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robertogreco : invisibility   41

We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Molly Ringwald Revisits “The Breakfast Club” in the Age of #MeToo | The New Yorker
"John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say—even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical. And yet, and yet. . . . 

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

While researching this piece, I came across an article that was published in Seventeen magazine, in 1986, for which I interviewed John. (It was the only time I did so.) He talked about the artists who inspired him when he was younger—Bob Dylan, John Lennon—and how, as soon as they “got comfortable” in their art, they moved on. I pointed out that he had already done a lot of movies about suburbia, and asked him whether he felt that he should move on as his idols had. “I think it’s wise for people to concern themselves with the things they know about,” he said. He added, “I’d feel extremely self-conscious writing about something I don’t know.”

I’m not sure that John was ever really comfortable or satisfied. He often told me that he didn’t think he was a good enough writer for prose, and although he loved to write, he notoriously hated to revise. I was set to make one more Hughes film, when I was twenty, but felt that it needed rewriting. Hughes refused, and the film was never made, though there could have been other circumstances I was not aware of.

In the interview, I asked him if he thought teen-agers were looked at differently than when he was that age. “Definitely,” he said. “My generation had to be taken seriously because we were stopping things and burning things. We were able to initiate change, because we had such vast numbers. We were part of the Baby Boom, and when we moved, everything moved with us. But now, there are fewer teens, and they aren’t taken as seriously as we were. You make a teen-age movie, and critics say, ‘How dare you?’ There’s just a general lack of respect for young people now.”

John wanted people to take teens seriously, and people did. The films are still taught in schools because good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important; that if they talk, adults and peers will listen. I think that it’s ultimately the greatest value of the films, and why I hope they will endure. The conversations about them will change, and they should. It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own—to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art—and trust that we care."
mollyringwald  thebreakfastclub  #MeToo  2018  film  1980s  teens  youth  identity  sexism  harassment  johnhughes  chauvinism  nationallampoon  writing  homophobia  tedmann  sexuality  sixteencandles  prettyinpink  change  harveyweinstein  adolescence  havilandmorris  insecurity  sexualharassment  misogyny  racism  stereotypes  outsiders  invisibility 
april 2018 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: March 10, 2017
"The writer and theorist Fred Moten once wrote that "to be invisible is to be seen, instantly and fascinatingly recognized as the unrecognizable."

David Hammons is also interested in the nature of invisibility—what it’s made of, how it behaves, what it does to the world, what forms it takes. He keeps the invisible invisible, or, at least, the visible unrecognizable.

There are many (many!) invisible people in the world, but perhaps the most well-known might be Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952). This is the subject of Fred Moten's lecture.

This is the ninth event in our year-long season about and around the work of David Hammons."

[video: https://vimeo.com/214239080 ]
fredmoten  davidhammons  invisibility  ralphellison  2017  wattisinstitute  race  visibility  racism  webdubois  frantzfanon  whiteness  blackness  jazz  milesdavis  louisarmstrong  icebergslim  music  aljarreau  jacoblawrence  wallacestevens  adreinhardt  art  erasure  aesthetics  artworld 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Final Boss Form — faeralyn: Metsänpeitto is a phenomenon found in...
"Metsänpeitto is a phenomenon found in Finnish folklore. It was used to describe people or domestic animals who went missing in nature for unexplained reasons.

People “covered by forest” were described as not being able to recognize the terrain around them, even if they were on familiar grounds. In other cases they might have walked endlessly through unfamiliar terrain, or were rendered completely paralyzed, unable to move or speak. Unnatural silence devoid of the sounds of nature was also common.

People or animals under the influence of the phenomenon were described as becoming either completely invisible to other people, or looking like part of the nature around them, like a rock. In one story a man had been looking for a missing cow for days. When he finally gave up and returned to his work, the first tree stump he struck with his axe transformed back into his cow.

The cause behind metsänpeitto was usually credited to maahinens, who were small humanoid creatures living underground (usually translated to English as “gnomes”). Some people managed to free themselves from metsänpeitto by their own means, for example by turning their jacket inside out, by switching their shoes to the wrong feet, or by looking between their own legs. This was because of the idea that everything was topsy-turvy in the lands of the maahinens. Some were released seemingly without reason, others only after being sought after by a shaman. Some were never seen again."
words  finnish  suomi  gnomes  invisibility  multipsecies  morethanhuman  nature  plants  animals  forests  rocks  missing  disappearance 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The endless arguments on social media, during which we all go back and forth with each other like…
"Take for example Jill Filipovic, who remains nothing more than a well-made caricature of every white liberal with a saviour complex. She smugly accused today’s socialist left of being “more 1930s than 60s”. “Remember who was excluded from political participation in the 30s?,” she asked. You could almost taste this patronising, flippant derision that is so common of those who turn out to be nothing more than gentrifying legacy hires with platforms they’ll never deserve. The response Filipovic received in light of this grotesquely ahistorical accusation was swift. Everyone from Corey Robin to local US organisers began chiming in with a blow to her argument more devastating than the last. And among the white socialists were Black, and PoC leftists, of many political affiliations, some of whom began to discuss their frustration with being denied the right to their own historical existence. And of the lucky few that Filipovic decided to respond to a majority of them were white. This is the shtick the rest of us have grown accustomed to. How else are you going to accuse socialists of being white men if you’re made to acknowledge the existence of Black and PoC socialists? Especially those of us who are not a part of the Bernie Sanders coalition, but to their left.

We don’t exist, but for the illustrations of us they use to peddle neoliberal policies, and centrist organising tactics that are about as spineless and cartoonish as their very ideology. Those of us who identify as leftists, who occupy numerous spaces on the margins of society, are made to feel as though we are both imaginated and irrelevant. They’ve chosen to deliberately, and maliciously misrepresent our radicalism for their own benefit. The white, socialist men are hijacking our PoC voices, they say, and yet you will never catch them engaging with us. We are only good enough to exist as garments — worn on occasion when they want to make it known that they are here to save us from this so-called white ideology.

It isn’t just Filipovic, but others, so many others, who choose to communicate and argue almost entirely with white men for the sake of further isolating us. They understand that our identities threaten the very heart of their assertion. So which is it? Are we invented or are we inconsequential? And what about those who came before us, from across the globe, whose battles have made so many aspects of our lives possible — Paul Robeson, Hussain Muruwwah, Frantz Fanon; Grace P. Campbell, Claudia Jones, Louise Thompson; Benita Galeana, Elvia Carrillo Puerto, Elena Torres. And so many others.

How long can you possibly keep this charade going? Soon enough no platform on this earth will be enough to drown out all of our voices."
roqayahchamseddine  2017  politics  poc  jillfilipovic  invisibility  erasure  paulrobeson  hussainmuruwwah  frantzfanon  gracecampbell  claudiajones  louisethompson  benitagaleana  elviacarrillopuerto  elenatorres  misrepresentation  radicalism  socialism  diversity  berniesanders  coreyrobin 
august 2017 by robertogreco
avoiding the high-brow freak show | sara hendren
"Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate, humanitarian lens—he was able to link together ideas in natural history, the sciences, and the humanities with sincerity and warmth, and always with people at the center. But which people? The subjects of the book, or the reader who is “reading” herself, her own experiences, as she takes in these stories? In any good book, many characters are involved: author, characters, reader. But there’s some particular tricky territory in disability narratives.

It’s challenging to write about this subject for a mainstream audience, perhaps because there are so many well-rehearsed pitfall tropes in characterizing bodily and developmental differences. Descriptions of physicality, speech, or idiosyncratic movement can slide so easily into spectacle. And revealing the ways that disabled people* cope, make sense, and create joy and humor in their lives can collapse into inspiration, easily won.

I’m thinking about Sacks as I write my own words, interpreting my own many encounters with disabled people in a way that both engages readers for whom the subject is ostensibly new, and that also does justice to the integrity and singularity of those people involved. I’m trying to write about disability and its reach into the wider human experience, that is, without making individual people into metaphors. Now: those ideas might be laudable—interdependent life, a critique of individualism, all bodies and lived experiences as endless variation, necessarily incomplete in their own ways—but they are ideas nonetheless. How to make this tradeoff? How to help the uninitiated reader by saying See, see here, your life is caught up in these stakes too, but without flattening the individual subjects on whom those ideas are based?

I keep circling around this review in the LRB of Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind—analysis of which includes his book Awakenings and could also be applied to The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. Jenny Diski admires Sacks’s projects and his craft, but she also has this to say:
“A story needs a conclusion whereas a case-history may not have one. In fact, stories have all kinds of needs that a case-history will not supply, and Sacks is insistent that he is writing the stories of his patients, not their cases. This is not intended to fudge fact and fiction, but to enlarge patients into people.

On the other hand, he is describing people with more or less devastating illnesses— that is his raison d’être—and his explicit purpose is to generalize from these, usually unhappy, accidents of life and nature, to a greater understanding of the human condition. In Awakenings he states: ‘If we seek a “curt epitome” of the human condition—of long-standing sickness, suffering and sadness; of a sudden, complete, almost preternatural “awakening”; and, alas! of entanglements which may follow this “cure”—there is no better one than the story of these patients.’

He is offering life, death and the whole damn thing in the metaphor of his patients. And it is true that these patients and others show us what it is like, as he says, ‘to be human and stay human in the face of adversity’. But metaphors are not in fact descriptions of people in their totality. They are intentional, and consciously or unconsciously edited tropes, not complete, contained narratives.

I don’t know any kind of narrative, fictional or otherwise, that can present people in their totality, so perhaps it doesn’t matter, but Sacks is offering us people because of their sickness and the manner of their handling it. This is hardly an overturning of the medicalizing tendency of doctors. And when we read these stories, as we do, to tell us more about ourselves, we read them as exaggerations of what we are, as metaphors for what we are capable of. Their subjects may not be patients as freaks, but they are patients as emblems. They are, as it were, for our use and our wonderment. Around their illness, the thoughts of Leibniz, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Proust are hoisted like scaffolding, as if to stiffen their reality into meaning.”

Stiffening their reality into meaning! It’s a cutting and exact criticism, especially when it seems that Sacks was utterly sincere in his search for human and humane connection—with these patients as clinical subjects and in his engagement with readers.

Diski hints at the pushback Sacks got from scholars in disability studies, too; scholar Tom Shakespeare took a swipe at him as “the man who mistook his patients for a career,” calling his body of work a “high-brow freak show.” And when I re-read Sacks’s New Yorker essay, excerpted from the Anthropologist book, on autistic self-advocate Temple Grandin, I see a little bit what Shakespeare meant. There is something of the microscope being employed in that encounter, and somehow we walk away fascinated but maybe less than conjoined to Grandin’s experience. It’s rich with connection and with pathos (in a good way!), but there’s distance in it too. So—it’s not perfect.

