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robertogreco : insularity   8

Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions
"IN SUM, THE West’s establishment credibility is dying, and their influence is precipitously eroding — all deservedly so. The frenetic pace of online media makes even the most recent events feel distant, like ancient history. That, in turn, makes it easy to lose sight of how many catastrophic and devastating failures Western elites have produced in a remarkably short period of time.

In 2003, U.S. and British elites joined together to advocate one of the most heinous and immoral aggressive wars in decades: the destruction of Iraq; that it turned out to be centrally based on falsehoods that were ratified by the most trusted institutions, as well as a complete policy failure even on its own terms, gutted public trust.

In 2008, their economic worldview and unrestrained corruption precipitated a global economic crisis that literally caused, and is still causing, billions of people to suffer — in response, they quickly protected the plutocrats who caused the crisis while leaving the victimized masses to cope with the generational fallout. Even now, Western elites continue to proselytize markets and impose free trade and globalization without the slightest concern for the vast inequality and destruction of economic security those policies generate."



"Because that reaction is so self-protective and self-glorifying, many U.S. media elites — including those who knew almost nothing about Brexit until 48 hours ago — instantly adopted it as their preferred narrative for explaining what happened, just as they’ve done with Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, and any number of other instances where their entitlement to rule has been disregarded. They are so persuaded of their own natural superiority that any factions who refuse to see it and submit to it prove themselves, by definition, to be regressive, stunted, and amoral."



"BUT THERE’S SOMETHING deeper and more interesting driving the media reaction here. Establishment journalistic outlets are not outsiders. They’re the opposite: They are fully integrated into elite institutions, are tools of those institutions, and thus identify fully with them. Of course they do not share, and cannot understand, anti-establishment sentiments: They are the targets of this establishment-hating revolt as much as anyone else. These journalists’ reaction to this anti-establishment backlash is a form of self-defense. As NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen put it last night, “Journalists today report on hostility to the political class, as if they had nothing to do with it,” but they are a key part of that political class and, for that reason, “if the population — or part of it — is in revolt against the political class, this is a problem for journalism.”

There are many factors explaining why establishment journalists now have almost no ability to stem the tide of anti-establishment rage, even when it’s irrational and driven by ignoble impulses. Part of it is that the internet and social media have rendered them irrelevant, unnecessary to disseminate ideas. Part of it is that — due to their distance from them — they have nothing to say to people who are suffering and angry about it other than to scorn them as hateful losers. Part of it is that journalists — like anyone else — tend to react with bitterness and rage, not self-assessment, as they lose influence and stature.

But a major factor is that many people recognize that establishment journalists are an integral part of the very institutions and corrupted elite circles that are authors of their plight. Rather than being people who mediate or inform these political conflicts, journalists are agents of the forces that are oppressing them. And when journalists react to their anger and suffering by telling them that it’s invalid and merely the byproduct of their stupidity and primitive resentments, that only reinforces the perception that journalists are their enemy, thus rendering journalistic opinion increasingly irrelevant.

Brexit — despite all of the harm it is likely to cause and despite all of the malicious politicians it will empower — could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites (and their media outlets) react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction. Exactly the same potential opportunity was created by the Iraq debacle, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of Trumpism and other anti-establishment movements: This is all compelling evidence that things have gone very wrong with those who wield the greatest power, that self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything.

But, as usual, that’s exactly what they most refuse to do. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future."
glenngreenald  economics  europe  politics  brexit  2016  vincentbevins  michaelsandel  elitism  garyyounge  ianjack  jeremycorbyn  hillaryclinton  donaltrump  neoliberalism  policy  government  eu  uk  us  establishment  inequality  greatrecession  2008  freemarket  markets  finance  refugees  iraq  libya  tonyblair  financialcrisis  disenfranchisement  alienation  corruption  journalism  media  jayrosen  class  classism  globalization  insularity  oppression  authority  berniesanders  christopherhayes  capitalism  nationalism  racism  xenophobia  condescension  michaeltracey  authoritarianism  fascism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Internet Isn't Available in Most Languages - The Atlantic
"Tweet, tuít, or giolc? These were the three iterations of a Gaelic version of the word “tweet” that Twitter’s Irish translators debated in 2012. The agonizing choice between an Anglicized spelling, a Gaelic spelling, or the use of the Gaelic word for “tweeting like a bird” stalled the project for an entire year. Finally, a small group of translators made an executive decision to use the Anglicized spelling of “tweet” with Irish grammar. As of April 2015, Gaelic Twitter is online.

