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What if All the World’s Economic Woes Are Part of the Same Problem? - The New York Times
"If a group of time-traveling economists were to visit from the year 2000 and wanted to know how the economy had changed since their time, what would you tell them?

You might mention that economic growth has been slower than it used to be across much of the advanced world, and global inflation and interest rates have been lower. An aging population is changing the demographics of the work force. Productivity growth has been weak. Inequality has risen. And the corporate world is more and more dominated by a handful of “superstar” firms.

The time-traveling economists would find that list rather depressing, but also would tend to view each problem on the list as discrete, with its own cause and potential solutions. “What terrible economic luck,” they might say, “that all those things happened at the same time.”

But what if those megatrends are all the same problem?

Maybe, for example, inequality is contributing to weak growth and low rates because the rich tend to save money rather than spend it. Maybe productivity has been weak not by coincidence, but because weak growth has meant companies haven’t been forced to innovate to meet demand. Perhaps industry concentration has left companies with more power to set wages, resulting in more inequality and lower inflation.

Those theories may not be definitively proven, but there is growing evidence supporting each. Much of the most interesting economic research these days is trying to understand and prove potential connections between these dysfunctions.

In recent weeks, for example, one groundbreaking paper proposes that low interest rates are fueling a rising concentration of major industries and low productivity growth. Another offers evidence that aging demographics are an important factor in weak productivity.

Even if you don’t fully buy every one of these interrelationships, taken together, this work suggests we’ve been thinking about the world’s economic woes all wrong. It’s not a series of single strands, but a spider web of them.

Imagine a person with a few separate problems — some credit card debt, say, and an unhappy marriage. That person might be able to address each problem on its own, by paying down debt and going to counseling.

But things are thornier when a person has a long list of problems that are interrelated. Think of someone with mental health problems, a drug addiction, and an inability to maintain family relationships or hold a job. For that person you can’t just fix one thing. It’s a whole basket of problems.

The implication of this new body of research is that the global economy, like that troubled person, needs a lot of different types of help all at the same time.

But for now, the challenge is just to understand it.

Why low interest rates can favor market leaders
Atif Mian, an economist at Princeton, was recently having dinner with a colleague whose parents owned a small hotel in Spain. The parents had complained vociferously, Mr. Mian recalled the friend saying, about the European Central Bank’s low interest rate policies.

That didn’t make sense, Mr. Mian thought. After all, low interest rates should make it easier for small business owners to invest and expand; that’s one of the reasons central banks use them to combat economic weakness.

The owners of the small hotel didn’t see it that way. They thought that big hotel chains were the real beneficiaries of low interest rate policies, not a mom-and-pop operation.

Mr. Mian, along with his Princeton colleague Ernest Liu and research partner, Amir Sufi at the University of Chicago, tried to figure out if the relationship between low interest rates and business investment might be murkier than textbooks suggested.

Imagine a town in which two hotels are competing for business, one part of a giant chain and one that is independent. The chain hotel might have some better technology and marketing to give it a steady advantage, and is therefore able to charge a little more for its rooms and be a little more profitable. But it is basically a level playing field.

When interest rates fall to very low levels, though, the payoff for being the industry leader rises, under the logic that a business generating a given flow of cash is more valuable when rates are low than when they are high. (This is why low interest rates typically cause the stock market to rise.)

A market leader has more to gain from investing and becoming bigger, and it becomes less likely that the laggards will ever catch up.

“At low interest rates, the valuation of market leaders rises relative to the rest,” Mr. Mian said. “Amazon becomes a lot more valuable as interest rates fall relative to a smaller player in the same industry, and that gives a huge advantage to Amazon.”

In turn, the researchers argue, that can cause smaller players to underinvest, lowering productivity growth across the economy. And that can create a self-sustaining cycle in which industry leaders invest more and achieve ever-rising dominance of their industry.

The researchers tested the theory against historical stock market data since 1962, and found that falling interest rates indeed correlated with market leaders that outperformed the laggards.

“There’s a view that we can solve all of our problems by just making interest rates low enough,” Mr. Mian said. “We’re questioning that notion and believe there is something else going on.”

How an aging population affects productivity
In another effort to apply a new lens on how major economic forces may interact, economists at Moody’s Analytics have tried to unpack the ties between demographic change and labor productivity.

No one disputes that the aging of the current work force is reducing growth rates. With many in the large baby boom generation retiring, fewer people are working and producing, which directly reduces economic output.

In terms of company efficiency, though, you could imagine that an aging work force could cut in either direction. Savvy, more experienced workers might be able to generate more output for every hour they work. But they might be less willing to learn the latest technology or adapt their work style to changing environments.

Adam Ozimek, Dante DeAntonio and Mark Zandi analyzed data on work force age and productivity at both the state and industry level, with payroll data on millions of workers. They found that the second effect seems to prevail, that an aging work force can explain a slowdown in productivity growth of between 0.3 and 0.7 percentage points per year over the last 15 years.

Mr. Ozimek says companies may not want to invest in new training for people in their early 60s who will retire in a few years. “It’s possible that older workers may still be the absolute best workers at their firms, but it could be not worth it to them or the company to retrain and learn new things,” he said.

The research implies there could be a downward drag on productivity growth for years to come.

These findings are hardly the end of the discussion on these topics. But they do reflect that there can be a lot of nonintuitive connections hiding in plain sight.

Everything, it turns out, affects everything."
interconnected  complexity  economics  2019  neilirwin  productivity  interestrates  atifmian  interrelated  inequality  growth  demographics  consolidation  corporatism  capitalism 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Harvard Design Magazine: No. 46 / No Sweat
"This issue of Harvard Design Magazine is about the design of work and the work of design. “No Sweat” challenges designers to speculate on the spaces of work in an accelerated future, and to imagine a world in which a novel ethics of labor can emerge. What scenarios and spaces can we imagine for the next generation of work? How can we anticipate and formulate work environments and experiences that are productive, humane, and ecologically responsible?

