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robertogreco : obligation   11

[Essay] | Punching the Clock, by David Graeber | Harper's Magazine
"In 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos discovered that infants express extraordinary happiness when they first discover their ability to cause predictable effects in the world. For example, they might scribble with a pencil by randomly moving their arms and hands. When they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this “the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested that it was the basis for play.

Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or a practical need to guarantee physical gratification and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our understanding of the formation of the self, and of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct individuals who are separate from the world around them by observing that they can cause something to happen, and happen again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is the very foundation of our being.

Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues later in life.

Groos’s research led him to devise a theory of play as make-believe: Adults invent games and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom is—the ability to make things up for the sake of being able to do so.

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves."



"The idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see, say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus busywork was invented: to ameliorate the supposed problem of workers not having enough to do to fill an eight-hour day. Take the experience of a woman named Wendy, who sent me a long history of pointless jobs she had worked:

“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine, I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the ad- sales people dumped thousands of paper clips on my desk and asked me to sort them by color. She then used them interchangeably.

“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City into her early nineties, but she did need some help. We hired a very nice woman to live with her, help her do shopping and laundry, and keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help. So, if all went well, there was nothing for this woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”

This sense of obligation is common across the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.

The company needed a team of engineers to come in every morning and check whether the air conditioners were working, then hang around in case something broke. Of course, management couldn’t admit that; instead, the firm invented forms, drills, and box-­ticking rituals calculated to keep the team busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All we do here is paperwork, filling out checklists and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually figured out which ones nobody would notice if he ignored and used the time to indulge a growing interest in film and literature. Still, the process left him feeling hollow. “Going every workday to a job that I considered pointless was psychologically exhausting and left me depressed.”

The end result, however exasperating, doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had figured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing back time that he’d sold to the corporation? Why did the pretense and lack of purpose grind him down?

A bullshit job—where one is treated as if one were usefully employed and forced to play along with the pretense—is inherently demoralizing because it is a game of make-­believe not of one’s own making. Of course the soul cries out. It is an assault on the very foundations of self. A human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist."
davidgraeber  2018  work  bullshitjobs  capitalism  karlgroos  purpose  well-being  life  living  labor  play  pleasure  delight  employment  depression  slave  wageslavery  wages  freedom  humans  psychology  obligation  morality  care  caring  despair  consumerism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Cyborgology: What is The History of The Quantified Self a History of?
[from Part 1: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/13/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-1/]

"In the past few months, I’ve posted about two works of long-form scholarship on the Quantified Self: Debora Lupton’s The Quantified Self and Gina Neff and Dawn Nufus’s Self-Tracking. Neff recently edited a volume of essays on QS (Quantified: Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life, MIT 2016), but I’d like to take a not-so-brief break from reviewing books to address an issue that has been on my mind recently. Most texts that I read about the Quantified Self (be they traditional scholarship or more informal) refer to a meeting in 2007 at the house of Kevin Kelly for the official start to the QS movement. And while, yes, the name “Quantified Self” was coined by Kelly and his colleague Gary Wolf (the former founded Wired, the latter was an editor for the magazine), the practice of self-tracking obviously goes back much further than 10 years. Still, most historical references to the practice often point to Sanctorius of Padua, who, per an oft-cited study by consultant Melanie Swan, “studied energy expenditure in living systems by tracking his weight versus food intake and elimination for 30 years in the 16th century.” Neff and Nufus cite Benjamin Franklin’s practice of keeping a daily record of his time use. These anecdotal histories, however, don’t give us much in terms of understanding what a history of the Quantified Self is actually a history of.

Briefly, what I would like to prove over the course of a few posts is that at the heart of QS are statistics, anthropometrics, and psychometrics. I recognize that it’s not terribly controversial to suggest that these three technologies (I hesitate to call them “fields” here because of how widely they can be applied), all developed over the course of the nineteenth century, are critical to the way that QS works. Good thing, then, that there is a second half to my argument: as I touched upon briefly in my [shameless plug alert] Theorizing the Web talk last week, these three technologies were also critical to the proliferation of eugenics, that pseudoscientific attempt at strengthening the whole of the human race by breeding out or killing off those deemed deficient.

I don’t think it’s very hard to see an analogous relationship between QS and eugenics: both movements are predicated on anthropometrics and psychometrics, comparisons against norms, and the categorization and classification of human bodies as a result of the use of statistical technologies. But an analogy only gets us so far in seeking to build a history. I don’t think we can just jump from Francis Galton’s ramblings at the turn of one century to Kevin Kelly’s at the turn of the next. So what I’m going to attempt here is a sort of Foucauldian genealogy—from what was left of eugenics after its [rightful, though perhaps not as complete as one would hope] marginalization in the 1940s through to QS and the multi-billion dollar industry the movement has inspired.