And yet: people read and loved that book, saw themselves in it. And Grandin went on to write several books in her own voice, to have a wide audience for her work and wisdom. The visibility of autistic self-advocacy has been greatly amplified since Sacks’s writing about it. (And yet—also—Diski says that Sacks has a way of making meaning out of disability that’s essentially a wonder at the human body via its ailments, as in “My God, we are extraordinary, look how interestingly wrong we can go.”) Is there a way to affirm the extraordinary without ending at: there but for the grace of god…? Without ending with gratitude that we don’t share someone’s plight? I want readers to come away uncertain: about where there’s joy and where there’s pain, about how they might make different choices, ordinary and extraordinary choices, if handed a different set of capacities in themselves or in their loved ones.

But can a writer really calibrate that level of nuance? Lately I’m thinking that I can only write what I can write, knowing that it will be incomplete and partial in its rendering.

I want a world full of disabled voices, people telling their stories in their own ways, with their own voices intact. But I also want a world of people to read about the collective stakes inherent in disability—and not just the rights issues that are being ignored, urgent as they are. I want people to see that spending time thinking about disability is an invitation to see the world differently, and to locate one’s own experiences differently. Not to erase the particularity of any one person’s very material experiences, but to help remedy the invisibility of disabled experience outside the inner circle of people who talk to one another, who know that these issues are important. And some audiences will need some interpretation, some cognitive-linguistic bridges to understand the import of disability—its wonder, its overlooked importance, and yes, even its lessons, if we may call them such. Lessons without moralizing, lessons without abstractions.

*Yes, “disabled people,” not “differently abled” or even always “people with disabilities.” There’s no one right answer or moniker, but soon I’ll write a short piece on why “disabled people” is a preferred term among many activists."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://blog.ayjay.org/writing-by-the-always-wrong/ ]
sarahendren  oliversacks  disability  2017  diversity  morality  moralizing  difference  humanism  individualism  interdependence  variation  jennydiski  conclusions  case-histories  sickness  sadness  suffering  life  death  storytelling  narrative  tomshakespeare  templegrandin  pathos  correction  autism  self-advocacy  meaning  meaningmaking  uncertainty  joy  pain  grace  writing  howewrite  voice  invisibility  visibility  erasure  experience  alanjacobs  disabilities 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: ‘My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free’ | Books | The Guardian
"The final piece in Cole’s 2016 essay collection, Known and Strange Things, is a description of that traumatic occurrence. It is called Blind Spot. Next month, his first book of photographs is published. It is also called Blind Spot. Why, I ask him, did he reprise that title for a book that is, in essence, about a sustained way of seeing? “Well, there is some dark humour in the title that people who have read the essay will hopefully pick up on,” he says, “but, as I write in the afterword, there is also the fact that the act of looking is limited. We only see a small part of what we are looking at, so there is a constant blind spot even with the kind of attentive looking that photography entails. There are many resonances in that title – how difficult it is to see clearly, how difficult it is to tell a dream, how difficult it is to make pictures that are new in some way.”

How well Cole succeeds in all of this is difficult to say, not because his images aren’t strong – they are in a detached and rigorously formal-to-the-point-of-deadpan way that was pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore in the 1970s – but because Blind Spot is not simply a book of photographs. Instead, each image is accompanied by a corresponding passage of prose. The book unfolds – and succeeds – as a deftly choreographed dance of words and pictures, with Cole’s characteristically allusive style of writing here condensed to what he calls “fragments”. Sometimes, but not often, the words refer directly to what is in the picture, but more often the photographs are conceptual starting points for musings on his now-familiar obsessions: memory, myth, culture, politics, race and dreams.

The associations, though, are often not entirely clear. A photograph of a telegraph pole on a deserted street in Selma, Alabama prompts a memory of a dream Cole had about crossing a street but never arriving at the other side, which, in turn, calls up a quotation on consciousness and time by the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A street portrait of the back of a blond woman in New York City (see below), redolent of the work of Joel Meyerowitz, is matched with a fragment from Greek mythology concerning the painter Timanthes’s mysterious portrait of the grieving, veiled Agamemnon. This is, for want of a better phrase, quintessentially Cole-ian.

“I see it as a unified story,” he explains, “but one in which each fragment of prose is dense in the way that a poem is dense. There are thematic breadcrumbs scattered throughout the text, but, yes, it is oblique. It’s not meant to be obvious, but a more psychologically resonant series of fragments that detonate on some deeper level.”"



"Taken alongside his fiction and his essays, which range from the reflective to the polemical, as well as the photography column he writes for the New York Times, Blind Spot further enhances Cole’s already burnished reputation. He is a writer for our times, prodigious, wide-ranging and supremely confident in his reach. In Known and Strange Things, to give just a few examples, he discourses passionately on race in America, explores the poetics of Saul Leiter’s pioneering colour photographs and, in two consecutive essays, lauds VS Naipaul, the elegant writer, and nails VS Naipaul, the dreadful old reactionary.

If there is a personal touchstone for this kind of cross-fertilisation, it is surely the late John Berger, one of his heroes, though Berger, as I remind him, never took photographs. “I actually asked John why photography was not part of his practice,” Cole says, “In his case, to photograph a subject was to foreclose some part of what he could write about it. He saw it as an interference in his writing faculties. I don’t think like that about it. In fact, for me, taking a photograph of something often induces further thoughts on it.”

In the flesh, Cole is both charming and intense. When I met him briefly last summer at a party in Manhattan thrown in his honour by his editors at the New York Times, he was warm and inclusive, but, even in casual conversation, there is a palpable alertness about him that intrigues. He seems acutely conscious, too, of his own place in the intellectual firmament. In Known and Strange Things, he revealed that his antidote to insomnia was to “rise from my bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk”. In his deftly elegant takedown of Naipaul, there is also the distinct suggestion that a literary baton is being passed from the older master to the heir apparent.

Cole’s precocious literary talent must surely have been honed in childhood. Born in Michigan, he was taken back to Nigeria as a child by his parents when they had completed their studies. His upbringing, he says, was solidly middle-class and aspirational. His father worked in middle management and his mother was a school teacher; both instilled in him the notion that “the child had to do better in education than their peers”. When he travelled to America in the early 90s to commence his own college education, he felt he was returning home. “For sure, I had conflict and a certain nervousness, but not the kind that comes from thinking of oneself as an immigrant. I had a sense of my rights as an American. There was a period of adjustment – there still is – but the feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America.”

Cole studied art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Michigan – “a good liberal college with the kind of leafy campus you get in American campus novels” – and later tried and failed to apply himself to a degree in medicine, in part to appease his parents. That failure haunted him for a while and, he says, he suffered from a bout of depression around that time. “I had no money, no time to read or go to concerts and I felt starved of that. Plus, I was very cold in Michigan and isolated. For two years, I was struggling to do well when I was used to doing well. I do not want to dwell on it but, for a time, I was phenomenally not myself. All the things you hear about depression were there.”"



"
In Open City, his descriptions of his New York evince a keen, roving attentiveness reminiscent of the city’s great street photographers: Garry Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Leiter are presences in his prose alongside the more often cited Berger and WG Sebald. Cole, as he is keen to point out, has been taking photographs longer than he has been writing fiction. In Every Day Is for the Thief, the text is punctuated by Cole’s black-and-white photographs evoking the swaggering, chaotic thrust of Lagos, his childhood home.

In both novels, Cole’s writing style recalls Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated description of his own prose: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Cole cites the great experimental film-maker Chris Marker as perhaps the crucial influence in his novels. “In his great film, Sans Soleil, Marker moves between zooming out and watching the flow of life and zooming in to look at the pattern of the details of everyday experience. He is not telling you one thing about a place, but allowing it all to come in and making the connections visible. He is a major influence on Open City and even more on Blind Spot, where the subject itself is that kind of interconnectedness.”

In many ways, then, Blind Spot continues in the vein of Teju Cole’s fiction. This time around, though, he is the peripatetic narrator on an altogether more epic global journey through cities in which he is often a lone stranger. The experience of travel – by air as well as wandering alone on land – is central here. Since the success of Open City, Cole has travelled extensively – to literary festivals, teaching programmes, writer’s residencies and promotional events. As the novelist Siri Hustvedt puts it in her introduction: “Teju Cole really gets around.” Thus, each photograph and fragment of prose is grounded in a specific location: Auckland, Basel, Chicago, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Paris and so forth. “In each place I have travelled,” he writes, “I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.”

The images, and the reflections that follow from them, are also a way of fixing moments that might otherwise be lost in the sheer overload of global memories he has stored in his head in a relatively short time. “Certain experiences became more vivid as I was walking around and thinking about what I was photographing,” he elaborates. “In central Bali, for instance, there was an afternoon that has survived very clearly and vividly in my memory but also in the false memory of the photographs I took that day. They are stilled moments, fragments from a much bigger experience, a film that could only have been captured with a camera attached to my head.”

Given that he takes his camera with him wherever he goes, how visible a presence is he when he shoots on the street? He laughs, anticipating the underlying thrust of my question. “Well, a solitary black tourist is not a common sight in Switzerland or Kathmandu or northern Italy or even in upstate New York,” he says, ruefully, “so, I am already a little strange. But, there is a way in which having the camera makes me more free. It is a kind of invisibility cloak, especially when you are on a strange street far from home. But, oddly enough, I was more free in Kathmandu than in Lagos. The first assumption everywhere is, ‘there is a black tourist’ – but, in Nigeria, that question becomes more complex. There is more suspicion.”"



"“One of the responses to all that is to do the work I do. My essays are not political in the main, but they are trying to advance a humanist argument. Likewise, my photographs are complex, but I hope, … [more]
tejucole  2017  johnberger  blindspot  photography  writing  howwewrite  opencity  chrismarker  fiction  experience  invisibility  sanssoleil  christopherisherwood  garrywinogand  wgsebald  depression 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Second Sight - The New Yorker
"Movement in the margins is not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in order to maintain visibility."



"The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention."



"Years later, I lost faith. One form of binocular vision gave way to another. The world was now a series of interleaved apparitions. The thing was an image that could also bear an image. If one of the advantages of irreligion was an acceptance of others, that benefit was strangely echoed in the visual plane, which granted the things seen within the photographic rectangle a radical equality. This in part was why signs, pictures, ads, and murals came to mean so much: they were neither more nor less than the “real” elements by which they were framed. They were not to be excluded, nor were the spaces between things. “We see the world”: this simple statement becomes (Merleau-Ponty has also noted this) a tangled tree of meanings. Which world? See how? We who? Once absolute faith is no longer possible, perception moves forward on a case-by-case basis. The very contingency and brevity of vision become the long-sought miracle."



"The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved, and the images of things have become things themselves."



"The body has to adjust to the environment, to the challenges in the environment. The body isn’t wrong, isn’t “disabled.” The environment itself—gravity, air, solidity or the lack of it, et cetera—is what is somehow wrong: ill-matched to the body’s abilities, inimical to its verticality, stability, or mobility."



