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Your Work Peak Is Earlier Than You Think - The Atlantic
"What’s the difference between Bach and Darwin? Both were preternaturally gifted and widely known early in life. Both attained permanent fame posthumously. Where they differed was in their approach to the midlife fade. When Darwin fell behind as an innovator, he became despondent and depressed; his life ended in sad inactivity. When Bach fell behind, he reinvented himself as a master instructor. He died beloved, fulfilled, and—though less famous than he once had been—respected.

The lesson for you and me, especially after 50: Be Johann Sebastian Bach, not Charles Darwin."
retirement  charlesdarwin  decline  life  living  careers  2019  arthurbrooks  bach  teaching  innovation  invention  creativity  depression  via:ayjay 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Better Public Schools Won’t Fix Income Inequality - The Atlantic
"Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."

...


"Long ago, i was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem."

...

"However justifiable their focus on curricula and innovation and institutional reform, people who see education as a cure-all have largely ignored the metric most predictive of a child’s educational success: household income.

The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools. For many children, though—especially those raised in the racially segregated poverty endemic to much of the United States—the opportunity to attend a good public school isn’t nearly enough to overcome the effects of limited family income.

As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”

Indeed, multiple studies have found that only about 20 percent of student outcomes can be attributed to schooling, whereas about 60 percent are explained by family circumstances—most significantly, income. Now consider that, nationwide, just over half of today’s public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, up from 38 percent in 2000. Surely if American students are lagging in the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills our modern economy demands, household income deserves most of the blame—not teachers or their unions.

If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed, we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.

Today, after wealthy elites gobble up our outsize share of national income, the median American family is left with $76,000 a year. Had hourly compensation grown with productivity since 1973—as it did over the preceding quarter century, according to the Economic Policy Institute—that family would now be earning more than $105,000 a year. Just imagine, education reforms aside, how much larger and stronger and better educated our middle class would be if the median American family enjoyed a $29,000-a-year raise.

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime exemption; by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less."
economics  education  inequality  2019  labor  work  policy  poverty  history  nickhanauer  educationism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  trickledowneconomics  ronaldreagan  billclinton  canon  edusolutionism  us  unemployment  billgates  gatesfoundation  democracy  wages  alicewalton  paulallen  anandgiridharadas  middleclass  class  housing  healthcare  publicschools  publiceducation  schools  learning  howwelearn  opportunity  lawrencemishel  curriculum  innovation 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Uber’s Path of Destruction - American Affairs Journal
"ince it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality.

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Uber’s investors, however, never expected that their returns would come from superior efficiency in competitive markets. Uber pursued a “growth at all costs” strategy financed by a staggering $20 billion in investor funding. This funding subsidized fares and service levels that could not be matched by incumbents who had to cover costs out of actual passenger fares. Uber’s massive subsidies were explicitly anticompetitive—and are ultimately unsustainable—but they made the company enormously popular with passengers who enjoyed not having to pay the full cost of their service.

The resulting rapid growth was also intended to make Uber highly attractive to those segments of the investment world that believed explosive top-line growth was the only important determinant of how start-up companies should be valued. Investors focused narrow­ly on Uber’s revenue growth and only rarely considered whether the company could ever produce the profits that might someday repay the multibillion dollar subsidies.

Most public criticisms of Uber have focused on narrow behavioral and cultural issues, including deceptive advertising and pricing, algorithmic manipulation, driver exploitation, deep-seated misogyny among executives, and disregard of laws and business norms. Such criticisms are valid, but these problems are not fixable aberrations. They were the inevitable result of pursuing “growth at all costs” without having any ability to fund that growth out of positive cash flow. And while Uber has taken steps to reduce negative publicity, it has not done—and cannot do—anything that could suddenly pro­duce a sustainable, profitable business model.

Uber’s longer-term goal was to eliminate all meaningful competition and then profit from this quasi-monopoly power. While it has already begun using some of this artificial power to suppress driver wages, it has not achieved the Facebook- or Amazon-type “plat­form” power it hoped to exploit. Given that both sustainable profits and true industry dominance seemed unachievable, Uber’s investors de­cided to take the company public, based on the hope that enough gullible investors still believe that the compa­ny’s rapid growth and popularity are the result of powerfully effi­cient inno­vations and do not care about its inability to generate profits.

These beliefs about Uber’s corporate value were created entirely out of thin air. This is not a case of a company with a reasonably sound operating business that has managed to inflate stock market expectations a bit. This is a case of a massive valuation that has no relationship to any economic fundamentals. Uber has no competitive efficiency advantages, operates in an industry with few barriers to entry, and has lost more than $14 billion in the previous four years. But its narratives convinced most people in the media, invest­ment, and tech worlds that it is the most valuable transportation company on the planet and the second most valuable start-up IPO in U.S. history (after Facebook).

Uber is the breakthrough case where the public perception of a large new company was entirely created using the types of manufactured narratives typically employed in partisan political campaigns. Narrative construction is perhaps Uber’s greatest competitive strength. The company used these techniques to completely divert attention away from the massive subsidies that were the actual drivers of its popularity and growth. It successfully framed the entire public discussion around an emotive, “us-versus-them” battle between heroic innovators and corrupt regulators who were falsely blamed for all of the industry’s historic service problems. Uber’s desired framing—that it was fighting a moral battle on behalf of technological progress and economic freedom—was uncritically ac­cepted by the mainstream business and tech industry press, who then never bothered to analyze the firm’s actual economics or its anticompetitive behavior.

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else."
huberthoran  uber  carsharing  taxis  transportation  2019  economics  technology  technosolutionism  huxterism  propaganda  regulation  disruption  innovation  scale  networkeffects  amazon  facebook  venturecapital  siliconvalley  latecapitalism  capitalism  exploitation  labor  growth  lyft  china  startups  cities  urban  urbanism  productivity  traviskalanick 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Capitalism Camp for Kids - The New York Times
"Embedded in these programs is at least one contradiction: They promote entrepreneurship and leadership, but are also training kids to be good employees; to be innovators and disrupters, but also to be model office drones."
camps  capitalism  socialism  contradiction  drones  employees  obedience  innovation  disruption  entrepreneurship  children  indoctrination 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
may 2019 by robertogreco
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
march 2019 by robertogreco
The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2018)
"It’s been quite a year for education news, not that you’d know that by listening to much of the ed-tech industry (press). Subsidized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, some publications have repeatedly run overtly and covertly sponsored articles that hawk the future of learning as “personalized,” as focused on “the whole child.” Some of these attempt to stretch a contemporary high-tech vision of social emotional surveillance so it can map onto a strange vision of progressive education, overlooking no doubt how the history of progressive education has so often been intertwined with race science and eugenics.

Meanwhile this year, immigrant, refugee children at the United States border were separated from their parents and kept in cages, deprived of legal counsel, deprived of access to education, deprived in some cases of water.

“Whole child” and cages – it’s hardly the only jarring juxtaposition I could point to.

2018 was another year of #MeToo, when revelations about sexual assault and sexual harassment shook almost every section of society – the media and the tech industries, unsurprisingly, but the education sector as well – higher ed, K–12, and non-profits alike, as well school sports all saw major and devastating reports about cultures and patterns of sexual violence. These behaviors were, once again, part of the hearings and debates about a Supreme Court Justice nominee – a sickening deja vu not only for those of us that remember Anita Hill ’s testimony decades ago but for those of us who have experienced something similar at the hands of powerful people. And on and on and on.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) kept up with its rosy repetition that social equality is surely its priority, a product feature even – that VR, for example, a technology it has for so long promised is “on the horizon,” is poised to help everyone, particularly teachers and students, become more empathetic. Meanwhile, the founder of Oculus Rift is now selling surveillance technology for a virtual border wall between the US and Mexico.

2018 was a year in which public school teachers all over the US rose up in protest over pay, working conditions, and funding, striking in red states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma despite an anti-union ruling by the Supreme Court.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) was wowed by teacher influencers and teacher PD on Instagram, touting the promise for more income via a side-hustle like tutoring rather by structural or institutional agitation. Don’t worry, teachers. Robots won’t replace you, the press repeatedly said. Unsaid: robots will just de-professionalize, outsource, or privatize the work. Or, as the AI makers like to say, robots will make us all work harder (and no doubt, with no unions, cheaper).

2018 was a year of ongoing and increased hate speech and bullying – racism and anti-Semitism – on campuses and online.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still maintained that blockchain would surely revolutionize the transcript and help insure that no one lies about who they are or what they know. Blockchain would enhance “smart spending” and teach financial literacy, the ed-tech industry (press) insisted, never once mentioning the deep entanglements between anti-Semitism and the alt-right and blockchain (specifically Bitcoin) backers.

2018 was a year in which hate and misinformation, magnified and spread by technology giants, continued to plague the world. Their algorithmic recommendation engines peddled conspiracy theories (to kids, to teens, to adults). “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer” as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci put it in a NYT op-ed.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still talked about YouTube as the future of education, cheerfully highlighting (that is, spreading) its viral bullshit. Folks still retyped the press releases Google issued and retyped the press releases Facebook issued, lauding these companies’ (and their founders’) efforts to reshape the curriculum and reshape the classroom.

This is the ninth year that I’ve reviewed the stories we’re being told about education technology. Typically, this has been a ten (or more) part series. But I just can’t do it any more. Some people think it’s hilarious that I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra, but it’s not funny at all. It’s depressing, and it’s painful. And no one fucking listens.

If I look back at what I’ve written in previous years, I feel like I’ve already covered everything I could say about 2018. Hell, I’ve already written about the whole notion of the “zombie idea” in ed-tech – that bad ideas never seem to go away, that just get rebranded and repackaged. I’ve written about misinformation and ed-tech (and ed-tech as misinformation). I’ve written about the innovation gospel that makes people pitch dangerously bad ideas like “Uber for education” or “Alexa for babysitting.” I’ve written about the tech industry’s attempts to reshape the school system as its personal job training provider. I’ve written about the promise to “rethink the transcript” and to “revolutionize credentialing.” I’ve written about outsourcing and online education. I’ve written about coding bootcamps as the “new” for-profit higher ed, with all the exploitation that entails. I’ve written about the dangers of data collection and data analysis, about the loss of privacy and the lack of security.

And yet here we are, with Mark Zuckerberg – education philanthropist and investor – blinking before Congress, promising that AI will fix everything, while the biased algorithms keep churning out bias, while the education/technology industry (press) continues to be so blinded by “disruption” it doesn’t notice (or care) what’s happened to desegregation, and with so many data breaches and privacy gaffes that they barely make headlines anymore.

Folks. I’m done.

I’m also writing a book, and frankly that’s where my time and energy is going.

There is some delicious irony, I suppose, in the fact that there isn’t much that’s interesting or “innovative” to talk about in ed-tech, particularly since industry folks want to sell us on the story that tech is moving faster than it’s ever moved before, so fast in fact that the ol’ factory model school system simply cannot keep up.

I’ve always considered these year-in-review articles to be mini-histories of sorts – history of the very, very recent past. Now, instead, I plan to spend my time taking a longer, deeper look at the history of education technology, with particular attention for the next few months, as the title of my book suggests, to teaching machines – to the promises that machines will augment, automate, standardize, and individualize instruction. My focus is on the teaching machines of the mid-twentieth century, but clearly there are echoes – echoes of behaviorism and personalization, namely – still today.

In his 1954 book La Technique (published in English a decade later as The Technological Society), the sociologist Jacques Ellul observes how education had become oriented towards creating technicians, less interested in intellectual development than in personality development – a new “psychopedagogy” that he links to Maria Montessori. “The human brain must be made to conform to the much more advanced brain of the machine,” Ellul writes. “And education will no longer be an unpredictable and exciting adventure in human enlightenment , but an exercise in conformity and apprenticeship to whatever gadgetry is useful in a technical world.” I believe today we call this "social emotional learning" and once again (and so insistently by the ed-tech press and its billionaire backers), Montessori’s name is invoked as the key to preparing students for their place in the technological society.

Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.

This is the only good grit:

[image of Gritty]

If I were writing a lengthier series on the year in ed-tech, I’d spend much more time talking about the promises made about personalization and social emotional learning. I’ll just note here that the most important “innovator” in this area this year (other than Gritty) was surely the e-cigarette maker Juul, which offered a mindfulness curriculum to schools – offered them the curriculum and $20,000, that is – to talk about vaping. “‘The message: Our thoughts are powerful and can set action in motion,’ the lesson plan states.”

The most important event in ed-tech this year might have occurred on February 14, when a gunman opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 others. (I chose this particular school shooting because of the student activism it unleashed.)

Oh, I know, I know – school shootings and school security aren’t ed-tech, ed-tech evangelists have long tried to insist, an argument I’ve heard far too often. But this year – the worst year on record for school shootings (according to some calculations) – I think that argument started to shift a bit. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools “security” products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, … [more]
audreywatters  education  technology  edtech  2018  surveillance  privacy  personalization  progressive  schools  quantification  gamification  wholechild  montessori  mariamontessori  eugenics  psychology  siliconvalley  history  venturecapital  highereducation  highered  guns  gunviolence  children  youth  teens  shootings  money  influence  policy  politics  society  economics  capitalism  mindfulness  juul  marketing  gritty  innovation  genetics  psychotechnologies  gender  race  racism  sexism  research  socialemotional  psychopedagogy  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  learning  howwelearn  teachingmachines  nonprofits  nonprofit  media  journalism  access  donaldtrump  bias  algorithms  facebook  amazon  disruption  data  bigdata  security  jacquesellul  sociology  activism  sel  socialemotionallearning 
december 2018 by robertogreco
School is Literally a Hellhole – Medium
"By continually privileging and training our eyes on a horizon “beyond the walls of the school” — whether that be achievement, authentic audiences, the real world, the future, even buzz or fame — have we inadvertently impoverished school of its value and meaning, turning it into a wind-swept platform where we do nothing but gaze into another world or brace ourselves for the inevitable? Here we have less and less patience for the platform itself, for learning to live with others who will be nothing more than competitors in that future marketplace."



"What would be possible if we instead were to wall ourselves up with one another, fostering community and care among this unlikely confluence of souls? Does privileging the proximate, present world render any critique of or contribution to the larger world impossible?

I don’t think so. Learning to protect, foster, and value the humans in our care will often automatically put us in direct conflict with the many forces that disrupt or diminish those values. More than reflecting the real world or the future or some outside standard or imperative, kids need to see themselves reflected and recognized in these rooms. This is true even in the most privileged of environments. Providing recognition means valuing students' perspectives and experiences, but also helping them gain critical consciousness of themselves and their world, which they often intuit.

These tasks aren’t disconnected from the outside world, but often need a smaller, more human-sized community in which to flourish. The impulse to test and measure continually intrudes upon this process. But so do other prying eyes, ones that cast our students as entrepreneurial, capitalistic, future-ready, self-motivated, passionate individuals — and that often shame those who can’t or won’t conform to this ideal.

We should ask ourselves to what extent those outside standards and ideals are antithetical to the values of education — civic discourse, collectivity, cooperation, care. I realize this post is short on specifics, but let’s be more cautious about always forcing one another out into unforgiving gaze of others, commending the merits of a world beyond this one."
arthurchiaravalli  schools  schooling  schooliness  presence  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  highschool  competition  coexistence  community  benjamindoxtdator  engagement  blogging  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  personalbranding  innovation  johndewey  work  labor  nietzsche  collectivism  collectivity  cooperation  care  caring  merit  entrepreneurship  passion  2018  foucault  michelfoucault 
june 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 67. Carl Abrahamsson & Mitch Horowitz in “Occulture (Meta)” // Anton LaVey, Real Magic & the Nature of the Mind
"Look, I’m not gonna lie to you - we have a pretty badass show this time around. Carl Abrahamsson and Mitch Horowitz are in the house.

Carl Abrahamsson is a Swedish freelance writer, lecturer, filmmaker and photographer specializing in material about the arts & entertainment, esoteric history and occulture. Carl is the author of several books, including a forthcoming title from Inner Traditions called Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; Occult America, which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence; and Mind As Builder: The Positive-Mind Metaphysics of Edgar Cayce. Mitch has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. Mitch is currently in the midst of publishing a series of articles on Medium called "Real Magic".

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
“My Working Will be the Work:” Maintenance Art and Technologies of Change – The New Inquiry
"In 1973, Mierle Laderman Ukeles staged a series of art performances at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. In Transfer: The Maintenance of the Art Object, she took over the duties of the museum’s janitor and used his tools to clean a glass case containing a mummy. When she was finished, she stamped her cleaning tools and the mummy case with a rubber stamp, branding them “Maintenance Art Works.” She then transferred the cleaning duties to the museum’s curator, who alone was allowed to handle and conserve artworks. In another performance, Keeper of the Keys, Ukeles took the janitor’s keys and locked and unlocked various offices and rooms in the museum. Once Ukeles had locked an office, it became a Maintenance Artwork and no one was permitted to enter or use the room. Keeper of the Keys created an uproar, as it drastically impacted the work lives of the museum’s staff who pleaded to have certain floors exempted from the project so they could work undisturbed. Ukeles’ performances, examples of conceptual art called “Institutional Critique,” surfaced the hidden labor of maintenance in the museum setting, and the subsequent visibility of this labor proved to be incredibly disruptive to the institution of the museum.

Recently within the history of science and technology, scholars have focused an increasing amount of attention on the maintenance of technology and systems. Maintenance has been long overlooked in favor of a focus on innovation and design practices; the very beginnings of technology have always been more appealing than their often messy or disappointing longer lives. One important aspect of this “turn” to maintenance histories is that the un-and-underpaid labor of women and marginalized people, who are disproportionately relegated to maintenance work, has again become an important site for articulating the history of technology. A similar turn was initiated by scholars, like historian of technology Ruth Schwartz Cowan and others, in the 1980s.

Even before these early efforts, however, art historian and curator Helen Molesworth has argued that women artists, like Ukles and Martha Rosler, were making significant contributions to a discourse about public and private life, and the hidden labor that sustains both. Ukeles and Rosler, despite often being marginalized as “feminist artists,” were in the 1970s making strikingly political art about labor and gender, about technology and potential violence, and about the ability of art itself to sustain and renew utopia and revolution.

In her video piece The Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), Rosler appears behind a table laden with kitchen tools, with the refrigerator, sink, and cupboards of her kitchen as backdrop. The artist works through her collection of kitchen gadgets one by one, alphabetically: A is for apron, K is for knife. But her gestures clash with the setting. Instead of using the knife to mime cutting food, she stabs violently at the air. She ladles invisible soup, but then flings it over her shoulder. Rosler’s deadpan stare and her gestural subversion of the audiences cooking-show set-up expectations make a mockery, or perhaps even a threat, out of the labor of the kitchen. Her misuse of the tools of the kitchen has the effect of stripping the technology of its meaning, making it more “thingy” and, thus, somehow threatening or alienating.

Helen Molesworth has used Ukeles’ performances and Rosler’s video pieces to unpick a largely unquestioned binary had existed for much of the 1980s and 90s between “essentialist” feminist art and the more theory-driven works, which succeeded them in critical estimation. Essentialist works focused on more straightforward imagery of the feminine and the female — of this school, Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974-79) is considered emblematic. Theory-based works are represented in this debate by conceptual artist Mary Kelly in the Post-Partum Document (1973-79), which consists of text and artifacts that document and analyze Kelly’s relationship to and experience of mothering her son. Molesworth shows that by adding Rosler and Ukeles to this longstanding binary, we can see that all four artists are actually working in an expanded field that investigates maintenance and other forms of hidden labor.

We might venture to expand the field once more, and place these maintenance artworks in a more explicit story about technology. In her influential book More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, Ruth Schwartz Cowan takes pains to remind us that the modern industrialized household is intimately dependent on the large technological systems of modernity. No plumbing, electricity, gas means no housework. No access to the manufacture of tools and appliances, textiles and packaged foods means no dinner on the table. These artworks show us how the larger technological world as the public sphere, which Ukeles and Rosler contrast with a degraded private sphere, is itself intimately dependant on the invisible labor and technological systems of the home and the invisible labors of maintenance.

Recontextualizing of the labor and tools of housework, and the slightly unsettling effect this has on audiences, is the most important feature of both Ukeles’ and Rosler’s works. They give the viewer a little glimpse of the power that has, ironically, been vested in the home and its laborers by the public sphere that insists, indeed depends, on the private remaining private. These caches of unseen power, levers that can move an economy in their numbers, are also technological levers that rely on tools and systems that have been degraded and devalued because of their connection to maintenance labor.

Ukeles and Rosler remind us the invisible labor of women and marginalized people ensures that those permitted in the public sphere, white able-bodied men, are properly clothed and housed and supported and separated from waste so that they can innovate in comfort. By surfacing this labor and critiquing the ways it has been made invisible, Ukeles and Rosler prefigure scholarly critiques about the labor of women and marginalized people and the hidden histories of maintenance technology that support a public culture of innovation.

In an interview for Artforum, Ukeles talks about how two of the most famous Minimalist artists of the 20th century, Richard Serra and Donald Judd, made artworks that “skimmed the surface” of the industrial, technological world of the public sphere. The universalism of their work depends on the labor of making them which remains invisible and only the artwork itself is available for critique. Meanwhile, Ukeles felt that as both an artist and a mother her labor had become all about care and maintenance. Her decision to commit to an artistic practice of maintenance was an investment in the personal and political act of melding her artistic self to the aspects of herself that were defined by care-work. “My working will be the work,” she declared in her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!.

Ukeles’ radical intervention was to name this invisible work of cleaning, repairing, cooking, and mending Maintenance Art, and to force this labor into spaces that had always privileged the result, not the work that sustains it. Rosler’s critique of the labor of the kitchen is enacted through her alienation from kitchen technologies, a transformation of the object that was mirrored in Ukeles’ branding of the cleaning rag as an artwork and her taking possession of the building keys. These are technology stories, but not the kind we may find most familiar.

Obsession with innovation over preservation is an obsession with those who are allowed to innovate and an indifference to those who are made to maintain. It’s not just an aesthetic matter of what kind of labor seems more appealing; it’s a power structure that requires the domination of others in order to “maintain the change” created by the innovators. Yet, Ukeles meant “maintain the change” in a much more utopian sense, a thread that Molesworth notes in her expanded field of feminist-informed art. The maintenance needed to preserve positive change is itself a worthy and humanistic pursuit and deserves the same status as change itself. The technologies and labors of maintenance, wielded and performed by the marginalized, have the power to disrupt as much as they have the power to sustain.

Further Reading

Helen Molesworth, “House Work and Art Work,” October vol. 92 (Spring 200): 71-97.

Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies form the Open Hearth to the Microwave (Basic Books, 1983). "
art  maintenance  criticaltheory  feminism  annareser  2017  1973  mierleladermanukeles  performance  science  technology  care  caring  caretakers  ruthschartzcowan  1980s  martharosler  1970s  utopia  revolution  resistance  work  labor  productivity  gender  violence  1975  kitchens  helenmolesworth  judychicago  marykelly  ruthschwartzcowan  richardserr  donaldjudd  innovation  preervation 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains
"Miller never bothers to define all the modes, and we will consider them more below. But for now, we should just note that the entire model is based on design consulting: You try to understand the client’s problem, what he or she wants or needs. You sharpen that problem so it’s easier to solve. You think of ways to solve it. You try those solutions out to see if they work. And then once you’ve settled on something, you ask your client for feedback. By the end, you’ve created a “solution,” which is also apparently an “innovation.”

Miller also never bothers to define the liberal arts. The closest he comes is to say they are ways of “thinking that all students should be exposed to because it enhances their understanding of everything else.” Nor does he make clear what he means by the idea that Design Thinking is or could be the new liberal arts. Is it but one new art to be added to the traditional liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, and science? Or does Miller think, like Hennessy and Kelly, that all of education should be rebuilt around the DTs? Who knows.

Miller is most impressed with Design Thinking’s Empathize Mode. He writes lyrically, “Human-centered design redescribes the classical aim of education as the care and tending of the soul; its focus on empathy follows directly from Rousseau’s stress on compassion as a social virtue.” Beautiful. Interesting.

But what are we really talking about here? The d.school’s An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE says, “The Empathize Mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge.” We can use language like “empathy” to dress things up, but this is Business 101. Listen to your client; find out what he or she wants or needs.

Miller calls the Empathize Mode “ethnography,” which is deeply uncharitable — and probably offensive — to cultural anthropologists who spend their entire lives learning how to observe other people. Few, if any, anthropologists would sign onto the idea that some amateurs at a d.school “boot camp,” strolling around Stanford and gawking at strangers, constitutes ethnography. The Empathize Mode of Design Thinking is roughly as ethnographic as a marketing focus group or a crew of sleazoid consultants trying to feel out and up their clients’ desires.

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business."



In recent episode of the Design Observer podcast, Jen added further thoughts on Design Thinking. “The marketing of design thinking is completely bullshit. It’s even getting worse and worse now that [Stanford has] three-day boot camps that offer certified programs — as if anyone who enrolled in these programs can become a designer and think like a designer and work like a designer.” She also resists the idea that any single methodology “can deal with any kind of situation — not to mention the very complex society that we’re in today.”