I hope you’ll stick around for the full ride—it’s going to take a a number of weeks. For now, let’s start with a brief introduction to that bastion of Western exceptionalism: the eugenics movement."

[from Part 2: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/20/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-2/

"Here we begin to see an awkward situation in our quest to draw a line from Galton and hard-line eugenics (we will differentiate between hardline and “reform” eugenics further on) to the quantified self movement. Behaviorism sits diametrically opposed to eugenics for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does not distinguish between human and animal beings—certainly a tenet to which Galton and his like would object, understanding that humans are the superior species and a hierarchy of greatness existing within that species as well. Secondly, behaviorism accepts that outside, environmental influences will change the psychology of a subject. In 1971, Skinner argued that “An experimental analysis shifts the determination of behavior from autonomous man to the environment—an environment responsible both for the evolution of the species and for the repertoire acquired by each member” (214). This stands in direct conflict with the eugenical ideal that physical and psychological makeup is determined by heredity. Indeed, the eugenicist Robert Yerkes, otherwise close with Watson, wholly rejected the behaviorist’s views (Hergenhahn 400). Tracing the quantified-self’s behaviorist and self-experimental roots, then, leaves us without a very strong connection to the ideologies driving eugenics. Still, using Pearson as a hint, there may be a better path to follow."]

[from Part 3: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/27/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-3/

"The history of Galton and eugenics, then, can be traced into the history of personality tests. Once again, we come up against an awkward transition—this time from personality tests into the Quantified Self. Certainly, shades of Galtonian psychometrics show themselves to be present in QS technologies—that is, the treatment of statistical datasets for the purpose of correlation and prediction. Galton’s word association tests strongly influenced the MBTI, a test that, much like Quantified Self projects, seeks to help a subject make the right decisions in their life, though not through traditional Galtonian statistical tools. The MMPI and 16PFQ are for psychological evaluative purposes. And while some work has been done to suggest that “mental wellness” can be improved through self-tracking (see Kelley et al., Wolf 2009), much of the self-tracking ethos is based on factors that can be adjusted in order to see a correlative change in the subject (Wolf 2009). That is, by tracking my happiness on a daily basis against the amount of coffee I drink or the places I go, then I am acknowledging an environmental approach and declaring that my current psychological state is not set by my genealogy. A gap, then, between Galtonian personality tests and QS."]

[from Part 4 (Finale): https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/05/08/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-the-finale/

"What is the history of the quantified self a history of? One could point to technological advances in circuitry miniaturization or in big data collection and processing. The proprietary and patented nature of the majority of QS devices precludes certain types of inquiry into their invention and proliferation. But it is not difficult to identify one of QS’s most critical underlying tenets: self-tracking for the purpose of self-improvement through the identification of behavioral and environmental variables critical to one’s physical and psychological makeup. Recognizing the importance of this premise to QS allows us to trace back through the scientific fields which have strongly influenced the QS movement—from both a consumer and product standpoint. Doing so, however, reveals a seeming incommensurability between an otherwise analogous pair: QS and eugenics. A eugenical emphasis on heredity sits in direct conflict to a self-tracker’s belief that a focus on environmental factors could change one’s life for the better—even while both are predicated on statistical analysis, both purport to improve the human stock, and both, as argued by Dale Carrico, make assertions towards what is a “normal” human.

A more complicated relationship between the two is revealed upon attempting this genealogical connection. What I have outlined over the past few weeks is, I hope, only the beginning of such a project. I chose not to produce a rhetorical analysis of the visual and textual language of efficiency in both movements—from that utilized by the likes of Frederick Taylor and his eugenicist protégés, the Gilbreths, to what Christina Cogdell calls “Biological Efficiency and Streamline Design” in her work, Eugenic Design, and into a deep trove of rhetoric around efficiency utilized by market-available QS device marketers. Nor did I aim to produce an exhaustive bibliographic lineage. I did, however, seek to use the strong sense of self-experimentation in QS to work backwards towards the presence of behaviorism in early-twentieth century eugenical rhetoric. Then, moving in the opposite direction, I tracked the proliferation of Galtonian psychometrics into mid-century personality test development and eventually into the risk-management goals of the neoliberal surveillance state. I hope that what I have argued will lead to a more in-depth investigation into each step along this homological relationship. In the grander scheme, I see this project as part of a critical interrogation into the Quantified Self. By throwing into sharp relief the linkages between eugenics and QS, I seek to encourage resistance to fetishizing the latter’s technologies and their output, as well as the potential for meaningful change via those technologies."]
gabischaffzin  quantifiedself  2017  kevinkelly  garywolf  eugenics  anthropometrics  psychometrics  measurement  statistics  heredity  francisgalton  charlesdarwin  adolphequetelet  normal  psychology  pernilsroll-hansen  michelfoucault  majianadesan  self-regulation  marginalization  anthropology  technology  data  personality  henryfairfieldosborn  moralbehaviorism  behaviorism  williamepstein  mitchelldean  neoliberalism  containment  risk  riskassessment  freedom  rehabilitation  responsibility  obligation  dalecarrico  fredericktaylor  christinacogdell  surveillance  nikolasrose  myers-briggs  mbti  katherinebriggs  isabelbriggsmeyers  bellcurve  emilkraepelin  charlesspearman  rymondcattell  personalitytests  allenneuringer  microsoft  self-experimentation  gamification  deborahlupton  johnwatson  robertyerkes  ginaneff  dawnnufus  self-tracking  melanieswan  benjaminfranklin  recordkeeping  foucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Gift on JSTOR
[PDF: https://syelavich.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/the-gift.pdf ]