"I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake. It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead."
tejucole  2017  margins  edges  attention  regularity  everyday  irregularity  visibility  invisibility  acceptance  belief  vision  photography  borders  liminalspaces  perception  brevity  ephemerality  adjustment  adaptability  disability  stability  mobility  verticality  body  bodies  contingency  sign  pictures  ads  images  advertising  between  betweenness  stimuli  liminality  ephemeral  disabilities 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Gratitude for Invisible Systems - The Atlantic
"Before asking the question of how technology can affect democracy, I’m going to ask: What is democracy for?

In a developed, post-industrial country at the start of the twenty-first century, one of the main functions of a democratic political system is to help us collectively manage living in a complex, global society. Our daily lives take place in a network of technological, socio-technical, and social systems that we barely notice, except when things go wrong.

To start with, there are the infrastructural systems that fill out the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid of needs: clean water on tap, the ability to flush away disease-causing waste, natural gas for warmth and food preparation, and raw energy in the form of electricity, for heat and light, to replace physical labor, and to power cooling and electronics. Moving up Maslow’s pyramid, these systems underpin communication, community and self-actualization: connections to the rest of the world in the form of telecommunications and postal mail, physical links in the form of roads and a subway that link to rail, airports, and more.

While they’re far from perfect, these systems work well enough that mostly we don’t think about them. When they do fail, especially as a result of lack of care or maintenance (like interstate highway bridge collapses or the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan), we recognize it as the profound and shocking betrayal that it is.

Besides these physical networks, there are a host of other systems that exist primarily to contribute to the common good by taking on responsibility for safety, access and planning. I don’t have to know where my breakfast eggs came from to know they’re safe to eat, because of the United States Department of Agriculture. When I fill a prescription, the pills I’m given will be efficacious, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration. The Center for Disease Control tracks and responds to outbreaks before they become epidemics. I’ve been known to get on a plane and fall asleep before takeoff; my security is because the Federal Aviation Authority regulates air traffic. And these are just a handful of ways these systems affect my daily life.

When we think about caring for our neighbors, we think about local churches, and charities—systems embedded in our communities. But I see these technological systems as one of the main ways that we take care of each other at scale. It’s how Americans care for all three hundred million of our neighbors, rich or poor, spread over four million square miles, embedded in global supply chains.

What’s more, we can collectively fund systems that even the richest, most self-sufficient people couldn’t create for themselves, and we use them to serve the common good. When I look at my phone to decide if I need an umbrella, the little blue dot that says where I am is thanks to the network of Global Positioning System satellites operated by the United States Air Force, and the weather is the result of a $5.1 billion federal investment in forecasting, for an estimated $31.5 billion dollars of benefit in saving lives, properties, and crops (and letting me know I should wear a raincoat).

If I were to make a suggestion for how technology could be used to improve our democracy, I would want to make these systems more visible, understandable, and valued by the general public. Perhaps a place to start is with the system that is the ultimate commons—our shared planet. One way that we can interact with it is through citizen science projects: collecting data about our local environment to help build a larger understanding of of anthropogenic climate change. The late scientist and activist Ursula Franklin wrote “Central to any new order that can shape and direct technology and human destiny will be a renewed emphasis on the concept of justice.” If we want to use technology to make democracy better, we can start with the systems that we use to make it more just."
democracy  government  debchachra  2017  infrastructure  systemsthinking  visibility  invisibility  climatechange  technology  ursulafranklin  justice 
may 2017 by robertogreco
My Emerging Future: The Stories I Live as First Nations Abroad - Long View on Education
"It was in university when I read Thomas King that I first heard the phrase “passing for white”, and everything clicked. And in the very next instant I recoiled: was I stealing whiteness and wrapping myself in it?

In my life, I have only experienced white privilege: I look white, my name sounds like it could be German. My grandpa looked ‘visually Indian’ and I can’t imagine the discrimination that he faced throughout his life. But the privilege of passing for white is complex because it also means that many First Nations people are invisible. Were Thomas King giving a lecture on Shakespeare, you might not even know he is an Indian. Thus, the desire that I have often felt to be more “visually Indian”. I often feel too pale, and when my skin quickly turns golden brown in the sun, I feel somewhat more at home in my body.

But of course that desire to be visible is one that I, and King, can afford. King says, “Middle-class Indians, such as myself, can, after all, afford the burden of looking Indian. There’s little danger that we’ll be stuffed into the trunk of a police cruiser and dropped off out the outskirts of Saskatoon.”

King talks about his own desire to have been more “visually Indian”, and with his mix of comedy and pain, he tells a story of how his prom date turned him down because her dad didn’t want her dating Mexicans.

I’m not culturally connected to the Six Nations community, and now that I have made Brussels my home, it’s unlikely that I will develop those connections. For a long time I felt at fault for that lack of connection. But being disconnected isn’t my fault, or my parents’ fault – it’s the intentional erasure carried out by settler colonialism, which is supposed to turn Indians into white people. Or kill them. In Canada, it’s doing both.

Every year, I play Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk about the dangers of a single story for my class. We have so many single stories that reduce people to stereotypes and strip away their humanity: about what girls can’t do and how women should look; about the criminality or entertainment value of Black people; about the danger immigrants and refugees pose to society; about the uselessness of people with disabilities or mental illness, and burden of the elderly.

I ask my kids, are all single stories dangerous? What about the story that all Canadians are nice?

You can see where I’m going, but my students fall for it.

When I accompanied students on a field trip to Normandy, we had some time on Juno beach. Both my grandfathers arrived in Europe shortly after d-Day. The one story of my maternal (white) grandfather is a relatively straightforward war story to tell, as far as those stories go. The other, about my grandpa Doxtdator, is more difficult to relate because at the same time as soldiers ‘fought for our freedom’, the Canadian government stole land known as Ipperwash from the Chippewa people in 1942 and turned it into a military training camp. In fact, both of my grandfathers trained at Ipperwash, stolen land that wouldn’t be fully returned until 2016, over twenty years after Dudley George was killed by the Ontario Provincial Police during a protest in 1995. During an inquiry into the shooting of George, OPP officers are on tape saying that they have “tried to pacify and pander to these people far too long”, and Mike Harris, the Premier of Ontario reportedly said, “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

When my grandpa Doxtdator returned from the war, he also returned to the ongoing ‘residential school‘ system, that removed Native children from their families, stripped them from their culture, experimented on them, and ultimately resulted in the deaths of 6,000 children. This system only officially came to an end in 1996.

When my grandpa Doxtdator returned from the war, he also returned with one less eye.

As an English teacher, I take representation seriously. As a student that never saw a living Indian in my school curriculum, I take representation personally. And that’s not to ignore other problems in the education system, such as the access to quality schools for First Nations children, but all systemic issues are connected, and all are related to representation and voice, too. Who is listened to? Who gets to tell the stories about Native people?

Speaking of stories, when’s the last time you heard a story about Indians with a happy ending?

In the book version of the lectures, King provides an Afterward that is a private story that he does not tell orally. I’ll let you read it for yourself someday. But to spoil the moral, King bravely turns the lens on his own shortcomings and how he feels sorry for a world he has, in some small part, helped to create:
“A world in which I allow my intelligence and goodwill to be constantly subverted in pursuit of my comfort and pleasure… I find it easier to tell myself the story of my failure as a friend, as a human being, than to have to live the story of making a sustained effort to help.”

I’m not going to have that ‘authentically’ Indian story to live, and I have stopped wanting it or thinking of the problem in those ways. And I too have needed to tell stories about how I should have been a better person at different points in my life. My hope is that as a teacher, I make a sustained effort to give my students representations of their lives – and the lives of others – that are constructed by the people who have some stock in them. While I have not resigned myself to never recovering a cultural connection with the Six Nations, I have also done the best with my own emerging future as a teacher who doesn’t want to see the identities of children erased before they even have a chance."

[audio on YouTube: "The Truth About Stories - Thomas King - Lecture 1"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzXQoZ6pE-M ]
benjamondoxtdator  2017  representation  whiteness  identity  indigenous  thomasking  edwardsherrifcurtis  nativeamericans  sixnations  race  racism  culture  whiteprivilege  visibility  invisibility 
may 2017 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: David Hammons
"Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

[David Hammons. "Spade With Chains," 1973.]

Much has been said about the materials Hammons uses in his work. Most are taken from the street and cost very little—greasy paper bags, shovels, ice, cigarettes, rubber tubes, hair, rocks, basketballs, fried food, bikes, torn plastic tarps, Kool-Aid. Some of them are (knowingly) borrowed from the vocabulary of other artists, while others are closely tied to his own life and chosen surroundings in Harlem. Much has also been said about the meaning of his work—its arguments, its politics, what it’s “about.” And while much of what has been said has been useful, it has also been partly beside the point.

Materials are something one can see, and arguments are something one can understand, and that’s just not what Hammons is after. He’s interested in how much those wine bottles still somehow contain the lips that once drank from them. He’s after the pun on spirit—as in the drink, but also as in the presence of something far more abstract.
Black hair is the oldest hair in the world. You’ve got tons of people’s spirits in your hands when you work with that stuff.

[David Hammons. "Wine Leading the Wine," 1969. Courtesy of Hudgins Family Collection, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART.]

If Hammons is suspicious of all that is visible, it might be because the visible, in America, is all that is white. It’s all those Oscar winners, all those museum trustees, and all those faces on all those dollar bills. Some artists work to denounce, reveal, or illustrate racial injustice, and to make visible those who are not. Hammons, on the other hand, prefers invisibility—or placing the visible out of reach. He doesn’t have a lesson to teach or a point to prove, and his act of protest is simply to abstract, because that’s what will make the visible harder to recognize and the intelligible harder to understand.

If Duchamp was uninterested in what the eye can see, Hammons is oppressed by it—it’s not the same thing.

[David Hammons. "In the Hood," 1993. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.]
I’m trying to make abstract art out of my experience, just like Thelonius Monk.

For Hammons, musicians have always been both the model and the front line. When George Lewis says that “the truth of improvisation involves survival,” it’s because improv musicians look for a way forward, one note at a time, with no map to guide them and with no rules or languages to follow other than ones they invent and determine themselves. It forces them to analyze where they are and forces them to do something about it, on their own terms. Doesn’t get much more political than that.

Or, as Miles Davis once put it, “I do not play jazz.” He plays something that invents its own vocabulary—a vocabulary that is shared only by those who don’t need to know what to call it or how to contain it. And just as Miles Davis doesn’t play jazz, David Hammons doesn’t make art.

[David Hammons. "Blue Rooms," 2000 (installation view, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowkski Castle, Warsaw).]
I’m trying to create a hieroglyphics that was definitely black.

Hammons goes looking for spirits in music, poetry, and dirt. He knows they like to hide inside of sounds, lodge themselves between words or within puns, and linger around the used-up and the seemingly worthless. He knows he’s caught some when he succeeds in rousing the rubble and gets it to make its presence felt. Like Noah Purifoy, he ignores the new and the expensive in favor of the available. Like Federico Fellini, he spends his time in the bowels of culture and makes them sing.

[David Hammons. "(Untitled) Basketball Drawing," 2006.]