In informal survey I conducted with individuals who either teach at or were trained at the top art, architecture, and design schools in the USA, most respondents said that they and their colleagues do not use the term Design Thinking. Most of the people pushing the DTs in higher education are at second- and third-tier universities and, ironically, aren’t innovating but rather emulating Stanford. In afew cases, respondents said they did know a colleague or two who was saying “Design Thinking” frequently, but in every case, the individuals were using the DTs either to increase their turf within the university or to extract resources from college administrators who are often willing to throw money at anything that smacks of “innovation.”

Moreover, individuals working in art, architecture, and design schools tend to be quite critical of existing DT programs. Reportedly, some schools are creating Design Thinking tracks for unpromising students who couldn’t hack it in traditional architecture or design programs — DT as “design lite.” The individuals I talked to also had strong reservations about the products coming out of Design Thinking classes. A traditional project in DT classes involves undergraduate students leading “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary” teams drawing on faculty expertise around campus to solve some problem of interest to the students. The students are not experts in anything, however, and the projects often take the form of, as one person put it, “kids trying to save the world.”

One architecture professor I interviewed had been asked to sit in on a Design Thinking course’s critique, a tradition at architecture and design schools where outside experts are brought in to offer (often tough) feedback on student projects. The professor watched a student explain her design: a technology that was meant to connect mothers with their premature babies who they cannot touch directly. The professor wondered, what is the message about learning that students get from such projects? “I guess the idea is that this work empowers the students to believe they are applying their design skills,” the professor told me. “But I couldn’t critique it as design because there was nothing to it as design. So what’s left? Is good will enough?

As others put it to me, Design Thinking gives students an unrealistic idea of design and the work that goes into creating positive change. Upending that old dictum “knowledge is power,” Design Thinkers giver their students power without knowledge, “creative confidence” without actual capabilities.

It’s also an elitist, Great White Hope vision of change that literally asks students to imagine themselves entering a situation to solve other people’s problems. Among other things, this situation often leads to significant mismatch between designers’ visions — even after practicing “empathy” — and users’ actual needs. Perhaps the most famous example is the PlayPump, a piece of merry-go-round equipment that would pump water when children used it. Designers envisioned that the PlayPump would provide water to thousands of African communities. Only kids didn’t show up, including because there was no local cultural tradition of playing with merry-go-rounds.

Unsurprisingly, Design Thinking-types were enthusiastic about the PlayPump. Tom Hulme, the design director at IDEO’s London office, created a webpage called OpenIDEO, where users could share “open source innovation.” Hulme explained that he found himself asking, “What would IDEO look like on steroids? [We might ask the same question about crack cocaine or PCP.] What would it look like when you invite everybody into everything? I set myself the challenge of . . . radical open-innovation collaboration.” OpenIDEO community users were enthusiastic about the PlayPump — even a year after the system had been debunked, suggesting inviting everyone to everything gets you people who don’t do research. One OpenIDEO user enthused that the PlayPump highlighted how “fun can be combined with real needs.”

Thom Moran, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, told me that Design Thinking brought “a whole set of values about what design’s supposed to look like,” including that everything is supposed to be “fun” and “play,” and that the focus is less on “what would work.” Moran went on, “The disappointing part for me is that I really do believe that architecture, art, and design should be thought of as being a part of the liberal arts. They provide a unique skill set for looking at and engaging the world, and being critical of it.” Like others I talked to, Moran doesn’t see this kind of critical thinking in the popular form of Design Thinking, which tends to ignore politics, environmental issues, and global economic problems.

Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”

“That’s what’s most annoying,” Moran went on. “I fundamentally believe in this stuff as a model of education. But it’s business consultants who give TED Talks who are out there selling it. It’s all anti-intellectual. That’s the problem. Architecture and design are profoundly intellectual. But for these people, it’s not a form of critical thought; it’s a form of salesmanship.”

Here’s my one caveat: it could be true that the DTs are a good way to teach design or business. I wouldn’t know. I am not a designer (or business school professor). I am struck, however, by how many designers, including Natasha Jen and Thom Moran, believe that the DTs are nonsense. In the end, I will leave this discussion up to designers. It’s their show. My concern is a different one — namely that… [more]
designthinking  innovation  ideas  2017  design  leevinsel  maintenance  repair  ideation  problemsolving  davidedgerton  willthomas  billburnett  daveevans  stanford  d.school  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  d.tech  education  schools  teaching  liberalarts  petermiller  esaleninstitute  newage  hassoplattner  johnhennessey  davidkelly  jimjones  empathy  ethnography  consulting  business  bullshit  marketing  snakeoil  criticism  criticalthinking  highereducation  highered  thomamoran  tedtalks  openideo  playpump  designimperialism  whitesaviors  post-its  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  art  architecture  complexity  simplicity  methodology  process  emptiness  universities  colleges  philipmirowski  entrepreneurship  lawrencebusch  elizabethpoppberman  nathanielcomfort  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  hucksterism  self-promotion  hype  georgeorwell  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  andréspicer  humanitariandesign  themaintainers  ma 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How to build a book: Notes from an editorial bricoleuse | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 7, No 3
"This piece offers an editor’s reflections on the ethos and craft of writing. General suggestions, words of encouragement, and detailed tips emerge through a discussion of unexpected affinities between writing and building. An annotated list of further readings accompanies the text.

Ce texte offre les réflexions d’une éditrice sur l’ethos et l’art de l’écriture. Des suggestions générales, des encouragements, et quelques conseils précis se dégagent d’une discussion sur les affinités inattendues entre l’écriture et la construction. Une liste annotée de lectures complémentaires accompagne ce texte."



"The inevitable risk in writing a document like this one is that authors will interpret my advice as an example of editorial fascism that is appeased only when others subsume their ambition to conformity. I would hate for that to be the lesson of this meditation (which is, in itself, something of an oddity).

Times change, architectural styles go through inevitable change and recombination, and books change too. No intelligent person would demand that every room conform perfectly to a single model or that every book do the same. Variation is one cornerstone of beauty. So, please, surprise me. But do so from a position of intimate understanding. Mastery of tradition, in writing as in other crafts, is the first condition for innovation."

[via: https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/944918352773951494

"Some nice, not obvious advice in this piece on writing academic books (aimed at anthro, but more broadly relevant), from @priyasnelson: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.14318/hau7.3.020 … (I especially like the “finding the center” metaphor.)

Not that anthropologists are unique snowflakes, but I wish we had more writing advice like this aimed at us particularly: we have some particular strengths and weaknesses that generic academic writing advice doesn’t appreciate."]
writing  editing  craft  2017  priyanelson  variation  conformity  innovation  citation  anthropology  srg  neologisms  socialsciences  academia  revision  publishing  serendipity  details  planning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Letting Go Of School In Order To Think About Education
"On all of my social media profiles I self-identify as “Educator” among other titles and descriptors. I chose “educator” because it’s an umbrella term which encompasses both doing and being. To educate others may include teaching, coaching, facilitating, or guiding; providing space, opportunities, materials, structure, collaborators, audience, relevance, push-back and acceptance. As an educator I create possibilities to be speaker and listener, instructor and learner, producer and consumer, writer and reader, expert and novice, role model and seeker, professional and amateur.

When I teach at school, this is not necessarily the list going through my head. It is unlikely that my thinking is focused on the possibilities I am creating or opportunities I am affording myself or my students. No, I am thinking about brass tacks: doing the thing, getting it done in time, getting the class to do it my way (mostly). That is my teaching reality. In my planning I may find the chance to wax philosophical about what I want the real lesson to be (i.e., how to work equitably with people who are not your favorites vs. how to play 4 v 4 soccer). Or after the fact, when my colleague and I talk over what worked and didn’t work in an activity that we both tried, then I may discover an insight or two about what I am creating or perhaps sabotaging in the process. Reflection belongs to teaching. Doing and acting belong to teaching. Screwing up belongs to teaching.

Yet teaching as a set or series of actions does not add up to educating. Teaching is a piece of education, not the whole.

Often when conversations about education get hot, I find that we are actually talking about schools, teachers, policies, students, and families. What schools should do. What students should do. What families should do. What policies should do. We are talking about integral pieces of education but not about education as whole: what it is, what it can enable, how it serves us as a society. Of course this is a much more challenging task. How can we talk about what education is and what it should be when our schools are crumbling, our kids are not always safe (both inside and outside our classrooms), and the disparities between rich and poor are growing by the minute?

I don’t have the answer.

What I have come to understand, however, is that we will not achieve better education systems or outcomes without stepping back from the constraints of “school thinking.” I need to let go of what I know and think about school - its structures, history, and influence - in order to be able to think more openly about education and its possibilities. And in order to do that it feels necessary to break some rules, to upset some conventions, to seize authority rather than wait for it to be granted.

Free thinking is a political act. Even as I write this, my personal doomsday chorus is getting louder: “you can’t write that! Where’s your evidence? Where’s the data?” That’s the trenchant influence of the existing power structure. I have learned its lessons well. “There is no argument without a quote to back it up.” Authority, expertise, wisdom is always outside me. To ensure the validity of my own thoughts, I have been taught, I must ground my arguments in the theory and work of other scholars.

I’m going to place that rule aside for now and proceed with my free thinking on education. And my first instance is a selfish one: my own children. What is the education that they will need to serve them well in their lives?

• practice being kind.

• aim to be independent while recognizing that interdependence is also the way of the world and critical to our (I mean, everybody’s) survival.

• Learn to ask for and receive help. Practice offering help.

• There are lots of ways to learn things: by reading, observing, trying, asking, teaching, following, researching. Try out lots of different combinations and know that some methods will work better than others for different occasions and aims. Keep talking to people and asking questions. Practice. Get feedback. Practice more. Get more feedback.

• Get to know the culture and climate in which you live. Who seems to be at the top? Who’s on the bottom? Where do you seem to fit in? Where can you help someone? How do these systems work? Learn to ask: ‘What system is this?’

These are lessons I want my children to not only have but to internalize, practice, own in their very particular and individual ways. If I can also help my students travel on and take up these pathways, all the better.

But where do I go with these ideas then?

* * *

The Answer To How Is Yes. (This is a book title you should look up) [https://www.worldcat.org/title/answer-to-how-is-yes-acting-on-what-matters/oclc/830344811&referer=brief_results ]

I start with people. What do people need? People need other people; positive, supportive and caring connections to others. People need purpose - reasons for doing the things they do. We investigate things we want to know more about. We go in search of the things we need. We enlist the help of others to accomplish what we cannot manage on our own. People tend to do well with challenge as long as it does not overwhelm them. Productive challenge cannot be the things which threaten our existence. People require a degree of safety and security in which they can pursue challenge and purpose. Safety and security are what communities build into their webs of relationships through trust and reciprocity.

When I embark on this kind of wide ranging, human needs-centered thinking, I quickly run into mental roadblocks: not so little voices which say, “Be careful! Writing these words, in this way, is risky. It is counter-cultural. It is against the rules of expository writing. This is no way to win a debate.”

As a teacher and educator, I am aghast at the idea that I would dare to go against the rules in a semi-professional setting. From childhood to now, I have been a firm upholder of rules of almost every kind: institutional rules, overt & covert socio-cultural rules, sports rules, you name it. And yet, in this case, I see a need to step outside certain rules, if only briefly, to consider something differently; to see what happens when the ropes are untied and the tension released. Rather than hosting a debate, I invite you to join me on an exploration.

What if, instead of trying to produce good or even excellent students, we aimed more for empowering excellent people, outstanding citizens, valuable community members? What if we created learning centers where people of various ages could gather to pursue purpose, challenge and connection with each other in meaningful ways? What if learning remained part and parcel of living, every day, and we acknowledged and recognized that publicly and privately?

We are so desperate to find secrets, shortcuts and foolproof solutions which will suddenly change everything. Yet, if we have learned nothing else from our extensive schooling titled ‘education’, we certainly know that this is not the way the world works. There will be no miracles and we need to accept that.

When students and teachers and support staff and administrators leave the school building, the question I have is: where do they go? What do they leave school to go work on? What dilemmas are they trying to solve? What new learning will they engage in, in order to meet a particular goal?

No doubt some of those tasks and questions will be directly related to survival: How do I ensure that we have enough income to keep this roof over our heads? How can I help my mom not worry so much about me and my sister when we have to wait alone for her to come home from work? What do I need to do to save this relationship? How do I even know if this relationship is worth saving? These are not genius hour questions. But they are the kinds of questions which occupy and preoccupy our minds and instigate a kind of built-in learning which inevitably shapes the lives we are able to lead and create for ourselves.

These are not school questions but they are the ones we will chew on and make meaning with throughout our lives. These are the questions which become our education once we take our rigid notions of school out of the picture. If we want to think differently, even innovatively about education, we need to re-center human needs rather what the “economy” claims it requires. We need to stop feeding the capitalist monster we have so happily created through our highly trained and supremely wasteful consumer behaviors. We need to uncouple “education” from the neoliberal agenda of deepening social inequality. We need to reclaim education as a human-centered public good that belongs to all of us.

If that sounds ‘pie in the sky’ idealistic to you and me, that’s precisely the problem. To change what we have, there seem to be a lot of things we need to let go of. Idealism is not one of them, however."
sherrispelic  education  teaching  unschooling  deschooling  schools  learning  children  sfsh  doing  being  freedom  thinking  criticalthinking  evidence  pedagogy  authority  expertise  wisdom  interdependence  independence  help  self-advocacy  culture  society  needs  care  caring  childhood  empowerment  life  living  survival  humans  human  idealism  innovation  economics  capitalism  systemsthinking  neoliberalism  inequality  publicgood  engagement  canon  cv  openstudioproject  lcproject 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology | Ryan Boren
"The marketing of mindsets is everywhere. Grit, growth mindset, project-based mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, innovator’s mindset, and a raft of canned social-emotional skills programs are vying for public money. These notions jump straight from psychology departments to aphoristic word images shared on social media and marketing festooned on school walls.

Growth mindset and Positive Behavior Support marketing have joined Leader in Me marketing at our elementary school. Instead of being peppered with synergy and Franklin Covey’s trademarks and proprietary jargon, we’re now peppered with LiM and growth mindset and PBS. Like every marketed mindset going back to the self-esteem movement, these campaigns are veneers on the deficit model that ignore long-standing structural problems like poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and childism. The practice and implementation of these mindsets are always suborned by deficit ideology, bootstrap ideology, meritocracy myths, and greed.

“Money Doesn’t Have to Be an Obstacle,” “Race Doesn’t Matter,” “Just Work Harder,” “Everyone Can Go to College,” and “If You Believe, Your Dreams Will Come True.” These notions have helped fueled inequity in the U.S. public education system. Mindset marketing without structural ideology, restorative practices, and inclusion is more harmful than helpful. This marketing shifts responsibility for change from our systems to children. We define kids’ identities through the deficit and medical models, gloss over the structural problems they face, and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset. This is a gaslighting. It is abusive.

Canned social-emotional skills programs, behaviorism, and the marketing of mindsets have serious side effects. They reinforce the cult of compliance and encourage submission to authoritarian rule. They line the pockets of charlatans and profiteers. They encourage surveillance and avaricious data collection. Deficit model capitalism’s data-based obsession proliferates hucksterism and turn kids into someone’s business model. The behaviorism of PBS is of the mindset of abusers and manipulators. It is ideological and intellectual kin with ABA, which autistic people have roundly rejected as abusive, coercive, and manipulative torture. We call it autistic conversion therapy. The misbehavior of behaviorism is an ongoing harm.

Instead, acknowledge pipeline problems and the meritocracy myth, stop bikeshedding the structural problems of the deficit model, and stop blaming kids and families. Develop a school culture based not on deficit ideologies and cargo cult shrink wrap, but on diversity & inclusion, neurodiversity, the social model of disability, structural ideology, and indie ed-tech. Get rid of extrinsics, and adopt instead the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Provide fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of time for major muscle movement instead of mindset bandages for the pathologies caused by the lack of these three critical things.

“Self-esteem that’s based on external sources has mental health consequences.” Stop propagating the latest deficit/bootstrap/behaviorism fads. Develop the critical capacity to see beyond the marketing. Look beyond deficit model compliance to social model inclusion. The social model and structural ideology are the way forward. Growth mindset and behaviorism, as usually implemented, are just more bootstrap metaphors that excuse systems from changing and learning.

Deficit ideology, surveillance capitalism, mindset marketing, and behaviorism are an unholy alliance. Fix injustice, not kids. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.”"
ryanboren2017  mindset  marketing  behavior  behaviorism  deficitideology  disabilities  disability  race  education  learning  grit  growthmindset  projectbasedlearning  entrepreneurship  innovation  psychology  racism  poverty  sexism  bootstrapping  meritocracy  greed  childism  ableism  socialemotional  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  capitalism  health  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  diversity  inclusion  neurodiversity  edtech  autonomy  mastery  purpose  self-esteem  compliance  socialemotionallearning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Most Likely to Repeat History - Long View on Education
"Yet, by holding out the entrepreneur as the solution to the America’s problems, Wagner and Dintersmith systematically reinforce class, race, and gender privilege. Many of the traits related to the agentic behavior praised in entrepreneurs, such as assertiveness, are highly valued pretty much only in white men. According to a report by Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein, when entrepreneurs are ranked on the Illicit Activity Index, which highlights the “aggressive, disruptive activities of individuals as youths,” they found that “entrepreneurs tend to engage in more illicit activities as youths than those who never become incorporated self-employed.” In his perceptive analysis of the report, Jordan Weissman writes that “To be successful at running your own company, you need a personality type that society is a lot more forgiving of if you’re white.”

Wagner and Dintersmith parrot back Friedman’s characteristic – and unfounded – optimism that “there is no limit to the number of idea-generating jobs in the world”: “the creative force of innovation erased millions and millions of routine jobs…they were replaced by countless opportunities for the innovative, for the creative, for the nimble.”

Countless? Really? This word choice implies that opportunity is unlimited, if people rise to the task. ‘Nimble’, and its often used synonyms – ‘adaptable’, ‘flexible, and ‘agile’ – seem like positive qualities until we consider the broader context of our lives outside of our value as labor. If you have recently lost your job because the company has off-shored it, then if you are ‘nimble’, you will find other work. However, if you lack that personality trait, or are traumatized, depressed, or restricted by public transit or a lack of childcare, then calling you out on your lack of nimbleness is simply victim-blaming.

Moreover, by focusing on ‘idea-generating’ or ‘innovative’ jobs, Wagner and Friedman ignore the hard realities of service work and the labor conditions in factories on which the ‘innovative’ jobs depend. For example, about half of Apple’s full-time equivalent employees work in their ‘retail segment’ making approximately $25,580 per annum. And that’s not to mention the vast supply chain that does not work directly for Apple, but toils in mines, manufacturing plants in China, and lives among our ewaste.5

In what is perhaps the most eye-catching claim of the book, they write “In the past five decades, all U.S. economic and job growth has come from innovative start-ups. Our entrepreneurial successes create our jobs, shape our society, define us, inspire us, and are the envy of the world.” The idea that start-ups have created all economic and job growth typifies their innovation as Hero ideology. It is not true that all growth comes from start-ups, but more importantly, the venture-capitalist self-promotion that they cite in footnote 35 says nothing of the kind. I would love some clarity from them on their referencing practice. Seriously.



"When you hear talk about ‘reinventing the self’, this is what I want you to think about: since we live in a society with structural inequality and discrimination, how does the focus on each of us reinventing ourselves take away from us having the political energy to oppose and transform the system? When Wagner and Dintersmith insist up innovation, they are actually reinforcing the status quo by ensuring that the inequalities and logic of the broader system prevail.

At once people insist that we commodify the self, then any empathy for the trauma suffered from job loss is blocked and the focus turns to reinvention of the self. As a project for continuous improvement, the self becomes a bundle of skills and images. In response to structural inequality, the neoliberal imperative pressures people to reinvent the parts of themselves that are targets of discrimination, rather than the system.

If you look at the wealth gap between white and black families in the United States through the lens of the ideology of meritocracy, then your explanation for the gap is going to tend to put the responsibility on individuals for their own lots in life, just as Wagner and Dintersmith in fact do when they talk about our responsibility to reinvent our capacities.

However, if we narrowly focus on the qualities of the individual (merit, capacities), then we miss out on an analysis of the structural issues. As McNamee and Miller argue in The Meritocracy Myth, “the most important factor in terms of where people will end up in the economic pecking order of society is where they started in the first place.”

Unfortunately, Wagner and Dintersmith start in exactly the same place as many other failed reform movements: with a desire to please the leaders of industry, whose stories they feed on with little room for anything else in their diet. Those who are ‘most likely to succeed’ will get ahead because of a broader system of privilege, while education reinventors are doomed to be ‘most likely to repeat history’, which is too bad for just about everyone else."
benjamindoxtdator  tonywagner  teddintersmith  entrepreneurship  2017  education  thomasfriedman  inequality  jordanweissman  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  race  racism  learning  risk  individualism  labor  work  economics  capitalism  meritocracy  neoliberalism  reform  publicschools  structuralracism  bias  peterdrucker  power  class  privilege  miltonfriedman  innovation  classism 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Equitable Schools for a Sustainable World - Long View on Education
"“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.” bell hooks

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

So what are the alternatives?

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

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

There’s no sustainable future in Western countries measuring educational success by the extent to which they out-compete the globalized Other. In her conclusion, Silva presents Wally, who is like her other working-class interview subjects in every respect except his political activism, as a token of hope. Instead of privatizing his problems, he is able to translate them into political issues. The alternative lies not in making schools different, but making the world ‘different’, sustainable, and just."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  equality  equity  socialjustice  schools  sustainability  education  children  economics  globalization  competition  bellhooks  scottmcleod  deanshareski  litercy  infoliteracy  sethgodin  capitalism  digitalredlining  digitaldivide  chrisgilliard  marianamazzucato  hajoonchang  innovation  labor  work  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  jordanweissman  aliciarobb  carljames  race  class  boredom  richardelmore  mikeschmoker  robertpianta  johngoodlad  engagement  passivity  criticism  learning  howwelearn  technology  johndewey  democracy  efficiency  davidsnedden  neoliberalism  richardflorida  tonyagner  erikbrynjolfsson  andremcafee  carlbenediktfrey  michaelosborne  davidautor  inequality  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  shoshanazuboff  jonathanalbright  henrygiroux  jennifersilva  alcindahonwana  change  precarity 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance! - The New York Times
"Americans have an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishizes innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery."



"While innovation — the social process of introducing new things — is important, most technologies around us are old, and for the smooth functioning of daily life, maintenance is more important. Statistics are difficult to come by, since American federal agencies do not account for maintenance costs in a standard way. But in the computer industry, software maintenance — that is, fixing bugs and distributing upgrades — can account for more than 60 percent of total costs. According to one study, roughly 70 percent of engineers work on maintaining and overseeing existing things rather than designing new ones.

It’s not just maintenance that our society fails to appreciate; it’s also the maintainers themselves. We do not grant them high social status or high salaries. Typically, maintenance is a blue-collar occupation: mechanic, plumber, janitor, electrician. There are white-collar maintainers (like the I.T. crowd) and white-jacket maintainers (like dentists). But they, too, are not celebrated like the inventor.

Once you notice this problem — innovation is exalted, maintenance devalued — you begin to see it everywhere. The entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk, for example, announced on Thursday that he had been given “verbal” government approval for an underground transportation system between New York and Washington. He has also proposed a similar project that would revolutionize transportation in Los Angeles by creating an enormous system of underground traffic tunnels.

Apart from the practical problem, in Los Angeles, of creating a tunnel system in a region known for geological instability, Mr. Musk’s idea indulges a fantasy common among Silicon Valley types: that the best path forward is to scrap existing reality and start over from scratch. With urban transport, as with so many other areas of our mature industrial society, a clean slate is rarely a realistic option. We need to figure out better ways of preserving, improving and caring for what we have.

Always eager for the photo-op and the exciting new announcement, politicians, too, prefer creating shiny new things to maintaining old, dingy ones. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York is an enthusiastic supporter of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, a proposed streetcar line that would cost many billions of dollars to build and run. But a recent report by the Transit Center, a public transportation advocacy group, estimates that New York City bus service could be greatly improved with relatively small costs and a few simple fixes like redesigning bus routes — giving the city far more bang for its buck.

Unlike innovation, which has a cottage industry devoted to its study and cultivation, maintenance is not something we spend a lot of time trying to understand better. Perhaps if we thought harder about it, we would grant it the prestige and the funding it deserves.

There is certainly a financial reward to greater understanding: Maintenance is big business. Giant industrial corporations like General Electric and Boeing make heavy investments in tools and procedures for predictive maintenance, since their success depends on the reliability of their products and the existence of orderly routines to follow when things break down. Even in the digital industries, where the gospel of innovation is sacrosanct, the kings of “disruption” — Netflix, Amazon — keep their customers happy only through reliable and well-maintained data and distribution networks.

