groups. The desire to continue being a “culture fit” means it is harder for employees to raise meaningful critique and criticism of the culture itself.

Meetings are evil and we have them as little as possible.
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have a collective post-traumatic stress reaction to previous workplaces that had hostile, unnecessary, unproductive and authoritarian meetings. We tend to avoid projects and initiatives that require strict coordination across the company. We might have difficulty meeting the expectations of enterprise companies and do better selling to startups organized like us. We are heavily invested in being rebels against traditional corporate culture. Because we communicate largely asynchronously and through chat, it is easy to mentally dehumanize teammates and form silos around functional groups with different communications practices or business functions.

We have a team of people who are responsible for organizing frequent employee social events, maintaining the office “feel”, and making sure work is a great place to hang out. We get served organic, vegan, farm-raised, nutritious lunches every day at work.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Our employees must be treated as spoiled, coddled children that cannot perform their own administrative functions. We have a team of primarily women supporting the eating, drinking, management and social functions of a primarily male workforce whose output is considered more valuable. We struggle to hire women in non-administrative positions and most gender diversity in our company is centralized in social and admin work. Because our office has more amenities than home life, our employees work much longer hours and we are able to extract more value from them for the same paycheck. The environment reinforces the cultural belief that work is a pleasant dream and can help us distract or bribe from deeper issues in the organization.

20% of the time, or all of the time, people can work on whatever they want to
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have enough venture funding to pay people to work on non-core parts of the business. We are not under that much pressure to make money. The normal work of the business is not sufficiently rewarding so we bribe employees with pet projects. We’re not entirely sure what our business objectives and vision are, so we are trying to discover it by letting employee passions take root. We have a really hard time developing work that takes more than a few people to release. We have lots of unfinished but valuable projects that get left behind due to shifts in focus, lack of concentrated effort, and inability to organize sufficient resources to bring projects to completion.

We don’t have managers and the company is managed with no hierarchy
What your culture might actually be saying is… Management decisions are siloed at the very top layers of management, kept so close to the chest they appear not to exist at all. The lack of visibility into investor demands, financial affairs, HR issues, etc. provides an abstraction layer between employees and real management, which we pretend doesn’t exist. We don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.

We don’t have a vacation policy
What your culture might actually be saying is… We fool ourselves into thinking we have a better work/life balance when really people take even less vacation than they would when they had a vacation policy. Social pressure and addiction to work has replaced policy as a regulator of vacation time.

We are all makers who are focused on shipping.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Features are the most important function of our business. We lack processes for surfacing and addressing technical debt. We have systemic infrastructure problems but they are not relevant because we are more focused on short-term adoption than long-term reliability. We prioritize fast visible progress, even if it is trivial, over longer and more meaningful projects. Productivity is measured more by lines of code than the value of that code. Pretty things are more important than useful things.

Closing
Talk to your company about culture. Talk to other companies about culture. Stop mistaking symbology and VC spoils for culture. Be honest with yourself, and with each other. Otherwise, your culture will kill you softly with its song, and you won’t even notice. But hey, you have a beer keg in the office."
shanley  2013  business  culture  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  control  power  meetings  homogeneity  organzations  vacation  policies  politics  work  labor  process  social  socialpressure  management  administration  illegibility  legibility  decisionmaking  powerstructures  criticism  valve 
march 2014 by robertogreco
managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team (tecznotes)
"Apropos the Julie Ann Horvath Github shitshow, I’ve been thinking this weekend about management, generally.

I don’t know details about the particular Github situation so I won’t say much about it, but I was present for Tom Preston-Werner’s 2013 OSCON talk about Github. After a strong core message about open source licenses, liability, and freedom (tl;dr: avoid the WTFPL), Tom talked a bit about Github’s management model.
Management is about subjugation; it’s about control.

At Github, Tom described a setup where the power structure of the company is defined by the social structures of the employees. He showed a network hairball to illustrate his point, said that Github employees can work on what they feel like, subject to the strategic direction set for the company. There are no managers.