From corner office to kitchen sink, from building site to factory floor, from cubicle to car to coffee shop, work shapes our lives and physical world. Whether we produce objects, generate ideas, manage processes, or perform services, work is a hybrid of dedication and alienation, power and oppression. As work spaces morph to integrate machines that mimic, assist, or complement human abilities, the way we perform work, and the way we feel about it, change too.

To work (to put forth effort) and the work (that effort, or the result it generates) are sources of pride and shame, fulfillment and drudgery. As many jobs become obsolete, and as populations are displaced under the pressures of climate change and political turmoil, the boundaries of the workplace are shifting in space and time. Though some claim that a world without work is on the horizon, “labor-saving” innovations are enmeshed with human exploitation, and housework and care work remain at the crux of persistent inequalities.

Paradoxically, the more that work, as we once understood it, appears to be receding, the more omnipresent and ambiguous it becomes. The workplace is everywhere—or is it nowhere?"

[via: "also check out Andrew Herscher’s piece in HDM 46 (not online) for critique of how architects mobilize constructions of “community”" ]
design  work  pride  shame  2018  responsibility  ecology  sustainability  humanism  productivity  labor  ethics  fulfillment  drudgery  jobs  workplace  housework  exploitation  emotionallabor  care  caring  maintenance  andrewherscher  architecture 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here: ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?” ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."

"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."

"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."

"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Captain Awkward on Twitter: "Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?"
"Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?

If we can crowdsource data about price, fiddliness, cult following, # of dedicated subreddits, # of naturally organized people who swore it would change our lives or said “if I can do it anyone can!”, etc, then I can get a jump start on shame spiral trajectory calculations!

My poor therapists (all): Have you tried to-do lists?

Me: Yes! I love making them, but I constantly forget to check. Also putting a task on the list can “solve” its urgency & I forget. Whereas if I DON’T write it, the terror of forgetting might keep it in focus!

Therapists: [gif]

Me: I basically exist inside a giant perpetual-motion machine of prcrastination, forgetting stuff, guilt, and anxiety and sometimes I can harness it as motivation!

Therapists: [gif]

Therapists: But you DO accomplish things?

Me: Yes?


Me: Oh, that’s easy, I have enough raw intelligence & ability that sometimes the crippling fear of failure makes a volcano instead of an abyss, and work erupts out of the crater instead of collapsing in.

Therapists: But...wouldn’t be easier to keep a to-do list?

Me: Obviously!

Therapists: So, what CAN we work on?

Me: Could we maybe make the creative work volcanoes a little bigger and the crushing paralysis & shame abysses a little smaller?

Therapists: [gif]

In all seriousness, the thing about getting finally getting dx’d with #ADHD that helps me most isn’t the meds, which do mitigate it a bit, but that I stopped hating myself for being this way.

My whole childhood & life before diagnosis, my intelligence and literally everything I am good at was used as proof that I must be lazy & deliberately fucking up career & academic & household stuff out of spite.

The paradox of #ADHD - being excellent at complex, high-stimulus tasks and fuck-all at routine, “easy” tasks was a weapon in the hands of parents, teachers, & employers and a constant abusive echo in my brain.

What I internalized was that accomplishments that were fun or that came easy to me had no value, only the ones that involve effort “count.” But the things that involved the most effort for me were mundane tasks that came easy to others, so they had no value, either.

“But you are so good at ______ it should be easy to _____?” became “But I am so good at ____, I should be good at ____ and since I am not actually good at ____ I must be a hopeless fuckup.”

I also internalized a fallacy that I was not “allowed” to do rewarding ambitious enjoyable things until all my “chores” were done. Meaning I set impossible traps for myself for YEARS b/c I would never get the chores done?

TBH sometimes the right thing for me to do is put the laptop down & clean the house but also one main reason I can be a prolific writer is an internal shift in permissions, like, chores CAN actually wait if I’m in the grip of an idea, & I DON’T have to read/answer every email.

My condition comes with gifts like creativity and intense bursts of focus & enthusiasm and it is ok to ride those bursts and enjoy them and give my effort & time to “fun” work. It is also ok to kinda suck at some things.

This article was a turning point for me in getting dx’d - I had raised the prospect before and been told I was “too smart” & “too high-functioning.” Therapist was using (incredibly common) idea of hyperactive boys. ["ADHD Is Different for Women"]

This book by Sari Solden, rec’d by a friend, was also really helpful: ["Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life"]

Finally, #ADHD is buds with Depression & Anxiety, and a lot of its symptoms overlap with PTSD. If you never get a clear ADHD dx it doesn’t mean you are not having real trouble with executive function. Your treatment (esp. meds) might differ, tho, so get checked out if you can.

Ok, actually finally finally finally there is tons of productivity & organizing advice from people who are naturally good at organization. You will often recognize it by the word “just” - “I just take 10 seconds to put things back where they belong!” “I just make lists!”

For us #ADHD buds this advice can be so, so, so overwhelming. It isn’t factually untrue (It does save time to put things away as you go? Or, er, I believe organized people when they say this?) but your instinct that the word “just” does not apply to you is CORRECT.

If the actual tips sound helpful and you want to try them, by all means! We can work on new habits and find better workarounds. But if it’s difficult, please know, that’s expected & you’re not imagining it. Please also don’t add it to the ways you beat yourself up.

I tweet for the kids who got their messy desks dumped out as an example to others. I tweet for the ones who never once brought a permission slip home, and got it signed, and brought that same piece of paper back in time for the field trip.

I tweet for the kids who peed their pants sometimes not b/c they weren’t potty-trained but b/c they got too absorbed in something & forgot to switch tasks.

I tweet for #ADHD couples, esp. brides, who are like “I want to marry YOU but what the hell is WEDDING PLANNING and why do people think I know how?”

I tweet for the ones who are panicking that “you have so much potential!” is turning into “you *had* so much potential.” Every day is a race against the sun and our own runaway brains.