To shift our focus from innovation to maintenance would also create an opportunity for greater political consensus. Maintenance is an area of public policy where conservatives and progressives should see eye to eye. The conservative tradition asks us to preserve what we have inherited from our ancestors, and the progressive tradition seeks to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. What better way to do this than to maintain the technologies bequeathed to us by past generations, and to recognize and reward the efforts of the maintainers who keep our society working?"
maintenance  care  caring  upkeep  2017  technology  politics  innovation  culture  society  ndrewrussell  leevinsel  themaintainers  maintainers 
july 2017 by robertogreco
9 tools to navigate an 'uncertain future,' from new book, Whiplash - TechRepublic
[See also:

"Joi Ito’s 9 Principles of the Media Lab"
https://vimeo.com/99160925

"Joi Ito Co-Author of Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future"
https://archive.org/details/Joi_Ito_Co-Author_of_Whiplash_-_How_To_Survive_Our_Faster_Future ]

""Humans are perpetually failing to grasp the significance of their own creations," write Joi Ito and Jeff Howe in Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. In the new title, released today, Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and Wired contributor, make the case that technology moves faster than our ability to understand it.

As technology quickly advances, it's important to separate inventions from use: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, but it was Eldridge Reeves Johnson who brought it into homes and laid the groundwork for the modern recording industry. In the same way, we often don't know how modern technology—from the iPhone to the Oculus Rift—will truly be used after it is created. "What technology actually does, the real impact it will have on society, is often that which we least expect," write the authors.

Drawing from a series of case studies and research, the authors offer nine guidelines for living in our new, fast-paced world. The principles, writes Joi Ito, are often displayed on a screen at the MIT Media Lab's main meeting room.

1. Emergence over authority
According to the authors, the Internet is transforming our "basic attitude toward information," moving away from the opinions of the few and instead giving voice to the many. Emergence, they argue, is a principle that captures the power of a collective intelligence. Another piece here, the authors say, is reflected in the availability of free online education, with platforms such as edX, and communities like hackerspace that pave the way for skill-building and innovation.

2. Pull over push
Safecast, an open environmental data platform which emerged from Kickstarter funding, a strong network of donors, and citizen scientists, was an important public project that helped residents of Fukushima learn how radiation was spreading. The collaborative effort here, known as a "pull strategy," the authors argue, shows a new way of compiling resources for real-time events. "'Pull' draws resources from participants' networks as they need them, rather than stockpiling materials and information," write the authors. In terms of management, it can be a way to reduce spending and increase flexibility, they write. For the entrepreneur, it is "the difference between success and failure. As with emergence over authority, pull strategies exploit the reduced cost of innovation that new methods of communication, prototyping, fundraising and learning have made available."

3. Compasses over maps
This principle has "the greatest potential for misunderstanding," the authors write. But here's the idea: "A map implies detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path." This approach, the authors say, can offer a mental framework that allows for new discoveries. It's a bit like the "accidental invention" method Pagan Kennedy noticed when researching for her New York Times magazine column, "Who Made This?"

4. Risk over safety
As traditional means of manufacturing and communicating have slowed due to tech like 3D printing and the internet, "enabling more people to take risks on creating new products and businesses, the center of innovation shifts to the edges," write the authors. They spent time trying to find the reasons for the success of the Chinese city Shenzhen, one of the world's major manufacturing hubs for electronics. Its power, they found, lies in its "ecosystem," the authors write, which includes "experimentation, and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch."

5. Disobedience over compliance
Disobedience is, in part, woven into the DNA of the MIT Media Lab. Great inventions, the authors write, don't often happen when people are following the rules. Instead of thinking about breaking laws, the authors challenge us to think about "whether we should question them." Last July, to put this principle to the test, the MIT Media Lab hosted a conference called "Forbidden Research," which explored everything from robot sex to genetically modified organisms. It was a chance to move past the "acceptable" parameters of academic dialogue and bring rigorous dialogue to issues that will surely have an impact on humanity.

6. Practice over theory
"In a faster future, in which change has become a new constant, there is often a higher cost to waiting and planning than there is to doing and improvising," write the authors. We live in a world in which failure is an important, and sometimes essential, part of growth—but that can only happen when we get out there and start putting our ideas into action. The approach, the authors write, can apply to anything from software to manufacturing to synthetic biology.

7. Diversity over ability
Research shows that diverse groups, working together, are more successful than homogenous ones. And diversity has become a central piece in the philosophy of many schools, workplaces, and other institutions. "In an era in which your challenges are likely to feature maximum complexity...it's simply good management, which marks a striking departure from an age when diversity was presumed to come at the expense of ability," write the authors.

8. Resilience over strength
Large companies, the authors write, have, in the past, "hardened themselves against failure." But this approach is misguided. "Organizations resilient enough to successfully recover from failures also benefit from an immune-system effect," they write. The mistakes actually help systems build a way to prevent future damage. "There is no Fort Knox in a digital age," the authors write. "Everything that can be hacked will, at some point, be hacked."

9. Systems over objects
How can we build accurate weather forecasts in an age of climate change? Or trustworthy financial predictions amid political changes? These types of issues illustrate why it may be worth "reconstructing the sciences entirely," according to neuroscientist Ed Boyden, quoted in the book, who proposes we move from "interdisciplinary" to "omnidisciplinary" in solving complex problems. Boyden went on to win the Breakthrough Prize, awarded by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech giants, for his novel development of optogenetics, in which neurons can be controlled by shining a light."
joiito  future  emergence  authority  safecast  systems  systemsthinking  small  agility  agile  donellameadows  jayforrester  influence  risk  safety  disobedience  compliance  autonomy  reslilience  decentralization  openstudioproject  lcproject  sfsh  self-organization  practice  theory  arabspring  ruleoflaw  jeffhowe  networks  mitmedialab  collectivism  collectiveintelligence  compasses  institutions  invention  innovation  failure  scale  diversity  ability  heterogeneity  homogeneity  management  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  omnidisciplinary  complexity  internet  web  attention  edboyden  climatechange  medialab 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Alan Kay's answer to What made Xerox PARC special? Who else today is like them? - Quora
[I noted on Twitter that "1 through 5 easily adaptable for education. For example: teach students, not subjects."]

"A good book (pretty much the only good book) to read about the research community that Parc was a part of is “The Dream Machine” by Mitchell Waldrop. There you will find out about the ARPA (before the “D”) IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) set up in 1962 by the visionary JCR Licklider, who created a research community of 15 or 16 “projects”, mostly at universities, but also a few at places like RAND Corp, Lincoln Labs, Mitre, BBN, SDC, etc.

There was a vision: “The destiny of computers is to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for everyone in the world pervasively networked worldwide”.

A few principles:

1. Visions not goals

2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.

3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving

4. Milestones not deadlines

5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not an error but the overhead for getting hits. (As in baseball, “error” is failing to pull off something that is technically feasible.)

6. It’s about shaping “computer stuff” to human ends per the vision. Much of the time this required the researchers to design and build pretty much everything, including much of the hardware — including a variety of mainframes — and virtually all of the software needed (including OSs and programming languages, etc.). Many of the ARPA researchers were quite fluent in both HW and SW (though usually better at one than the other). This made for a pretty homogeneous computing culture and great synergy in most projects.

7. The above goes against the commonsense idea that “computer people should not try to make their own tools (because of the infinite Turing Tarpit that results)”. The ARPA idea was a second order notion: “if you can make your own tools, HW and SW, then you must!”. The idea was that if you are going to take on big important and new problems then you just have to develop the chops to pull off all needed tools, partly because of what “new” really means, and partly because trying to do workarounds of vendor stuff that is in the wrong paradigm will kill the research thinking.

8. An important part of the research results are researchers. This extends the “baseball” idea to human development. The grad schools, especially, generally admitted people who “seemed interesting” and judgements weren’t made until a few years down the road. Many of the researchers who ultimately solved most of the many problems of personal computing and networking were created by the ARPA community.

Parc was the last of these “ARPA Projects” to be created, and because of funding changes from the Vietnam war, got its funding from a corporation rather than from ARPA-IPTO. But pretty much all of the computer people at Parc had grown up in ARPA projects in the 60s, and Bob Taylor, who set up the computing research at Parc, had been the 3rd director of ARPA-IPTO.

Bob’s goal was to “Realize The ARPA Dream”.

Parc was highly concentrated with regard to wealth of talents, abilities, vision, confidence, and cooperation. There was no real management structure, so things were organized to allow researchers to “suggest” and “commit” and “decommit” in a more or less orderly fashion.

Quite a lot of the inventions Parc is most known for were done in the first 5 years by a rather small pool of researchers (Butler Lampson estimates about 25 people, and that seems about right).

One of the most interesting ideas at Parc was: “every invention has to be engineered for 100 users”. So if you do a programming language or a DTP word processor, etc, it has to be documented for and usable by 100 people. If you make a personal computer, you have to be able to make 100 of them. If an Ethernet, it has to connect to 100 devices, etc.

There was no software religion. Everyone made the languages and OSs and apps, etc that they felt would advance their research.

Hardware was trickier because of the time and costs needed for replication and doing and making new designs. In practice this worked out pretty easily most of the time — via not too many meetings — and the powers of HW geniuses like Chuck Thacker. A few things — like the disk sectors and simple Ethernet protocols, etc. — were agreed on, mainly to allow more important things to be done more idiosyncratically. In practice, Parc designed and put in the field a variety of Alto designs (about 2000 Altos were built), MAXCs, Dolphins, Dorados, NoteTakers, Dandelions, etc over a period of about 10 years — i.e. quite a lot.

There were key figures. For example, Parc would not have succeeded without Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson, Chuck Thacker, and a few others.

I would call the first 5 years “effectively idyllic”. And the second 5 years “very productive but gradually erosive” (the latter due to Xerox’s many changes of management, and not being able to grapple with either the future, or a possible grand destiny for the company)."
alankay  zeroxparc  2017  vision  goals  funding  milestones  deadlines  errors  tools  toolmaking  education  learning  innovation  creativity  arpa  sfsh  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  openstudioproject  lcproject  problemsolving  problemfinding 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Most of the time, innovators don’t move fast and break things | Aeon Essays
"The global view shifts the focus from Manchester, Lowell, Detroit and Silicon Valley. It involves accepting that innovation and technological change are more than just making things. Ironically, this allows us to begin to glimpse a more familiar world where activities such as maintenance, repair, use and re-use, recycling, obsolescence and disappearance dominate. A much more global picture, one that includes people whose lives and contributions the Great White Innovator narrative marginalised, comes into view. The Lizzie Otts of the world can take their proper place as participants and contributors."



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

[via: https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-204 ]
history  technology  innovation  invention  maintenance  wpatrickmccray  2016  economics  continuity  incrementalism  change  changemaking  via:audreywatters  ethics  stanleyjoelreiser  siliconvalley  hacking  nurture  nurturing  care  caring  making  makers  standards  ideology  efficiency  domesticity  taylorism  technosolutionism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Remembering Seymour Papert « LRB blog
"We learn by making, doing, constructing. It’s great to think with objects we find in the world. But when we get to build, the great becomes awesome. And these two children, with a computer, were building something of their own in a whole new way. Seymour saw that the computer would make it easier for thinking itself to become an object of thought. When I began to interview children learning to program, I could hear how right he was. It was dramatic. One 13-year-old told me: ‘When you program a computer, you put a little piece of your mind into the computer’s mind and you come to see yourself differently.’ That is heady stuff.

Seymour called the identification of mind and object, mind and machine, the ‘ego-syntonic’ quality of programming. He used the language of syntonicity deliberately, to create a resonance between the language of computation and the language of psychoanalysis. And then he heightened the resonance by talking about body syntonicity as well. Which brings me to the boy draped around the Turtle. Seymour loved to get children to figure out how to program by ‘playing Turtle’. He loved that children could experience their ideas through the Turtle’s physical actions. That they could connect body-to-body with something that came from their mind.

We love the objects we think with; we think with the objects we love. So teach people with the objects they are in love with. And if you are a teacher, measure your success by whether your students are falling in love with their objects. Because if they are, the way they think about themselves will also be changing."



"In his explorations of the ways objects carry identity as well as ideas, you can see Seymour’s desire to take the cool studies of learning that were his Piagetian heritage and infuse them not only with ideas about making things, about action and construction, but also with ideas about feeling things, about love and connection.

At the time of the juggling lesson, Seymour was deep in his experiments into what he called ‘loud thinking’. It was what he was asking my grandfather to do. What are you trying? What are you feeling? What does it remind you of? If you want to think about thinking and the real process of learning, try to catch yourself in the act of learning. Say what comes to mind. And don’t censor yourself. If this sounds like free association in psychoanalysis, it is. (When I met Seymour, he was in analysis with Greta Bibring.) And if it sounds like it could you get you into personal, uncharted, maybe scary terrain, it could. But anxiety and ambivalence are part of learning as well. If not voiced, they block learning.

I studied psychology in the 1970s at Harvard, in William James Hall. The psychologists who studied thinking were on one floor. The psychologists who studied feeling were on another. Metaphorically, for the world of learning, Seymour asked the elevator to stop between the floors so that there could be a new conversation.

He knew that one way to start that conversation was by considering something concrete. An evocative object. He bridged the thinking/feeling divide by writing about the way his love for the gears on a toy car ignited his love of mathematics as a child. From the beginning of my time at MIT, I have asked students to write about an object they loved that became central to their thinking.

A love for science can start with love for a microscope, a modem, a mud pie, a pair of dice, a fishing rod. Plastic eggs in a twirled Easter basket reveal the power of centripetal force; experiments with baking illuminate the geology of planets. Everybody has their own version of the gears. These stories about objects bring to light something central to Seymour’s legacy. For his legacy was not only in how children learn in classrooms and out of them. It’s in using objects to help people think about how they know what they know. A focus on objects brings philosophy into everyday life.

Seymour’s ideas about the power of objects have moved from the worlds of media and education (where he nurtured them) out into larger disciplinary spaces in social science, anthropology, social theory and history. People are studying objects of clothing, objects of kitchenware, objects of science, objects of medical practice and objects of revolutionary culture, in ways that bear the trace of Seymour’s wisdom.

One of the great virtues of putting object studies at the center of learning is that nothing of great value is simple. Take Seymour’s story of the gears that brought him to mathematics. Simple? Not really. Behind those gears was Seymour’s father who gave him the toy car that held the gears. The father he loved, whom he wanted to please, but who didn’t want him to be a mathematician. He wanted him to take over the family pest-control company, so Seymour was all set to study chemical engineering. But then, he was persuaded, though not by his dad, to try a liberal arts course for a year.

Seymour interpreted this as a chance to take a year off to study mathematics and psychology – and well, from there, he became Seymour. But his father didn’t like it. Those gears were emotionally charged with conflict, ambivalence and competition. Seymour had a complex learning story. I think it contributed to his ability to nurture contradiction, innovation, originality, idiosyncracy, creativity. It contributed to the intimate, non-judgmental attention that made him a great teacher and that deep learning in digital culture requires – more and more, of all of us, in order to make more of what he began."
seymourpapert  sherrytutkle  2017  psychology  thinking  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  education  piaget  objects  constructionism  attention  syntonicity  creativity  contradiction  ambivalence  idiosyncrasy  originality  innovation  judgement  jeanpiaget 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Public Books — Rembrandt
"Certain exceptional artists in exceptional circumstances broke free of the norms of the tradition and produced work that was diametrically opposed to its values, yet these artists are acclaimed as the tradition’s supreme representatives, a claim which is made easier by the fact that after their death, the tradition closed around their work, incorporating minor technical innovations, and continuing as though nothing of principle had been disturbed. This is why Rembrandt or Vermeer or Poussin or Chardin or Goya or Turner had no followers but only superficial imitators."

[via: http://jarrettfuller.tumblr.com/post/131433640167/certain-exceptional-artists-in-exceptional ]
rembrandt  johnberger  art  2015  tradition  values  avantgarde  innovation  disruption  change  arthistory  rebels  rebellion  norms 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Arianna Huffington on a Book About Working Less, Resting More - The New York Times
"We hear a lot about the many things that are disrupting the American workplace: the decline of manufacturing, demographics, globalization, automation and, especially, technology. And it’s true — all of those are roiling the world of work, not just in America but worldwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you can start by putting down your phone — better yet, put it in another room — and picking up this much-needed book."
alexsoojung-kimpang  ariannahuffington  work  rest  creativity  2016  books  burnout  labor  sleep  workaholism  conservation  sherryturkle  productivity  detachment  neuroscience  psychology  sociology  routine  inspiration  innovation  lifehacks  efficiency 
december 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — A Crap Futures Manifesto
"Challenge #1: reverse this statement

‘We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture, people must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.’

Paul Mazur, Lehman Brothers, 1927

Challenge #2: reclaim the means - stop obsessing with the ends

‘Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.’

John Carroll

Challenge #3: (as things become increasingly automated) facilitate action not apathy

‘[W]hen it becomes automatic (on the other hand) its function is fulfilled, certainly, but it is also hermetically sealed. Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.’

Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Challenge #4: bring an end to this vacuous celebrity designer BS

‘My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations.’

Philippe Starck

Challenge #5: interrupt legacy thinking and product lineages

‘All inventions and innovations, by definition, represent 
an advance in the art beyond existing base lines. Yet, most advances, particularly in retrospect, appear essentially incremental, evolutionary. If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither it would appear does technology.’

Robert Heilbroner

Challenge #6: rather than feed the illusion of invincibility, work from the reality of uncertainty and transience

‘Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.’

J.G. Ballard, The Miracles of Life

Challenge #7: set aside the easier work of critique and take up the more difficult challenge of proposing viable alternatives

‘It is true that I can better tell you what we don’t do than what we do do.’

William Morris, News from Nowhere

Challenge #8: ask yourself (before putting things in the world): am I qualified to play God?

‘It’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough.’

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Challenge #9: design ecologically

‘One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.’

John Steinbeck, The Sea of Cortez

Challenge #10: adopt a khadi mentality

‘True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.’

Pyotr Kropotkin

Challenge #11: be patient for the quiet days

‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

Arundhati Roy

Challenge #12: start building the future you want, with or without technology

‘People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.’

Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: The People Machines"
manifestos  crapfutures  paulmazur  desires  needs  anthropology  johncarroll  means  ends  jeanbaudrillard  apathy  action  philippestarck  celebrity  legacy  robertheilbroner  invention  innovation  evolution  invincibility  jgballard  uncertainty  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  critique  williammorris  viability  making  ursulaleguin  ecology  environment  johnsteinbeck  khadi  decentralization  function  functionality  arundhatiroy  patience  quiet  raybradbury  future  futurism  technology  utopia  resistance  peterkropotkin 
november 2016 by robertogreco
The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas - The New York Times
"Can architecture spur creativity? Universities are investing in big, high-tech buildings in the hope of evoking big, high-tech thinking."



"Though studies have shown that proximity and conversation can produce creative ideas, there’s little research on the designs needed to facilitate the process. Still, there are commonalities.

In many of the new buildings, an industrial look prevails, along with an end to privacy. You are more likely to find a garage door and a 3-D printer than book-lined offices and closed-off classrooms, more likely to huddle with peers at a round table than go to a lecture hall with seats for 100. Seating is flexible, ranging from bleachers to sofas, office chairs to privacy booths. Furniture is often on wheels, so that groups can rearrange it. (The Institute of Design at Stanford, a model for many, has directions for building a whiteboard z-rack on its website.)

Staircases and halls are wide and often daylit, encouraging people to dwell between their appointments in hopes of having a creative collision. Exposure to natural light itself contributes to improved workplace performance. There’s also much more to do with your hands than take notes in class: The need to move your body, by working on a prototype, taking the stairs or going in search of caffeine at a centralized cafe, is built in, providing breaks to let the mind wander.

The rationales for these buildings are varied: Employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ preparation, students are unhappy with outdated teaching methods, and colleges want to attract students whose eyes are on postgrad venture capital and whose scalable ideas might come in handy on campus. And so universities of all sizes, both public (Wichita State, University of Utah, University of Iowa) and private (Cornell, Northwestern, Stanford), have opened or are planning such facilities."



"How successful will Wichita State and other universities be at fueling innovation and, ultimately, a new entrepreneurship economy? The proof may be many years out, and difficult to quantify. But the pressure on administrators to change their campuses may soon come, not just from above and within, but from below.

An anecdote from Kevin B. Sullivan of Payette, whose firm has interdisciplinary science and engineering centers under construction at Northeastern and Tufts, underscores the urgency. “I’m on the board of my daughter’s high school, and what they are doing there is taking the existing library, gutting it and turning it into a tech-enablement space,” he said. “The college process may be dumbed down from what they do in high school.”"
alexandralange  architecture  highered  highereducation  universities  colleges  construction  innovation  economics  cornelltech  cornell  universityofutah  yorkuniversity  northwesternuniversity  stanford  universityofiowa  wichitastateuniversity  engineerting  creativity  stem 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Solving All the Wrong Problems - The New York Times
"We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most. In fact, the bulk of the above list targets a very specific (and tiny!) slice of the population. As one colleague in tech explained it to me recently, for most people working on such projects, the goal is basically to provide for themselves everything that their mothers no longer do.

He was joking — sort of — but his comment made me think hard about who is served by this stuff. I’m concerned that such a focus on comfort and instant gratification will reduce us all to those characters in “Wall-E,” bound to their recliners, Big Gulps in hand, interacting with the world exclusively through their remotes.

Too many well-funded entrepreneurial efforts turn out to promise more than they can deliver (i.e., Theranos’ finger-prick blood test) or read as parody (but, sadly, are not — such as the $99 “vessel” that monitors your water intake and tells you when you should drink more water).

When everything is characterized as “world-changing,” is anything?

Clay Tarver, a writer and producer for the painfully on-point HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” said in a recent New Yorker article: “I’ve been told that, at some of the big companies, the P.R. departments have ordered their employees to stop saying ‘We’re making the world a better place,’ specifically because we have made fun of that phrase so mercilessly. So I guess, at the very least, we’re making the world a better place by making these people stop saying they’re making the world a better place.”

O.K., that’s a start. But the impulse to conflate toothbrush delivery with Nobel Prize-worthy good works is not just a bit cultish, it’s currently a wildfire burning through the so-called innovation sector. Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?

In “Design: The Invention of Desire,” a thoughtful and necessary new book by the designer and theorist Jessica Helfand, the author brings to light an amazing kernel: “hack,” a term so beloved in Silicon Valley that it’s painted on the courtyard of the Facebook campus and is visible from planes flying overhead, is also prison slang for “horse’s ass carrying keys.”

To “hack” is to cut, to gash, to break. It proceeds from the belief that nothing is worth saving, that everything needs fixing. But is that really the case? Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?

Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation, Ms. Helfand argues, and in her book she explores design, and by extension innovation, as an intrinsically human discipline — albeit one that seems to have lost its way. Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. (Sound like a certain presidential candidate? Or Brexit?)

Perhaps the main reason these frivolous products and services frustrate me is because of their creators’ insistence that changing lives for the better is their reason for being. To wit, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who has invested in companies like Airbnb and Twitter but also in services such as LikeALittle (which started out as a flirting tool among college students) and Soylent (a sort of SlimFast concoction for tech geeks), tweeted last week: “The perpetually missing headline: ‘Capitalism worked okay again today and most people in the world got a little better off.’ ”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where such companies are based, sea level rise is ominous, the income gap between rich and poor has been growing faster than in any other city in the nation, a higher percentage of people send their kids to private school than in almost any other city, and a minimum salary of $254,000 is required to afford an average-priced home. Who exactly is better off?

Ms. Helfand calls for a deeper embrace of personal vigilance: “Design may provide the map,” she writes, “but the moral compass that guides our personal choices resides permanently within us all.”

Can we reset that moral compass? Maybe we can start by not being a bunch of hacks."
2016  allisonarieff  siliconvalley  problemsolving  disruption  claytarver  sanfrancisco  capitalism  jessicahelfand  books  invention  narcissism  theranos  comfort  instantgratification  hacking  innovation  publicdiscourse  publicgood  inequality  marcandreessen  morality  moralcompass  soylent  venturecapitalism  brexit  us  priorities 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Otherlab!
[previously bookmarked: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:2482ea1338ff ]

"We are mischievous scientists, practical dreamers, working on making the world the way it needs to be. Asking: "Wouldn't it be cool if..." is an excellent place to start:

If you'd like the more in depth version check out the video from our Show and Tell event. We're always on the look out for interesting folks so if this excites you then head over to Jobs to see what's going.

How we work

We have a strong track record of attracting research funding for early and risky ideas in areas such as ‘programmable matter’, robotics, solar energy, wind energy, energy storage, computational and advanced manufacturing, medical devices and more. These non-dilutive investments allows us de-risk the very early exploratory phase of our projects.

We develop enabling new technologies through an emphasis on prototyping coupled to rigorous physics simulation and mathematical models. Our design tools are often made in-house because it's lonely at the frontier and to create new things and ideas, you often have to create the tools to design them.

Core to our model are collaborations with external entities including commercial entities, universities and other research firms. In the past 5 years Otherlab has collaborated with Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, NASA, Autodesk, GE, FORD, Google, Motorola, IDEO and a host of others.

What we work on

Our principal domains of expertise are: Renewable and clean energy, Computational Geometry, Computational design tools, Digital Fabrication, Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and automation & Engineered textiles.

Want a more practical idea? We like you! Head over to Projects for a better sense.

How to reach us

We are @otherlab on twitter and that is a great place to start a conversation. Visual learners may find our YouTube Channel and Instagram feed interesting.