Indigenous and under-resourced cultures face a number of obstacles when establishing their languages on the Internet. English, along with a few other languages like Spanish and French, dominates the web. People who speak these languages often take for granted access to social-media sites with agreed-upon vocabularies, built-in translation services, and basic grammar and spell-checkers.

For Gaelic, a minority language spoken by only two to three percent of the Irish population, it can be difficult to access these digital services. And even languages with millions of speakers can lack the resources needed to make the Internet relevant to daily life.

In September of this year, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, an organization established five years ago to monitor the growth and use of the Internet around the world, released its 2015 report on the state of broadband. The report argues that representation of the world's languages online remains one of the major challenges in expanding the Internet to reach the four billion people who don’t yet have access.

At the moment, the Internet only has webpages in about five percent of the world's languages. Even national languages like Hindi and Swahili are used on only .01 percent of the 10 million most popular websites. The majority of the world’s languages lack an online presence that is actually useful.

Ethnologue, a directory of the world’s living languages, has determined that 1,519 out of the 7,100 languages spoken today are in danger of extinction. For these threatened languages, social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which rely primarily on user-generated content, as well as other digital platforms like Google and Wikipedia, have a chance to contribute to their preservation. While the best way to keep a language alive is to speak it, using one’s native language online could help.

The computational linguistics professor Kevin Scannell devotes his time to developing the technical infrastructure—often using open-source software—that can work for multiple languages. He’s worked with more than 40 languages around the world, his efforts part of a larger struggle to promote under-resourced languages. “[The languages] are not part of the world of the Internet or computing,” he says. “We’re trying to change that mindset by providing the tools for people to use.”

One such under-resourced language is Chichewa, a Bantu language spoken by 12 million people, many of whom are in the country of Malawi. According to Edmond Kachale, a programmer who began developing a basic word processor for the language in 2005 and has been working on translating Google search into Chichewa for the last five years, his language doesn’t have sufficient content online. This makes it difficult for its speakers to compete in a digital, globalized world. “Unless a language improves its visibility in the digital world,” he says, “it is heading for extinction.”

In Malawi, over 60 percent of the population lacks Internet access; but Kachale says that “even if there would be free Internet nation-wide, chances are that [Chichewa speakers] may not use it at all because of the language barrier.” The 2015 Broadband Report bears Kachale’s point out. Using the benchmark of 100,000 Wikipedia pages in any given language, it found that only 53 percent of the world’s population has access to sufficient content in their native language to make use of the Internet relevant.

People who can’t use the Internet risk falling behind economically because they can’t take advantage of e-commerce. In Malawi, Facebook has become a key platform for Internet businesses, even though the site has not yet been translated into Chichewa. Instead, users tack-on a work-around browser plug-in, a quick-fix for languages that don’t have official translations for big social-media sites.

“Unless a language improves its visibility in the digital world, it is heading for extinction.”
In 2014, Facebook added 20 new languages to its site and launched several more this year, bringing it to more than 80 languages. The site also opens up languages for community-based translation. This option is currently available for about 50 languages, including Aymara, an indigenous language spoken mainly in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile. Though it has approximately 2 million speakers, UNESCO has designated Aymara as “vulnerable.” Beginning in May of 2014, a group of 20 volunteer translators have been chipping away at the 25,000 words used on the site—and the project is on course to be finished by Christmas.