BTW I also tweet for the parents who are like “oh crap I lost my kid’s permission slip...again...”

Also, hi to the people who really need an assistant but have no idea how to delegate things to an assistant and/or find the whole assistant thing terrifying b/c someone will know how truly, truly disorganized you are & how much you rely on adrenaline & charisma. [gif]

I see you, I am you, I have been you, and I have been your assistant. Let the nice person help you if you possibly can. They want to. They *like* it. You just have to be nice and honest & give them money.

If anyone has ever told you, patiently & kindly, that the best way to accomplish a big project is to break it down into small, digestible chunks, and you’ve nodded in agreement but internally screamed b/c you know a long list = more ways to lose focus, come here: [gif]"

[Via/see also:

This thread made me cry. I have never considered ADHD as something that might describe me. Depression, anxiety, yes. ADHD? Not so much.

But holy shit does this thread have my number re: procrastination, organization, shame spirals, etc..
Oh, but Emile. It's not you with the disorder, it's society. You're just made for a better, slower, simpler, more attuned, more holistic world. 90% of the shit people do when they get shit done is actually destroying the planet. If everybody just did less we could save the world.
Have you seen this research on the cultural dimensions of attentional stance? ["Open Attention as a Cultural Tool for Observational Learning" by Suzanne Gaskins

Learning through observation in everyday activities is widely recognized in the ethnographic literature as a central way that children learn from others. There are two well-described
characteristics of learning through observation: participation in meaningful activities with people who are important in the children’s lives and a belief that children are active, motivated learners who take initiative to garner experiences and make meaning from them. Gaskins and Paradise (2010) have proposed that there is a third characteristic central to observational learning: open attention, defined as attention that takes in information from the full environmental context (that is, wide-angled) and is sustained over time (that is, abiding). This paper will describe open attention in some detail, giving examples of how open attention is encouraged in a variety of cultures, its value as a component of observational learning, the role of concentration, and the implications for understanding children’s learning (in and out of school) and play. The presentation will conclude that, while learning through observation is present in all cultures, in cultures where open attention is encouraged and expected, and where the responsibility for learning is given to the children, observational learning is both more powerful and more central to children’s mastery of the full range of cultural knowledge." ]]
attention  adhd  neurodiversity  2018  productivity  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  organization  anxiety  depression  context  procrastination  shame  forgetfulness  executivefunction  creativity  add  children  childhood  schools  schooling 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Preindustrial workers worked fewer hours than today's
"One of capitalism's most durable myths is that it has reduced human toil. This myth is typically defended by a comparison of the modern forty-hour week with its seventy- or eighty-hour counterpart in the nineteenth century. The implicit -- but rarely articulated -- assumption is that the eighty-hour standard has prevailed for centuries. The comparison conjures up the dreary life of medieval peasants, toiling steadily from dawn to dusk. We are asked to imagine the journeyman artisan in a cold, damp garret, rising even before the sun, laboring by candlelight late into the night.

These images are backward projections of modern work patterns. And they are false. Before capitalism, most people did not work very long hours at all. The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure. When capitalism raised their incomes, it also took away their time. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that working hours in the mid-nineteenth century constitute the most prodigious work effort in the entire history of humankind.

Therefore, we must take a longer view and look back not just one hundred years, but three or four, even six or seven hundred. Consider a typical working day in the medieval period. It stretched from dawn to dusk (sixteen hours in summer and eight in winter), but, as the Bishop Pilkington has noted, work was intermittent - called to a halt for breakfast, lunch, the customary afternoon nap, and dinner. Depending on time and place, there were also midmorning and midafternoon refreshment breaks. These rest periods were the traditional rights of laborers, which they enjoyed even during peak harvest times. During slack periods, which accounted for a large part of the year, adherence to regular working hours was not usual. According to Oxford Professor James E. Thorold Rogers[1], the medieval workday was not more than eight hours. The worker participating in the eight-hour movements of the late nineteenth century was "simply striving to recover what his ancestor worked by four or five centuries ago."

An important piece of evidence on the working day is that it was very unusual for servile laborers to be required to work a whole day for a lord. One day's work was considered half a day, and if a serf worked an entire day, this was counted as two "days-works."[2] Detailed accounts of artisans' workdays are available. Knoop and jones' figures for the fourteenth century work out to a yearly average of 9 hours (exclusive of meals and breaktimes)[3]. Brown, Colwin and Taylor's figures for masons suggest an average workday of 8.6 hours[4].

The contrast between capitalist and precapitalist work patterns is most striking in respect to the working year. The medieval calendar was filled with holidays. Official -- that is, church -- holidays included not only long "vacations" at Christmas, Easter, and midsummer but also numerous saints' andrest days. These were spent both in sober churchgoing and in feasting, drinking and merrymaking. In addition to official celebrations, there were often weeks' worth of ales -- to mark important life events (bride ales or wake ales) as well as less momentous occasions (scot ale, lamb ale, and hock ale). All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one-third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. The ancien règime in France is reported to have guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain, travelers noted that holidays totaled five months per year.[5]

The peasant's free time extended beyond officially sanctioned holidays. There is considerable evidence of what economists call the backward-bending supply curve of labor -- the idea that when wages rise, workers supply less labor. During one period of unusually high wages (the late fourteenth century), many laborers refused to work "by the year or the half year or by any of the usual terms but only by the day." And they worked only as many days as were necessary to earn their customary income -- which in this case amounted to about 120 days a year, for a probable total of only 1,440 hours annually (this estimate assumes a 12-hour day because the days worked were probably during spring, summer and fall). A thirteenth-century estime finds that whole peasant families did not put in more than 150 days per year on their land. Manorial records from fourteenth-century England indicate an extremely short working year -- 175 days -- for servile laborers. Later evidence for farmer-miners, a group with control over their worktime, indicates they worked only 180 days a year."
work  labor  history  julietschor  productivity  capitalism  workweek 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Ideas in cars, honking
[To these examples, I’d add what Earl Sweatshirt says about moments and his process in this interview: ]

"There was one great spot in the Dave Chappelle episode, though, that I felt was worth transcribing and sharing. Seinfeld asks Chappelle whether he feels like, knowing he can do a great TV show, he shouldn’t try to do another one.
CHAPPELLE: Sometimes the offering drives. If I [have] an idea, it should drive. It’s like the idea says, “Get in the car.” And I’m like, “Where am I going?” And the idea says, “Don’t worry, I’m driving.” And then you just get there.