"
We are forgetting how to give presents. Violation of the exchange principle has something nonsensical and implausible about it.... [Today] even the private giving of presents has degenerated to a social function exercised with rational bad grace, careful adherence to the prescribed budget, skeptical appraisal of the other and the least possible effort. Real giving had its joy in imagining the joy of the receiver. It means choosing, expending time, going out of one's way, thinking of the other as a subject: the opposite of distraction. Just this hardly anyone is now able to do. At best they give what they would have liked themselves, only a few degrees worse. The decay of giving is mirrored in the distressing invention of gift-articles, based on the assumption that one does not know what to give because one really does not want to.

Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Life (1944)

1. A paradox of gift giving, often alluded to, is that when conducted as obligation, it is profoundly depressive. There is something wrong here. After all, the act of giving, if we disengage it from Christmas and its horrors, should be a positive thing. The gift ought to be that which, when proffered by the giver, induces a double joy - that of the receiver in the object, and that of the giver at the receiver's joy. Neither of these joys is inconsiderable. It is worth analyzing them because they tell us something about how things work for us and, therefore, something about the character of design activity.

Ideally the receiver of the gift obtains a double joy. First, and most obviously, there is a joy in the thing itself, the object received. The proper gift gives happiness because it matches perfectly one moment of the receiver's needs and desires. Sometimes it even helps receivers discover and satisfy desires they did not know they had. Second, the gift gives joy because the successful gift affirms a positive relationship between giver and receiver. It is concrete or evident proof that the giver knows, and has understood, recognized, affirmed, and sought to concretely meet the other's most intimate needs and desires. Moreover, the receiver finds additional joy in being the subject of the imaginative work undertaken by the giver in securing and giving this gift. The successful gift proves to us that our relationship to the giver is more than merely formal or nominal.

For the giver, the joy is perhaps more subtle, but nonetheless significant. It is a joy, first and foremost, in pleasing others, in getting to know their tastes, interests, and character, in recognizing and accepting their needs and desires (even if contrary to our own). But it is also a pleasure in successfully finding a material thing that successfully concretizes these desires - that gives receivers "exactly what they wanted."

Note that the gift is not just the thing itself. If the nature of the object or product that we proffer is essential, it is, nonetheless, not all we give. What the giver gives besides the gift-object is recognition - which both Lacan and Hegel recognized as the fundamental human desire, which we crave above all else."
gifts  clivedilnot  1999  relationships  presents  1944  theodoradorno  giftgiving  equity  exchange  obligation 
november 2015 by robertogreco
I’m leaving Mojang | notch.net
"I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world. Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either. It’s certainly flattering, and to gradually get thrust into some kind of public spotlight is interesting.

A relatively long time ago, I decided to step down from Minecraft development. Jens was the perfect person to take over leading it, and I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work. I wasn’t exactly sure how I fit into Mojang where people did actual work, but since people said I was important for the culture, I stayed.

I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them.

I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity."

[Also here: http://pastebin.com/n1qTeikM ]

[See also: http://kottke.org/14/09/this-is-phil-fish
http://incisive.nu/2014/ditching-twitter/ ]
games  gaming  microsoft  minecraft  notch  2014  celebrity  making  work  fun  play  philfish  makers  creativity  business  obligation  internet  web  twitter 
september 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Horrible Histories: Too cool for school? | Books | guardian.co.uk
"Horrible Histories author Terry Deary might have sold 25m copies of his books, but he sounds like he's hoping that that none of those sales came from schools. "I shudder when I hear my books are used in those pits of misery and ignorance," he told the Evening Standard.