This bothered me a bit when I heard it last summer, and it’s gotten increasingly more uncomfortable since. I’ve been paraphrasing this part of the talk as “management is a form of workplace violence,” and the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form. In my first post-college job, I was blessed with an awesome manager who described his work as “firefighter up and cheerleader down,” an idea I’ve tried to live by as I’ve moved into positions of authority myself. The idea of having no managers, echoed in other companies like Valve Software, suggests the presence of major cultural problems at a company like Github. As Shanley Kane wrote in What Your Culture Really Says, “we don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.” Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluted explicitly. For people on the wrong side of a power dynamic, engaging with explicit structure is often the only means possible to fix a problem.

Implicit power can be a liability as well as a strength. In the popular imagination, implicit power elites close sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. In reality, the need for implicit power to stay in the shadows can cripple it in the face of an outside context problem. Aaron Bady wrote of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that “while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy.”

Going back to the social diagram, this lack of ability to communicate internally seems to be an eventual property of purely bottoms-up social structures. Github has been enormously successful on the strength of a single core strategy: the creation of a delightful, easy-to-use web UI on top of a work-sharing system designed for distributed use. I’ve been a user since 2009, and my belief is that the product has consistently improved, but not meaningfully changed. Github’s central, most powerful innovation is the Pull Request. Github has annexed adjoining territory, but has not yet had to respond to a threat that may force it to abandon territory or change approach entirely.

Without a structured means of communication, the company is left with the vague notion that employees can do what they feel like, as long as it’s compliant with the company’s strategic direction. Who sets that direction, and how might it be possible to change it? There’s your implicit power and first point of weakness.

This is incidentally what’s so fascinating about the government technology position I’m in at Code for America. I believe that we’re in the midst of a shift in power from abusive tech vendor relationships to something driven by a city’s own digital capabilities. The amazing thing about GOV.UK is that a government has decided it has the know-how to hire its own team of designers and developers, and exercised its authority. That it’s a cost-saving measure is beside the point. It’s the change I want to see in the world: for governments large and small to stop copy-pasting RFP line items and cargo-culting tech trends (including the OMFG Ur On Github trend) and start thinking for themselves about their relationship with digital communication."
michalmigurski  2014  julieannhovarth  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  power  julianassange  wikileaks  valve  culture  business  organizations  management  legibility  illegibility  communication  gov.uk  codeforamerica  subjugation  abuse  shanley  teams  administration  leadership 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Former Valve Employee: 'It Felt a Lot Like High School' | Game|Life | Wired.com
“It is a pseudo-flat structure where, at least in small groups, you’re all peers and make decisions together,” she said. “But the one thing I found out the hard way is that there is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company and it felt a lot like high school. There are popular kids that have acquired power in the company, then there’s the trouble makers, and everyone in between.”
business  valve  2013  via:caseygollan  structurelessness  horizontality  power  control  hierarchy  hierarchies  leadership  organzations  communities  culture  legibility  illegibility 
march 2014 by robertogreco
A Big Little Idea Called Legibility
"The Authoritarian High-Modernist Recipe for Failure…

• Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
• Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
• Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
• Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
• Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
• Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
• Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

Central to Scott’s thesis is the idea of legibility. He explains how he stumbled across the idea while researching efforts by nation states to settle or “sedentarize” nomads, pastoralists, gypsies and other peoples living non-mainstream lives…"
politics  history  philosophy  problemsolving  imperialism  colonialism  jamescscott  design  architecture  urbanplanning  urbanism  nomads  nomadism  gypsies  pastoralists  mainstream  radicals  radicalism  2011  venkateshrao  legibility  illegiblepeople  illegibles  stevenjohnson  patternmaking  patterns  patternrecognition  complexity  unschooling  deschooling  utopianthinking  india  high-modenism  lecorbusier  forests  brasilia  bauhaus  control  decolonization  power  nicholasdirks  rome  edwardgibbon  civilization  authoritarianism  authoritarianhigh-modernism  elephantpaths  desirelines  anarchism  organizations  illegibility  highmodernism  utopia  governance  simplification  measurement  quantification  brasília 
august 2011 by robertogreco

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