SEINFELD: The idea’s driving.

CHAPPELLE: Sometime’s I’m shotgun. Sometimes I’m in the f—ing trunk. The idea takes you where it wants to go.

SEINFELD: That’s great.

CHAPPELLE: And then other times, there’s me, and it’s my ego, like, “I should do something!”

SEINFELD: “I should be driving!”


SEINFELD: That’s not good.

CHAPPELLE: No, ‘cause there’s no idea in the car. It’s just me. That formula doesn’t work.

SEINFELD: If the idea is in the car honking, going, “Let’s go…” It pulls up in front of your house.

CHAPPELLE: That’s exactly right.

SEINFELD: “You’re in your pajamas. Get dressed!”

CHAPPELLE: “I’m not ready!” “You can go like this.” “Where are we going? What are we doing?” “Don’t worry about it. You’ll see.”

Although, there’s another great story about cars and ideas, told by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Tom [Waits], for most of his life, he was pretty much the embodiment of the tormented contemporary modern artist, trying to control and manage and dominate these sort of uncontrollable creative impulses that were totally internalized.

But then he got older, he got calmer, and one day he was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles, and this is when it all changed for him. And he’s speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, it’s gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn’t have a piece of paper, or a pencil, or a tape recorder.

So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, “I’m going to lose this thing, and I’ll be be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it.” And instead of panicking, he just stopped. He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving?”

“Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”

And his whole work process changed after that. Not the work, the work was still oftentimes as dark as ever. But the process, and the heavy anxiety around it was released when he took the genie, the genius out of him where it was causing nothing but trouble, and released it back where it came from, and realized that this didn’t have to be this internalized, tormented thing.

Gilbert interviewed Waits in 2002 and he elaborated on his attitude:
“Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don’t care if they lose it; they’ll just make another one.” This openness is what every artist needs. Be ready to receive the inspiration when it comes; be ready to let it go when it vanishes. He believes that if a song “really wants to be written down, it’ll stick in my head. If it wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember it, well, it can just move along and go get in someone else’s song.” “Some songs,” he has learned, “don’t want to be recorded.” You can’t wrestle with them or you’ll only scare them off more. Trying to capture them sometimes “is trying to trap birds.” Fortunately, he says, other songs come easy, like “digging potatoes out of the ground.” Others are sticky and weird, like “gum found under an old table.” Clumsy and uncooperative songs may only be useful “to cut up as bait and use ’em to catch other songs.” Of course, the best songs of all are those that enter you “like dreams taken through a straw.’ In those moments, all you can be, Waits says, is grateful.

Brian Eno puts it in terms of surrender and control:
On one side of Eno’s scale diagram, he writes “control”; on the other “surrender”. “We’ve tended to dignify the controlling end of the spectrum,” he says. “We have Nobel prizes for that end.” His idea is that control is what we generally believe the greats – Shakespeare, Picasso, Einstein, Wagner – were about. Such people, the argument goes, controlled their chosen fields, working in isolation, never needing any creative input from others. As for surrender, that idea has become debased: it’s come to mean what the rest of us do when confronted by a work of genius. “We’ve tended to think of the surrender end as a luxury, a nice thing you add to your life when you’ve done the serious work of getting a job, getting your pension sorted out. I’m saying that’s all wrong.”

He pauses, then asks: “I don’t know if you’ve ever read much about the history of shipbuilding?” Not a word. “Old wooden ships had to be constantly caulked up because they leaked. When technology improved, and they could make stiffer ships because of a different way of holding boards together, they broke up. So they went back to making ships that didn’t fit together properly, ships that had flexion. The best vessels surrendered: they allowed themselves to be moved by the circumstances.

“Control and surrender have to be kept in balance. That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control. In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part.” Eno considers all his recent art to be a rebuttal to this attitude. “I want to rethink surrender as an active verb,” he says. “It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice. I’m not saying we’ve got to stop being such controlling beings. I’m not saying we’ve got to be back-to-the-earth hippies. I’m saying something more complex.”
austinkleon  davechappelle  jerryseinfeld  elizabethgilbert  tomwaits  brianeno  control  flow  ideas  howwethink  creativity  neoteny  children  surrender  tension  howwework  howwelearn  productivity  earlsweatshirt  2018  rap  hiphop  thebenerudakgositsile 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Open offices are overrated - YouTube
"Open offices have been around a surprisingly long time. But they're relatively misunderstood for their role in workplace culture. Where did open offices and cubicles come from, and are they really what we want?

This episode of Overrated explores the history, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Herman Miller, and other key figures in the office design movement. Our workplaces haven't always been this way — this is how we got here."
openoffices  offices  architecture  interiors  design  2017  productivity  interaction  openness  franklloydwright  hermanmiller  furniture 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Cory Doctorow: Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the...
"Anton Troynikov: [ ]

• Waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality.
• Promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out.
• Living five adults to a two room apartment.
• Being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you.
• ‘Totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet.
• Everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex.
• Mandatory workplace political education.
• Productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites.
• Deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences.
• Networked computers exist but they’re really bad.
• Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason.
• Elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges.
• Failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs.
• Otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead.
• The plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work.
• The United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default.
• The currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless.
• The economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users."
ussr  russia  economics  siliconvalley  disruption  politics  indoctrination  centralization  policy  2018  currency  planning  conformity  conformism  drudgery  work  labor  humor  tesla  elonmusk  jeffbezos  wageslavery  failure  henrykissinger  us  government  governance  ideology  experience  class  collateraldamage  elitism  antontroynikov  consequences  space  utopia  workmanship  quality  accountability  productivity  falsification  workplace  colonization 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @ecomentario: "p.31…… p.49… […]"
[on Twitter: ]

[many of the captures come from: "From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy" by Gustavo Esteva, Madhu S. Prakash, and Dana L. Stuchul, which is no longer available online as a standalone PDF (thus the UTexas broken link), but is inside the following document, also linked to in the thread.]