You can email us at info@otherlab.com. We live in the old Schoenstein Organ Factory building in the heart of San Francisco's Mission district:

3101 20th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110"
sanfrancisco  engineering  robots  robotics  solar  wind  energy  manufacturing  otherlab  fabrication  computationalgeometry  saulgriffith  design  make  diy  innovation  tools 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more | Aeon Essays
"Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more"



"At the turn of the millennium, in the world of business and technology, innovation had transformed into an erotic fetish. Armies of young tech wizards aspired to become disrupters. The ambition to disrupt in pursuit of innovation transcended politics, enlisting liberals and conservatives alike. Conservative politicians could gut government and cut taxes in the name of spurring entrepreneurship, while liberals could create new programmes aimed at fostering research. The idea was vague enough to do nearly anything in its name without feeling the slightest conflict, just as long as you repeated the mantra: INNOVATION!! ENTREPRENEURSHIP!!

A few years later, however, one could detect tremors of dissent. In a biting essay titled ‘Innovation is the New Black’, Michael Bierut, writing in Design Observer in 2005, lamented the ‘mania for innovation, or at least for endlessly repeating the word “innovation”’. Soon, even business publications began to raise the question of inherent worth. In 2006, The Economist noted that Chinese officials had made innovation into a ‘national buzzword’, even as it smugly reported that China’s educational system ‘stresses conformity and does little to foster independent thinking’, and that the Communist Party’s new catchphrases ‘mostly end up fizzling out in puddles of rhetoric’. Later that year, Businessweek warned: ‘Innovation is in grave danger of becoming the latest overused buzzword. We’re doing our part at Businessweek.’ Again in Businessweek, on the last day of 2008, the design critic Bruce Nussbaum returned to the theme, declaring that innovation ‘died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve… In the end, “Innovation” proved to be weak as both a tactic and strategy in the face of economic and social turmoil.’

In 2012, even the Wall Street Journal got into innovation-bashing act, noting ‘the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning’. At the time, it counted ‘more than 250 books with “innovation” in the title… published in the last three months’. A professional innovation consultant it interviewed advised his clients to ban the word at their companies. He said it was just a ‘word to hide the lack of substance’."



"Nixon, wrong about so many things, also was wrong to point to household appliances as self-evident indicators of American progress. Ironically, Cowan’s work first met with scepticism among male scholars working in the history of technology, whose focus was a male pantheon of inventors: Bell, Morse, Edison, Tesla, Diesel, Shockley, and so on. A renewed focus on maintenance and repair also has implications beyond the gender politics that More Work for Mother brought to light. When they set innovation-obsession to the side, scholars can confront various kinds of low-wage labour performed by many African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities. From this perspective, recent struggles over increasing the minimum wage, including for fast food workers, can be seen as arguments for the dignity of being a maintainer.

We organised a conference to bring the work of the maintainers into clearer focus. More than 40 scholars answered a call for papers asking, ‘What is at stake if we move scholarship away from innovation and toward maintenance?’ Historians, social scientists, economists, business scholars, artists, and activists responded. They all want to talk about technology outside of innovation’s shadow.

One important topic of conversation is the danger of moving too triumphantly from innovation to maintenance. There is no point in keeping the practice of hero-worship that merely changes the cast of heroes without confronting some of the deeper problems underlying the innovation obsession. One of the most significant problems is the male-dominated culture of technology, manifest in recent embarrassments such as the flagrant misogyny in the ‘#GamerGate’ row a couple of years ago, as well as the persistent pay gap between men and women doing the same work.

There is an urgent need to reckon more squarely and honestly with our machines and ourselves. Ultimately, emphasising maintenance involves moving from buzzwords to values, and from means to ends. In formal economic terms, ‘innovation’ involves the diffusion of new things and practices. The term is completely agnostic about whether these things and practices are good. Crack cocaine, for example, was a highly innovative product in the 1980s, which involved a great deal of entrepreneurship (called ‘dealing’) and generated lots of revenue. Innovation! Entrepreneurship! Perhaps this point is cynical, but it draws our attention to a perverse reality: contemporary discourse treats innovation as a positive value in itself, when it is not.

Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about? What kind of society do we want to live in? Will this help get us there? We must shift from means, including the technologies that underpin our everyday actions, to ends, including the many kinds of social beneficence and improvement that technology can offer. Our increasingly unequal and fearful world would be grateful."
leevinsel  andrewrussell  maintenance  infrastructure  innovation  technology  2016  capitalism  repair  growth  robertgordon  siliconvalley  creativeclass  economics  claytonchristensen  entrepreneurship  business  michaelbierut  inequality  love  fraternity  courage  beauty  dignity  responsibility  change  society  maintainers  labor  care  repairing  themaintainers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Maintainers: A Conference
"Many groups and individuals today celebrate “innovation.” The notion is influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, “innovation” has become a staple of analysis in popular histories – such as Walter Isaacson’s recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

This conference takes a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson’s that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time. Conference participants come from a variety of fields, including academic historians and social scientists, as well as artists, activists, and engineers. All share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.

Presentations will cover a wide variety of technologies and practices, including software, spaceflight, trolleys, meteorology, digital archives, and the politics of funding for infrastructure. The conference keynote speaker will be Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Professor Emerita in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books, including the pathbreaking More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies from the Hearth to the Microwave.

The call for papers is now closed."

[via: "Trading "innovation" for maintenance, repair + care:"
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/719327821777223680

pointing to: https://twitter.com/lubar/status/719323080573730816 ]

[Matt Thomas was there.]
maintenance  infrastructure  repair  care  2016  innovation  repairing  themaintainers  maintainers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
From park bench to lab bench - What kind of future are we designing? | Ruha Benjamin | TEDxBaltimore - YouTube
"From Park Bench to Lab Bench: What kind of future are we designing? - Ruha challenges biases inherent to modern scientific research.

Ruha is on the faculty at Princeton University. Her work examines the relationship between innovation & equity, science & citizenship, health & justice."
ruhabenjamin  design  equity  innovation  citizenship  civics  justice  socialjustice  society  2015  discrimination  hostility  benches  furniture  publicspace  privatization  urbanism  urban  discriminatorydesign  housing  publicsafety  education  policy  politics  loitering  homelessness  henriettalacks 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The hundred languages of childhood know no age bounds | IOE LONDON BLOG
"Loris Malaguzzi (1920-94) was one of the great educationalists of the 20th century. He was a thinker, but also a doer, a council employee who played a leading role in the evolution of a network of municipal schools in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, 70 kilometres west of Bologna. Today, the schools and Malaguzzi are an inspiration to those who resist the spread of neoliberal and neoconservative education policies.

Most educationalists won’t have heard of Reggio Emilia or Malaguzzi. This is in part because both are Italian, and most of his work is in Italian. A newly published book – ‘Loris Malaguzzi and the Schools of Reggio Emilia’ – edited by myself and colleagues in Reggio Emilia, aims to rectify this, with English translations of a selection of his writings and speeches, starting in 1945 (when, as he wrote ‘everything seemed possible’). But there’s another reason. Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia are world famous for early childhood education, a field largely untrodden by the rest of education. Yet Malaguzzi was convinced that he was engaged in a project of educational renewal, which knew no age bounds.

What lessons does Malaguzzi have for all education? He insists that education is, first and foremost, a political practice, always about making choices between conflicting alternatives. One of the most important choices concerns our understanding or image of the child – who do we think the child is? Answer that question, Malaguzzi argued, and all else – policy, provision, practice – follows. Of course every educational policy and service is based on a particular image, but one that is invariably implicit and unacknowledged; policy documents typically neither ask nor answer the question. But Reggio Emilia does.

Malaguzzi insisted that ‘a declaration [about the image of the child] is…the necessary premise for any pedagogical theory, and any pedagogical project’. And he was clear about his image: ‘We say all children are rich, there are no poor children. All children whatever their culture, whatever their lives are rich, better equipped, more talented, stronger and more intelligent than we can suppose’.

Rich children are born with a ‘hundred languages’, the term he used to suggest the many and diverse ways children can express themselves and relate to the world – ranging from manifold forms of art to maths, sciences and technologies. Malaguzzi was damning about the damage usually done to these languages by education: ‘Children have a hundred languages: they rob them of ninety nine, school and culture.’ Instead, he strove to nurture languages, for example through ateliers and atelieristas – art workshops and artist-educators found in most Reggio schools. Atelieristas were also there to confront traditional and narrow pedagogy, to ‘provoke some less convenient directions capable of breaking with the professional and cultural routine.’

For Malaguzzi, education was about constructing new knowledge and thought. He valued wonder and surprise, the unpredicted and the unexpected, making connections and inter-disciplinarity. The strength of Reggio, Malaguzzi believed, was that all the time ‘something unexpected, something that surprised us or made us marvel, something that disappointed us, something that humiliated us, would burst out in a child or in the children.’ While he despised what he termed ‘testology’ – ‘which is nothing but a ridiculous simplification of knowledge and a robbing of meaning from individual histories’ – and its partner ‘prophetic pedagogy’, which knows everything [that will happen], does not have one uncertainty, is absolutely imperturbable… [It] prophesies everything, to the point that it is capable of giving you recipes for little bits of actions, minute by minute, hour by hour, objective by objective, five minutes by five minutes. This is something so coarse, so cowardly, so humiliating of teachers’ ingenuity, a complete humiliation for children’s ingenuity and potential.

If making choices about understandings was an important part of education’s political practice, making choices about values was another. Malaguzzi’s choice included uncertainty and subjectivity, solidarity and cooperation and, perhaps most important of all, participation and democracy. As a ‘living centre of open and democratic culture’, opening out not only to families but also to its local neighbourhood, the school should be capable of ‘living out processes and issues of partici­pation and democracy.’ Democracy, for Malaguzzi, was not just a matter of participant social management and participatory accountability, important as both were; it should suffuse all relationships and practices – democracy in a Deweyan sense of ‘a mode of associated living’.

If Malaguzzi placed political practice first, this did not mean he ignored technical practice. He thought organisation was vital, though always serving politics and ethics, and was constantly asking under what conditions can innovation work. Indeed, it was this attention to organisational detail and technical practice that has enabled the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia to become the most extensive and sustained example of radical, democratic, public education in the world. Faced by a hidebound education system, Loris Malaguzzi showed that there are alternatives, that another world is possible.

A final point needs emphasising at a time when local authorities in England are being squeezed out of any role in the provision of schools. Reggio Emilia’s schools are municipal schools; this innovative experience was initiated and nurtured by the city council. Malaguzzi himself was a council employee, putting me in mind of equally inspired heads of local education authorities in England. As a believer in public, democratic education, embedded in its local community, Malaguzzi thought that the democratic expression of that community, the commune or local authority, should be a main protagonist in the provision of schools for young children (and other services). Academisation may make all the running at present, but Malaguzzi and the schools of Reggio Emilia remind us that there are alternatives."
lorismalaguzzi  reggioemilia  2016  education  pedagogy  emergentcurriculum  politics  italy  children  howwelearn  howweteach  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  expression  ethics  organization  innovation  schools  democratic  democracy  alternative  publicschools  community  academization  uncertainty  knowledge  culture  languages  art  policy  solidarity  cooperation  participation  participatory  sfsh 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
If you want to produce drones, teach kids nothing but STEM |
"The problem is, if we want people to be creative as scientists and engineers, discouraging them from taking arts classes (or for that matter discouraging them from playing rugby or football** or whatever) is exactly the wrong way to do it.

While I was writing REST, some of the most interesting studies I read compared the hobbies of high-achieving and low-achieving scientists. In particular, there was a study started in the late 1950s by UCLA sociologist Bernice Eiduson to understand what separated great scientists from their less accomplished colleagues.

Lots of psychologists had tried to figure out what marked some people for greatness, but no one had found the thing— the single personality trait, the “genius gene,” the cognitive edge— that all successful scientists share. Eiduson thought that by watching their careers unfold over several decades, and talking to and testing them at regular intervals, she might see things in successful lives that one-off interviews and short studies couldn’t.

Eiduson found forty young and mid-career scientists who agreed to be interviewed about their life and work, sit for psychological tests, and most crucially, keep doing so. All of them were products of top graduate programs, promising researchers, and young enough to have long, productive careers. Eiduson would follow this group for more than twenty years, and in that time the lives of the forty diverged. Some were elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Others received promotions and prestigious chairs at their universities. One became a presidential science advisor. Four won the Nobel Prize; one, Linus Pauling, won it twice. Others settled into less distinguished careers. Some continued to struggle to do serious science, but couldn’t keep up. They became administrators, or focused on teaching.

From a sociological standpoint, it was an ideal outcome. A group that looked roughly the same decades earlier had split into two parts. The challenge now was to figure out why.

So what did she find that separated the top performers from the rest?

It wasn’t performance on intelligence tests— there didn’t seem to be a genius gene— nor were there personality traits that were really unusual. (The high performer were ambitious and competitive, but so are lots of people.) No, what separated the great from the good were— as Eiduson’s collaborators would discover after she died in 1985— other factors.

• It turned out that the best scientists showed “an unusual urge to experiment athletically as well as scientifically,” and selected “athletic activities that could be carried from youth into old age.” (These quotes are from an article by Maurine Bernstein, Robert Scott Root-Bernstein, and Helen Garnier, who continued and extended Eiduson’s work.) The top scientists took full advantage of the region’s geography: they played tennis, went swimming, hiking, and skiing. This being southern California, there was also an over-representation of surfers and sailors. Their less distinguished colleagues, in contrast, reported low rates of participation in sports.

• They saw rest and recreation as connected. As Robert Scott Root-Bernstein put it, elite scientists shared the belief that “time relaxing or engaging in their hobbies could be valuable” to “their scientific efficiency and thus to their careers.” For them, playing the piano or painting was just another “expression of a general aesthetic sensibility about nature.” What they did in the lab, the court, the climbing wall, and the lecture hall were woven together, different activities linked by common interests and shared passions. Low achievers, in contrast, said nothing about serious hobbies. They “had none or found them irrelevant to their work.”

• They expressed fewer anxieties about time pressure. For the Nobel laureates and world leaders, swimming or hiking didn’t compete with their time in their laboratory, and they didn’t feel that the time they spent on deliberate rest was stolen from more productive things. Because they practiced deliberate rest, seeking out activities that gave their conscious minds a break and provided a mental and psychological boost, but left their subconscious minds free (free to run through ideas, test and reject possibilities, and hone in on a solution), their sense of how much time they worked, and how much time they had at their disposal, differed from their less successful colleagues. In contrast, less well-cited, well-known scientists saw themselves as too time-pressed for hiking or surfing or playing the piano: they had too many commitments, too many obligations, too many demands on their time.

There are tons of examples I could give— and do give in the book— of world-class minds who are also great athletes, serious painters, musicians, even pool players (Albert Michelson, who measured the speed of light, was a master billiards player). And there’s good evidence that being good at these different activities strengthens creative ability, and provides much-needed deliberate rest for busy, hard-charging people.

So extrapolating from Eiduson’s work, if you want to produce people who have technical skills, but never will be able to do anything more imaginative than quality control for LG, then teach them lots of science and math, and nothing else. In contrast, if you want to produce people who’ll create category-defining products, overturn paradigms, and make scientific breakthroughs, by all means offer the physics and chemistry— but also encourage them to play sports, learn to paint, and play music.

Or as Vogt-Vincent put it,
Stopping young people from expressing themselves at such a young age is not doing them any favours…. To study arts subjects, you have to take risks, push yourself emotionally, expressively and creatively in every lesson, you have to persevere and be interpretive, passionate and collaborative. I’ve worked harder in these subjects than I’ve ever worked in my life.
"
education  stem  steam  unschooling  lcproject  openstudioproject  time  anxiety  science  engineering  innovation  creativity  2016  alexsoojungkimpang  schools  parenting  scientists  ucla  orlivogt-vincent  rest  idelenss  linuspauling  berniceeiduson  life  happiness  balance  well-being 
february 2016 by robertogreco
How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off - The New York Times
"Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn’t suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted — as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.

What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.

The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies, but rarely compose their own original scores. They focus their energy on consuming existing scientific knowledge, not producing new insights. They conform to codified rules, rather than inventing their own. Research suggests that the most creative children are the least likely to become the teacher’s pet, and in response, many learn to keep their original ideas to themselves. In the language of the critic William Deresiewicz, they become the excellent sheep.

In adulthood, many prodigies become experts in their fields and leaders in their organizations. Yet “only a fraction of gifted children eventually become revolutionary adult creators,” laments the psychologist Ellen Winner. “Those who do must make a painful transition” to an adult who “ultimately remakes a domain.”

Most prodigies never make that leap. They apply their extraordinary abilities by shining in their jobs without making waves. They become doctors who heal their patients without fighting to fix the broken medical system or lawyers who defend clients on unfair charges but do not try to transform the laws themselves.

So what does it take to raise a creative child? One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.

Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to “place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,” the Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.

Even then, though, parents didn’t shove their values down their children’s throats. When psychologists compared America’s most creative architects with a group of highly skilled but unoriginal peers, there was something unique about the parents of the creative architects: “Emphasis was placed on the development of one’s own ethical code.”

Yes, parents encouraged their children to pursue excellence and success — but they also encouraged them to find “joy in work.” Their children had freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that set them up to flourish as creative adults.

When the psychologist Benjamin Bloom led a study of the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists, he learned that their parents didn’t dream of raising superstar kids. They weren’t drill sergeants or slave drivers. They responded to the intrinsic motivation of their children. When their children showed interest and enthusiasm in a skill, the parents supported them.

Top concert pianists didn’t have elite teachers from the time they could walk; their first lessons came from instructors who happened to live nearby and made learning fun. Mozart showed interest in music before taking lessons, not the other way around. Mary Lou Williams learned to play the piano on her own; Itzhak Perlman began teaching himself the violin after being rejected from music school."



"Evidence shows that creative contributions depend on the breadth, not just depth, of our knowledge and experience. In fashion, the most original collections come from directors who spend the most time working abroad. In science, winning a Nobel Prize is less about being a single-minded genius and more about being interested in many things. Relative to typical scientists, Nobel Prize winners are 22 times more likely to perform as actors, dancers or magicians; 12 times more likely to write poetry, plays or novels; seven times more likely to dabble in arts and crafts; and twice as likely to play an instrument or compose music.

No one is forcing these luminary scientists to get involved in artistic hobbies. It’s a reflection of their curiosity. And sometimes, that curiosity leads them to flashes of insight. “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition,” Albert Einstein reflected. His mother enrolled him in violin lessons starting at age 5, but he wasn’t intrigued. His love of music only blossomed as a teenager, after he stopped taking lessons and stumbled upon Mozart’s sonatas. “Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty,” he said.

Hear that, Tiger Moms and Lombardi Dads? You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours."
creativity  parenting  prodigies  childprodigies  innovation  learning  howwelearn  education  training  freedom  2016  children  alberteinstein  curiosity  play  malcolmgladwell  benjaminbloom  gifted  itzhakperlman  music  sports  andreagassi  practice 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Transcend Education
"Transcend is a national nonprofit dedicated to accelerating innovation in the core design of “school”

Our Core Values

Children
“Casserian Engeri?” – Daily Masai greeting, meaning “And how are the children?”

We constantly ask ourselves this question, mindful that innovation only matters if it creates a fundamentally better answer, for all children.

Diverse Voices
“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation.” – Cesar Chavez

We act from the conviction that the best innovation emerges from diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.

Play Big
“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

We imagine bold possibilities, muster the courage to go after them, and consider system implications from the start.

Perpetual Beta
“What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?” – Carol Dweck

We strive to be constant learners, always seeking to grow and improve.

Long–Term
“All great achievements require time.” – Maya Angelou

We play the long-game and prioritize what has the greatest long-term impact for kids.

Love
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

Relationships and genuine connection are at the heart of our work."



"Now is the time to innovate.

The traditional design of schooling – known as the “industrial model” – was created for a time that is long behind us. The model served important purposes, and committed educators have worked tirelessly to squeeze out every drop of value to benefit countless children.

And yet. Despite decades of “reforms,” most U.S. schools still fail to sufficiently prepare students academically, let alone address broader goals. Students from low-income backgrounds and students with learning differences get especially underserved. Even our highest performing schools struggle with sustainability, scaling, and long term success for all students.

On top of this, our world is fast changing. It’s becoming more complex. More interconnected. It desperately needs leaders. In this world, our children need more than academic skills and content knowledge. They also need learning mindsets, creativity, communication and collaboration abilities, and personal leadership.

Together, these conditions call for fundamentally new learning environments – tweaks around the edges just won’t cut it.

Eight great leaps in the design of “school”
New models will make eight great leaps from the old design of schools.

Transcend does not believe in just one single, new model of “school.” Rather, we advocate for eight great leaps from the past to new models. These leaps serve as design principles to animate all our work. Click through in the graphic below to see each leap: [image]

It's never been more possible

We are at the dawn of a new era, enabled by six conditions that make breakthroughs more possible than ever:

Research in learning science. Findings from cognition, motivation, and brain development can transform how we understand learning.

Growth of design thinking. Applying human-centered design thinking holds tremendous potential to put students and families truly at the center.

Technology advancement. Technology can never replace caring educators connecting with students. But when applied well, it can enhance those connections, creating dramatic possibilities.

Insights about diversity and equity. There is a growing recognition of the importance of culturally responsive practices, intentionally diverse communities, and restorative orientations to behavior.

Lessons from high‐performing classrooms and schools. In recent decades, students in thousands of classrooms and schools have proved what is possible academically and illuminated crucial practices (such as data-informed instruction).

Better policy and funding conditions. More districts, states, and funders are creating conditions that enable new designs to come about. This will grow as promising examples emerge and communities demand more.

Together, these conditions have never existed in history. We are at a unique moment in time – let’s build on it!"



"In Dissatisfied Yet Optimistic: Moving Faster Toward New Models, Transcend co-founders, Aylon Samouha and Jeff Wetzler, along with two Transcend board members, Stacey Childress and Diane Tavenner, describe a vision for better school models that prepare and inspire all students for long-term success, and an emerging theory of change for what it would take to support their design and spread in the coming years."
education  schools  change  innovation  diversity  progress  lcproject  openstudioproject 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 1: progress dogma
"Despite the name, Crap Futures is not all gloom and doom. We may view notions of progress with a sceptical eye, but we still subscribe - heartily, even - to the pursuit of a better world, however small our contribution might be.

In that spirit of improvement - and to introduce the first in our new series on constraints - let us turn for a moment to Ray Bradbury, the presiding Crap Futures muse. In his short story ‘A Sound of Thunder’ (1952), the protagonist, Eckels, travels back to the Late Cretaceous period to track and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The slogan of the company that organises these tours, Time Safari, Inc., is straightforward: ‘Safaris to any year of the past … we take you there, you shoot it.’ Time Safari’s main job, aside from organising tours, is making sure each hunter leaves no footprint, literally or figuratively, in or on the past (or future - whatever, it’s confusing).

The spark in Bradbury’s cautionary tale is Time Safari’s meticulous treatment of the prehistoric ecosystem. With the vast timeframes involved, minute changes to a particular point in the past - increasing exponentially through time - can lead to dramatic differences in everything proceeding from that point. To avoid contaminating the past and altering the future, an ‘anti-gravity metal’ path hovers above the prehistoric jungle, from which hunters are instructed never to stray in even the slightest. The possible impact of any deviation from the path is conveyed in dramatic terms by the tour guide: ‘Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.’ The hunters even wear special ‘oxygen helmets’ to avoid introducing ‘bacteria into the ancient atmosphere’.

Naturally enough, however, Eckels panics at the sight of the Tyrannosaurus and accidentally steps off the path. This leads to a typically Bradburyesque climax - which we won’t spoil here for those of you who haven’t read it.

The key message of Constraint No. 1 is that unlike Time Safari, most of those with a hand in ‘how the future happens’ have no motivation to think about long term consequences of their actions. So blinded are they, in fact, by the bright lights of progress and its successor innovation that any potentially negative impact is ignored. This positivistic message about technology is endemic, and is only being exacerbated by the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’ culture of the social network. Unfortunately, as we know, life is complicated and unforeseen negative outcomes happen.

Progress dogma keeps us on the current technological trajectory - it is belief as a motivational force of change. It gives this trajectory huge momentum, meaning that is is virtually impossible to change course. If you’ll pardon the bleak image, it’s a bit like the Titanic sailing directly into potentially fatal waters without a care in the world.

Once we remove the constraints of positive thinking, it becomes possible to more realistically apprehend the future in (some of) its complexity, helping us to figure out what to avoid as well as where to aim. So, how can we rethink progress to identify possible implications? How can we disconnect from the utopian mantra and twentieth-century mindset of positivist corporate culture?'
crapfutures  raybradbury  design  titanic  dinosaurs  sciencefiction  scifi  innovation  constraints  progress  technology  systemsthinking  time  longnow  bighere  skepticism  timesafari  implications  consequences  caution  positivism  future  duediligence  diligence  change  ecosystems  californianideology  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures
[via: https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/685336107312009217 ]

"Crap Futures is a blog about futures, innovation, politics, technology.

Crap in this context means underwhelming, disappointing, poorly thought out, badly done, inadequate, or sad. Nonsense or drivel.