There are the materials that make the art—those are the foot soldiers—but there is also the attitude that makes the artist. Hammons has his way of thinking and his way of behaving, which is once again not something one sees or necessarily understands, but is something that makes its presence known, the way spirits make their presence felt. There will be some who won’t recognize it and others who do—and his work is meant only for those who see themselves in it.
Did you ever see Elvis Presley’s resume? Or John Lennon’s resume? Fuck that resume shit.

Ornette was Ornette because of what he could blow, but also because he never gave into other people’s agendas or expectations.

What matters even more than having your own agenda is letting others know that it doesn’t fit theirs. “To keep my rhythm,” as Hammons puts it, “there’s always a fight, with any structure.” The stakes are real because should you let your guard down, “they got rhythms for you,” and you’ll soon be thinking just like they do. And in a white and racist America, in a white and racist art world, Hammons doesn’t want to be thinking just like most people do. His is a recalcitrant politics of presence: where he doesn’t seem to belong, he appears; where he does belong, he vanishes.

In short: don’t play a game whose management you don’t control.

[David Hammons. "Higher Goals," 1987. Photo: Matt Weber.]
That’s the only way you have to treat people with money—you have to let these people know that your agenda is light years beyond their thinking patterns.

The Whitney Biennial? I don’t like the job description. A major museum retrospective? Get back to me with something I can’t understand.

Exhibitions are too clean and make too much sense—plus the very authority of many mainstream museums is premised on values that Hammons doesn’t consider legitimate or at least does not share. He is far more interested in walking and talking with Jr., a man living on the streets of the East Village, who taught him about how the homeless divide up their use of space according to lines marked by the positioning of bricks on a wall. Those lines have teeth. In a museum, art is stripped of all its menace.

[David Hammons. "Bliz-aard Ball Sale," 1983. Photo: Dawoud Bey.]

The painter Jack Whitten once explained of how music became so central to black American life with this allegory:
When my white slave masters discovered that my drum was a subversive instrument they took it from me…. The only instrument available was my body, so I used my skin: I clapped my hands, slapped my thighs, and stomped my feet in dynamic rhythms.

David Hammons began with his skin. He pressed his skin onto paper to make prints. Over the subsequent five decades, he has found his drum.

[David Hammons. "Phat Free," 1995-99 (video still). Courtesy of Zwirner & Wirth, New York.]"
davidhammons  anthonyhuberman  art  jazz  ornettecoleman  milesdavis  theloniousmonk  material  rules  trickster  outsiders  artworld  resumes  elvispresley  johnlennon  insiders  race  racism  us  power  authority  jackwhitten  music  museums  galleries  menace  homeless  nyc  management  structure  presence  belonging  expectations  artists  fellini  noahpurifoy  availability  culture  hieroglyphics  blackness  georgelewis  improvisation  oppression  marcelduchamp  visibility  invisibility  souls  spirits 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Skin Feeling – The New Inquiry
"What it is to be encountered as a surface, to be constantly exposed as something you are not."



"Skin feeling: to be encountered as a surface."



"Skin feeling: to be constantly exposed as something you are not."



"There are different kinds of exposure, of organization, of study, of strategy, of being together in public, of being skin."
sofiasamatar  2015  charlieparker  jamesbaldwin  invisibility  race  visibility  racism  michellealexander  ralphellison  camarillostatehospital  history  augustblume  jazz 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Nike’s Girl Effect | Al Jazeera America
"The sportswear brand Nike talks a big game about how economically empowered adolescent girls are the most potent weapon against poverty. The rationale behind the girl effect theory is that teen girls have the unique potential to stop poverty before it starts. As a Nike Foundation video explains, the answer to poverty should not be sought in government but in the earning power of impoverished adolescents.

This optimistic idea has been making the rounds since Maria Eitel launched the concept in her position at the helm of the Nike Foundation in 2008. Once a special assistant for media affairs for President George H.W. Bush, Eitel has become the world’s leading authority on poverty reduction and gender equality. Even President Barack Obama has called her a pioneer in her field.

By funding and partnering with some of the world’s most influential nongovernmental organizations and institutions — including USAID, Britain’s Department for Internal Development, the World Bank and the United Nations — and promoting the theory on The Huffington Post and The Guardian, Eitel has turned the girl effect into common development sense. Today millions of dollars of development aid and corporate social responsibility budgets are spent on programs that implement girl effect principles, many of them in Africa. They’re rooted in Eitel’s belief that the world's biggest problems need to be tackled by young entrepreneurs who should keep existing systems intact and improve them from within.

The problem is that the girl effect is a myth. In fact, it funnels girls and the NGOs that work for social change into a web of corporate dependency and away from the awareness and human rights education they need to challenge the issues that fuel poverty.

Invisible girls

Girls, the story goes, are invisible, undervalued by their families and not yet recognized as economic actors. What makes them unique is that, compared with their allegedly more selfish brothers, educated girls reinvest nearly three times as much of their income into their communities and are willing to pay for their family’s medical bills and school fees and, eventually, drive their countries’ economic growth.

Eitel and her movement insist that helping girls become economically productive is smart economics and a matter of human rights. The girl effect’s economic empowerment principles promote financial literacy education, business development training and access to credit and savings accounts.

However, there are significant blind spots in this program. Girls will never learn that tax evasion — which more and more development experts and women’s rights advocates recognize as one of the most destructive forces of corruption, exploitation and theft — is directly responsible for high levels of poverty, low education budgets and inadequate health services, particularly among women and girls. Corporations are widely seen as the main culprits here (and many NGOs say that if companies want to solve poverty, they should begin by paying income tax) because they often manipulate profits, pressure poor governments to grant them tax breaks and channel these untaxed profits to havens abroad.

Africa has the highest proportion of (private) assets held abroad, which is why some critics want to force corporations and other elites to pay their fair share. Contrary to Eitel, they believe that governments are best equipped to fix this injustice and that it is the responsibility of the state to provide health care and education.

Nike and Eitel can’t possibly be unaware of the unique potential of corporations to unleash such a tax effect. They have a rich history of abusing loopholes and tax holidays abroad and in the U.S. Without such tax strategies, it’s unlikely that Nike could have made $27.8 billion in revenue last year.

Self-empowerment

Labor rights and living wages aren’t addressed in the foundation’s girl effect program either. Nike’s supply chain vividly illustrates how labor rights training can boost women’s quality of life.

In the 1980s, it was largely due to the efforts of the Korean Women Workers Association that employees of Nike’s partner factories pushed up their wages, as women’s studies professor Cynthia Enloe wrote in her 2004 book “The Curious Feminist.” Nike and its contractors retaliated by moving much of their business to China and Indonesia, where wages were lower and workers were less likely to organize.

More recent studies suggest that high levels of labor rights awareness also helped thousands of Vietnamese Nike workers win better wages. Even though most of these workers still make less than the living wage and fare worse than their colleagues in state-led enterprises, without labor rights awareness, we probably wouldn’t have seen the five-year strike wave that spread across large factories in Vietnam from 2006 to 2011.

Instructing girls to pay for their families’ health and education with micro credit and pushing entrepreneurship and saving schemes on them without teaching them about living wages, labor rights and their rights to social services let governments off the hook.

That’s why the girl effect is a corporate fable that keeps the system intact, turns girls into consumers, expands market power and diffuses blame.

To Eitel’s credit, the stereotypical unproductive girl is no longer invisible. Development elites are talking about her and pressuring NGOs to use Nike’s playbook to save her from her fate for the benefit of all.

Less visible are the corporate practices and untaxed offshore assets that impoverish people all around the world. The woman who has, as a result, fallen off the activist and media radars is the woman whose cheap labor pays for Eitel’s salary and her philanthropic ventures. Unlike 20 years ago, very few global women's groups are talking about her.

Coincidence? Perhaps. It is nonetheless instructive to note that in 2011, two PR strategists who analyzed Nike’s communication strategies suggested that Eitel’s most important duty, after joining Nike in 1998, was to “reposition the company to the emotionally charged sweatshop controversy” by engaging with the media and with the lot of poor women in developing countries.

To protect Nike’s brand equity (after the anti-sweatshop campaigns), they argued, Eitel and her team emphasized “the company’s commitment to economically empowering individual women in underdeveloped countries and thus to respond indirectly to charges that it routinely tolerates the violation of its Asian female workers’ human rights.”

The girl effect addresses critical issues such as reproductive health, child marriage and access to school. Still, the dogmatic assumptions about female liberation on which it rests remain flawed. Girls are citizens, not consumers or entrepreneurs. Their equality should not rely on business logic, and the work of NGOs should not be constrained by the agendas of media-savvy corporations. If the conversation on women and poverty would talk less about whose investments pay off and more about who needs to pay up, we might finally see some substantial change."
nike  gender  mariahengeveld  girleffect  girls  women  systems  systemsthinking  2015  consumerism  citizenship  corporatism  poverty  policy  politics  economics  labor  laborrights  microcredit  cynthiaenloe  mariaeitel  equality  inequality  ngos  socialchange  invisibility  nikefoundation  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  greenwashing  handwashing  misinformation  propaganda  charitableindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Channel — Walker Art Center
"K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way.

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

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

Part of Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series."

[direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMPN5f5cQ ]
k-hole  consumption  online  internet  communication  burnout  normcore  legibility  illegibility  simplicity  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  trends  fashion  art  design  branding  brands  socialmedia  groupchat  texting  oversharing  absence  checkingout  aesthetics  lifestyle  airplanemode  privilege  specialness  generations  marketing  trendspotting  coping  messaging  control  socialcapital  gregfong  denayago  personalbranding  visibility  invisibility  identity  punk  prolasticity  patagonia  patience  anxietymatrix  chaos  order  anxiety  normality  abnormality  youth  millennials  individuality  box1824  hansulrichobrist  alternative  indie  culture  opposition  massindie  williamsburg  simoncastets  digitalnatives  capitalism  mainstream  semiotics  subcultures  isolation  2015  walkerartcenter  maxingout  establishment  difference  89plus  basicness  evasion  blandness  actingbasic  empathy  indifference  eccentricity  blankness  tolerance  rebellion  signalling  status  coolness  aspiration  connections  relationships  presentationofself  understanding  territorialism  sociology  ne 
march 2015 by robertogreco
“Faking It:” Counterfeits, Copies, and Uncertain Truths in Science, Technology, and Medicine :: Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, & Society
"Symposium Abstract:

We invite colleagues to join us for a two day symposium at the University of California, Berkeley on “faking it”–here construed broadly as fudging, imitating, juking, playing the trickster, pretending, feigning, re-creating, manipulating, falsifying.  Our aim is to bring together a wide variety of scholars whose work, in some way, touches upon this issue.  We invite colleagues to consider any aspect of the practices, epistemologies, ontologies, and politics of faking, copying, counterfeiting, or quackery.  We seek to amplify and incubate a growing attention to the theory and practice of fake truths on Berkeley’s campus and beyond.