[“Rethinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis" edited by C.A.Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf ]
isabelrodíguez  paulofreire  ivanillich  wendellberry  subcomandantemarcos  gandhi  2018  gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  deschooling  colonialism  future  environment  sustainability  cabowers  frédériqueapffel-marglin  education  campesinos  bolivia  perú  pedagogyoftheoppressed  globalization  marinaarratia  power  authority  hierarchy  horizontality  socialjustice  justice  economics  society  community  cooperation  collaboration  politics  progress  growth  rural  urban  altruism  oppression  participation  marginality  marginalization  karlmarx  socialism  autonomy  local  slow  small  capitalism  consumerism  life  living  well-being  consumption  production  productivity  gustavoterán  indigeneity  work  labor  knowledge  experience  culture  joannamacy  spirituality  buddhism  entanglement  interdependence  interbeing  interexistence  philosophy  being  individualism  chiefseattle  lutherstandingbear  johngrim  ethics  morethanhuman  multispecies  humans  human  posthumnism  transhumanism  competition  marxism  liberation  simplicity  poverty  civilization  greed  p 
june 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
On how to grow an idea – The Creative Independent
"In the 1970s, a Japanese farmer discovered a better way to do something—by not doing it. In the introduction to Masasobu Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution, Frances Moore Lappé describes the farmer’s moment of inspiration:
The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to the ground… Once he has seen to it that conditions have been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.

Fukuoka’s practice, which he perfected over many years, eventually became known as “do nothing farming.” Not that it was easy: the do-nothing farmer needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the land and seasons than a regular farmer. After all, Fukuoka’s ingenious method was hard-won after decades of his own close observations of weather patterns, insects, birds, trees, soil, and the interrelationships among all of these.

In One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka is rightly proud of what he has perfected. Do-nothing farming not only required less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer—it also enriched the soil year by year, while most farms depleted their soil. Despite the skepticism of others, Fukuoka’s farm yielded a harvest equal to or greater than that of other farms. “It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain,” he wrote. “The proof is ripening right before your eyes.”

One of Fukuoka’s insights was that there is a natural intelligence at work in existing ecosystems, and therefore the most intelligent way to farm was to interfere as little as possible. This obviously requires a reworking not only of what we consider farming, but maybe even what we consider progress.

“The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.”

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka


In my view, Fukuoka was an inventor. Typically we associate invention and progress with the addition or development of new technology. So what happens when moving forward actually means taking something away, or moving in a direction that appears (to us) to be backward? Fukuoka wrote: “This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window.”

This practice of fitting oneself into the greater ecological scheme of things is almost comically opposite to the stories in John McPhee’s Control of Nature. There, we find near-Shakespearean tales of folly in which man tries and fails to master the sublime powers of his environment (e.g. the decades-long attempt to keep the Mississippi river from changing course).

Any artist or writer might find this contrast familiar. Why is it that when we sit down and try to force an idea, nothing comes—or, if we succeed in forcing it, it feels stale and contrived? Why do the best ideas appear uninvited and at the strangest times, darting out at us like an impish squirrel from a shrub?

The key, in my opinion, has to do with what you think it is that’s doing the producing, and where. It’s easy for me to say that “I” produce ideas. But when I’ve finished something, it’s often hard for me to say how it happened—where it started, what route it took, and why it ended where it did. Something similar is happening on a do-nothing farm, where transitive verbs seem inadequate. It doesn’t sound quite right to say that Fukuoka “farmed the land”—it’s more like he collaborated with the land, and through his collaboration, created the conditions for certain types of growth.

“A great number, if not the majority, of these things have been described, inventoried, photographed, talked about, or registered. My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by George Perec


I’ve known for my entire adult that going for a walk is how I can think most easily. Walking is not simply moving your thinking mind (some imagined insular thing) outside. The process of walking is thinking. In fact, in his book Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, David Abram proposes that it is not we who are thinking, but rather the environment that is thinking through us. Intelligence and thought are things to be found both in and around the self. “Each place is a unique state of mind,” Abram writes. “And the many owners that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and the tree frogs no less than the human—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.”

This is not as hand-wavy as it sounds. Studies in cognitive science have suggested that we do not encounter the environment as a static thing, nor are we static ourselves. As Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch put it in The Embodied Mind (a study of cognitive science alongside Buddhist principles): “Cognition is not the representation of a pre-given world by a pre-given mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind… “ (emphasis mine). Throughout the book, the authors build a model of cognition in which mind and environment are not separate, but rather co-produced from the very point at which they meet.