Crap Futures casts a critical eye on corporate dreams and emerging technologies. It asks questions about where society is heading, who is taking us there, and whether ‘there’ is where we really want to end up.

who we are

James Auger is an Associate Professor at Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, Portugal. On graduating from Design Products at the Royal College of Art in 2001 James moved to Dublin to conduct research at Media Lab Europe (MLE) exploring the theme of human communication as mediated by technology. After MLE he worked in Tokyo as guest designer at the Issey Miyake Design Studio developing new concepts for mobile telephones. Between 2005 and 2015 James was part of the critically acclaimed Design Interactions department at the RCA, teaching on the MA programme and continuing his development of critical and speculative approaches to design and technology, completing his PhD on the subject in 2012. Running parallel to his academic work, James is half of the speculative design practice Auger-Loizeau, a collaboration founded in 2000. Auger-Loizeau projects have been published and exhibited internationally, including MoMA, New York; 21_21, Tokyo; The Science Museum, London; The National Museum of China, Beijing and Ars Electronica, Linz. Their work is in the permanent collection at MoMA.

Julian Hanna is an Assistant Professor at M-ITI. His writing on modernist and avant-garde culture has appeared in academic journals as well as the Atlantic, 3:AM, Berfrois, and elsewhere. Since joining M-ITI in 2013 his research has shifted toward futures studies, digital storytelling, design fiction, and livability."

[from http://crapfutures.tumblr.com/post/133586760654/about-about

"Here’s a bit of background on the authors, in the form of an interview.

James: Julian, as someone coming from literature, etc., what is your interest in the future?

I was never as interested in science fiction, or what I thought was sci-fi, as I was in other types of experimental literature - modernists like Joyce and the sort of stuff you were meant to read in university. At a certain point I had to make up for lost time, and began devouring Bradbury, Le Guin, Wells and the rest. What I did read a lot of during my studies, though, were manifestos - and all those improbable visions of the Futurists and Vorticists and Situationists still shape my thinking about futures, including what we’ll call ‘crap futures’. The Futurist Fortunato Depero, for example, who was a brilliant designer, wanted to design toys that not only stimulated children’s creativity, but also prepared them for the total and perpetual war that the Futurists were always promoting. So that was an early crap future.

But as far as literature informing my thoughts about futures - I remember feeling a mix of gratitude and relief when I heard Warren Ellis’s closing keynote (‘Some Bleak Circus’) at FutureEverything last year. Ellis spoke about the future through manifestos and ideas drawn from literature, and without resorting to a bunch of tech jargon. He looked like a storyteller, sitting in his old leather armchair and reading from a Kindle. That’s when it hit me that talking about the future wasn’t just the business of foresight consultants. But in fact there is a long history - Marshall McLuhan, for example, couldn’t go two pages in a future prophecy without mentioning Finnegans Wake.

The other way I engage with futures is through my training in critical thinking, close reading, and so on. I found I could look at the fictions propagated by the corporate world about possible futures the same way I could look at other types of storytelling. Thankfully this critical approach to futures has been gaining ground in recent years, establishing some much needed resistance to the kind of boosterism that dominates not only the corporate world but also a lot of tech research in the academic sphere. For various reasons the question of why more innovation in needed is far too seldom asked.

Julian: And you, James: as a designer - etc.! - how do you see the future?

It would be fair to say that I am approaching the time of life when men typically become grumpy. I am becoming increasingly grumpy about design and about the future.

As a young design student in the 90s I was proud to be practicing in my chosen discipline and happily set about learning how to develop new products that people might want to own. But looking back I realise that my education (and the majority of other designers’) desperately lacked any critical or philosophical foundation.

Myths taught at design school:

1. Design is good

2. Design makes people’s lives better

3. Design solves problems

Of course design can be and do all of these things but it has become so intrinsically linked to the complex systems of commerce and innovation that it has essentially been reduced to a novelty machine. Optimism is endemic meaning that it is unnatural for designers to think about the implications of their (technological) products: technology is good; products are good; and the future (through technological products) will therefore also be good!

I have recently been thinking a lot about constraints (it is normal for a designer), but going beyond the immediate and obvious such as costs, material, physical etc. to consider what are the constraints that reduce the possibilities of the future, or perpetuate certain trajectories.

Or alternatively the un-constraints of libertarian thinking - the techno-utopian dictatorships of Silicon Valley …

I will explore these over the coming weeks …"]

[See also: http://www.nicolasnova.net/pasta-and-vinegar/2016/1/7/crap-future ]
tumblrs  crapfutures  future  futures  futurism  julianhanna  jamesauger  criticism  innovation  politics  critique  technology 
january 2016 by robertogreco
New wave of African sci-fi will inspire innovation - SciDev.Net
"• Science fiction allows people to see how science and society interact
• Films and novels already explore pressing problems such as water scarcity
• African sci-fi could help catalyse new models of sustainable growth"

[via: "Leery of European attempts to annex afrofuturism to design, but @afrocyberpunk good here on sf & African innovation: http://www.scidev.net/global/innovation/opinion/wave-african-sci-fi-inspire-innovation.html …"
https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/682820661622865922 ]
sciencefiction  scifi  innovation  africa  2015  speculativefiction  jonathandotse 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: The Business of Ed-Tech
"Beyond VC Funding

“US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually,” McKinsey wrote excitedly this summer. Of course, venture capital is just one source of the money that’s pouring into ed-tech. There’s government funding, of course. There’s personal spending. And there’s lots and lots of “philanthropy.”

The Gates Foundation is perhaps the most famous of these philanthropic organizations, having spent billions of dollars pushing various education initiatives. In October, Bill Gates gave what Education Week observed was “his first major speech on education in seven years,” and indicated his foundation would “double down” on teacher preparation and common academic standards.

The other two giants in education foundations: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In September, the LA Times obtained a memo written by the Broad Foundation, outlining its $490 million plan to put half of LAUSD students in charter schools. The memo “lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.” It cites several large foundations and California multi-millions who could be tapped for more financial support.

[image: @EdSurge tweet: “Melinda Gates is saying that the role of foundations is to direct where government funding goes #GatesEd"]

And this underscores one of the major criticisms of these philanthropic efforts: they are profoundly anti-democratic. As John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, “people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can.”

Zuckerberg’s name is next to Gates’ in that sentence because he has signed the “Giving Pledge,” Gates’ and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet’s challenge to the 1% to give away at least half of their wealth. After the birth of his daughter this fall, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wrote her a letter (and posted it on Facebook, of course). In covering the contents of the letter, the New York Times got the headline totally wrong: “Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity.” The paper later clarified that it’s not a charity but an LLC – a “$45 billion tax loophole,” some suggested. Headlines from Gawker: “Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview.” And from Rolin Moe: “You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong..”

Among the projects that the new Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will fund: “personalized learning” (whatever the hell that means).

Zuckerberg’s interest in such a thing is no doubt connected to investments that he’s already made – in the private school AltSchool, for example. And in September, Facebook announced that it had been working on building software for the Summit charter school chain. “Facebook’s move into education may be unexpected, but it seems to be sincere,” wrote The Verge’s Casey Newton about the collaboration in an article that’s not much more than a “longform expanded version of the Facebook press release.”

Joining Gates and Zuckerberg in venture philanthropy is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Her organization, the Emerson Collective, announced a campaign – XQ: The Super School Project – to get folks to “rethink high school.” 5 of the “best ideas” will receive a share of the $50 million Jobs has earmarked for the project. The Emerson Collective also invested in AltSchool and Udacity this year to give you an idea of what “best ideas” might look like.

“I can conceive of no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice” – William Jewett Tucker"



"All the Best Ed-Tech Narratives Money Can Buy

All this business. All this disruptive innovation. It’s just magnific… Wait, what? Academic research challenging Clayton Christensen’s famous business school concept outlined in The Innovator’s Dilemma and applied to education in Disrupting Class and The Innovative University and invoked by just about every ed-tech entrepreneur and investor ever? Oh yes please.

Jill Lepore had already skewered the idea in The New Yorker last year. I wrote a little something on the topic back in 2013.

But now, as The Chronicle of Education wrote in September,
a new paper, the most extensive test yet of Christensen’s theory, may prove more difficult to dismiss. Andrew A. King, a professor at the Dartmouth College business school, and Baljir Baatartogtokh, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, spent two years digging into disruption, interviewing scores of experts, trying to determine whether 77 of Christensen’s own examples conformed to his theory, studies involving big names like Ford, McDonald’s, and Google, along with lesser-known makers of blood-glucose meters and blended plastics. Only a tiny minority – 9 percent – fit Christensen’s criteria. Disruption is real but rare, King and Baatartogtokh conclude, which suggests that it’s at best a marginally useful explanation of how innovation happens.

King says he’s not out to take down Christensen, although that may be what he’s done. Instead, he wants to prove a point. “A theory is like a weed,” King says. “Unless it is pruned back by empirical testing, it will grow to fill any void.”

Much like the business of ed-tech…"
philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  capitalism  siliconvalley  audreywatters  2015  edtech  education  charities  charitableindustrialcomplex  corruption  policy  billgates  gatesfoundation  facebook  markzuckerberg  priscillachan  power  influence  democracy  melindagates  williamjewett  charity  justice  technology  johncassidy  rolinmoe  zuckerbergchaninitiative  broadfoundation  elibroad  altschool  summitcharterschools  udacity  emersoncollective  venturephilanthropy  vc  disruption  disruptiveinnovation  innovation  claytonchristensen  andrewking  baljirbaatartogtokh  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control  charterschools 
december 2015 by robertogreco
a-small-lab | stimulus terrain at MOTAT
"stimulus terrain for innovation processes is a space at the Idea Collective / Innovation Hub at the Museum of Transport and Technology (Auckland, New Zealand).

This is part of a "dynamic, evolving, collaborative project that celebrates New Zealand's vibrant innovation culture" by pairing five diverse New Zealand innovators with artists and designers to illuminate the activity of innovation, ideation, creation and collaboration.

Includes great illustrations by Aya Yamashita, Cua B, and Ayu B.
Based on case of Eat My Lunch."

[See also: https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-small-lab/albums/72157661696855935 ]
chrisberthelsen  innovation  ideation  creation  collaboration 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Problem With Ketchup Leather - The Atlantic
"The technology critic Evgeny Morozov calls this sort of thinking “solutionism”—the belief that all problems can be solved by a single and simple technological solution. The “problem” of being a living creature who has to eat and, therefore, who must take breaks from working can be “solved” by Soylent, which takes both the decision-making and the prep/fetch time out of eating. The “problem” of finding and using a regulated taxi service can be “solved” by Uber, which offers easier access to cars for hire.

Morozov is concerned about solutionism because it recasts social conditions that demand deeper philosophical and political consideration as simple hurdles for technology. The availability of certain types of solutions—the app-driven “sharing economy” and so forth—make them seem like the right solutions for problems just because they are available as solutions.

But solutionism has another, subtler downside: It trains us to see everything as a problem in the first place. Not just urban transit or productivity, but even hamburgers. Even ketchup!

The fact that tech rags like Tech Insider and Mashable are covering ketchup leather as technology or innovation exemplifies the issue. When presented as a solution, ketchup leather demands that a problem exist. And so we invent one—sogginess, for example.

In truth, what’s really going on at Plan Check, the Los Angeles restaurant credited with “solving” the burger problem through ketchup leather, is something far more modest—and more interesting—than solutionism allows.

Specifically, an ancient food-preparation technique, dehydration, is being applied in a novel and clever way. There’s no problem whatsoever, and certainly not one solved by dried slaps of tomato paste. If your burgers are soggy, it probably means they’re not being cooked to proper temperature. Some folks love their meat medium-rare, but a medium or well-done burger makes for better hand-edible cooked sandwiches (and also better protects you from the risk of food contamination).

When seen from a culinary rather than a technological vantage point, the ketchup-leather technique doesn’t solve a problem so much as it offers a different way of experiencing ketchup on burgers. The pleasure of a cheeseburger comes from the hot patty’s ability to melt and meld with the cheese, yielding a glorious merger of flavors. When squeezed or even spread, condiments must either be applied to the bun or atop the patty. Both approaches resist incorporating the flavors into the burger itself. By dehydrating tomato paste, Plan Check is able to create a thin layer of ketchup flavor that reconstitutes into the burger like cheese.

It also serves an ornamental and exhibitionist purpose, of course. Anyone who’s made meatloaf knows that getting tomato flavor into ground beef is a “solved problem,” as it were. But the delight of watching ketchup melt like cheese is one that burger lovers are justified in wanting to experience. To encounter familiar materials in new ways is one of the delights of dining."
ianbogost  food  ketchup  evgenymorozov  solutionism  design  innovation  problemsolving  technosolutionism  2015 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Orion Magazine | Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
"I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.

II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.

III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.

IV. The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.

V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes.

VI. The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all.

VII. We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

VIII. Nor did we foresee that the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to “rogue nations”, dissident or fanatical groups and individuals – whose violence, though never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be illegitimate.

IX. We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good, including our homelands and our lives.

X. We had accepted too the corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by “national defense”

XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.

XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global “free trade”, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate.

XIV. This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought, always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and citizens alike. It is hard for ordinary citizens to know what is actually happening in Washington in a time of such great trouble; for all we know, serious and difficult thought may be taking place there. But the talk that we are hearing from politicians, bureaucrats, and commentators has so far tended to reduce the complex problems now facing us to issues of unity, security, normality, and retaliation.

XV. National self-righteousness, like personal self-righteousness, is a mistake. It is misleading. It is a sign of weakness. Any war that we may make now against terrorism will come as a new installment in a history of war in which we have fully participated. We are not innocent of making war against civilian populations. The modern doctrine of such warfare was set forth and enacted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who held that a civilian population could be declared guilty and rightly subjected to military punishment. We have never repudiated that doctrine.

XVI. It is a mistake also – as events since September 11 have shown – to suppose that a government can promote and participate in a global economy and at the same time act exclusively in its own interest by abrogating its international treaties and standing apart from international cooperation on moral issues.

XVII. And surely, in our country, under our Constitution, it is a fundamental error to suppose that any crisis or emergency can justify any form of political oppression. Since September 11, far too many public voices have presumed to “speak for us” in saying that Americans will gladly accept a reduction of freedom in exchange for greater “security”. Some would, maybe. But some others would accept a reduction in security (and in global trade) far more willingly than they would accept any abridgement of our Constitutional rights.

XVIII. In a time such as this, when we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult.

XIX. Even now we dare not forget that since the attack of Pearl Harbor – to which the present attack has been often and not usefully compared – we humans have suffered an almost uninterrupted sequence of wars, none of which has brought peace or made us more peaceable.

XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our perpetual “war to end war?”

XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.

XXII. The key to peaceableness is continuous practice. It is wrong to suppose that we can exploit and impoverish the poorer countries, while arming them and instructing them in the newest means of war, and then reasonably expect them to be peaceable.

XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us.

XXIV. Starting with the economies of food and farming, we should promote at home, and encourage abroad, the ideal of local self-sufficiency. We should recognize that this is the surest, the safest, and the cheapest way for the world to live. We should not countenance the loss or destruction of any local capacity to produce necessary goods.

XXV. We should reconsider and renew and extend our efforts to protect the natural foundations of the human economy: soil, water, and air. We should protect every intact ecosystem and watershed that we have left, and begin restoration of those that have been damaged.

XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now … [more]
via:anne  education  capitalism  economics  wendellberry  peace  war  terrorism  consumerism  food  farming  sustainability  9/11  violence  humanism  environment  children  parenting  responsibility  military  self-sufficiency  technology  technosolutionism  progress  innovation  nature  decentralization  newworldorder  growth  degrowth  prosperity  labor  work  poverty  freemarket  business  corporatism  freetrade  vulnerability  freedom  civilrights  government  security  peaceableness  islam  soil  air  water  thrift  care  caring  saving  conservation  agriculture 
november 2015 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"



"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Livraison vingt-quatre : PK, pagers, iPod Touch et feature phones + Lee Scratch Perry
"2. Pagers, iPod Touch et feature phones

Dans son ouvrage "Quoi de neuf ?" publié en 2006, l’historien anglais David Edgerton observait la persistance, la "résistance" ou la ré-introduction de "vieilles techniques". Il citait notamment la résurgence de la télévision par cable dans les années 1980s (après avoir été en vogue dans les années 1950s) ou l’acupuncture (à son paroxysme au XIXème puis de retour depuis trente ans).

Un autre exemple historique marquant dans son livre est celui l'importance du cheval durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale:
"L’armée allemande, si souvent décrite comme reposant sur des formations blindées, eut bien plus de chevaux durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale que n’en eut l’armée britannique durant la Grande Guerre. Le réarmement de l’Allemagne, dans les années 1930, passa par un achat massif de chevaux, au point qu’en 1939 cette armée en possédait 590 000, et en avait 3 millions d’autres en réserve dans l’ensemble du pays. […] Début 1945, la Wehrmacht disposait de 1.2 millions de chevaux ; on estime à 1.5 millions les pertes en chevaux accumulés durant la guerre."

Avec ces exemples, Edgerton nous rend attentif au fait que "le temps technologique ne va pas uniquement vers l’avant"; et qu’il n’y a donc pas un bel ordonnancement chronologique. En adoptant le point de vue des usages des objets techniques, on peut regarder différents “mondes technologiques” et s’apercevoir de la diversité des pratiques. C’est un sujet qui intéresse votre correspondant dans le cadre d’un projet d’enquête sur les téléphones mobiles. En cherchant dans mes notes de terrain je suis tombés sur quelques cas de ce genre (( dans l’app Notes sur mon téléphone, j’ai une Note nommée "Livefieldnotes" dans laquelle je consigne mes observations concernant les usages des téléphones mobiles. C’est écrit à la volée sur le terrain donc avec des fautes d’orthographes et un certain laconisme ))

Voici les notes en questions:
23.08.2015 - train Genève - Lausanne Un homme regarde son pager Motorola, une technologie que je pensais disparue... Mais qui semble encore exister à ce que je lis sur le site de sigmacom.ch et qui sert des "besoins professionnels" avec des èchanges de messages alphanumeriques. Il dit mystérieusement l'utiliser du fait de sa fiabilité : "ça marche partout meme dans les zones a faible reseau de telephone, le fabricant me dit que ca joue a 99% partout dans le pays"

11.08.2015 - Genève, square Chantepoulet Rencontre avec J. un chercheur suisse-allemand, qui sort ses deux telephones (un iPod Touch et un vieux Nokia), il n'a pas de data plan et dit aussi utiliser cette combinaison d’appareils "pour se proteger des distractions". Il me dit utilise le Nokia (un feature phone noir) pour les appels, et le iPod Touch pour l’accès aux apps. Et s’il a besoin d’être connecté au Web mobile pour browser ou certaines apps, il le fait dans les lieux où il y a du Wifi

8.08.2015 - Geneve, marché aux puces Discussion avec un vendeur de telephone mobile genre nokia 3210 d'occasion (30chf), se vend bien, pour les gens qui n'arrivent pas bien a utiliser les smartphone "c trop complique", par exemple me dit le vendeur dans son francais approx: "par exemple une dame qui vient et dit que son fils lui a offert un iphone et elle comprend rien... Elle m'achete ce nokia [3310] et elle sait faire, elle recoit l'appel elle appuie sur le bouton et c bon; donc j'en vends toujours un peu"

Ces exemples, pris parmi d’autres, sont intéressants à plusieurs niveaux. D’abord parce qu’il montre la persistance et la diversité des usages d’objets techniques généralement considérés comme moins à la page (sans jeu de mot aucun sur le premier). Ensuite car ils renvoient à un autre aspect discuté par Edgerton : celle de la prétendue “résistance aux techniques nouvelles”, problèmes parfois abordés par psychologues ou historiens. Or, comme il l’explique, “il est absurde de parler de résistance à la technique ou à l’innovation dans un monde dont les individus ou les sociétés n’acceptent pas nécessairement toute innovation – ou, en fait – tout produit qui leur est proposée. De toute façon, il y a résistance. En adoptant une technique, la société résiste nécessairement à de nombreuses techniques substitutives ‘anciennes’ et ’nouvelles’.” Les pagers très fiables, les features phones en sont de bons exemples. Et l’usage des iPod Touch, à la manière de J., était d’ailleurs précisément proposé dans un article récent de la revue Wired comme l’un des système de communication les plus sécurisé à l'heure actuelle. Même si ces usages ne sont pas majoritaires – tout dépend où ! – ils existent et nous rappellent que différents critères influent sur les choix d'utilisation.

Cette combinaison d'objets techniques est d'ailleurs ce qui pêche souvent dans les vidéos prospectifs des grandes sociétés technologiques. On ne voit que des appareils rutilants, les dernières interfaces, alors que la réalité des pratiques correspond davantage à une grande diversité. C'est certes moins glorieux (un téléphone non-tactile ferait-il tâche à côté d'Hololense ?) mais bien plus plausible. Mon collègue du Near Future Laboratory Nic Foster utilisait dans cet article de Core77 une métaphore géologique pour ce phénomène : celui de l'accrétion qui lui permettait d'en discuter les enjeux deson point de vue de designer:
"In order to communicate our vision, it may be helpful to incorporate the existing designed space in parallel with the new. On a very practical level, we should embrace legacy technologies when conceiving new ones. Ethnographic studies constantly highlight technology accretion: the drawer full of cables, the old interaction behaviors, the dusty hard drives, the mouse mats and inherited hardware. Rather than avoid this complexity, good science fiction embraces accretive spaces, where contemporary design and technology sits side by side with older artifacts. In some cases, this technique can be used to show potential disconnects between the new and established, places where technology sticks out like a sore thumb. This is a useful tool for all designers and using it well can help us depict a more tangible future."

Comme il l'exprime ici, cette prise en compte de la diversité des pratiques peut stimuler la rechercher de voies originales. Dans le cas des mobiles, c'est la raison pour laquelle on voit toujours des produits pertinents basés sur des pagers aujourd'hui (c'est d'ailleurs le cas par exemple avec de la géolocalisation indoor) ou des téléphones servant uniquement à téléphoner... avec des propositions loin d'être inesthétiques, absurdes ou curieuses."
nicolasnova  davidedgerton  technology  time  chronology  nicfoster  designfiction  future  futures  mobilephones  cv  fieldnotes  diversity  tools  mobile  phones  smartphones  complexity  design  novelty  earlyadopters  lateadopters  difference  ipodtouch  innovation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Apple’s Modernism, Google’s Modernism: Some reflections on Alphabet, Inc. and a suggestion that modernist architect Adolf Loos would be totally into Soylent | Works Cited
"These temporal aesthetics, Google’s included, tell us something about the repurposing of modernist style for post-Fordist capital. Modernist style still succeeds in evoking newnesses even when wholly “unoriginal” because it so successfully dehistoricizes.20) That it still totally works, and that it remains congenial to capital in the face of capital’s transformations, hints that we have in modernist ideology a powerful actor.

Consequently, the study of early twentieth-century style can be understood as neither irrelevant nor innocent. The quasi-Darwinian, developmentalist ideologies of Silicon Valley have their correlates in styles that disguise their basic violence as design. Its results are, among other things, political transformations of the Bay Area that seek to do to San Francisco what Rob Rinehart did to his apartment—rely heavily on exploited labor that has been geographically displaced. It imagines people of the future living side by side with people who lag behind—but not literally side by side of course! because the laggards commute from Vallejo. Anyone who isn’t on board with the spatial segregation of the temporally disparate is an “enemy of innovation.” Again, this is actually less about time than about hierarchy. After all, the temporal difference between any two people in existence at the same time is completely made up: it’s an effect of style, which is in turn (if we follow Loos’s logic) a proxy for economic dominance. Time is, so to speak, money."
modernism  nataliacecire  2015  apple  google  siliconvalley  design  economics  atemporality  robrinehart  adolfloos  childhood  primitivism  developmentalism  aphabet  puerility  naomischor  siannengai  power  systemsthinking  displacement  innovation  ideology  californianideology  history  newness  exploitation  labor  segregation  hierarchy  technology  technosolutionism  domination 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield | AntipodeFoundation.org
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

Illich’s thinking about professionalisation was partly inspired by Karl Polanyi’s magisterial analysis on the “political and economic origins of our time”, The Great Transformation (Beacon Press, 1944). Since the Stone Age, Polanyi says, markets followed society, developed organically as social relations developed organically, from barter and truck systems, to simple economies in which money was a means of exchange, a mere token of equivalent worth. Markets were always “embedded” (a key Polanyi word) in social relations, always located somewhere within the very fabric of society, whose institutional and political structure “regulated” what markets could and couldn’t do. Regulation and markets thus grew up together, came of age together. So “the emergence of the idea of self-regulation”, says Polanyi, “was a complete reversal of this trend of development … the change from regulated to self-regulated markets at the end of the 18th century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.”

We’re still coming to terms with this complete transformation, a transformation that, towards the end of the 20th century, has made the “disembedded” economy seem perfectly natural, perfectly normal, something transhistorical, something that always was, right? It’s also a perfectly functioning economy, as economic pundits now like to insist. Entering the 1990s, this disembedded market system bore a new tagline, one that persists: “neoliberalism”. Polanyi’s logic is impeccable: a “market economy can exist only in a market society.”