The project is important because it will encourage young people to use their native language. “We are sure when Aymara is available on Facebook as an official language, it will be a source of motivation for Aymara people,” says Elias Quisepe Chura, who manages the translation effort (it happens primarily online, unsurprisingly via a Facebook page).

Ruben Hilari, another member of the translation team, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais, “Aymara is alive. It does not need to be revitalized. It needs to be strengthened and that is exactly what we are doing. If we do not work for our language and culture today, it will be too late tomorrow to remember who we are, and we will always feel insecure about our identity.”

Despite its reputation as the so-called information superhighway, the Internet is only legible to speakers of a few languages; this limit to the web’s accessibility proves that it can be as just as insular and discriminative as the modern world at large."
internet  languages  language  linguistics  2015  translation  insularity  web  online  gaelic  hindi  swahili  kevinscannell  via:unthinkingly  katherineschwab  edmondkachele  accessibility  enlgish  aymara  rubenhilari  eliasquisepechura  bolivia  perú  chile  indigenous  indigeneity  chichewa  bantu  google  kevinsannell  twitter  facebook  instagram  software  computation  computing  inclusivity 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The Jacob’s Ladder of coding — Medium
"Anecdotes and questions about climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction: Atari, ARM, demoscene, education, creative coding, community, seeking lightness, enlightenment & strange languages"



"With only an hour or two of computer time a week, our learning and progress was largely down to intensive trial & error, daily homework and learning to code and debug with only pencil and paper, whilst trying to be the machine yourself: Playing every step through in our heads (and on paper) over and over until we were confident, the code did as we’d expect, yet, often still failing because of wrong intuitions. Learning this analytical thinking is essential to successful debugging, even today, specifically in languages / environments where no GUI debugger is available. In the late 90s, John Maeda did similar exercises at MIT Media Lab, with students role-playing different parts of a CPU or a whole computer executing a simple process. Later at college, my own CS prof too would often quote Alan Perlis:
“To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.” — Alan Perlis

Initially we’d only be using the machine largely to just verify our ideas prepared at home (spending the majority of the time typing in/correcting numbers from paper). Through this monastic style of working, we also learned the importance of having the right tools and balance of skills within the group and were responsible to create them ourselves in order to achieve our vision. This important lesson stayed with me throughout (maybe even became) my career so far… Most projects I worked on, especially in the past 15 years, almost exclusively relied on custom-made tooling, which was as much part of the final outcome as the main deliverable to clients. Often times it even was the main deliverable. On the other hand, I’ve also had to learn the hard way that being a largely self-sufficient generalist often is undesired in the modern workplace, which frequently still encourages narrow expertise above all else…

After a few months of convincing my parents to invest all of their saved up and invaluable West-german money to purchase a piece of “Power Without the Price” (a much beloved Atari 800XL) a year before the Wall came down in Berlin, I finally gained daily access to a computer, but was still in a similar situation as before: No more hard west money left to buy a tape nor disk drive from the Intershop, I wasn’t able to save any work (apart from creating paper copies) and so the Atari was largely kept switched on until November 10, 1989, the day after the Berlin Wall was opened and I could buy an XC-12 tape recorder. I too had to choose whether to go the usual route of working with the built-in BASIC language or stick with what I’d learned/taught myself so far, Assembly… In hindsight, am glad I chose the latter, since it proved to be far more useful and transportable knowledge, even today!"



"Lesson learned: Language skills, natural and coded ones, are gateways, opening paths not just for more expression, but also to paths in life.

As is the case today, so it was back then: People tend to organize around specific technological interests, languages and platforms and then stick with them for a long time, for better or worse. Over the years I’ve been part of many such tool-based communities (chronologically: Asm, C, TurboPascal, Director, JS, Flash, Java, Processing, Clojure) and have somewhat turned into a nomad, not being able to ever find a true home in most of them. This might sound judgemental and negative, but really isn’t meant to and these travels through the land of languages and toolkits has given me much food for thought. Having slowly climbed up the ladder of abstraction and spent many years both with low & high level languages, has shown me how much each side of the spectrum can inform and learn from the other (and they really should do more so!). It’s an experience I can highly recommend to anyone attempting to better understand these machines some of us are working with for many hours a day and which impact so much of all our lives. So am extremely grateful to all the kind souls & learning encountered on the way!"