“The Telegarden is an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”


Ideas are not products, as much as corporations would like them to be. Ideas are intersections between ourselves and something else, whether that’s a book, a conversation with a friend, or the subtle suggestion of a tree. Ideas can literally arise out of clouds (if we are looking at them). That is to say: ideas, like consciousness itself, are emergent properties, and thinking might be more participation than it is production. If we can accept this view of the mind with humility and awe, we might be amazed at what will grow there.

breathing [animation]


To accompany this essay, I’ve created a channel on called “How to grow an idea.” There you’ll find some seeds for thought, scattered amongst other growths: slime molds, twining vines, internet gardens, and starling murmurations. The interview with John Cage, where he sits by an open window and rejoices in unwritten music, might remind you a bit of Fukuoka, as might Scott Polach’s piece in which an audience applauds the sunset. The channel starts with a reminder to breathe, and ends with an invitation to take a nap. Hopefully, somewhere in between, you might encounter something new."
intelligence  methodology  ideas  jennyodell  2018  masasobufukuoka  francesmoorelappé  farming  slow  nothing  idleness  nature  time  patience  productivity  interdependence  multispecies  morethanhuman  do-nothingfarming  labor  work  sustainability  ecosystems  progress  invention  technology  knowledge  johnmcphee  collaboration  land  growth  georgesperec  walking  thinking  slowthinking  perception  language  davidabram  cognitivescience  franciscovarela  evanthompson  eleanorrosch  buddhism  cognition  johncage  agriculture 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Duras | Lapham’s Quarterly
"The best way to fill time is to waste it." —MARGUERITE DURAS, 1987
idleness  productivity  margueriteduras  1987  time 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The all-new Things. Your to-do list for Mac & iOS

It's almost worth buying one of the iOS editions just for research purposes, even if you don't need a task manager. Live with it for a few days, feel how considered it all is, how there are no real dead-ends, wasted movement.

Is it weird that I feel like Things is made in a way I'd expect a Japanese temple carpenter to make an app? Does that make any sense? It feels like an app made of hinoki, like it could have been plucked from a nook inside of Ise Shrine."]
applications  ios  mac  osx  productivity  todo 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Podcast, Nick Seaver: “What Do People Do All Day?” - MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing
"The algorithmic infrastructures of the internet are made by a weird cast of characters: rock stars, gurus, ninjas, wizards, alchemists, park rangers, gardeners, plumbers, and janitors can all be found sitting at computers in otherwise unremarkable offices, typing. These job titles, sometimes official, sometimes informal, are a striking feature of internet industries. They mark jobs as novel or hip, contrasting starkly with the sedentary screenwork of programming. But is that all they do? In this talk, drawing on several years of fieldwork with the developers of algorithmic music recommenders, Seaver describes how these terms help people make sense of new kinds of jobs and their positions within new infrastructures. They draw analogies that fit into existing prestige hierarchies (rockstars and janitors) or relationships to craft and technique (gardeners and alchemists). They aspire to particular imaginations of mastery (gurus and ninjas). Critics of big data have drawn attention to the importance of metaphors in framing public and commercial understandings of data, its biases and origins. The metaphorical borrowings of role terms serve a similar function, highlighting some features at the expense of others and shaping emerging professions in their image. If we want to make sense of new algorithmic industries, we’ll need to understand how they make sense of themselves.

Nick Seaver is assistant professor of anthropology at Tufts University. His current research examines the cultural life of algorithms for understanding and recommending music. He received a masters from CMS in 2010 for research on the history of the player piano."

[direct link to audio: ]

[via: ]
nickseaver  2016  work  labor  algorithms  bigdata  music  productivity  automation  care  maintenance  programming  computing  hierarchy  economics  data  datascience 
february 2018 by robertogreco
“A Super Wild Story”: Shared Human–Pigeon Lives and the Questions They Beg - Pauliina Rautio, 2017
"The three coincidentally shared human–pigeon lives discussed in this article challenge the established conceptualization that when species meet habituation occurs, a smoothing over of differences over time because it does not account for the dynamic, affectionate, and productive nature of shared human–pigeon lives. The concept refrain works better. Concepts like habituation and refrain can be thought of as answers to questions posed by the world. Concepts are answers insomuch as they are certain ways of thinking about and acting within the world—always excluding other ways. In living and working with answers, as we do, it is easy to forget the original questions: What did the world ask of us again, and could there be other possible answers? In this article, the kind of answer that refrain is is mapped through three cases of human–pigeon lives. Rather than mechanistic and anthropocentric, refrain is an answer that directs our attention to what is dynamic, unpredictable, productive, and nonanthropocentric. It also offers possibilities to pose new questions."

[See also:

"My family runs a small wildlife rehabilitation shelter at our home. Our patients are mostly birds. I once ended up sharing my home with a pigeon I had hand-reared as an orphaned nestling and who—through accidental events—became too habituated to leave us. As a consequence, I came to know people around the world in person and through social media who share their lives with pigeons and other wild birds for various serendipitous reasons. I am fascinated by these multispecies lives and have a particular interest in their unique productivity as indicated in Instagram images’ rhythmic hashtags as well as processes of surrogate pregnancy and motherhood. I have unexpectedly lost my #unlikelyfriend, and the personal motivation of this article is to explore what happened during our shared lives such that I came to mourn a pigeon so intensely.