Inherent vices nonetheless embed themselves in this disembedded economy. Land, labour and money become vital parts of our economic system, of our speculative hunger games. But, says Polanyi, land, labour and money “are obviously not commodities” (his emphasis). “Land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”, he says; “labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself”; “actual money … is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance”. Thus “the commodity description of labour, land and money is entirely fictitious”, a commodity fiction, the fiction of commodities.

Still, we live in fictitious times (as filmmaker Michael Moore was wont to say): land, labour and money as commodities provide us with the vital organising principle of our whole society. So fiction remains the truth, and fictitious truth needs defending, needs perpetuating; the postulate must be forcibly yet legitimately kept in place. But kept in place how, and by whom? By, we might say, a whole professional administration, by a whole professional cadre, by a whole professional apparatus that both props up and prospers from these fictitious times. Professionalism is the new regulation of deregulation, the new management of mismanagement, an induced and imputed incapacitation."



"Vernacular values are intuitive knowledges and practical know-how that structure everyday culture; they pivot not so much—as Gramsci says—on common sense as on “good sense”. They’re reasonable intuitions and intuitive reason: words, habits and understandings that inform real social life—the real social life of a non-expert population. Illich reminds us that “vernacular” stems from the Latin vernaculam, meaning “homebred” or “homegrown”, something “homemade”. (We’re not far from the notion of amateur here.) Vernacular is a mode of life and language below the radar of exchange-value; vernacular language is language acquired without a paid teacher; loose, unruly language, heard as opposed to written down. (“Eartalk”, Joyce called it in Finnegans Wake, a language for the “earsighted”.) To assert vernacular values is, accordingly, to assert democratic values, to assert its means through popular participation."



"Illich chips in to add how professionals peddle the privileges and status of the job: they adjudicate its worthiness and rank, while forever tut-tutting those without work. Unemployment “means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour”. “What counts”, Illich says, “isn’t the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort but the coupling of the labour force with capital. What counts isn’t the achievement of satisfaction that flows from action but the status of the social relationship that commands production—that is, the job, situation, post, or appointment”.

Effort isn’t productive unless it’s done at the behest of some boss; economists can’t deal with a usefulness of people outside of the corporation, outside of stock value, of shareholder dividend, of cost-benefit. Work is only ever productive when its process is controlled, when it is planned and monitored by professional agents, by managers and the managers of managers. Can we ever imagine unemployment as useful, as the basis for autonomous activity, as meaningful social or even political activity?"



"Perhaps, during crises, we can hatch alternative programmes for survival, other methods through which we can not so much “earn a living” as live a living. Perhaps we can self-downsize, as Illich suggests, and address the paradox of work that goes back at least to Max Weber: work is revered in our culture, yet at the same time workers are becoming superfluous; you hate your job, your boss, hate the servility of what you do, and how you do it, the pettiness of the tasks involved, yet want to keep your job at all costs. You see no other way of defining yourself other than through work, other than what you do for a living. Perhaps there’s a point at which we can all be pushed over the edge, voluntarily take the jump ourselves, only to discover other aspects of ourselves, other ways to fill in the hole, to make a little money, to maintain our dignity and pride, and to survive off what Gorz calls a “frugal abundance”.

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need - The Atlantic
"We already chose to forego a future of unconnected software. All of your devices talk constantly to servers, and your data lives in the Cloud because there’s increasingly no other choice. Eventually, we won’t have unconnected things, either. We’ve made that choice too, we just don’t know it yet. For the moment, you can still buy toasters and refrigerators and thermostats that don’t talk to the Internet, but try to find a new television that doesn’t do so. All new TVs are smart TVs, asking you to agree to murky terms and conditions in the process of connecting to Netflix or Hulu. Soon enough, everything will be like Nest. If the last decade was one of making software require connectivity, the next will be one of making everything else require it. Why? For Silicon Valley, the answer is clear: to turn every industry into the computer industry. To make things talk to the computers in giant, secured, air-conditioned warehouses owned by (or hoping to be owned by) a handful of big technology companies.

But at what cost? What improvements to our lives do we not get because we focused on “smart” things? Writing in The Baffler last year, David Graeber asked where the flying cars, force fields, teleportation pods, space colonies, and all the other dreams of the recent past’s future have gone. His answer: Technological development was re-focused so that it wouldn’t threaten existing seats of power and authority. The Internet of Things exists to build a market around new data about your toasting and grilling and refrigeration habits, while duping you into thinking smart devices are making your lives better than you could have made them otherwise, with materials other than computers. Innovation and disruption are foils meant to distract you from the fact that the present is remarkably similar to the past, with you working even harder for it.

But it sure feels like it makes things easier, doesn’t it? The automated bike locks and thermostats all doing your bidding so you can finally be free to get things done. But what will you do, exactly, once you can monitor your propane tank level from the comfort of the toilet or the garage or the liquor store? Check your Gmail, probably, or type into a Google Doc on your smartphone, maybe. Or perhaps, if you’re really lucky, tap some ideas into Evernote for your Internet of Things startup’s crowdfunding campaign. “It’s gonna be huge,” you’ll tell your cookout guests as you saw into a freshly grilled steak in the cool comfort of your Nest-controlled dining room. “This is the future.”"
2015  ianbogost  iot  internetofthings  design  davidgraeber  labor  siliconvalley  technology  power  authority  innovation  disruption  work  future  past  present  marketing  propaganda  google  cloud  cloudcomputing  computers  code  googledocs  ubicomp  ubiquitouscomputing  everyware  adamgreenfield  amazon  dropbox  kickstarter 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Aeon Ideas - Siva Vaidhyanathan on Has "innovation"...
"Progress was such a strong part of 18th century Enlightenment thought that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution instructed Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” via copyright and patent law. Today, those who advocate stronger intellectual property protection do so in the name of “innovation,” as do advocates of weaker intellectual property protection. Neither side argues for progress.

Progress is out-of-fashion. It’s almost embarrassing to invoke it. The grand mega-projects of the 20th century – dams, highways, national parks, public universities, and the occasional concentration camp – seem as distant from our current collective imaginations as pyramids and the Taj Mahal. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was devoted to marking the technological progress since Columbus landed in the New World, and its grand exhibit featured the power of electricity. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York described “the World of Tomorrow.” And the 1964 World’s Fair in New York boasted of the imminent coming of world peace through “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” We are still waiting for that."



"Innovation differs from progress in many ways. Innovation lacks a normative claim of significant betterment. It emerges from many small moves rather than grand, top-down schemes. Innovation does not contain an implication of a grand path or a grand design of a knowable future. It makes no claim on the future, except that it always exists in that future, just out of reach of the now. And innovation always seems to come from the distributed commercial world rather than from grand, planned policies engineered from a strong central state. States are now encouraged to innovate rather than solve big problems or correct for market failures. The ultimate goal of innovation seems to be more innovation.

“Innovation” is everywhere today. You can’t peruse a copy of the Harvard Business Review or Inc. Magazine without sliding by multiple uses of “innovation.” Universities large and small boast of new “innovation centers” and programs devoted to unleashing “innovation” in their students as well as their libraries and laboratories. Everyone is expected to innovate. Those who raise questions about the wisdom of a policy or technology are quickly dismissed as anti-innovation.

The use of “innovation” in published books, as measured by the Google NGrams project, surged in 1994, just as the Internet entered public life and the dot-com boom started. Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen’s use of the term “disruptive innovation” has dominated debates about management in both public and private sectors since the 1997 publication of his book The Innovators’ Dilemma. Even though historian Jill Lepore dismantled the poor logic and methodology of Christensen’s book in a 2014 New Yorker article, its influence has not waned. Innovation, especially the disruptive kind, has become a religious concept, immune to criticism."



"Modesty is a virtue, of course. And in many ways the focus on innovation instead of progress is refreshing. A belief that progress is definable and inevitable became hard to maintain by the turn of the 21st century as we confronted the efficient dehumanizing brutality of slavery, the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and the Final Solution.

Like with innovation, progress could be the locus of debate for two completely opposed policies. Historian David Brion Davis has written that appeals to progress were used by both advocates of expanding slavery and those who fought it. Davis identifies three aspects to the ideology of progress: A belief that historical change is not governed by chance or that historical events mesh in a meaningful pattern that reflects the principles of the natural sciences; A belief that the overall trajectory of history bends toward the better; And a prediction that the future will necessarily improve on the past, either through faith in human reason or divine providence.

Ecology has dealt perhaps the strongest blow to the ideology of progress. Ecological historians have charted the ways that humans have burned through their habitat, rendering much of it denatured and fragile, and improving crop yields through fossil-fuel-burning machinery and fossil-fuel-based fertilizers. So progress for some, such as an escape from the Malthusian trap of population outstripping food production, could mean devastation for all at some later date as the entire agricultural system collapses like an abandoned coal mine.

So perhaps the small-bore appeals to innovation are slightly preferable to the grand boasts of progress. But innovation can’t be our goal as a species. We actually do face grand problems like climate change, widespread abuse of people, threats to political liberty, and communicable diseases. It’s not unhealthy or even intellectually invalid to agree that we can and should make progress (with a very small “p”) against Ebola, HIV, rape, racism, and the melting of the polar ice caps.

Somewhere between the tiny vision of innovation and the arrogance of grand progress lies a vision of collective destiny and confidence that with the right investments, a strong consensus, and patience we can generate a more just and stable world. We passed right by that point in the rush from the 20th to the 21st centuries. We must reclaim it."
innovation  progress  via:anne  2015  sivavaidhyanathan 
june 2015 by robertogreco
No one cares about your jetpack: on optimism in futurism - Dangerous to those who profit from the way things areDangerous to those who profit from the way things are
"This review [http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/tomorrowland-is-like-watching-a-jetpack-eat-itself-1706822006 ] of Disney’s Tomorrowland (and others like it that I have read) got me thinking about something I was asked at the Design In Action summit last week in Edinburgh. I was there participating in the “Once Upon a Future” event, where I read a story called “The Dreams in the Bitch House.” It’s about a tech sorority at a small New England university. And programmable matter.

After I did my keynote and read my story, I did a Q&A. After a few questions, someone in the audience asked: “Why so negative?”

I get this question a lot. I’ve been involved in a couple of “optimistic” science fiction anthologies, namely Shine (edited by Jetse de Vries) and Hieroglyph (edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn). But people don’t invite me to these because I’m an optimistic person. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Evidence:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InDOzrtS42M ]

When I was trained as a futurist (I have a Master’s in the subject), I was taught to see the whole scope of a problem. That’s at the root of design thinking. The old joke about designers is that when someone asks how many designers you need to change a lightbulb, the designer asks “Does it need to be a lightbulb?” Because really, what the room needs is a window. When people talk about innovation, that’s what they mean. A re-framing of the issue that helps you see the whole problem and approach it from another angle.

America’s problem is not that it needs more jetpacks. Jetpacks are not innovation. Jetpacks are a fetish object for retrofuturist otaku who jerked off to Judy Jetson, or maybe Jennifer Connelly’s character in The Rocketeer. “We were promised jetpacks!” they whine. Yeah, dude, but what you got was Agent Orange. Imagine a Segway that could kill you and set your house on fire. That’s what a jetpack is.

Jetpacks solve exactly one problem: rapid transit. And you know what would help with that? Better transit. Better telepresence. Better work-life balance. Are jetpacks an innovative solution to the problem of transit? Nope. But they sure look great with your midlife crisis.

But railing against jetpacks isn’t an answer to the question. Why so negative? Three reasons:

1) We have more data than we used to, and we’re obtaining more all the time.

Why don’t we fantasize about life in space like we used to? Because we know it’s really fucking difficult and dangerous. Why don’t we research things like food pills any more? Because we know eating fibre helps prevent colon cancer. We know those things because we’ve done the science. The data is there, and for every piece of technology we use, we accumulate more. It’s hard to argue with that vast wealth of data. At least, it’s hard to do so without looking like some whackjob climate change denier.

2) Less optimistic futures have the power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

When people ask me, “Why can’t you be more positive?” what I hear is, “Why can’t you tell me a story that conforms to my narrative and comforts me?” Because discomfiting futures have real power. As Alf Rehn notes:
What we need, then, is more uncommon futurism. A futurism that cares not a whit about what’s hot right now, who remain stoically unimpressed by drones and wearable IT, and who instead take it as their job to shock and awe CEOs with visions as radical as those of the futurists of yore. We need futurism that is less interested in agreeing with contemporary futurists and their ongoing circle-jerk, and who takes pride in offending and disgusting those futurists who would like to protect the status quo.


The truth is that the horrible dystopia you’re reading about is already happening to someone else, somewhere else. What makes people nervous is the idea that it could happen to them. That’s why I have to keep sharing it.

3) The most harmful idea in this world is that change is impossible.

Octavia E. Butler said it best: “The only lasting truth / is Change.” And yet, we act like change is impossible. Whether we’re frustrated by policy gridlock, or rolling our eyes at Hollywood reboots, or taking our spouses on the same goddamn date we have for for twenty years, we act as though everything will remain the same, forever and ever, amen. But look around you. Twenty years ago, thinks were very different. Even five years ago, they were different. Look at social progress like gay marriage. Look at the rise of solar power. Look at the shrinking of the ice caps. Things do change, they are changing, and they will change. And not all of those changes will be positive. Not all of them will be negative, either. But change does occur. Rather than thinking of change as a positive or a negative, as utopian or dystopian, just recognize that it’s going to happen and prepare yourself. Futurists don’t predict the future. We see multiple outcomes and help you prepare for them.

In the end, the lacklustre performance of Tomorrowland at the box office has nothing to do with whether optimism is alive or dead. It has to do with changing demographics among moviegoers who know how to spot an Ayn Rand bedtime story when they see one. There are whole generations of moviegoers for whom jetpacks don’t mean shit, whose first memories of NASA are the Challenger disaster. And you know what? Those same generations believe in driverless cars, solar energy, smart cities, AR contacts, and vat-grown meat. They saw the election of America’s first black president, and they witnessed a wave of violence against young black men. They don’t want the depiction of an “optimistic” future. They want a future where their concerns are taken seriously and humanely, with compassion and intelligence and validation. And that’s way harder than optimism."
culture  future  futurism  discourse  madelineashby  2015  tomorrowland  alfrehn  dystopia  octaviabutler  optimism  pessimism  realism  demographics  aynrand  race  establishment  privilege  drones  wearables  power  innovation  jetpacks  telepresence  transit  transportation  work  labor  scifi  sciencefiction  systemsthinking  data  retrofuturism  climatechange  space  food  science  technology  change  truth  socialprogress  progress  solar  solarpower  validation  compassion  canon  work-lifebalance 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Eric Socolofsky - How We Used To, How We Will - YouTube
[See 36:06 for part on inductive innovation, which leads to emergent behavior]
flcikr  ericsocolofsky  2015  experimentation  innovation  deductiveinnovation 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous - The Washington Post
"For most of its history, the United States was unique in offering a well-rounded education. In their comprehensive study, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz point out that in the 19th century, countries like Britain, France and Germany educated only a few and put them through narrow programs designed to impart only the skills crucial to their professions. America, by contrast, provided mass general education because people were not rooted in specific locations with long-established trades that offered the only paths forward for young men. And the American economy historically changed so quickly that the nature of work and the requirements for success tended to shift from one generation to the next. People didn’t want to lock themselves into one professional guild or learn one specific skill for life.

That was appropriate in another era, the technologists argue, but it is dangerous in today’s world. Look at where American kids stand compared with their peers abroad. The most recent international test, conducted in 2012, found that among the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 27th in math, 20th in science and 17th in reading. If rankings across the three subjects are averaged, the United States comes in 21st, trailing nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia.

In truth, though, the United States has never done well on international tests, and they are not good predictors of our national success. Since 1964, when the first such exam was administered to 13-year-olds in 12 countries, America has lagged behind its peers, rarely rising above the middle of the pack and doing particularly poorly in science and math. And yet over these past five decades, that same laggard country has dominated the world of science, technology, research and innovation.

Consider the same pattern in two other highly innovative countries, Sweden and Israel. Israel ranks first in the world in venture-capital investments as a percentage of GDP; the United States ranks second, and Sweden is sixth, ahead of Great Britain and Germany. These nations do well by most measures of innovation, such as research and development spending and the number of high-tech companies as a share of all public companies. Yet all three countries fare surprisingly poorly in the OECD test rankings. Sweden and Israel performed even worse than the United States on the 2012 assessment, landing overall at 28th and 29th, respectively, among the 34 most-developed economies.

But other than bad test-takers, their economies have a few important traits in common: They are flexible. Their work cultures are non-hierarchical and merit-based. All operate like young countries, with energy and dynamism. All three are open societies, happy to let in the world’s ideas, goods and services. And people in all three nations are confident — a characteristic that can be measured. Despite ranking 27th and 30th in math, respectively, American and Israeli students came out at the top in their belief in their math abilities, if one tallies up their responses to survey questions about their skills. Sweden came in seventh, even though its math ranking was 28th.

Thirty years ago, William Bennett, the Reagan-era secretary of education, noticed this disparity between achievement and confidence and quipped, “This country is a lot better at teaching self-esteem than it is at teaching math.” It’s a funny line, but there is actually something powerful in the plucky confidence of American, Swedish and Israeli students. It allows them to challenge their elders, start companies, persist when others think they are wrong and pick themselves up when they fail. Too much confidence runs the risk of self-delusion, but the trait is an essential ingredient for entrepreneurship."
stem  education  testing  standardizedtesting  us  policy  sweden  israel  testscores  comparison  innovation  technology  science  conformity  conformism  standardization  diversity  williambennett  nclb  rttt  ronaldreagan  anationatrisk  writing  criticalthinking  liberalarts  fareedzakaria  2015 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Who’s to blame for the digital time deficit? – Judy Wajcman – Aeon
"For all the smart tech, we still feel pressed for time. Are digital services the problem, or are we humans to blame?"

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

If we feel pressed for time today, it is not because of technology, but because of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set. Digital time is no different – ultimately it needs to be understood as a product of the ways in which humans use, interact with and indeed build technology. If we want technology to bring us a better future, we must contest the imperative of speed and democratise engineering. We must bring more imagination to the field of technological innovation. Most of all, we must ask bigger questions about what kind of society we want. Technology will follow, as it usually does."
technology  productivity  efficiency  2015  judywajcman  speed  digital  time  innovation  well-being  leisure  slow  parenting  busyness  hyperproductivity  environment  via:anne  society  work 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The End of Creativity — Medium
"People living in the twentieth century heard a lot of talk about “creativity.” People living in the twenty-first century will not. Creativity is not dead yet, but its end is in sight. Alfred North Whitehead invented the word in 1926."

75 years later, it was one in every 70,000 words published and had become the name of a popular hypothesis: that new things are created by “geniuses” who solve problems by deliberately not thinking about them — a step called “incubation” — until they receive answers in sudden, dramatic moments of “insight.” One of the most frequently cited examples is attributed to Mozart:
“When I am, as it were, completely myself, and of good cheer, my ideas flow best and most abundantly. My subject stands almost complete in my mind. When I write down my ideas everything is already finished; and it rarely differs from what was in my imagination.”

These words, which I have edited for length, first appeared in a letter to Germany’s General Music Journal in 1815, then in many other places, including Jacques Hadamard’s 1945 The Mathematician’s Mind; Creativity, edited by Philip Vernon in 1976; and Roger Penrose’s 1989 The Emperor’s New Mind. They remain popular: in 2015, they have already appeared in at least one book and one journal.

But Mozart did not write them, they do not describe how he composed, and we have known this since 1856, when Mozart biographer Otto Jahn showed that they were forged.

"Why do so many people writing about creativity keep citing them as if they were true? Because there is little else to cite. Psychologists have been trying to prove the creativity hypothesis for nearly a hundred years. Their results are, at best, mixed.

In the 1920s, Stanford’s Lewis Terman sought to prove the existence of the general, hereditary superiority called “genius” by testing 168,000 children and placing them on a scale “from idiocy on the one hand to genius on the other.” He identified 1,500 “geniuses,” then tracked their accomplishments for the rest of their lives. Some did creative work, like making movies, but many did not. And what of the “non-geniuses” Terman rejected? Two, William Shockley and Luis Alvarez, won Nobel Prizes. Terman’s results are typical: all other attempts to predict future accomplishments by measuring “genius” have also failed.

“Incubation,” or solving problems by not thinking about them, has been widely studied. Berkeley’s Robert Olton spent the 1970s looking for it. In one experiment, he asked 160 people to solve a brainteaser, giving some breaks, while making others work continuously. The breaks made no difference. Olton was forced to conclude that,
“No evidence of incubation was apparent,” and added, “No study reporting evidence of incubation has survived replication by an independent investigator.”

And “insight” — the fully formed solution in a flash? German Gestalt psychologist Karl Duncker was one of the first to study that. In his most famous experiment, he gave people a box of tacks and a book of matches, and asked them to fix a candle to a wall so that it could be used as a reading light. The solution is to tack the tack-box to the wall — to see it as a thing for holding the candle, not a thing for holding the tacks. The shift from “tack-box” to “candle-holder” is the supposed “insight.” By having people think aloud, Duncker showed that the solution came incrementally, not instantly: everyone who discovered it thought of making a platform out of tacks, then realized the tack-box would be a better platform.

These experiments, although a few of hundreds, are representative. There is probably no such thing as creativity. But Duncker’s work laid the foundation for an alternative hypothesis: that extraordinary solutions come from ordinary people doing ordinary thinking. Robert Weisberg, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, put it this way:
“Although the impact of creative ideas and products can sometimes be profound, the mechanisms through which an innovation comes about can be very ordinary.”




"This idea that extraordinary creations come from ordinary people and ordinary thinking has become more popular recently. Jon Gertner wrestled with the problem of “the great men versus the yeomen,” in The Idea Factory, his history of Bell Labs, and concluded that innovation needs both; Walter Isaacson found he had to tell the story of many lives, not one, to describe the invention of computing in his latest bestseller The Innovators; and Steven Johnson refutes the “non-explanation of genius” and argues that “innovation comes out of collaborative networks” in his new book and PBS television series, How We Got to Now.

It is an important change. We are rejecting the myths of “creativity” and developing a better understanding of how we create at a time when, because of the growing problems of our growing population, we need creation more than ever. We are not all equally creative, just as we are not all equally good at anything. But each of us is more like Mozart than not. We can all create, we can all contribute, and we all should."
via:anne  2015  creativity  incubation  ideas  ordinariness  kevinashton  jongertner  walterisaacson  stevenjohnson  innovation  robertburton  georgeherbert  diegodeestrella  johnofsalisbury  bernardofchartres  alberteinstein  ernstmach  carlfriedrichgauss  bernhardriemann  marcelgrossman  gregorioricci-curbastro  mozart  karldunker  ottojahn  alfrednorthwhitehead  lewisterman  genius  williamshockley  luisalvarez  psychology  robertolton  history  insight  ordinary 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [http://www.jessestommel.com/blog/files/dear-chronicle.html ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/surveillance-and-care/ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [http://robhorningtni.tumblr.com/post/112618248845/your-permanent-record ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:450933ec9018 ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Beyond Imported Magic | The MIT Press
"The essays in this volume study the creation, adaptation, and use of science and technology in Latin America. They challenge the view that scientific ideas and technology travel unchanged from the global North to the global South—the view of technology as “imported magic.” They describe not only alternate pathways for innovation, invention, and discovery but also how ideas and technologies circulate in Latin American contexts and transnationally. The contributors’ explorations of these issues, and their examination of specific Latin American experiences with science and technology, offer a broader, more nuanced understanding of how science, technology, politics, and power interact in the past and present.

The essays in this book use methods from history and the social sciences to investigate forms of local creation and use of technologies; the circulation of ideas, people, and artifacts in local and global networks; and hybrid technologies and forms of knowledge production. They address such topics as the work of female forensic geneticists in Colombia; the pioneering Argentinean use of fingerprinting technology in the late nineteenth century; the design, use, and meaning of the XO Laptops created and distributed by the One Laptop per Child Program; and the development of nuclear energy in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile."
technology  latinamerica  olpc  chile  colombia  argentina  uruguay  perú  mexico  2014  books  toread  magic  science  politics  power  innovation  edenmedina  ivandacostamarques  christinaholmes  marcoscueto 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Former El Bulli Chef Is Now Serving Up Creative Inquiry - NYTimes.com
"So what is his goal? The foundation’s current mission seems to flutter between worldly and chaotic. Consider the activity on a morning in November: One group of employees worked in a corner of the loft on prototypes of a website known as BulliPedia that, when finished, will be a type of Wikipedia for haute cuisine. On the opposite side of the room, a young woman edited pages intended for a multivolume book collection tracing the history of food. At a desk facing the window, three men spent hours researching white asparagus. (It was not immediately clear what this was for.)"



“this is a flow chart of a cucumber’s existence”



"He also seems uninterested in running his foundation as a typical start-up, and his rigid devotion to his own mantras can occasionally give the entire operation a cultish feel. Additionally, it isn’t obvious exactly how his ideas will make the leap from notion to project. Mr. Adrià has nominally divided the foundation into two main strands: knowledge, which is the group focused on creating BulliPedia; and creativity, which is focused on, in his words, “deconstructing the entire process of creativity.” He calls this group El Bulli DNA.