"In the vastly larger open source creative computing demographic of today, the by far biggest groups are tight-knit communities around individual frameworks and languages. There is much these platforms have achieved in terms of output, increasing overall code literacy and turning thousands of people from mere computer users into authors. This is a feat not be underestimated and a Good Thing™! Yet my issue with this siloed general state of affairs is that, apart from a few notable exceptions (especially the more recent arrivals), there’s unfortunately a) not much cross-fertilizing with fundamentally different and/or new ideas in computing going on and b) over time only incremental progress is happening, business as usual, rather than a will to continuously challenge core assumptions among these largest communities about how we talk to machines and how we can do so better. I find it truly sad that many of these popular frameworks rely only on the same old imperative programming language family, philosophy and process, which has been pre-dominant and largely unchanged for the past 30+ years, and their communities also happily avoid or actively reject alternative solutions, which might require fundamental changes to their tools, but which actually could be more suitable and/or powerful to their aims and reach. Some of these platforms have become and act as institutions in their own right and as such also tend to espouse an inward looking approach & philosophy to further cement their status (as owners or pillars?) in their field. This often includes a no-skills-neccessary, we-cater-all-problems promise to their new users, with each community re-inventing the same old wheels in their own image along the way. It’s Not-Invented-Here on a community level: A reliance on insular support ecosystems, libraries & tooling is typical, reducing overall code re-use (at least between communities sharing the same underlying language) and increasing fragmentation. More often than not these platforms equate simplicity with ease (go watch Rich Hickey taking this argument eloquently apart!). The popular prioritization of no pre-requisite knowledge, super shallow learning curves and quick results eventually becomes the main obstacle to later achieve systemic changes, not just in these tools themselves, but also for (creative) coding as discipline at large. Bloatware emerges. Please do forgive if that all sounds harsh, but I simply do believe we can do better!

Every time I talk with others about this topic, I can’t help but think about Snow Crash’s idea of “Language is a virus”. I sometimes do wonder what makes us modern humans, especially those working with computing technology, so fundamentalist and brand-loyal to these often flawed platforms we happen to use? Is it really that we believe there’s no better way? Are we really always only pressed for time? Are we mostly content with Good Enough? Are we just doing what everyone else seems to be doing? Is it status anxiety, a feeling we have to use X to make a living? Are we afraid of unlearning? Is it that learning tech/coding is (still) too hard, too much of an effort, which can only be justified a few times per lifetime? For people who have been in the game long enough and maybe made a name for themselves in their community, is it pride, sentimentality or fear of becoming a complete beginner again? Is it maybe a sign that the way we teach computing and focus on concrete tools too early in order to obtain quick, unrealistically complex results, rather than fundamental (“boring”) knowledge, which is somewhat flawed? Is it our addiction to largely focus on things we can document/celebrate every minor learning step as an achievement in public? This is no stab at educators — much of this systemic behavior is driven by the sheer explosion of (too often similar) choices, demands made by students and policy makers. But I do think we should ask ourselves these questions more often."

[author's tweet: https://twitter.com/toxi/status/676578816572067840 ]
coding  via:tealtan  2015  abstraction  demoscene  education  creativecoding  math  mathematics  howwelearn  typography  design  dennocoil  alanperlis  johnmaeda  criticalthinking  analyticalthinking  basic  programming  assembly  hexcode  georgedyson  computing  computers  atari  amiga  commodore  sinclair  identity  opensource  insularity  simplicity  ease  language  languages  community  communities  processing  flexibility  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  understanding  bottomup  topdown  karstenschmidt 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why American novelists don’t deserve the Nobel Prize - Salon.com
"An American hasn't won in 20 years. The Academy finds our writers insular and self-involved -- and they're right"