Over the past several decades, science studies scholars have explored the ways in which scientific knowledge and practice is socially constructed, debated, contested, and deemed credible by the public.  Others have turned their attention to the politics and poetics of “agnotology,” or the social, political, economic, and cultural circumstances that promulgate and substantiate ignorance.  Both of these takes on the sociology of knowledge have opened up room for examining the creative ways in which actors fake, fudge, and forge. In the contested space between corporations and the broader public, for example, sociologists and historians have explored the tobacco wars, global warming debates, and the regulatory boundaries of “permissible exposure” to industrial toxins.  So too, anthropologists and STS scholars working from below are increasingly turning attention to artisanal knowledge and ingenuity, be it cultures of repair or improvisation in medicine. At each of these registers, there are possibilities for both creativity and catastrophe.

For this symposium, we invite scholars working on issues as diverse as climate change, voting machines, and art forgery, as we probe the validity of data, the fabrication of evidence, and the harmful as well as potentially liberating practices and ramifications of faking it.

Keynote Speaker:

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the 2008 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the 2006 Robert K. Merton Prize from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociology Association. His work as been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His current work examines the evolution of the national security state in the United States, with a particular focus on the interplay between affect, technology, and threat perception within a national public sphere."
via:javierarbona  faking  fakingit  trickster  events  2015  imitation  fakes  impostors  falsification  manipulation  copying  counterfeiting  quackery  agnotology  ignorance  fraud  science  sociology  knowledge  forgery  anthropology  improvisation  notknowing  medicine  creativity  fabrication  evidence  truth  josephmasco  technology  culture  society  academia  ethics  invisibility  bullshit 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Seamless Transitions | booktwo.org
"Seamless Transitions is a visualisation of three spaces of immigration judgement, detention and deportation in the UK. Field House in the City is the home of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), designed around the presentation of secret evidence, Harmondsworth IRC at Heathrow is just one part of the UK’s detention estate, and the Inflite Jet Centre at Stansted is where I watched the deportation flights take place in December 2013 – and where they still carry on.

Each of these spaces is “unphotographable” in the traditional sense, so I used investigative journalism techniques, eyewitness accounts and other research to reconstruct each of them. I then took these plans to Picture Plane, a leading architectural visualiser about whose work I have written at length before. The resultant film – a walkthrough of the virtual environments created by Picture Plane based on research and investigation of real spaces – is a simulacram that nevertheless reveals a reality, one which has remained hidden behind law and indifference.

I have written more about the sites depicted for the Guardian newspaper [http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jan/27/hidden-world-of-uk-deportation-asylum-seamless-transitions ]:
Politicians on all sides – when it suits them – have criticised the current asylum system. Human-rights groups and courts have questioned the legality of many of its aspects. Successive reports over a decade have decried the conditions, management and humanity of the flights and detention centres. Newspaper stories every month recount a litany of abuses, deaths, broken families and traumatised individuals. But even if you don’t know these stories, just watching people of colour being loaded off buses by burly men in hi-vis jackets at night is enough to tell you something inhumane, morally embarrassing, legally questionable and fundamentally objectionable is going on.

And I wrote about the investigative process and the meaning of visualisation for the Border Criminologies blog of the Centre for Criminology [http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk/seamless-transitions/ ] at the University of Oxford:
Seamless Transitions is not about the individual stories of immigrants and borders ― as necessary and important as those stories are. It’s about the unaccountability and ungraspability of vast, complex systems: of nation-wide architectures, accumulations of laws and legal processes, infrastructures of intent and prejudice, and structural inequalities of experience and understanding. Through journalistic investigation, academic research, artistic impression, and, I believe, the confluence of these approaches with new technologies, there is an opportunity to see, describe, and communicate the world in ways which have not been possible before.
"

[See also the video interview: https://vimeo.com/117787795 ]
2015  jamesbridle  immigration  deportation  uk  law  visualization  research  journalism  legal  architecture  seamlesstransitions  invisibility 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Commuting with Invisible Disability: An NYCSeatShare Idea — Medium
"The lightbulb moment came when it occurred to me that there actually should be an NYCSeatShare badge, but it shouldn’t be worn by those who need a seat. The NYCSeatShare badge should be worn by those who will gladly give their seat up. The badge serves as a promise that if someone needs and asks for a seat, they will be given one. No questions asked.

To be successful, the NYCSeatShare badge will still need to be covetable and beautiful so that SeatSharers will want to wear them. SeatSharers will take pride in the freedom they will be providing to those who need it most. And best of all, for the person with the invisible illness, the person feeling a little flu like, or the person who is struggling with pain, all it will take is a quick nod or a glance at the pin to get your needs met. This interaction could be done on a crowded subway without anyone else even taking notice, it may not even require an exchange of words.

The NYCSeatShare badge will be a token both of fashion and inclusive thought, of understanding. It doesn’t need to be large, but it must be universal in design so that a person can scan a train to see if someone is wearing it. Also it needs to look just as good on a cashmere coat or blazer as it does on a gym or school bag.

The logo will be reinforced through repetition. I imagine stickers on the back of handicapped seating and I dream of an MTA advertising campaign. But most importantly, the NYCSeatShare badge must be affordable. The beauty and message of the badge will make it a status symbol, the affordability will assure that the status isn’t one’s financial acuity but their willingness to give. Perhaps various designers could be given permission to use the logo on a variety of products.

So here’s what NYCSeatShare needs.

NYCSeatShare needs the support of local politicians. I’ll be reaching to the Mayors Office for People with Disabilities as well as Senator David Carlucci and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef who made New York State the first state to update the traditional handicapped sign with the more inspiring and inclusive Accessible Icon.

NYCSeatShare needs approval of the MTA. This means I’ll be reaching out to the board.

NYCSeatShare needs the skills of a world class fashion designer. Where else is the NYCSeatShare logo and badge going to come from?

NYCSeatShare needs the backing of a local hospital. Both doctors and patients can help inform one another about the program. Also, it would be amazing if the Center for Independent Living hopped on board.

NYCSeatShare would also benefit from the support of every affected Society, Association and Foundation. Some of the first that come to mind are the MS Society, the Invisible Disabilities Association, and American Heart and Lung Associations, and the Lupus and Arthritis Foundations, etc. Is it possible for a handful of organizations to band together to make this idea come to life?

I don’t expect anything to happen overnight, but I am dedicated and would love your support. I’ll be updating when and if there are updates. If you have thoughts, ideas or if you know really important people, you can reach me at thegirlwiththepurplecane [at] gmail."
lizjacson  disability  invisibility  disabilities  commuting  2015  via:ablerism  ableism  nyc  nycseatshare  communication  signaling  visibility 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How to Be Invisible - NYTimes.com
"IN one of the most popular ads shown during the Super Bowl last weekend, the Indian-American actress Mindy Kaling thinks she’s become invisible. Cabs pass her by, and men barely look up on the sidewalk. And yet she embraces her invisibility as a kind of liberation. More of us should do the same.

We live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed. If we don’t get the interest, attention and recognition we think we deserve — whether we are men who have retired, women of a certain age (over 50, like me) or millennials who obsess over their brand visibility — we tend to file grievances. When Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” was published in 1952, it was a long overdue cry for recognition — social, judicial, legislative, human — for an entire race. But today, it’s a claim that many more of us seem to think we can file.

Which makes me wonder if it is time for all of us to reconsider the beauty, elegance and imagination that can come with being unseen. In her 2012 book, “Quiet,” Susan Cain discusses at length how silent attentiveness, rather than active participation, can allow one to absorb “on a deep level the laws of social dynamics” that go on around us. While she makes an eloquent argument for reticence and reserve, the natural world may be even more persuasive.

I almost missed the walking stick insect resting lightly on a wisteria branch on the porch railing last summer. With the symmetry and hue of a twig or shoot, it defied notice. Yet some small movement, some slant of light allowed me to see it, and once I did, I also saw that its elegance was a matter not just of its delicate frame and subdued color, but of its discretion as well. Calling it an inconspicuous marvel is not a contradiction.

Throughout the natural world, the capacity for camouflage and the ability to recede into the background come with lavish beauty and biological aplomb. Consider the arctic foxes and hares that turn white before snowfall. Or the baroque patterning of Indonesian crabs that mimic the coral in which they live. Or the octopus with cells beneath its skin that can change color to simulate that of the surrounding marine life. You could call these all extravaganzas of obscurity.

They also propose that becoming invisible, whether it is in color or behavior, is not the equivalent of being nonexistent, a lesson the human species seems to resist. It is not about denying creative individualism nor about relinquishing any of the qualities that may make us unique, original, singular.

Rather, it can be a condition of insight and endurance, a position of strength and power, a matter of knowing how and where we can be best accommodated by the exterior world. It can reflect a knowledge that we are of a larger world and that our survival depends on knowing this — not a bad thing to be reminded of when our disruptions of the natural environment result in everything from freakishly warm temperatures to ocean acidification.

Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.

Escaping notice need not be about complacent isolation, mindless conformity or humiliating anonymity. When circumstance confers invisibility upon us, perhaps it is something to appreciate and even welcome, as some iteration of the small imprint, low-impact living it makes sense to aspire to. Or possibly as a more profound poise, a fuller appreciation for our place in the greater scheme of things.

I think of the walking stick again. When it moves, its shadow is the shadow of a branch, its incremental motion suggesting nothing more than the breeze hitting a bit of bough. It may just be one ordinary thing disguised as another, but it has a lightness of being, a composure, and all the grace of going unseen."
invisibility  2015  akikobusch  susancain  inconspicuous  isolation  unseen  attention  nature  obscurity  individualism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior « Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities
"
“The French have become masters in the art of being happy among ‘small things,’ within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today’s objects, may even appear to be the world’s last, purely humane corner.”


-- Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

During my first reading of Arendt’s The Human Condition, this particular quote attracted my attention, probably since I’m trained as an architect and sensible to these kind of imaginable, tangible examples. (I must also mention the very nice and almost poetic rhythm in the ‘construction’ of the sentences quoted above). The passage immediately reminded me of the famous text “Paris: Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” in which Walter Benjamin, among other things, links the importance of the domestic interior to the emerging impact of industrialization on the working people. Through the mutability of modernity, as symbolised by the arcades with their cast-iron constructions, Benjamin argues that the interior comes into conscious being to the extent that our life, work, and surroundings change. The interior of domestic life originates in the need for a place of one’s own: a small but personal haven in a turbulent world that is subject to constant change.

Acknowledging this development, the modern individual found himself confronting a new separation between living and working, between the (domestic) interior and the workplace. Here Benjamin stresses that in the workplace one deals with “real” life, (Although work is increasingly being carried out in bigger, virtual spheres.) whereas within the dwelling’s interior one harbours illusions. The interior is a safe haven, a familiar domain, in which one can cherish one’s personal history in an otherwise cold and threatening environment. “The interior is not just the universe but also the étui of the private individual,” Benjamin writes. The interior is so close to man that it is like a second skin – a perfect fit. It is geared to our rhythm (of life), and vice versa.