If the names of the various projects aren’t enough to keep straight, Mr. Adrià adds a few more: El Bulli Lab is the Barcelona-based office where people associated with El Bulli DNA do their work. That should not be confused with 6W Food, which may not get going for a few more years but is expected to be a sort of cross between a science museum, an art museum and a house of culinary innovation. Also in the works is a search engine known as SeaUrching (named in part for the delicacy) as well as a language to describe gastronomy known as Huevo, Spanish for egg. Huevo, it was noted by one of Mr. Adrià’s colleagues, could ultimately be a digital language coded for use by refrigerators or other kitchen appliances."



"Sometimes it feels as though it might take a similar amount of time to fully digest what Mr. Adrià is seeking now. A deconstruction of his goals suggests that his previously insatiable thirst for innovation has been replaced by an insatiable thirst for knowledge. That is why there are so many charts, maps and graphs. That is why three men spent hours researching white asparagus. Scattershot as they may be, Mr. Adrià's motives are earnest.

So, too, are his methods, even if it is not always altogether clear to everyone else what he is doing. As one staff member said, understanding the true purpose of the El Bulli Foundation is less important than understanding the process by which it is built. For those who believe that Mr. Adrià truly is a genius, the staff member said, that is enough.

The sunlight was gone, and the office was quiet. Mr. Adrià stopped at one desk. He peered at a notebook. He lingered, finally, over a grid of index cards that traced the history of cuisine from the Neolithic era to the present day. Thousands of years, thousands of changes in cooking style, preparation, ingredients and techniques. Thousands of innovations. Mr. Adria frowned.

“If I don’t understand all of this,” he said, “I don’t understand anything.”"

[via: http://randallszott.org/2015/01/04/art-is-a-prison-ferran-adria-exploring-an-imaginative-elsewhere/ ]
ferranadrià  art  creativity  inquiry  bullipedia  elbulli  food  invention  history  theweightofhistory  arthistory  aesthetics  6food  elbullilab  inquisitiveness  curiosity  freedom  imagination  artleisure  leisurearts  seaurching  elbullidna  knowledge  learning  labs  laboratories  process  gastronomy  culinaryarts  huevo  2015  openstudioproject  lcproject  r&d  researchanddevelopment  research  howwelearn  foundations  innovation  genius  creativeinquiry 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Artist Endures - The Atlantic
"What’s more, the idea that 10,000 hours of practice makes someone an expert may not even be psychologically valid. A recent meta-analysis found that while practice correlated with skill, it did not at all explain it. “Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained,” wrote one of that study’s authors in Slate. We know so little about this idea because it’s so relatively recent: The first research suggesting a “10,000 Hour Rule” existed was published in 1993, and the rule itself only became popularized with the 2008 release of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.

And look what happened: In six years, the idea became such a part of the cultural atmosphere that Deresiewicz can treat it like it’s timeless. But it’s not—it’s new, as much a part of the changing artistic firmament as the compulsion to have a website.

But that doesn’t mean its meaningless. The “10,000 Hour Rule” caught on because it invited readers to a cultural meritocracy. It discredited the un-American idea that in-born talent drives careers, instead suggesting that any discipline, any craft or art, could be accessible to anyone through hours upon hours of practice. Maybe that’s true: We just don’t know. Likewise, I don’t know whether true cultural democracy is coming.

But I do know one thing. The value of any discipline, whether craft or art, is not extracted solely by experts. In his essay, Deresiewicz approves of how Gertrude Stein once scolded Picasso for writing poetry. I have also heard Picasso was a terrible poet, but I really don’t know, and I can’t hazard whether some iambic innovation would have spurred him to paint differently.

I am not Picasso, though, and neither are you. And in the world I’d like to live in, everyone—whether they’re a famous painter or a CPA—would feel as though they can explore the breadth of human expression, whether through writing poetry or learning about Chinese pottery or even researching historical pickling methods. If cultural democracy comes, my guess is it will not look like 100 million specialists. It will appear as a society of curious minds, captivated by human traditions and inspired to improve upon them, interested in the many places in the world where humans have spent their attention—and hungry to invest more."
robinsonmeyer  2014  art  williamderesiewicz  craft  practice  internet  malcolmgladwell  advice  democracy  culture  creativity  attention  specialists  specialization  generalists  meritocracy  joirodreamsofsushi  gertrudestein  pablopicasso  dilettantes  innovation  imagination 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The smartest cities rely on citizen cunning and unglamorous technology | Cities | The Guardian
"Ignore the futuristic visions of governments and developers, it’s humble urban communities who lead the way in showing how networked technologies can strengthen a city’s social fabric"



"We are lucky enough to live at a time in which a furious wave of innovation is breaking across the cities of the global south, spurred on both by the blistering pace of urbanisation, and by the rising popular demand for access to high-quality infrastructure that follows in its wake.

From Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting and the literally destratifying cable cars of Caracas, to Nairobi’s “digital matatus” and the repurposed bus-ferries of Manila, the communities of the south are responsible for an ever-lengthening parade of social and technical innovations that rival anything the developed world has to offer for ingenuity and practical utility.

Nor is India an exception to this tendency. Transparent Chennai’s participatory maps and the work of the Mumbai-based practices CRIT and URBZ are better-known globally, but it is the tactics of daily survival devised by the unheralded multitude that really inspire urbanists. These techniques maximise the transactive capacity of the urban fabric, wrest the very last increment of value from the energy invested in the production of manufactured goods, and allow millions to eke a living, however precarious, from the most unpromising of circumstances. At a time of vertiginously spiralling economic and environmental stress globally, these are insights many of us in the developed north would be well advised to attend to – and by no means merely the poorest among us.

But, for whatever reason, this is not the face of urban innovation official India wants to share with the world – perhaps small-scale projects or the tactics of the poor simply aren’t dramatic enough to convey the magnitude and force of national ambition. We hear, instead, of schemes like Palava City, a nominally futuristic vision of digital technology minutely interwoven into the texture of everday urban life. Headlines were made around the planet this year when Narendra Modi’s government announced it had committed to building no fewer than 100 similarly “smart” cities.

Because definitions of the smart city remain so vague, I think it’s worth thinking carefully about what this might mean – beyond, that is, the 7,000 billion rupees (£70bn) in financing that India’s high powered expert committee on urban infrastructure believes the scheme will require over the next 20 years. It is one thing, after all, to reinforce the basic infrastructures that undergird the quality of urban life everywhere; quite another to propose saddling India’s cities with expensive, untested technology at a time when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water or safe sanitary facilities remain beyond reach for too many.

We can take it as read that our networked technologies will continue to play some fairly considerable role in shaping the circumstances and possibilities experienced by billions of city-dwellers worldwide. So it’s only appropriate to consider the ways in which these technologies might inform decisions about urban land use, mobility and governance.

However, especially at a time of such enthusiasm for the notion in India, I think it’s vital to point out that “the smart city” is not the only way of bringing advanced information technology to bear on these questions of urban life. It’s but one selection from a sheaf of available possibilities, and not anywhere near the most responsive, equitable or fructifying among them.

We can see this most easily by considering just who it is the smart city is intended for – by seeking to discover what model of urban subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios offered by the multinational IT vendors that developed the smart city concept in the first place, and who are heavily involved in sites like Palava. When you examine their internal documentation, marketing materials and extant interventions, it becomes evident there is a pronounced way of thinking about the civic that is bound up in all of them, with rather grim implications for the politics of participation.

A close reading leaves little room for doubt that vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation. (This is explicit in Palava’s marketing materials, as well.) All in all, it’s a brutally reductive conception of civic life, and one with little to offer those of us whose notions of citizenhood are more robust."



"The true enablers of participation turn out to be nothing more exciting than cheap commodity devices, reliable access to sufficiently high- bandwidth connectivity, and generic cloud services. These implications should be carefully mulled over by developers, those responsible for crafting municipal and national policy, and funding bodies in the philanthropic sector.

In both these cases, ordinary people used technologies of connection to help them steer their own affairs, not merely managing complex domains to a minimal threshold of competence, but outperforming the official bodies formally entrusted with their stewardship. This presents us with the intriguing prospect that more of the circumstances of everyday urban life might be managed this way, on a participatory basis, by autonomous neighbourhood groups networked with one another in something amounting to a city-wide federation.

In order to understand how we might get there from here, we need to invoke a notion drawn from the study of dynamic systems. Metastability is the idea that there are multiple stable configurations a system can assume within a larger possibility space; the shape that system takes at the moment may simply be one among many that are potentially available to it. Seen in this light, it’s clear that all the paraphernalia we regard as the sign and substance of government may in fact merely constitute what a dynamicist would think of as a “local maximum”. There remain available to us other possible states, in which we might connect to one another in different ways, giving rise to different implications, different conceptions of urban citizenship, and profoundly different outcomes.

The sociologist Bruno Latour warns us not to speak airily of “potential”, reminding us that we have to actually do the work of bringing some state of affairs into being before we can know whether it was indeed a possible future state of the system – and also that work is never accomplished without some cost. I nevertheless believe, given the very substantial benefits we know people and communities enjoy when afforded real control over the conditions of their being, that whatever the cost incurred in this exploration, it would be one well worth bearing.

The evidence before us strongly suggests that investment in the unglamorous technologies, frameworks and infrastructures that are already known to underwrite citizen participation would result in better outcomes for tens of millions of ordinary Indians – and would shoulder the state with far-less onerous a financial burden – than investment in the high-tech chimeras of centralised control. The wisest course would be to plan technological interventions to come on the understanding that the true intelligence of the Indian city will continue to reside where it always has: in the people who live and work in it, who animate it and give it a voice."

[See also: http://boingboing.net/2014/12/24/why-smart-cities-should-be.html ]
2014  adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  collectivism  cities  innovation  smartcities  chennai  caracas  nairobi  portoalegre  digitalmatatus  manila  infrastructure  palavacity  technology  power  control  democracy  ows  occupywallstreet  urbz  crit  transparency  occupysandy  nyc  elcampodecebada  madrid  zuloark  zuloarkcollective  collectives  twitter  facebook  troughofdisallusionment  darkweather  networks  internetofpeople  brunolatour  grassroots  systems  systemsthinking  metastability  dynamicsystems 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why has human progress ground to a halt? – Michael Hanlon – Aeon
"Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?"



"Yet there once was an age when speculation matched reality. It spluttered to a halt more than 40 years ago. Most of what has happened since has been merely incremental improvements upon what came before. That true age of innovation – I’ll call it the Golden Quarter – ran from approximately 1945 to 1971. Just about everything that defines the modern world either came about, or had its seeds sown, during this time. The Pill. Electronics. Computers and the birth of the internet. Nuclear power. Television. Antibiotics. Space travel. Civil rights.

There is more. Feminism. Teenagers. The Green Revolution in agriculture. Decolonisation. Popular music. Mass aviation. The birth of the gay rights movement. Cheap, reliable and safe automobiles. High-speed trains. We put a man on the Moon, sent a probe to Mars, beat smallpox and discovered the double-spiral key of life. The Golden Quarter was a unique period of less than a single human generation, a time when innovation appeared to be running on a mix of dragster fuel and dilithium crystals.

Today, progress is defined almost entirely by consumer-driven, often banal improvements in information technology. The US economist Tyler Cowen, in his essay The Great Stagnation (2011), argues that, in the US at least, a technological plateau has been reached. Sure, our phones are great, but that’s not the same as being able to fly across the Atlantic in eight hours or eliminating smallpox. As the US technologist Peter Thiel once put it: ‘We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters.’

Economists describe this extraordinary period in terms of increases in wealth. After the Second World War came a quarter-century boom; GDP-per-head in the US and Europe rocketed. New industrial powerhouses arose from the ashes of Japan. Germany experienced its Wirtschaftswunder. Even the Communist world got richer. This growth has been attributed to massive postwar government stimulus plus a happy nexus of low fuel prices, population growth and high Cold War military spending.

But alongside this was that extraordinary burst of human ingenuity and societal change. This is commented upon less often, perhaps because it is so obvious, or maybe it is seen as a simple consequence of the economics. We saw the biggest advances in science and technology: if you were a biologist, physicist or materials scientist, there was no better time to be working. But we also saw a shift in social attitudes every bit as profound. In even the most enlightened societies before 1945, attitudes to race, sexuality and women’s rights were what we would now consider antediluvian. By 1971, those old prejudices were on the back foot. Simply put, the world had changed."



"Lack of money, then, is not the reason that innovation has stalled. What we do with our money might be, however. Capitalism was once the great engine of progress. It was capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries that built roads and railways, steam engines and telegraphs (another golden era). Capital drove the industrial revolution.

Now, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. A report by Credit Suisse this October found that the richest 1 per cent of humans own half the world’s assets. That has consequences. Firstly, there is a lot more for the hyper-rich to spend their money on today than there was in the golden age of philanthropy in the 19th century. The superyachts, fast cars, private jets and other gewgaws of Planet Rich simply did not exist when people such as Andrew Carnegie walked the earth and, though they are no doubt nice to have, these fripperies don’t much advance the frontiers of knowledge. Furthermore, as the French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in Capital (2014), money now begets money more than at any time in recent history. When wealth accumulates so spectacularly by doing nothing, there is less impetus to invest in genuine innovation."



"But there is more to it than inequality and the failure of capital.

During the Golden Quarter, we saw a boom in public spending on research and innovation. The taxpayers of Europe, the US and elsewhere replaced the great 19th‑century venture capitalists. And so we find that nearly all the advances of this period came either from tax-funded universities or from popular movements. The first electronic computers came not from the labs of IBM but from the universities of Manchester and Pennsylvania. (Even the 19th-century analytical engine of Charles Babbage was directly funded by the British government.) The early internet came out of the University of California, not Bell or Xerox. Later on, the world wide web arose not from Apple or Microsoft but from CERN, a wholly public institution. In short, the great advances in medicine, materials, aviation and spaceflight were nearly all pump-primed by public investment. But since the 1970s, an assumption has been made that the private sector is the best place to innovate."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/105225967233/the-future-of-ambition

"I’m not sure this essay by Michael Hanlon on the lack of technical and scientific progress over the past 40 years adds much to other recent speculations on the same theme: Tyler Cowen’s book The Great Stagnation, talks by Neal Stephenson on our lack of visionary imagination, and so on.

But it’s an indication at least of a growing awareness that, despite the determined efforts of the advertising world to suggest that everything is getting better all the time, our society is stuck in something of a technological rut, especially with regard to travel and, more important, medical care. Flying is a more frustrating experience than it has ever been and is only getting worse; only Google and Elon Musk are even trying to innovate in automobiling; and, as Hanlon points out, a person getting cancer today will receive treatment not fundamentally different than he or she would have received in 1970, and doesn’t stand a much greater chance of beating the disease.

So why aren’t we doing better? Hanlon offers a few fairly vague suggestions, as does Cowen, but this is an inquiry in its early stages. Let me just offer my two cents — precisely two.

Cent number one: Litigiousness. Every technological development in every field, but especially in health care, is hamstrung by the need to perform due diligence, and then beyond-due diligence, and then absurdly-over-the-top diligence, before putting a product on the market lest the developing company be sued by someone unhappy with their results. How many times have you read about some exciting new cancer treatment — and then never hear about it again, as it disappears into the endless Purgatory of tiny clinical trials that dying people beg (usually unsuccessfully) to be allowed to participate in?

Cent number two: Self-soothing by Device. I suspect that few will think that addition to distractive devices could even possibly be related to a cultural lack of ambition, but I genuinely think it’s significant. Truly difficult scientific and technological challenges are almost always surmounted by obsessive people — people who are grabbed by a question that won’t let them go. Such an experience is not comfortable, not pleasant; but it is essential to the perseverance without which no Big Question is ever answered. To judge by the autobiographical accounts of scientific and technological geniuses, there is a real sense in which those Questions force themselves on the people who stand a chance of answering them. But if it is always trivially easy to set the question aside — thanks to a device that you carry with you everywhere you go — can the Question make itself sufficiently present to you that answering is becomes something essential to your well-being? I doubt it." ]
science  technology  progress  michaelhanlon  tylercowen  attention  distraction  litigiousness  law  legal  funding  economics  capitalism  research  society  channge  inequality  innovation  riskaversion  risktaking  risk  medicine  healthcare 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Shoshanna Zuboff: Dark Google
"We witness the rise of a new absolute power. Google transfers its radical politics from cyberspace to reality. It will earn its money by knowing, manipulating, controlling the reality and cutting it into the tiniest pieces."



"If there is a single word to describe Google, it is „absolute.” The Britannica defines absolutism as a system in which „the ruling power is not subject to regularized challenge or check by any other agency.” In ordinary affairs, absolutism is a moral attitude in which values and principles are regarded as unchallengeable and universal. There is no relativism, context-dependence, or openness to change.

Six years ago I asked Eric Schmidt what corporate innovations Google was putting in place to ensure that its interests were aligned with its end users. Would it betray their trust? Back then his answer stunned me. He and Google’s founders control the super-voting class B stock. This allows them, he explained, to make decisions without regard to short-term pressure from Wall Street. Of course, it also insulates them from every other kind of influence. There was no wrestling with the creation of an inclusive, trustworthy, and transparent governance system. There was no struggle to institutionalize scrutiny and feedback. Instead Schmidt’s answer was the quintessence of absolutism: „trust me; I know best.” At that moment I knew I was in the presence of something new and dangerous whose effects reached beyond narrow economic contests and into the heart of everyday life."
ethics  google  surveillance  soshanazuboff  2014  business  politics  data  evil  bigdata  power  control  innovation  absolutism  ericschmidt  finance  capitalism  nsa  colonization  self-determination  reality  raykurzweil  europe 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Laboratorio Para La Ciudad
[via: http://thelongandshort.org/issues/season-two/techs-mex-a-labo-for-mexico-city.html ]

"El Laboratorio para la Ciudad es la nueva área experimental del Gobierno del Distrito Federal. El Laboratorio es un espacio de especulación y ensayo, donde lanzamos provocaciones que plantean nuevas formas de acercarse a temas relevantes para la ciudad, incubamos proyectos piloto y promovemos encuentros multidisciplinarios en torno a la innovación cívica y la creatividad urbana. El Laboratorio crea diálogos y complicidades entre gobierno, sociedad civil, iniciativa privada y organizaciones no gubernamentales con el propósito de reinventar, en conjunto, algunos territorios de ciudad y gobierno.

El Laboratorio reúne a personas de diferentes disciplinas y continuamente colabora con expertos nacionales e internacionales. Promueve de forma estratégica el capital creativo y el talento ciudadano de la Ciudad de México, vinculándolo con otras mentes e iniciativas brillantes en otras partes del mundo. En pocas palabras, el Laboratorio es un lugar híbrido y fluctuante, un vehículo experimental para materializar ideas y reimaginar, en conjunto, la ciudad (im)posible."

"El laboratorio para la ciudad es la nueva área
experimental del gobierno del distrito federal"
mexico  cities  urban  urbanism  mexicodf  mexicocity  lcproject  openstudioproject  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  innovation  society  government  df 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Joi Ito's 9 Principles of the Media Lab on Vimeo
"In a brief address delivered at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, Media Lab director Joi Ito proposed the "9 Principles" that will guide the Media Lab's work under his leadership… some in pointed contrast to those of the Lab's founder, Nicholas Negroponte.

Ito's principles are:

1. Disobedience over compliance
2. Pull over push
3. Compasses over maps
4. Emergence over authority
5. Learning over education
6. Resilience over strength
7. Systems over objects
8. Risk over safety
9. Practice over theory"
joiito  mitmedialab  disobedience  compliance  authority  emergence  learning  education  resilience  systemsthinking  systems  2014  practice  process  risk  risktaking  safety  leadership  administration  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  knightfoundation  money  academia  internet  culture  business  mbas  innovation  permission  startups  power  funding  journalism  hardware  highered  highereducation  agile  citizenjournalism  nicholasnegroponte  citizenscience  medialab 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why Experts Reject Creativity - The Atlantic
"The physicist Max Planck put it best: "Science advances one funeral at a time.”

One place to watch the funeral march of science is America's peer-review process for academic research, which allocates $40 billion each year to new ideas in medicine, engineering, and technology. Every year, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation review nearly 100,000 applications for funding. The vast majority—up to 90 percent in some years—are rejected. For many breakthrough ideas, this selection process is the difference between life and death, financial backing and financial bankruptcy.

What sort of proposals do NIH evaluators approve? It’s a critical question for scientists. And the answer is nobody knows. Submissions receive such widely varying treatment that the relationship between evaluators' decisions is “perilously close to rates found for Rorschach inkblot tests,” according to a 2012 review.

A new ingenious paper raises a dangerous question: Are expert evaluators subtly biased against new ideas?

Researchers Kevin J. Boudreau, Eva Guinan, Karim R. Lakhani, and Christoph Riedl recruited 142 world-class researchers from a leading medical school and randomly assigned them to evaluate several proposals. Sometimes, faculty were experts in the subject of the submissions they read. Often, they were experts in other fields. But in all cases, the experiment was triple-blind: Evaluators did not know submitters, submitters did not know evaluators, and evaluators did not talk to each other.

The researchers found that new ideas—those that remixed information in surprising ways—got worse scores from everyone, but they were particularly punished by experts. "Everyone dislikes novelty,” Lakhami explained to me, but “experts tend to be over-critical of proposals in their own domain." Knowledge doesn’t just turn us into critical thinkers. It maybe turns us into over-critical thinkers. (In the real world, everybody has encountered a variety of this: A real or self-proclaimed expert who's impatient with new ideas, because they challenge his ego, piercing the armor of his expertise.)

Experts might be particularly biased against new ideas*, but most people aren't too fond of creativity either. In fact, they can be downright hostile.

A 1999 study found that teachers who claim to enjoy creative children don't actually enjoy any of the characteristics associated with creativity, such as non-conformity. A famous 2010 study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that ordinary people often dismiss new ideas, because their uncertainty makes us think, and thinking too hard makes us feel uncomfortable. "People often reject creative ideas even when espousing creativity as a desired goal," the researchers wrote. People are subtly prejudiced against novelty, even when they claim to be open to new ways of thinking.

* * *

How should creative people fight this widespread prejudice against creativity? Perhaps by disguising their new ideas as old ideas. If people are attracted to the familiar, it’s crucial for creative people to frame their ideas in ways that seem recognizable, predictable, and safe.

We're not prejudiced against all creativity, Karim Lakhani told me. In fact, his team studying academic submissions found that slightly novel medical proposals got the highest ratings. The graph below shows evaluation scores on the Y-axis plotted against the measured novelty of each submission. The overall trajectory is downward. Newer ideas generally got worse ratings. But you'll notice that something important is happening at the left end of the curve ...

[image]

... the line goes up. Indeed, that small bump at the beginning suggests there is an "optimal newness" for ideas that lives somewhere between the fresh and the familiar, Lakhami said.

In Hollywood, the "high-concept pitch" offers a useful example. Film producers, like NIH scientists, have to evaluate hundreds of ideas a year, but can only accept a tiny percentage. To grab their attention, writers often frame original ideas as a fresh combination of existing ideas. "It’s Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds!” Or “It’s Transformers on the ocean!" In Silicon Valley, where venture capitalists also shift through a surfeit of proposals, the culture of the high-concept pitch is vibrant (Airbnb was once eBay for homes; Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar were all once considered Airbnb for cars; now, people want Uber for everything).

Creative people often bristle at the suggestion that they have to stoop to marketing their ideas. It's more pleasant to think that one's brilliance is self-evident and doesn't require the gloss of sales or the theater of marketing. But whether you're an academic, screenwriter, or entrepreneur, the difference between a brilliant new idea with bad marketing a mediocre idea with excellent marketing can be the difference between success and bankruptcy.

American culture worships creativity, but mostly in the abstract. Most people really don't like new ideas that sound entirely new, particularly the experts that often have to approve them. The trick is learning to frame new ideas as old ideas—to make your creativity seem, well, not quite so creative."
creativity  expertise  experts  framing  communication  novelty  2014  bias  innovation  derekthompson  newideas  ideas  acadmemia  science  research  marketing 
october 2014 by robertogreco
American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn't Exist | WIRED
[So much to say about this and the nature of the comment thread (as I mentioned on Twitter).]

"Are Americans getting dumber?

Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.

Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist.

To become a chef, a lawyer, a philosopher or an engineer, has always been a matter of learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and some set of general facts that more or less describe our societies and our selves. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, equipped with a fair understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and will be for a long time.

We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.

This approach does not map very well to personal and professional success in America today. Learning and doing have become inseparable in the face of conditions that invite us to discover.

Over the next twenty years the earth is predicted to add another two billion people. Having nearly exhausted nature’s ability to feed the planet, we now need to discover a new food system. The global climate will continue to change. To save our coastlines, and maintain acceptable living conditions for more than a billion people, we need to discover new science, engineering, design, and architectural methods, and pioneer economic models that sustain their implementation and maintenance. Microbiological threats will increase as our traditional techniques of anti-microbial defense lead to greater and greater resistances, and to thwart these we must discover new approaches to medical treatment, which we can afford, and implement in ways that incite compliance and good health. The many rich and varied human cultures of the earth will continue to mix, more rapidly than they ever have, through mass population movements and unprecedented information exchange, and to preserve social harmony we need to discover new cultural referents, practices, and environments of cultural exchange. In such conditions the futures of law, medicine, philosophy, engineering, and agriculture – with just about every other field – are to be rediscovered.