The human–animal relations described here don’t fit into existing categories. The pigeons living with the humans are not conventional companion animals (i.e., pets), livestock, zoo animals, wild animals, or laboratory animals. The humans living with the pigeons are not animal trainers, zoo keepers, veterinarians, laboratory personnel, or farmers. Trying to explain the accidental or sudden encounters and shared lives between unusual couplings of species using preexisting knowledge, habits, or directions just doesn’t work. These lives are made up as they are lived. And rather than smoothing over differences using habituation, the shared lives begin to produce something new, difference, and to give different life in unexpected, serendipitous ways. In this way, we learn that habituation is an insufficient answer and makes us wonder what it was that the world asked us in the first place."]
multispecies  morethanhuman  pauliinarautio  2017  birds  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  refrain  unpredictable  productivity  habituation  pigeons 
february 2018 by robertogreco
josephgrima en Instagram: “THE NOTION OF PLAY can only escape the linguistic and practical confusion surrounding it by being considered in its movement. After two…”
"THE NOTION OF PLAY can only escape the linguistic and practical confusion surrounding it by being considered in its movement. After two centuries of negation by the continuous idealization of production, the primitive social functions of play are presented as no more than decaying relics mixed with inferior forms that proceed directly from the necessities of the current organization of production. At the same time, the progressive tendencies of play appear in relation to the development of these very forces of production. (Internationale Situationniste #1, June 1958)"
situationist  play  1958  production  productivity  capitalism  movement  labor  work  humans  humanism 
february 2018 by robertogreco
“My Working Will be the Work:” Maintenance Art and Technologies of Change – The New Inquiry
"In 1973, Mierle Laderman Ukeles staged a series of art performances at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. In Transfer: The Maintenance of the Art Object, she took over the duties of the museum’s janitor and used his tools to clean a glass case containing a mummy. When she was finished, she stamped her cleaning tools and the mummy case with a rubber stamp, branding them “Maintenance Art Works.” She then transferred the cleaning duties to the museum’s curator, who alone was allowed to handle and conserve artworks. In another performance, Keeper of the Keys, Ukeles took the janitor’s keys and locked and unlocked various offices and rooms in the museum. Once Ukeles had locked an office, it became a Maintenance Artwork and no one was permitted to enter or use the room. Keeper of the Keys created an uproar, as it drastically impacted the work lives of the museum’s staff who pleaded to have certain floors exempted from the project so they could work undisturbed. Ukeles’ performances, examples of conceptual art called “Institutional Critique,” surfaced the hidden labor of maintenance in the museum setting, and the subsequent visibility of this labor proved to be incredibly disruptive to the institution of the museum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies form the Open Hearth to the Microwave (Basic Books, 1983). "
art  maintenance  criticaltheory  feminism  annareser  2017  1973  mierleladermanukeles  performance  science  technology  care  caring  caretakers  ruthschartzcowan  1980s  martharosler  1970s  utopia  revolution  resistance  work  labor  productivity  gender  violence  1975  kitchens  helenmolesworth  judychicago  marykelly  ruthschwartzcowan  richardserr  donaldjudd  innovation  preervation 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Productivity is dangerous | The Outline
"My personal rule is that if you aren’t quite certain that a certain action will be good for you and the world, you shouldn’t do it. Do nothing, which is likely to be pleasant and unlikely to hurt anyone. Few atrocities have been committed by people lying in bed, whereas the urge to Do Something has led to serious catastrophe. Productivity is extremely dangerous."

"Here’s a productivity idea: Just, fucking, don’t make shitty apps, or do advertising for Nestlé, or really for anything. I often see shit like, “Ten Habits I Have QUIT to Get More Done,” and I think, “Maybe quit writing posts like this.” If you’re waking up at 4 a.m. to write 1,000 words about how you write 1,000 words every day, what are you actually getting done? Just stay in bed. Whenever I am back in the Protestant centers of modern capitalism (New York or London, basically), it’s especially jarring to remember what it feels like to treat being busy as if it were a virtue."

"“As Calvin constantly reminded his followers, God watches his faithful every minute. Come Judgment Day, the faithful in turn will have to account for each minute,” reads this summary. And John Balserak put it this way: “European Calvinists — who dispensed with the liturgical calendar and still today do not celebrate Christmas and Easter as religious holidays...introduced during the 16th and 17th centuries a view of time that was linear and finite. With this came an appreciation of time as precious [emphasis mine]. People learned to be on time for appointments, which had previously not been a concern.”

So then, if we cannot blame Calvinists for the rise of capitalism specifically, we may attempt to blame them for a much larger malady: That religious philosophy is responsible for that feeling that we are constantly losing time, as we hurtle ever-closer to death.

I would be willing to guess that if you grew up in a rich Protestant country, you know this feeling. I do. It’s what’s behind the perverted impulse to self-flagellate and ask, “What did I accomplish this year?” and it’s why we get jealous every time we find out that some accomplished famous person is younger than us. In the U.S., for example, it doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist, we are all still basically Calvinists deep down. And to the extent that American-style capitalism has spread around the world, so has this basic outlook, to every corner of the globe. This has has got to be what's behind those fanatical posts on LinkedIn and Medium.

That’s right. Everyone is thinking it. LinkedIn is a death cult. Becoming a guy that posts on Linkedin is essentially like joining a religious extremist group, but for first-world people that went to Stanford. You’re lost, you don’t know what to do with yourself, so you latch onto the dominant ideology, and throw your life into its service. If you were somewhere in the world else it might be radical Islam, or militant Buddhism, but you work in digital sales, so it’s just lots and lots of posting about how to get a promotion.

I had always thought that Weber was writing about the “protestant spirit” from a critical perspective, that the secular sociologist thought there was something insane about working compulsively to prove that you were born already destined going to heaven. But in reality, Weber thought that his native Germany needed to be more like the post-Puritan United States if it was going to emerge on top of the world.

He believed that “the modern world was not about to witness an impending reign of reason or an abundance of Christian compassion. Instead, the future promised a ceaseless global struggle over material resources and alternative modes of life. Only the most industrially competitive, politically dynamic, and assiduously hardheaded nations had a chance of becoming — or remaining — great powers and great cultures,” write Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells, summarizing Weber’s views around the publication of the book, which came out before World War I and then again updated afterwards. His country had to take cues from the religious, action-minded Americans, he thought, or else “Germany was in danger of becoming a laughingstock.”

I think it would have been better if Germany had become a laughingstock. As for me, I’m going back to bed."
productivity  2017  vincentbevins  idleness  slow  slowness  gtd  laziness  calvinism  maxweber  johnbalserak  capitalism  labor  work 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney on Study (Interview July 2011, Part 5) - YouTube
"we’re talking about getting together with others and determining what needs to be learned together and spending time with that material and spending time with each other without any objective, without any endpoint"

"[Study] almost always happens against the university. It almost always happens in the university, but under the university, in its undercommons, in those places that are not recognized, not legitimate…"