But there is more to it. Benjamin observes that the interior also offers meaning through living; it accommodates a story of personal remembrances. “To live means to leave traces. In the interior, these are accentuated.” In other words, there is no escape from life in the interior. Whereas in the public space those traces inevitably fade, in the interior they remain visible and tangible for the occupant. And that is crucial: people hold the interior close precisely because of the memories that attach to it. To be at home is more than to merely eat, sleep and work somewhere – it is to inhabit the house. That is to say, to make it your own, to leave traces.

It is possible to describe the interior in this perspective as a flight from the “real” world “out there,” but this overlooks the importance of the interior for this “reality.” Arendt’s quotation cited at the beginning of this article – which might be invoked alongside the same Parisian experience Benjamin analyzes – is part of her emphasis on the importance of the private realm vis-à-vis the public realm. A life lived exclusively in the bright glare of the public realm will fade, she states. It will lose depth, that is, its ability to appear into the world. It needs the private realm to recover, to reform, in order to reappear and once again participate in public. Although it may sound negative, darkness means first and foremost that something has been hidden from view. It is therefore shielded from the continuous maelstrom of public life.

Set against this backdrop, Arendt stresses the importance of one’s own household – or more to the point, one’s own home – as a necessary condition. This assertion is supported by the respect with which city-states once treated private property. The boundaries that separated each person’s space were observed most reverently, with the property inside treated as sacred spaces and things.

The darkness of the house and the blinding glare of the outside depend on each other. Indeed, they are inextricably linked. Distinct from family life with its protective and educational aspects, Arendt also takes this to mean that the private realm accommodates those things in life that cannot appear in public. She believes that the distinction between the public and private realms has to do with that which must be made visible on the one hand and that which must remain invisible on the other. What appears in public acquires maximum visibility and hence reality. However, there are some things in life that need to remain hidden: the intimacy of love and friendship, the experiences of birth and death. Both the physical and the romantic belong to the realm of necessity, Arendt claims. They are too closely tied up with the needs of the individual to be made a public matter. Put differently, the private realm provides space for the ineffable, the issues we cannot discuss or negotiate, or indeed the ones we cannot stop talking about. Those issues need a safe place, one among personal “things” and their memories.

If the importance of the interior is manifest anywhere, it is in the appearance of homeless people living like ghosts on the streets. Being homeless not only means living unprotected from wind and rain. It also means first and foremost not having a safe place where you can be more or less secure and sheltered, a place to which you can withdraw in order to recharge before re-entering the domain of uncertainty and danger.
These four walls, within which people’s private life is lived, constitute a shield against the world and specifically against the public aspect of the world. They enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive. This holds good (…) for human life in general. Wherever the latter is consistently exposed to the world without the protection of privacy and security its vital quality is destroyed. (Arendt, The Human Condition)
"
hannaharendt  home  walterbenjamin  interiors  interior  uncertainty  certainty  refuge  hansteerds  privacy  visibility  invisibility  household  homeless  homelessness  security  danger  consistency  modernity  workplace 
january 2015 by robertogreco
THE CHAGALL POSITION: Tidy Words & the End of the World: LeRoi Jones Reads a New Yorker Poem
"Baraka nails the essential quality of the New Yorker poem in a compact formulation: a carefully put-together exercise published as high poetic art. And when it comes to literary standards nothing has changed in the half century plus since the poet shed tears over that alienating poem – New Yorker still puts a premium on carefully put-together exercises that it publishes as high poetic art. This is just as true of the magazine’s fiction, which represents the “quality” apogee of the MFA cookie-cutter “epiphany story.” Wrapped up in tidy packages of psychological realism, these stories reflect the spurious “humanism” of the liberal professional-managerial class that is really a form of fatuous, self-congratulatory narcissism and an apologetics for a racist, imperialist, and exploitative status quo. Such work is “well-crafted,” meticulous, careful, “clean,” and absolutely risk free – the literary equivalent of a gentrified neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood (Baraka even calls it, perceptively, a “place”) where people like the aspiring Black writer are not welcome, where they are the excluded Other.

In the yearning for social mobility that painfully inflects his response, the young poet of the autobiography implicitly realizes how this “high poetic art” functions as a marker of status, what Pierre Bourdieu calls “distinction.” New Yorker verse and fiction are indeed high-end consumer commodities, of a piece with the tailored clothes, pricey jewelry, and haute cuisine dining spots that share its pages. It’s a cultural “address”, but – as commentators such as Sharon Zukin and David Harvey have shown – one that is eminently available to be cross-mapped onto real space, in urban neighborhoods across the US and around the globe.


One way that this type of “cultural address” manifests itself in the contemporary urban arena is the phenomenon of “cultural districts,” specially designated clusters of arts and humanities venues which then become the focus of public-private investment partnerships. There are many such districts in Massachusetts already, including two here in Boston, the Fenway Cultural District and the new Boston Literary District. According to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state body that awards such designations, the ultimate goal of cultural districts is “enhancing property values and making communities more attractive” – i.e., gentrification."



"Social exclusion and symbolic violence inflict real damage and pain, the pain of marginality, invisibility, and muteness – cultural apartheid. It is precisely the type of pain that Amiri Baraka’s younger self experienced while reading that New Yorker poem. The passage from Baraka’s autobiography struck me because I encountered it at the very time I was writing about the Boston Book Festival’s failure, for the fifth year in a row, to select a local African American or Latina/o author for their flagship “One City One Story” program. One of the “Executive Partners” in organizing the Boston Literary District, the BBF states that this citywide “Big Read” event is supposed to promote literacy and “create a community around a shared reading experience.” Yet what kind of community are they creating? Boston is at least 42% Black and Latina/o, but in the 5 years of One City One Story’s existence they’ve chosen 4 white authors and 1 Asian-American author. The stories themselves, moreover, are very much of the same “carefully constructed exercises” (white and uptight) that continue to be published “as high poetic art” in the New Yorker.

I wonder how many minority youth in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan were assigned the book festival’s 2014 offering, Jennifer Haigh’s “Sublimation,” in their high school English classes. No doubt they were exhorted that they were participating in civic life, and that the story’s values and outlook were somehow “universal” and relevant to their own experience. And no doubt that many of them felt the same confusion and shame and anger that LeRoi Jones felt reading that New Yorker poem in San Juan over a half century ago.

I hope none of them shed tears over it, though – the story wasn’t worth it."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103457338970/wrapped-up-in-tidy-packages-of-psychological ]
amiribaraka  leroijones  newyorker  mfa  writing  realism  narcissism  racism  imperialism  statusquo  gentrification  literature  edmondcaldwell  socialmobility  commodities  consumerism  mainstream  elitism  culture  sharonzukin  davidharvey  arts  art  humanities  marginality  invisibility  muteness  culturalapartheid  race  homogeneity  2014 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets
[Update 23 Jan 2015: a new version of this is now at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/ ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[My response on Twitter:

Storified version: https://storify.com/rogre/on-the-invisible-infrastructure-of-often-intangibl

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

“Great way to start my day: @debcha on invisible infrastructure of (often intangible) labor, *not* making, & teaching.”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601349756956672

“[pause to let you read and to give you a chance to sign up for @debcha’s Metafoundry newsletter http://tinyletter.com/metafoundry ]”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601733791633408

““behind every…[maker] is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in…various aspects—…mostly performed by women” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602125107605505

“See also Maciej Cegłowski on Thoreau. https://static.pinboard.in/xoxo_talk_thoreau.htm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eky5uKILXtM”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602602431995904

““Thoreau had all these people, mostly women, who silently enabled the life he thought he was heroically living for himself.” —M. Cegłowski”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602794786963458

“And this reminder from @anotherny [Frank Chimero] that we should acknowledge and provide that support: “Make donuts too.”” http://frankchimero.com/blog/the-inferno-of-independence/
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603172244967424

“small collection of readings (best bottom up) on emotional labor, almost always underpaid, mostly performed by women https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:emotionallabor”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603895087128576

““The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604452065513472

““to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminish[es] their own agency & role in sensemaking” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604828705648640

“That @debcha line gets at why Taylor Mali’s every-popular “What Teachers Make” has never sat well with me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605134185177088

““I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605502805798912

“This all brings me back to Margaret Edson’s 2008 Commencement Address at Smith College. http://www.smith.edu/events/commencement_speech2008.php + https://vimeo.com/1085942”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606045200588803

“Edson’s talk is about classroom teaching. I am forever grateful to @CaseyG for pointing me there (two years ago on Tuesday).”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606488144248833

““Bringing nothing, producing nothing, expecting nothing, withholding … [more]
debchachra  2014  making  makers  makermovement  teaching  howweteach  emotionallabor  labor  danhon  scubadiving  support  ursulafranklin  coding  behavior  gender  cv  margaretedson  caseygollan  care  caretaking  smithcollege  sensemaking  agency  learning  howwelearn  notmaking  unproduct  frankchimero  maciejceglowski  metafoundry  independence  interdependence  canon  teachers  stigma  gratitude  thorough  infrastructure  individualism  invisibility  critique  criticism  fixing  mending  analysis  service  intangibles  caregiving  homemaking  maciejcegłowski 
november 2014 by robertogreco
▶ One-On-One Conversations: Ingrid Burrington and James Bridle by EyebeamNYC
[Description from: http://eyebeam.org/events/eyebeam-artists-one-on-one-james-bridle-and-ingrid-burrington ]

"The first in this series features James Bridle and Ingrid Burrington, discussing "The Black Chamber". As technology advances and becomes increasingly networked and integrated with our daily lives, it tends towards a greater invisibility, a seamlessness and an unreadability. From the Cipher Bureau to Room 641A, from the datacenter to the iPhone, from the drone command module to the shipping container, the black boxes of the network litter the contemporary landscape. Unable to see inside them, we construct fantasies about their use, develop new ways of thinking about them, and attempt to probe them through techniques legal, technical, and magical. Eyebeam Residents Ingrid Burrington and James Bridle will explore the aesthetic and imaginative space of the black box, and outline some of their own practices for approaching them."
ingridburrington  jamesbridle  via:vruba  invisibility  visibility  blackboxes  datacenters  infrastructure  technology  magic  unreadability  landscape  urban  urbanism  architecture  2014  wizards  daemons 
october 2014 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] interpretation roomba
"Part of the reason these two quotes interest me is that I've been thinking a lot about origin stories and creation myths. I've been thinking about how we recognize and choose the imagery and narratives — the abstractions — that we use to re-tell a story. There's nothing a priori wrong with those choices. We have always privileged certain moments over others as vehicles for conveying the symbolism of an event."



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

So, despite my reservations and in the interests of defaulting to action maybe we should all endeavour to run our own read-only littlenets of stuff we think is worth preserving and sharing. If the politics and the motives surrounding the Network are going to get all pear-shaped in the years to come then maybe littlenets are our own samizdat and the means to save what came before and to say as much to ourselves as to others: This is how it should be."
aaronstraupcope  2014  history  storytelling  time  memory  scottmccloud  abstraction  gaps  memorial  objects  artifacts  shareholdervalue  motive  confidence  internet  web  purpose  networks  littlenets  meshnetworks  community  communities  occupy.here  visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  samizdat  realpolitik  access  information  ingridburrington  libraries  sharing  online  commons 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Fantasy and the Buffered Self - The New Atlantis
"When asked by the editors of the website The Immanent Frame to summarize the key concerns of his vastly ambitious book A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor wrote,

Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.