"As Bret Anthony Johnson, the director of the creative writing program at Harvard, noted in a recent Atlantic essay, our focus on the self will be our literary downfall, depriving literature of the oxygen on which it thrives: “Fiction brings with it an obligation to rise past the base level, to transcend the limitations of fact and history, and proceed skyward.” This sentiment is a sibling to Wallace’s anger — and both have a predecessor in T.S. Eliot’s 1919 essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” where he called art “a continual extinction of personality.”"
alexandernazaryan  us  literature  novelists  writing  politics  books  nobel  2011  self-involved  insularity  jonathansafranfoer  joycecaroloates  johnupdike  thomaspynchon  philiproth  cormacmccarthy  dondelillo  davidfosterwallace  daveeggers  bretanthonyjohnson  jhumpalahiri  amytan  aleksanderhemon  826  ralphellison  tonimorrison 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Go Forth And Travel - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
"For many years, I have urged young people to take a year off after high school to work and to take time off while in college to travel abroad, ideally alone for at least some of the time. Nearly everyone grows up insular. The problem is that vast numbers of people never leave the cloistered world of their childhood. This is as true for those who grow up in Manhattan as it is for those who grow up in Fargo. And as for college, there are few places as insular and cloistered as the university."

"The moment you meet people of other faiths whom you consider to be at least as decent, at least as religious, and at least as intelligent as you think you are, you will never be the same."
tunnelvision  travel  yearabroad  cv  learning  perspective  generalizations  insularity  universities  colleges  education  religion  politics  groupthink  echochambers  via:lukeneff  dennisprager  understanding  conversation  listening 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Literary Writers and Social Media: A Response to Zadie Smith - Alexis Madrigal - Technology - The Atlantic
"When professional writers, especially ones trained in the literary arts, see horrifically bad writing online, they recoil. All their training about the value of diverse (or, you know, heteroglossic) societies and the equality of classes goes flying out the window. Social media acts as a kind of truth serum, as Marshall Kirkpatrick likes to say: This is how the masses of people talk. This is how the masses of people write. Not moonlighting bloggers. Not the 20 million NPR listeners. But the other 300 million people trying to LOL their way through boring days at office jobs or in Iraq.

I think we confuse the ability to see what everyday writing looks like -- and probably has for a long time -- with a change in how people write. Toss in that the traditional (usually religious) practices and sayings around serious topics like death or childbearing have lost valence, and you get people just saying what comes to mind. It's not always pretty."
zadiesmith  alexismadrigal  writing  writers  reality  thesocialnetwork  facebook  socialmedia  theory  colloquialwriting  snobbery  insularity  everydaywriting  literature  media  immaturity  perspective 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Twitter Strangers : The Frontal Cortex
"We naturally lead manicured lives, so that our favorite blogs & writers & friends all look, think & sound a lot like us. (While waiting in line for my cappuccino...I was ready to punch myself...as I realized everyone in line was wearing exact same uniform: artfully frayed jeans...etc. & we were all staring at same gadget & probably reading same damn website...our pose of idiosyncratic uniqueness was a big charade.) While this strategy might make life a bit more comfortable - strangers can say such strange things - it also means that our cliches of free-association get reinforced. We start thinking in ever more constricted ways.

& this is why following someone unexpected on Twitter can be a small step towards a more open mind. Because not everybody reacts to same thing in same way. Sometimes, it takes a confederate in an experiment to remind us of that. & sometimes, all it takes is a stranger...exposing us to a new way of thinking about God, Detroit & Kardashians."
jonahlehrer  twitter  dissent  creativity  strangers  innovation  psychology  socialmedia  socialnetworking  social  homgeneity  serendipity  diversity  indiosyncracy  difference  perspective  insularity 
july 2010 by robertogreco
McCulture
"Americans have developed an admirable fondness for books, food, and music that preprocess other cultures. But for all our enthusiasm, have we lost our taste for the truly foreign?"
books  food  culture  us  society  translation  reading  global  insularity  preprocessedculture 
february 2009 by robertogreco

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