Americans need to learn how to discover.

Being dumb in the existing educational system is bad enough. Failing to create a new way of learning adapted to contemporary circumstances might be a national disaster. The good news is, some people are working on it.

Against this arresting background, an exciting new kind of learning is taking place in America. Alternatively framed as maker classes, after-school innovation programs, and innovation prizes, these programs are frequently not framed as learning at all. Discovery environments are showing up as culture and entertainment, from online experiences to contemporary art installations and new kinds of culture labs. Perhaps inevitably, the process of discovery — from our confrontation with challenging ambiguous data, through our imaginative responses, to our iterative and error-prone paths of data synthesis and resolution — has turned into a focus of public fascination.

Discovery has always provoked interest, but how one discovers may today interest us even more. Educators, artists, designers, museum curators, scientists, engineers, entertainment designers and others are creatively responding to this new reality, and, together, they are redefining what it means to learn in America.

At Harvard University, where I teach, Peter Galison, in History of Science, asks his students make films, to understand science; Michael Chu, in business, brings students to low income regions to learn about social entrepreneurship; Michael Brenner, in Engineering and Applied Science, invites master chefs to help students discover the science of cooking; and Doris Sommer, in Romance Languages, teaches aesthetics by inviting students to effect social and political change through cultural agency. Similarly, in the course I teach, How to Create Things and Have Them Matter, students are asked to look, listen, and discover, using their own creative genius, while observing contemporary phenomena that matter today.

Because that’s what discoverers do.

Learning by an original and personal process of discovery is a trend on many US university campuses, like Stanford University, MIT, and Arizona State University. It also shows up in middle school, high school and after school programs, as in the programs supported by the ArtScience Prize, a more curricular intensive version of the plethora of innovation prizes that have sprung up in the last years around the world. Students and participants in these kinds of programs learn something even more valuable than discovering a fact for themselves, a common goal of “learning discovery” programs; they learn the thrill of discovering the undiscovered. Success brings not just a good grade, or the financial reward of a prize. It brings the satisfaction that one can realize dreams, and thrive, in a world framed by major dramatic questions. And this fans the kind of passion that propels an innovator along a long creative career.

Discovery, as intriguing process, has become a powerful theme in contemporary culture and entertainment. In art and design galleries, and many museums, artists and designers, like Olafur Eliasson, Mark Dion, Martin Wattenberg, Neri Oxman and Mathieu Lehanneur, invite the public to explore contemporary complexities, as in artist Mark Dion’s recent collaborative work with the Alaskan SeaLife Center and Anchorage Museum on plastic fragments in the Pacific Ocean. Often they make visitors discovery participants, as in Martin Wattenberg’sApartment, where people enter words that turn into architectural forms, or sorts of memory palaces. In a more popular way, television discovery and reality programs, from Yukon Men to America’s Got Talent, present protagonists who face challenges, encounter failure, and succeed, iteratively and often partially, while online the offer is even more pervasive, with games of discovery and adventure immersing young people in the process of competing against natural and internal constraints.

All this has led to the rise of the culture lab.

Culture labs conduct or invite experiments in art and design to explore contemporary questions that seem hard or even impossible to address in more conventional science and engineering labs. Their history, as public learning forum, dates from the summer of 2007, when the Wellcome Collection opened in King’s Cross London, to invite the incurably curious to probe contemporary questions of body and mind through contemporary art and collected object installations. A few months later, in the fall 2007, Le Laboratoire opened in Paris, France, to explore frontiers of science through experimental projects in contemporary art and design, and translate experimental ideas from educational, through cultural, to social practice. And in the winter 2008 Science Gallery opened in downtown Dublin to bring contemporary science experimentation to the general public (and students of Imperial College) with installations in contemporary art and design. Other culture labs have opened since then, in Amsterdam, Kosovo, Madrid and other European, American, Asian, African and Latin American cities. In the USA, culture labs especially thrive on campuses, like MIT’s famous Media Lab, Harvard’s iLab, and the unique metaLAB, run by Jeffrey Schnapp within Harvard’s Berkman Center. These will now be joined by a public culture lab, Le Laboratoire Cambridge, which opens later this month near MIT and Harvard, bringing to America the European model with a program of public art and design exhibitions, innovation seminars, and future-of-food sensorial experiences.

The culture lab is the latest indication that learning is changing in America. It cannot happen too fast.

We may not be getting dumber in America. But we need to get smarter in ways that match the challenges we now face. The time is now to support the role of learning in the pursuit of discovery and to embrace the powerful agency of culture."
education  us  culturelabs  openstudioproject  2014  davidedwards  howwelearn  highered  highereducation  culture  society  howweteach  lcproject  science  art  design  problemsolving  lelaboratoire  innovation  petergalison  michaelchu  michaelbrenner  artscienceprize  discovery  olafureliasson  markdion  martinwattenberg  nerioxman  mathieulehannaeur  participatory  inquiry 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: death to innovation
"Agencies and marketing departments are still banging on about innovation. Sony are probably demanding innovative and compelling digital communications solutions from their staff, partners and agencies.

They should stop all that and fix their broken website.

I know it's hard, I know they have many products and regional overlaps and national feifdoms and complicated CMSs and whatnot. They'll need to reorganise and reskill and reprioritise. They could call that innovation if they want, but it's not, it's competence. It's the basics."
thebasics  innovation  via:frances  gds  sparkfile  hcgov  2013  russelldavies  uk.gov  communications  via:sha 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Children Who Never Play | Michael J. Lewis | First Things
"Students in my history of architecture course are amused to discover that the final exam offers a choice of questions. Some are bone dry (“discuss the development of the monumental staircase from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, citing examples”) and others deliberately open-ended (“General Meade overslept at Gettysburg and the South has won the Civil War; you are commissioner for the new national capital and must tell us which architects you will choose and what instructions you will give them.”) In offering this whimsical range of options, I do nothing original; my own professors at Haverford College did much the same in their day.

But a peculiar thing has happened. When I began teaching twenty-five years ago, almost all students would answer the imaginative question but year in, year out, their numbers dwindled, until almost all now take the dry and dutiful one. Baffled, I tried varying the questions but still the pattern held: Given the choice, each successive cohort preferred to recite tangible facts rather than to arrange them in a speculative and potentially risky structure. In other respects, today’s students are stronger than their predecessors; they are conspicuously more socialized, more personally obliging, and considerably more self-disciplined. To teach them is a joy, but they will risk nothing, not even for one facetious question on a minor exam.

I am hardly the only one to notice the risk-avoidance. William Deresiewicz gave a harrowing account of the problem in a widely noted New Republic essay with the incendiary title “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League.”
So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error.
Deresiewicz’s analysis begins with the college admissions process itself but says little about the habits and behavior patterns that these students acquired on the way to college, in early childhood. For some reason, my students were viewing playful questions as inherently risky, as if by collective instinct. Was it possible that they never learned to play in the first place?


Now if one goes by the strict dictionary definition of play as “to occupy oneself in amusement,” these young men and women have played a great deal indeed. But while thirty minutes in front of television or atop the elliptical trainer may be recreation or entertainment, it is not play. Certainly not that special kind of play that is the gleeful anarchy of children left to their own devices. This summer a woman was arrested in South Carolina on the charge of letting her nine-year-old daughter play unsupervised, something incomprehensible to those born in the 1950s or 1960s. For us, unsupervised play constituted the entirety of our childhood. Launched from the house and banished till mealtime, we roamed our allotted territory, from this house to that driveway, and not a step farther (fifty years later the electric charge of those invisible barriers still tingles). Each year the boundaries would expand, but even in the nutshell of six front yards, the child was a king of infinite space, with room aplenty for tag, hide and go seek, or relieveo.

In the last generation this sort of free and unsupervised play lost ground, along with those institutions that sustained it: platoon-sized families, stay-at-home moms, and multiple “eyes on the street.” Its place has been taken by the play date, negotiated in advance with the kind of deliberation required by the marriage of a Hapsburg and a Tudor. No longer the posse of shrieking kids, hurtling around the block, but instead the purposefully organized activities of contemporary childhood: tee-ball and soccer camp, swim class and 5k runs—the interstices filled with the distractions of the DVD and Nintendo 3DS.

For children who know only supervised play, there is no conflict that is not resolved by an adult. One never learns to negotiate and resolve conflicts with one’s peers. This was not always an amiable or tear-free process; playground justice was just as harsh and swift as medieval justice. But it was justice, and even that most brutal aspect of playground life in the 1960s, the afterschool fistfight, was regulated by the standing circle of classmates who yelled out encouragement or insults, and who stopped the proceedings when it went too far. In all of this was a restless testing of the limits of freedom, with little feints and modest rebellions. These often ended unhappily, especially when the offending instrument was a stick, stone, or pack of matches, but here were those first lessons in overstepping the bounds that seem essential for the development of an individual conscience.

More and more, parents feel obliged to steer their children toward those activities that might have a future payoff, already thinking ahead to that harrowing ivy league gauntlet that Deresiewicz describes. Such is the instrumental view, play as a means to an end and not an end in itself. But as any cultivator of plants knows, to promote one trait can cause others inadvertently to atrophy. One thinks of the modern tomato, indestructible yet flavorless, or the modern rose, exquisite and almost completely devoid of scent. And the process of producing the well-socialized, well-tempered contemporary child has inadvertently blunted some of those qualities that can only be acquired, as it were, when no one is looking. Chief of these is initiative—the capacity to size up a situation and take quick decisive action. Only those children who play under minimal supervision—“free range kids” in the happy phrase of Lenore Skenazy—get the chance to develop this sense of dash or pluck. They do this in the process of deciding what to play, establishing the rules, choosing sides, and resolving the inevitable dispute. In short, by acting as miniature citizens with autonomy rather than as passive subjects to be directed.

There is an extraordinary scene in Abel Gance’s 1927 silent classic Napoléon, which shows the future emperor as a ten-year-old schoolboy. Persecuted by older boys, Napoléon organizes an epic snowball fight and leads his small group to victory over a much larger party. In all of cinema there is no more spirited depiction of childhood play, and the moment of joyous discovery of skills and capabilities—in this case independent leadership—that will form the indispensable toolkit of the adult to follow."
2014  via:ayjay  michaeljlewis  williamderesiewicz  autonomy  creativity  play  imagination  conformity  unstructured  lenoreskenazy  risk  risktaking  innovation  behavior  freedom  childhood  parenting  education  schools  schooliness  schooling  highered  highereducation 
september 2014 by robertogreco
My letter of application to the Harvard Kennedy School's Senior Professorship of Social Innovation
"Dear Sir or Madam, But Most Likely Sir:

I am writing to apply for your advertised position in Social Innovation. As a Comparative Literature Ph.D, I am proficient in the fabrication of closed tautological circles of non-meaning; this makes me the ideal candidate for a job seeking “innovative teachers…for the position of lecturer in innovation.”

On the other hand, as an Assistant Professor of English, I know only too well the dangers of failing to innovate. For example, I am often forced to talk to human students who are sitting in bounded classrooms often wired for multimedia applications I am unable or simply unwilling to use. Paper books are an obsolete technology barely worthy of the word, and poetry, despite its promising shortness, takes far too long to understand. These hardships have granted me an acute understanding of the innovation deficit your department so bravely seeks to overcome.

In spite of English Literature’s disciplinary hostility to “innovation,” change agency, and both entre- and intra-preneurship, my training as a literature scholar would offer immediate benefits to your department’s offerings in Social Innovation. For example, I would be pleased to proofread your job advertisements, in order to innovate their presently sub-optimal levels of intelligibility.

The professorship is open to both distinguished practitioners, especially those with a deep understanding of social entrepreneurship, and to tenure-level scholars in fields related to social innovation, including social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs and, more broadly, social change makers.

“Social entrepreneurs” are not a field, as the sentence’s syntax suggests, and that final clause could be made nimbler by using the adjective “social” only once, as here: “social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and change makers.” In addition, it’s not clear that “change makers” constitutes a broader category than “entrepreneurs,” yet neither is it obviously more specific. Given my exposure to creative industries like literature, I would be excited to invent more terminology to make this list of synonyms for “businessman” even longer.

But innovating new ways of saying “entrepreneur” isn’t the only thought-leadership I would exercise within the field of Innovation Studies. As thinkfluencers have argued persuasively, disruption must occur not only within fields and businesses but institutions and organizations. My first intrapreneurial initiative, therefore, would be to fatally disrupt your (hopefully soon to be our) department. Moving our courses entirely online and replacing department faculty other than myself with low-wage adjuncts armed with xeroxes of J.S. Schumpeter quotations would improve efficiency, reach even more students, and ultimately make a bigger difference.

To paraphrase a great disruptor: We must destroy the Professorship of Social Innovation in order to save it. I am available for immediate Skype interviews.

Sincerely,

John Patrick Leary"
2014  via:javierarbona  johnpatrickleary  language  business  education  highered  malarkey  highereducation  bullshitjobs  intrapreneurs  entrepreneurs  changeagency  thoughtleaders  leadership  thinkfluencers  disruption  endoftimes  socialentrepreneurship  entrepreneurialism  jsschumpter  innovation  canon  changemaking  changemakers 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Fiction of the Science on Vimeo
"In his work at the Google Creative Lab, Robert Wong never imagined he would be influencing the future of scientific development—and yet he does just that, breaking down the boundary between art and science by creating stories that inspire engineers and the technology they build. He says that this kind of collaboration between art and science, between story and fabrication, is essential for scientific and creative innovation."

[See also "Project Glass: One day...": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4 ]

[Same video as bookmark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvgdKfWnYCg ]

[Via: http://www.fastcocreate.com/3017297/how-fiction-influences-science-according-to-google-creative-labs-robert-wong ]
speculativefiction  designfiction  fiction  writing  design  storytelling  robertwong  google  googlecreativelab  googleglass  technology  creativity  filmmaking  fabrication  innovation  art  science  twocultures  2013  srg 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Why Talking About The Future of Museums May Be Holding Museums Back | Know Your Own Bone
"Many resources focusing on “the future” are actually communicating about emerging trends that are happening right now…and when we call them “the future” we do our organizations a grave disservice.

Here’s why:

1. Things that are characterized as the future within the museum industry generally are not about the future at all

Check this out: Embracing millennials, mastering community management on social media, opening authority, heightening engagement with onsite technologies, breaking down ivory towers with shifts from prescription to participation, engaging more diverse audiences, utilizing mobile platforms, understanding the role of “digital,” breaking down organizational silos…These are things that we frequently discuss as if they are part of the future. But they aren’t. In fact, if your organization hasn’t already had deep discussions about these issues and begun evolving and deploying new strategies at this point, then you may arguably be too late in responding to forces challenging our sector today.

2. Calling it the future excuses putting off issues which are actually immediate needs for organizational survival

What if we called these things “The Right Now?” Would it be easier to get leadership to allocate resources to social media endeavors or deploy creative ways to grow stakeholder affinity by highlighting participation and personalization? Are we excusing the poor transition from planning to action by deferring most investments to “The Future?”

Basically, we’ve created a beat-around-the-bush way of talking about hard things that separates successful and unsuccessful organizations. For many less successful organizations struggling to find their footing in our rapidly evolving times, their go-to euphemistic solution for “immediate and difficult” seems to be “worth thinking about in the future.” When we call it “the future,” we excuse ourselves from thinking about these issues right now (which is exactly when we should be considering if not fully deploying them).

Contrast this deferment strategy with those of more successful organizations who invariably and reliably “beat the market to the spot.” It isn’t pure chance and serendipity that underpins successful engagement strategies – these are the product of ample foresight, planning, investment and action…all of it done many yesterdays ago!

3. The future implies uncertainty but trend data is not uncertain

Moreover, common wisdom supports that “the future” is uncertain. “We cannot tell the future.” Admittedly, some sources that aim to talk about the future truly attempt to open folks’ brains to a distant time period. However, much of what is shared by those we call “futurists” is not necessarily uncertain. In fact (and especially when it comes to trends in data), we’re not guessing. I’ve sat in on a few meetings within organizations in which trends and actual data are taken and then presented as “the future” or within the conversation of “things to discuss in the future.” Wait. What?

Certainly, new opportunities evolve and trends may ebb with shifting market sentiments…but why would an organization choose uncertainty over something that is known right now?

4. We may not be paying enough attention to right now

I don’t think that referring to “right now trends” as “the future” would be as potentially damaging to organizations if we spent enough time being more strategic and thoughtful about “right now trends” in general. Many organizations seem to be always playing catch-up with the present. If organizations are struggling to keep up with the present, how will they ever be adequately prepared for the future?

5. Talking about the future sometimes provides a false sense of innovation that may simply be vanity

To be certain, we all need “wins” – especially in nonprofit organizations where burnout is frequent and market perceptions are quickly changing. The need for evolution is constant and the want for a moment’s rest may be justified. That said, it seems as though talking about “the future” (which, as we’ve covered, is actually upon us) is often simply providing the opportunity for organizations to pat themselves on the back for “considering” movement instead of actually moving. To have the perceived luxury of being able to think about the future may give some leaders a false sense of security that they aren’t, in fact, constantly trying to keep up with the present.

Talking about “the future” seems to mean that you are talking about something that is – yes – perhaps cutting edge, but also uncertain, not urgent, not immediate, and somehow a type of creative brainstorming endeavor. While certainly brainstorming about the actual future may be beneficial (there are some great minds in the museum industry that do this!), it may be wise for organizations to realize that most of what we call “the future” is a too-nice way of reminding organizations that the world is turning as we speak and you may already be a laggard organization.

Think about your favorite museum or nonprofit thinker. My guess is that you consider that person to be a kind of futurist, but really, you may find that they are interesting to you because they are actually a “right-now-ist.” They provide ideas, thoughts, and innovative solutions about challenges that are currently facing your organization."
museums  innovation  future  futurism  now  programs  excuses  vanity  change  procrastination  certainty  uncertainty  2014  strategy  talk  leadership  administration  socialmedia  communitymanagement  authority  millennials  engagement  technology  edtech  mobile  digital  organizations  nonprofit  personalization  obsolescence  colleendilen  nonprofits 
august 2014 by robertogreco
A Classroom Leaves the Syllabus to the Students - NYTimes.com
"“We got a group together and said what we wanted to do, and the administration just said, ‘O.K., ask for any equipment or advice you need,’ ” said Colleen Perry, who is studying bioengineering. “We’ve definitely made mistakes, but it’s probably the first time in our lives that we’re not getting a grade and we don’t have anyone telling us what to do.”"



"A summer program with no course credit, no set curriculum to cover, no competing class schedule and no penalty for failure frees students to experiment, said Alan J. Snyder, a vice president and associate provost at Lehigh. Eventually, the university plans to offer the program year-round, with many more students involved.

“The lines between the classroom and the lab, the workshop, need to blur,” he said. “Especially in an era where the textbook is old before the ink is dry, students need to be independent thinkers, discoverers.”

A growing number of universities want to provide students with adaptable spaces for innovation, particularly for graduate students in applied sciences whose ideas might turn into businesses — such so-called incubator spaces are an integral part of Cornell’s plan for a new graduate school in New York City. Few schools have the extra room, but Lehigh does, in a former Bethlehem Steel complex on a hilltop just south of campus, which the university bought and has renovated over many years.

One building acquired last year, with open floors and high ceilings like an aircraft hangar, has become home to the mountaintop program.

Some of the projects here are based in the humanities, social science or business, but the largest number involve engineering and computing — on subjects such as robotics, composting, innovative playground structures, security for cloud computing, ventilation for cooking huts, water purification and a “smart house” controlled from the owner’s phone.

The teams have a small budget for supplies and travel, and each student receives a stipend — $450 a week for undergrads, $600 for graduate students — to make up for not having a summer job."
t  lecsnmy  openstudioproject  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  curriculum  freedom  innovation  grades  grading  howwelearn  cv  lehighuniversity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
New Statesman | Jon Cruddas's speech on radical hope: full text
"Now, I’ll begin with a story. One that dominates the philosopher Jonathan Lear’s brilliant book, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. It is about the Crow Indians. A story about what happens when the economy of a society is destroyed and a people’s way of life comes to an end. It was told by their great chief Plenty Coups, shortly before he died. He said, ‘When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not be lifted up again. After this nothing happened’.

What did he mean? That the culture that gave their life meaning and purpose died. The whole fabric of their beliefs and standards was destroyed and this loss was irreparable. What would come next? The Crow people actually survived despite this loss because their leadership re-imagined a future; it created a ‘radical hope’. It was radical because it was a future without guarantees but most important it was without despair.

In a period of rapid social and economic change it raises key questions about how we draw on a community’s memory and traditions to define the future. The book throws up many challenges for all today’s political parties.

For example, the Labour Party is the product of industrial society.

A party built on mass production over one hundred years ago:
a large stable workforce,
large productive units,
mass consumption,
and a class society.

Yet we are now in the middle of a de-industrial revolution fragmenting the communities it once sustained. A post-industrial economy is taking shape around our advanced manufacturing and the new information and communications technologies. The shift to a services economy is flattening out old, hierarchical command and control structures.
Digital technology is unseating whole industries and workforces, and production is becoming more networked and disorganised. Our class system is being reconstructed.
The disruption of technological change is greater than at any times since the industrial revolution. The institutions and solidarities workers created to defend themselves against the power of capital have disappeared or become outdated and ineffective. As such, social democracy has lost its social anchorage in the coalitions built up around the skilled working class. Once great ruling parties can appear hollowed out; in danger of shrinking into a professionalized political class.

Often in government they were not very social, nor very democratic. Top down and state driven. Compensating for the system not reforming it. A politics about structures and not about individuals. This model of social democracy built in the industrial era has come to the end of its useful life. These forces also challenge the Tories and their traditional Conservative values."



“Despite this failure of the old order, we are also living in a time of tremendous opportunity.”

“We became institutional conservatives defending the outdated.”

“We will not build the new economy with the old politics of command and control.”

“We have to tackle concentrations of power, and make sure people have the skills and the abilities to take advantage of the internet.”



"Just as in the age of steam and the age of the railways, our new digital age is radically changing society. But while rail transformed society it also created opportunities for the robber barons to monopolise and control it for their own good. We have to tackle concentrations of power, and make sure people have the skills and the abilities to take advantage of the internet. In the vanguards of the new economy there is a new productive force which is the ‘life of the mind’. There are new kinds of raw materials - the intangible assets of information, sounds, words, images, ideas – and they are produced in creative, emotional and intellectuallabour. New models of production are using consumers and their relationships in the co-inventing of new ideas, products and cultural meaning."



“To develop these opportunities throughout the population we need an education system that cultivates the full range of individual capabilities. Our present model of education rewards conformity in pursuit of a narrow, logical and mathematical form of intelligence. It fails far too many children and it reproduces the power of the already privileged. It is wasteful of our most important economic resource which is human ingenuity. We need to give craft and vocational work the same value and status as academic work, and prioritise digital inclusion to help adults who lack digital skills make the most of the internet.”

“It fails far too many children and it reproduces the power of the already privileged.”

“It is a mutual recognition that we are all dependent upon other people throughout our lives.”    

“We need one another to succeed individually.”

“People are losing confidence in the ability of our public institutions to serve the collective interest.”

[via @justinpickard https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/484349852797911040 ]
joncruddas  hope  radicalhope  change  systemschange  capitalism  socialism  economics  politics  hierarchy  horizontality  hierarchies  jonathanlear  crowindians  history  democracy  organizations  conservatism  neoliberalism  2014  inequality  creativity  innovation  education  unschooling  unlearning  deschooling  collectivism  interdependence  individuality  internet  technology  industrialization 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The future of ed tech is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — Futures Exchange — Medium
"Using design fiction to cut through the relentless TEDTalk-like optimism of ed tech marketing"



"People talk about the future of technology in education as though it’s right around the corner, but for most of us we get to that corner and see it disappearing around the next. This innovation-obsessed cycle continues as we are endlessly dissatisfied with how little difference these promises make to the people implicated in these futures. These products and practices, cloaked in the latest buzzwords and jargon, often trickle down to non-western geographic regions after they’ve been tried and rejected, yet still adopted as the new and advanced “western” methodology that will solve the “problem” of education.

In an attempt to cut through the relentless TED Talk-like optimism of ed tech marketing, this year at the HASTAC conference in Peru we presented a series of fictional case studies. These four design fiction based personas aimed to illustrate the possible impact on society and education, in both positive and negative ways, of not just emerging technologies but also global social and economic trends. They give brief snapshots of the lives of individuals in imagined futures from different geographic, ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, illustrating how each of them might interface and interact with the different technologies."

[See also: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed
Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20150630153225/http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed ]
savasahelisingh  timmaughan  designfiction  edtech  technology  education  dystopia  marketing  optimism  pessimism  2014  williamgibson  speculativefiction  futures  future  innovation  buzzwords  hastac  casestudies 
june 2014 by robertogreco