As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.

Before pursuing my argument, I must make two clarifications. First, fantasy itself is not a recent development but rather an ancient form (though not under its current name). What we now call “fantasy” is something closer to “realism” in the pagan world, which is populated by many powers capable of acting upon “porous” human selves. In the pagan world, success in life is largely a matter of navigating safely among those powers, which are unpredictable, beyond good and evil, and often indifferent to human needs. (Such indifference means that they can help as well as hurt, but also that their assistance can never be relied upon.) In this environment, fantastic creatures are at the very least personifications or embodiments of powers genuinely believed to exist. The realism is not strict, in that the writers and readers of earlier times did not necessarily believe in the existence of precisely such creatures as were described in their stories — perhaps not Apollo or Artemis any more than Dante’s Geryon or Spenser’s Blatant Beast, though such questions are necessarily and notoriously vexed. But at the very least the pre-modern world is one in which powers like those hold sway and cannot be safely neglected; a world in which what we would call the fantastic is an intrinsic element of the real.

Second, some of the most celebrated practitioners of modern fantasy share with their pre-modern predecessors this belief that the fictional apparatus of fantasy is a relatively close approximation to the way things really are for human beings. J. R. R. Tolkien may not have believed in Sauron, but he surely believed that there are in human history people who sell themselves to the Enemy and find themselves as a result of that decision first empowered and then destroyed. And when, at the beginning of Lewis’s Perelandra (1944), the protagonist Ransom’s progress toward a friend’s house is impeded by invisible forces who fill him with fear, Lewis was describing the work of spirits whom he truly believed to exist, though under a slightly different description, just as he probably believed that some forms of scientistic rationalism are the product of demonic influence. In short, these writers sought to present their readers with an image of an enchanted world, of selves fully porous to supernatural forces. But because they did so in genres (fantasy, science fiction) known for the imaginative portrayal of the wholly nonexistent, readers confident in their buffered condition can be delighted by those stories without ever for a moment considering the possibility that the forces portrayed therein might correspond to something real. Indeed, the delight of the stories for such readers consists primarily in their perceived unreality."



"If the technical boy is wrong, if resistance can happen, we might take comfort from what seems to me the authentic core of the fantastic as a genre, as we see it from the standpoint of late modernity: fantasy may best be taken as an acknowledgment that the great problem of the pagan world — how to navigate as safely as possible through an ever-shifting landscape of independent and unpredictable powers who are indifferent to human needs — is our problem once more. The powers now may have different names than the ones Homer or Ovid knew, but they are powers all the same. American Gods is an especially important text for this moment, because it rightly identifies technologies as gods and simultaneously sides with the older gods as being intrinsically closer to the proper human lifeworld. Imaginatively, if not in substantive belief, we are pagans once more.

What We Don’t See

But a coda is required. All that I have written so far about porous and buffered selves has followed Charles Taylor in bracketing the question of what our actual condition is. We may choose to believe that we can buffer ourselves, protect ourselves against unknown powers. But that’s a kind of wager: if the powers are real, our disbelief won’t deter them. And it may be that certain powers profit from being disregarded or treated as mere fancies. In a sonnet he wrote in the late 1930s, Auden portrayed a world from which magic had passed: “The sudden shadow of a giant’s enormous calf / Would fall no more at dusk across their lawns outside”; the last dragons and kobolds died off. The people “slept in peace.” But:

... The vanquished powers were glad

To be invisible and free: without remorse
Struck down the sons who strayed into their course,
And ravished the daughters, and drove the fathers mad."
2014  alanjacobs  fantasy  history  legibility  invisibility  visibility  belief  modernity  mysticism  magic  identity  self  protection  boundaries  unpredictability  uncertainty  supernatural  spirits  sciencefiction 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Homo Sacer | booktwo.org
"The paradox of that invisibility, which I have been exploring for some time, is that while the digital defaults to illegibilty, it also renders that operation more legible to those who can read it, who do have access, because its logical nature, the nature of its operation, means it must be written down. Unlike previous forms of power, intention must be explicitly encoded into the machine. This intention can be hidden, but it’s always present. Neither good nor bad, nor neutral; invisible, but never wholly illegible."



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



"If we’re to understand the complex role which technology plays in shaping the world around us, we need a better understanding of complex systems in general, of other kinds of invisible but occasionally legible frameworks, like the law. And in turn, we can take what we have learned in the study of computation and networks and turn that augmented understanding back on the world around us, as a mode of analysis, and perhaps as a lever with which to shift it."
visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  homesacer  2014  jamesbridle  holograms  surveillance  systems  systemsthinking  technology  law  nationality  citizenship 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Invisibles by David Zweig: The Power of Anonymous Work | New Republic
"Despite an incredible range of careers, there are three traits they all seem to share. The first is an ambivalence toward recognition. They don’t seek attention the way most of us do. The second trait is that they tend to be meticulous. The chapter on meticulousness focuses on a man named David Apel, who is a perfumer. This guy has created some of the top-selling fragrances in the world, for people like Calvin Klein and Tom Ford. He’s really an artist: He creates something from nothing, and he has to translate very abstract concepts. If a client says, “I want this to smell like a cloud,” he has to figure out what they’re saying. He has this incredible knowledge of science and chemistry; these fragrances have hundreds of ingredients, and the amount of each ingredient can go down to fraction of a gram. He has these spreadsheets that go on and on and on. He’s extraordinarily meticulous. The third trait is that they tend to savor responsibility. I argue that many of us try to avoid responsibility if we can, but these people want to take it on, even if they don’t get any credit for it. There’s a fascinating story about the engineers on one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early buildings. They knew that his designs weren’t safe, but he was notoriously stubborn, and they knew he wouldn’t listen to them. They secretly went in and reinforced parts of the building while it was being built. They wanted to take on this responsibility, knowing that publicly they could never talk about it, because they just cared so deeply about their work. We tend to associate responsibility with the person at the top of the pyramid, or the most noticeable person, but responsibility doesn’t necessarily have to do with being seen."

[via https://twitter.com/debcha/status/476029143101239296
"Invisibles: highly skilled professionals doing critical work, unseen by the public. Intriguing. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117955/invisibles-david-zweig-power-anonymous-work … /via @seriouspony"

follows with
"The Tzadikim Nistarim: the 36 hidden righteous ones, whose presence allows the world to keep existing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim … /via @harrisj"
https://twitter.com/debcha/status/476031178047520769 ]
anonymity  invisibility  darkmatter  culturaldarkmatter  maticulousness  obscurity  attention  responsibility  visibility  recognition  labor  work  tzadikimnistarim 
june 2014 by robertogreco
BIBLIOTHECA INVISIBILIS
"Bibliotheca Invisibilis seeks to gather all sorts of conceptualizations of the Invisible. You are invited to participate by sharing your work(s) that presents the invisible (including but not limited to invisible text).

Your works can exist (and if there's a link I'm happy to link to it), or be imaginary. The key is to share the work with (some of) its underlying conceptualization.

If you would like to participate, please send the following:

1) Title or name of work
2) Write-up on the work's concept
3) An illustration (e.g. book cover, interior text, or whatever you deem appropriate)
4) Bio and Author photo

Send information to, or ask questions of, me at Nalanda10@aol.com

Best,
Eileen R. Tabios
Library Director, Bibliotheca Invisibilis

*****

Invitation to Curate

While Bibliotheca Invisibilis will continue to be open to individual participants, we are also open to hosting a curated group of works on the theme of Invisibility. Note that the "publisher" of this Blog and the works you choose is Blogger (Blogger has certain constraints which we can discuss if you act as Curator). While you can present as many works as you wish within your curated group of works, it's best to anticipate that you should find a minimum of five different poets/artists represented. To curate a group of works (real and/or imaginary), please email me at Nalanda10@aol.com; if I don't know you, in your initial contact please share some background info (or bio) about yourself.

Best,
Eileen R. Tabios
Library Director, Bibliotheca Invisibilis"
via:soulellis  books  ebooks  invisibility  eileentabios  invisible  text 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Invisible violence
"Those who are banging hard at the wall are deemed barbarians and violent. But we often forget that the wall itself is a form of violence and the decision to build it is perhaps the more violent act. Structural violence escapes blame by naming itself as an objective reality. It insists that the wall was there since time immemorial; it has no history because it represents the natural order of things. It cannot be demolished because it is contrary to natural law.

It promotes the thinking that human miseries can be eliminated if individuals will modify their behavior. Violence is caused by the immoral choices made by man. The system can be reformed through little individual acts of kindness and heroism.

These arguments become easier to accept and understand once structural violence and its essential discontents are made to disappear.

And because structural violence is already rendered invisible, it is now able to inflict more harm and suffering in the world without being tagged as the culprit. Meanwhile, the chattering and twittering classes are echoing the reasoning of politicians when they invoke the laws and legal orders of the land to bring down the visible agent provocateurs and other uncivilized forces of society. Tragic because many of these moral defenders of the law are patriotic citizens who refuse to recognize the heinous link of symbolic violence in society. For them, structural violence is a theory concocted by lawless elements to destroy the social harmony in the Republic. Theory is fun, but they require evidence that can be presented in the courts.

The great political task therefore is not simply to smash the system to smithereens but to render its mysterious and insidious operations visible. Before the permanent shutdown of governments, the first priority is to unmask the dirty history of structural violence. During crisis moments, the inner workings of the system are partly open for public scrutiny but these are only brief periods because new remedies are quickly applied which make structural violence seemingly nonexistent again. What we should do in the next period of upheaval is to follow the great lesson of history: Seize the moment!"

[via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/65394409086 ]
culture  resistance  change  structure  2013  raymondpalatino  darkmatter  violence  reality  objectivity  naturallaw  invisibility  visibility  transparency  institutions  institutionalization  infrastructure  law  society  provocation  persistence  patriotism  establishment 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Australia: Drone Shadows, Diagrams, and Political Systems | booktwo.org
"Drones are avatars of the the political process: they are instantiations of a set of ideologies and beliefs, made visible by their reification in electromechanical systems. When we talk about drones, we are really talking about the politics that demand, shape, and deploy them, and the politics which are made possible by them. This politics reflects the drones themselves: it is a politics of violence, of obfuscation, of radical inequality of sight and action, and it is sustained by that obfuscation and that inequality.

No wonder then that politicians are afraid of even artistic representations of the drone. No wonder they cite feelings of “discomfort” at even mentioning them, although in projecting this discomfort onto an immigrant population – without consultation – they reveal even more clearly the complicity of the technology in war and social oppression.

The Drone Shadow is not just a picture of a drone. It is a diagram of a political system. Every time we draw one, we use it to cast light on the actors who would prefer that the reality of their intentions and actions remain hidden.