Deary doesn't visit schools either, and, extraordinarily, apparently told the paper that "when schools use his books in lessons, he said he wished he could sue them". The reason for all this? Being forced to read can put children off enjoying stories, according to Deary, who was interviewed in the wake of the release of his latest novel, The Perfect Poison Pills Plot, which "comes in 16 chunks of 100 words"."
compulsory  obligation  forcefeeding  learning  2012  horriblehistories  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  education  loveofreading  schools  children  reading  books  terrydeary 
april 2012 by robertogreco
The Decline of the Professional – Implications for the Future of Money | OnTheSpiral
"”Professional” in one word says:<br />
<br />
• I do this for money, not for personal gratification.<br />
• There is no grey area between my personal and professional roles.<br />
• When operating in my professional role I get paid.<br />
• When operating in my personal role I don’t talk about work.<br />
• To do so would undermine my ability to get paid.<br />
• I have obligation to my firm and family to bring home the bacon.<br />
• Anyone who doesn’t maintain the same distinction is unprofessional.<br />
<br />
Of course, every one of the assertions above is now losing relevance.  Most importantly we now expect more from our work than money…we now seek to develop careers around our passions, or at least to structure our work environments in order to encourage engagement. As the amount of intrinsically motivated economic activity grows the justifications for commercial payment becomes less clear…"
professionalism  change  careers  passion  pay  wages  economics  motivation  obligation  meaning  purpose  2011 
august 2011 by robertogreco
UA Museum | Heart of the Country
"…story of Shinichi Yasutomo, extraordinary principal of a rural elementary school in Kanayama, central Hokkaido, Japan. Yasutomo is a man driven by his vision for learning & his passion for educating the heart as well as the mind. The film follows Yasutomo, his teachers & staff, students & their families over the course of one entire school year.

The film is also the story of the families of Kanayama. Parents & elders of this once impoverished town embrace Yasutomo's vision, but not w/out wary glances back to past. This small community, bound together by love for its children, is also defined by its journey through the cultural upheavals of postwar Japan.

Beyond intimate observation of everyday life, from morning gymnastics to the graduating ceremony, Heart of the Country takes viewers into the world of Japanese values, revealing how the school, family & community are bound together in a self-perpetuating relationship based upon obligation, mutual responsibility & trust."
shinichiyasutomo  japan  tcsnmy  community  schools  hokkaido  education  families  trust  relationships  wholechild  kindness  learning  teaching  tradition  culture  responsibility  obligation  via:lukeneff 
july 2011 by robertogreco
The New Atlantis » The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
"Alan Jacobs…The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction…argues that, contrary to doomsayers, reading is alive & well in America. His interactions w/ students & readers of his own books, however, suggest that many readers lack confidence; they wonder whether they are reading well, w/ proper focus & attentiveness, w/ due discretion & discernment. Many have absorbed the puritanical message that reading is, first & foremost, good for you—intellectual equivalent of eating Brussels sprouts.

For such people, indeed for all readers, Jacobs offers some simple, powerful, & much needed advice: read at whim, read what gives you delight, & do so w/out shame, whether it be Stephen King or King James Bible. Jacobs offers an insightful, accessible, & playfully irreverent guide for aspiring readers. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of approaching literary fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, & the book explores everything from invention of silent reading…"
literature  reading  distraction  alanjacobs  2011  classideas  elitism  engagement  pleasure  guilt  obligation  virtue  teaching  books  motorresponse  kindle  attention  ebooks  twitching  fidgeting  concentration 
june 2011 by robertogreco
An Excerpt from My Three-Volume Memoir « Cocking A Snook Too!
"What is up with this attitude? Why are you in a 3300 level class that you don’t even care about? Come to think about it, why are you even in college?"
education  motivation  learning  colleges  universities  attitude  passion  obligation 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Subtraction.com: A Good Day’s Busy Work
"What does it mean, exactly, to “embrace the medium”? Apparently, it means a compulsive dedication to what essentially amounts to busy work: checking in with your followers or friends repeatedly and often, authoring bursts of quasi-communiqués at all hours of the day, continually updating your statuses, tending a limitless onslaught of friend requests, managing an unyielding firehose of housekeeping tasks. It just means spending a lot of time just wasting time. And not just that, but it also means creating all of this busy work for other people, too; creating or updating or inputting more stuff for everyone to read — or more accurately, for everyone to feel they have to keep up with. We’re all blindsiding ourselves and one another with trivial obligations."
productivity  distraction  internet  twitter  communication  khoivinh  culture  society  obligation  work  blogs  blogging  etiquette  time 
july 2009 by robertogreco

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