This is the nature of networked technology today: it is the product of an embedded politics which it simultaneously obscures, through its apparent sophistication, and renders startlingly visible, through it’s explicit form. That invisibility is the intention of power; rendering it visible is the intention of art.

In the present case, power in all its petty exercise has done its utmost to render such a debate invisible. That it has succeeded for the moment, with the barest minimum of opposition from the cultural institutions which should oppose such exercises at every step, is saddening. It is also, I have to believe, unlikely and impossible to remain the case for long."
2013  jamesbridle  drones  politics  power  invisibility  ideology  inequality  war  oppression  socialoppression 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Why Basketball Won’t Leave Phil Jackson Alone - NYTimes.com
"Jackson’s life is organized around stark polarities. On one hand, he preaches a Zen acceptance of reality as it is. On the other, he is a man with very strong ideas about the way things should be — or as his opponents have often put it, he can be a bit of a whiner. (Non-Lakers fans will detect a certain radioactive irony in Jackson’s frequent complaints about referees.) As a player, Jackson was an unglamorous nonstar, and the triangle is designed to help that kind of role player flourish. And yet he’s never won an N.B.A. championship without superstars. His two homes, Montana and L.A., are complete opposites: anti-ego Buddhist reclusion versus the fame-drenched ego-circus of what is arguably the most scrutinized franchise in sports. He likes to portray himself as an anti-establishment loner, and yet he’s become deeply entangled in the Lakers organization, in part because of his relationship with Jeanie Buss and in part because the team has not been able to establish an identity since Jackson left; it seems as if every plot twist in the franchise’s ongoing soap opera somehow involves him. In his books, Jackson’s declarations of egolessness sometimes emanate strong whiffs of ego: “In that split-second all the pieces came together,” he writes in “Sacred Hoops,” “and my role as leader was just as it should be: invisible.” If this is invisibility, it is a highly visible form of it. These paradoxes — Jackson’s apparent ability to sit, happily, at opposite poles at the same time — are what make him one of the most mesmerizing personalities in sports.

Of the many plays that Phil Jackson diagramed for me, the one I couldn’t stop thinking about was something called the Drake Shuffle. The scheme was invented in the 1950s by a coach in Oklahoma, to be used by teams that lack a dominant scoring threat — no Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan to dump the ball to and get out of the way. Jackson described it to me as a “continuous offensive system,” which means that — unlike many plays, which have a definite endpoint or morph into something else when they get too much pressure — the Drake Shuffle never stops. You could run it, theoretically, forever. All five players move in coordinated motion, taking turns with and without the ball, until they’ve exhausted an elaborate cycle of screens and cuts and passes — at which point the play doesn’t end but starts all over again, with each participant now playing a different role within the same cycle. Everyone on the floor keeps moving, probing, trading off.

The Drake Shuffle sits at the center of a particularly Jacksonian nexus of ideas. It’s a scale-model democracy, a metaphor for the life cycle, a parable of the Buddhist idea of rebirth, one of the Lakota Sioux’s sacred hoops. Jackson’s career itself, with its endings and renewals, its retirements and unretirements, seems like a kind of existential Drake Shuffle, played out over 45 years. He’s gone from player to coach to retiree to whatever it is he’s doing now: cooking, writing, gardening, hiding, self-promoting, advising weary pilgrims from his sacred mountaintop, tantalizing struggling teams, driving endless Internet rumors. He’s in, he’s out, he has the ball, he doesn’t have the ball, he’s moving, he’s moving, he’s moving."

[via: http://randallszott.org/2013/05/24/john-cage-as-a-basketball-coach-phil-jacksons-artistry/ ]
[see also (sketches): http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/the-rembrandt-of-basketball/ ]
sports  basketball  movement  philjackson  2013  visibility  invisibility  flow  drakeshuffle  coaching  cv  offense  continuity  continuous  buddhism  samanderson  drawings  diagrams  flagfootball 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Immaterials – Data between visibility and invisibility on Behance
"Immateriality as material is currently being discovered, opening up a new poetic field in which to narrate with space and information. Location-based metadata waft through the space, and are thereby redefining contexts and places. A new field opens up to designers."
data  visibility  invisibility  darkmatterproject  video  space  information  via:senongo  2013 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Notebook on Cities and Culture: S3E1: Buoyancy and Poignancy with Pico Iyer
"Japan's distinctive combination of buoyancy and poignancy, which leads to the pre-savoring of wistfulness to come; the culture's dissolution of mind, heart, and soul all in the same place, and his efforts to build an intellectual infrastructure around his Japan-related intuitions; his recent reading of John Cage, an unexpected master of the Japanese virtues of not knowing and not saying; the necessity, when you want to write about something, to write about something else, and of writing about a passion in order to write about yourself; the Californian question of "being yourself," and its inadmissability to the Japanese mindset; his relief at not having to be Japanese within Japanese society, and what being a Japanese in Japanese society has done to visit a female brain drain upon the country; what it takes to best remain an outsider in Japan, enjoying its peculiar kind of diplomatic immunity, and how Donald Richie mastered that exchange of belonging for freedom…"
passions  memoirs  notknowing  presence  time  fleetingmoments  poignancy  buoyancy  nuance  invisibility  reservedness  quiet  energy  friction  spontaneity  globalization  osaka  english  responsibility  interdependence  compassion  isolationism  isolation  canon  identity  collectivism  community  place  westpoint  books  listening  silence  understanding  vitality  comfort  nostalgia  pre-nostalgia  memory  women  familiarity  attention  donaldrichie  gender  knowing  writing  belonging  california  thoughfulness  japan  intimacy  society  culture  colinmarshall  johncage  2013  via:charlieloyd  picoiyer 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere
"Like its astronomical cousin, creative dark matter also makes up the bulk of the artistic activity produced in our post-industrial society. However, this type of dark matter is invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture - the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, museums, curators and arts administrators. It includes makeshift, amateur, informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist, non-institutional, self-organized practices - all work made and circulated in the shadows of the formal art world. Yet, just as the astrophysical universe is dependent on its dark matter, so too is the art world dependent on its dark energy."

[Concept mentioned by Randall Szott here: http://intheconversation.blogs.com/art/2008/03/interview-with.html ]

[See also other articles here: http://gregorysholette.com/writings/writing_index.html ]

[Update 2 June 2014: Link is dead. Here's the Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20110911222745/http://www.journalofaestheticsandprotest.org/3/sholette.htm ]
art  culture  politics  media  activism  activistart  vernacular  counter-publicsphere  josephbeuys  proletarian  oskarnegt  alexanderkluge  resistance  subversion  outsiders  artcriticism  tinkering  amateur  glvo  bourgeois  darkmatter  gregorysholette  collectives  culturalresistance  hierarchy  gatekeepers  cultureindustry  artworld  invisibility  economics  temporaryservices  lasagencias  publicspace  tacticalmedia  deschooling  unschooling  zines  diy  outsider  shrequest1 
may 2011 by robertogreco
electronic computation is invisible: maeda at RISD (tecznotes) {best to read the whole thing, and also the Natalia Ilyin post]
"…post about Maeda’s difficulties at RISD is interesting, but I was particularly struck by broader resonance of this:

"The Medialab is much more random than that. This may help to illuminate why John’s approach is so alien to traditional art students. Paul Rand seems to think it’s John’s engineering background which interferes with his leadership ability at RISD, but I think it’s actually scarier. John’s approach is hands off & experimental. Anything goes. Confusing & startling people is valorized…

…NONE of these artists have managed to broach the basic limitation that electronic computation is invisible. All techno artwork thus far relies on impenetrable microchips which require observer/participants to form abstractions in order to appreciate them. Look how hard it is to teach art students to program…

…once you go back in time & look at a Maeda or PLW project & realize you can’t run their code anymore, the collapsing of reality can be devastating."
johnmaeda  michalmigurski  risd  2011  handsoff  leadership  management  disconnect  medialab  mit  engineering  confusion  experimentation  paulrand  computers  computation  art  electroniccomputation  invisibility  reality  collapsingofreality  administration  learning  change  abstraction  inpenetrability  technology  mitmedialab 
april 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: "Invisible Technology"?
"So, even if I can not actually read alphabetical text, it really helps to know how it works. Even I can't subtract a 2-digit number from a 2-digit number on paper (and I typically cannot), it helps me to have an idea of how that happens. And even if you are not a computer programmer it would help if you could see the file system on the iPad, so you might grow up to be the kind of person who could design a better file system.

Thus I don't want technology to be invisible at all, especially not in schools. Right now we spend years teaching kids about the functional technologies of our past, and, whether we continue that or not, we need to teach them something about the functional technologies of their future.

Remember, "invisible" is "unknown." And "unknown" can not really be our goal in education, can it?"
irasocol  technology  edtech  schools  education  tcsnmy  chrislehmann  invisibility 
april 2010 by robertogreco
TidBITS iPhone iPad iPod: Why the iPad Is a Blank Slate, and Why That's Important
"So what's the difference between a Mac and an iPad? It's that blank slate thing. No matter what you do on a Mac, the keyboard and mouse and window-based operating system make it impossible to ignore the fact that you're using a Mac, and it's often equally impossible to ignore the fact that you're using a particular program.
ipad  technology  invisibility  invisibletechnology 
april 2010 by robertogreco
click opera - Absent without leaving
"the Japanese are more discreet, & minimise themselves more politely & considerately than anyone else...Even their houses seem to avert their gaze; you can pass down a heavily-built Tokyo street with the sense of being completely unobserved, thanks to the frosted glass in the windows, just as you can sit in a crowded train carriage and not find a single eye meeting yours. It can feel uncanny at times, like being an invisible man. Most of the time it's very reassuring, though. You soon miss it in other cities. Adjectives I'd use to describe this minimised public presence: discreet, considerate, polite, apologetic, cold, withdrawn, inward, socialised, repressed. & there we begin to hit on an interesting paradox: you withdraw into yourself in the interests of the collectivity. Your absence is highly social, even when it resembles a semi-autistic withdrawal. You turn inward to facilitate outward smoothness. You make yourself ghostlike out of courtesy to other people, who do the same."
momus  japan  tokyo  presence  etiquette  withdrawal  otaku  politeness  minimization  invisibility  subtlety 
december 2009 by robertogreco
The New Invisible Competitors
"Human beings evolved in small groups & hunter-gatherer societies...all competition was face­to­face...new arena, with faceless/anonymous competitors, those driven mostly by adrenalin will not fare well."
competition  cooperation  culture  economics  education  employment  essays  globalization  invisibility  jobs  policy  tylercowen  trade  work 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Young keep it simple in high-tech world: survey - washingtonpost.com
"don't see "tech" as separate entity- it's an organic part of their lives. Talking to them about role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to 80s kids about role the park swing or telephone played in in their social lives- it's invisible
children  technology  survey  invisibility  life  perception  mobile  phones  internet  online  friendship  youth  teens 
july 2007 by robertogreco

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