[See also Margaret Edson: ]
2011  stefanoharney  study  studies  highered  highereducation  resistance  unschooling  deschooling  labor  work  informal  community  interdependence  cv  credit  credentialism  accreditation  slavery  blackness  debt  capitalism  fredmoten  universities  undercommons  freedom  practice  praxis  learning  communities  objectives  messiness  howwelearn  productivity  production  product  circumstance  producing  nothing  nothingness  idleness  relationships  imperatives  competition  howestudy  self-development  sharing  subversion  education  baddebt  studentdebt  completion  unfinished  margaretedson 
december 2017 by robertogreco
G L A U K O P I S — “[…] Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost, was [in...
“[…] Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost, was [in capitalist terms] an unproductive worker.  On the other hand, a writer who turns out work for his publisher in factory style is a productive worker.  Milton produced Paradise Lost as a silkworm produces silk, as the action of his own nature.  He later sold his product for £5 and thus became a merchant.  But the literary proletarian of Leipzig who produces books, such as compendia on political economy, at the behest of his publisher is pretty nearly a productive worker since his production is taken over by capital and only occurs in order to increase it.  A singer who sings like a bird is an unproductive worker.  If she sells her song for money, she is to that extent a wage-labourer or a merchant.  But if the same singer is engaged by an entrepreneur who makes her sing to make money, then she becomes a productive worker, since she produces capital directly.  A schoolmaster who instructs others is not a productive worker.  But a schoolmaster who works for wages in an institution along with others, using his own labour to increase the money of the entrepreneur who owns the knowledge-mongering institution, is a productive worker.”
—Karl Marx (trans. Ben Fowkes), Capital Volume I, London: Penguin Books, 1990, p. 1044
johnmilton  paradiselost  production  productivity  karlmarx  labor  work  teaching  capitalism  slow  slowness  economics 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Against Productivity – The Message – Medium
"Here is what really happened in Puerto Rico four years ago: I fell into a funk, beat myself up a bit, and spent the rest of the time wandering around (mostly to the same places) and daydreaming. I wrote a few strange blog posts which no one read. I went a bit further into credit card debt. My days themselves were pretty quiet. I began to really think hard about what the internet does to society by just being the internet. I wrote out some of what I’d seen, and replayed them in my mind while I wandered around the beach. I made a video about being a robot in a Japanese blues bar asking if anyone could really see a singularity from inside of it. I tried to imagine 2010 me without the net. I tried to imagine 1989 me with the net. I talked about how the internet does and doesn’t change things in a place like PR. I read about Rwanda, and about the trade union history of PR and read and talked more about the history of coffee. Puerto Ricans are big on coffee. And then I left. I don’t remember where I went next.

But it all means something else now. When I look back on not only the wasted time in PR, but the couple of unproductive years around it I see it differently now. When I wasn’t beating myself up for not being productive enough, I was thinking about and interacting with the world. I was laying the first stones of a new foundation, a new way of thinking about networked culture, and even about our place on this planet. Instead of getting things done I was learning, smiling at people I didn’t share a language with, and cross-connecting the notions of my brain and the experiences of my life. It all lay fallow in me for a long time, as notes on my blog, snatches of poems, story bits to never be written. The pieces of this change were pieces of lyrics I wasted time writing on post-it notes I promptly lost, and articles I read instead of working and bits of conversation and pop songs that clung like ribbons and buttons and bits of flowers stuck all over my psyche.

My wasteful and unproductive time was the only time I asked: What should I be doing? What is a worthwhile life? And so it followed that was the only time when I could start to answer those questions. What is good work? Is any of this worth it? What makes life worth living? What good can I do in this world?

What is this world anyway?

I am only now beginning to harvest what was sown in that wasted and unproductive time. But now there are so many threads and ideas from that time, I can’t possibly follow them all. I see the world differently now. I like it more, and I see, just a tiny bit better, how it fits together.

Wisdom takes time. It takes staring out into the rain, It takes service to others. It takes getting nothing done to make us human again. To see the connections between things requires studying the blank spaces between them, days that slip into boredom and loneliness with only a person and their senses and their imagination to keep them company. I can now see that much of what I’ve written in the past year started in 2010, in Puerto Rico. I can see how the time around it allowed me to work the stories of 2011 and 2012 with an insight and understanding that I couldn’t have gotten without the failures to produce that shaped my 2009 and 2010. I can now see that my productive work — at least the good stuff, comes from my unproductive time, from my empty yearning to understand the world.

In many ways foolishness isn’t the opposite of wisdom, but its absence. Productivity is the opposite of wisdom. Humanity is a creature of time and imagination. From these things our fruits are born more than manufactured. Productivity is a quality of perfect robots. Stories, adventures and all new things still have to come from messy humans.

We should spend more time wasting time. We all need to be bored more. We all need to spend more time looking quizzically at birds we don’t recognize. We all need a little more time to connect the dots and see if they matter. I don’t know how much more, but sometimes you have to do things without knowing how much you need.

As for me, I want to go back to Puerto Rico."
productivity  life  philosophy  quinnorton  2017  slow  slowness  writing  idleness  transcontextualism  internet  web  networkedculture  purpose 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Fall In | Submitted For Your Perusal
"I’m writing this on the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Depending upon where you are, it might not feel like fall yet. Right now, for instance, it’s 92°F outside where I live. And humid. More summer than fall. Yet, at the same time, school’s back in session, football is being played, and Halloween paraphernalia is appearing in stores.

The leaves on one of the trees outside my window are starting to change color. Some leaves have even started to fall. It’s getting darker earlier and lighter later. And even though it’s still hot out during the day, it’s cooling down more at night.

Change is in the air.

This leads to a question: Should one also change in conjunction with the seasons? By this I mean more than donning a natty scarf when the temperature drops below a certain level—I mean changing things about the way you eat, sleep, live, and work.

Conventional productivity advice doesn’t really take up this question. One of the things, in fact, that irks me about such advice is that it tends to frame things in terms of daily routines, routines that are ostensibly the same regardless of the season. In other words, most productivity advice is seasonless. Here I’m thinking of things like Mason Currey’s engrossing 2013 book Daily Rituals and Tim Ferriss’s more tech bro-y late-2016 knockoff Tools for Titans.

Now, I’m as interested in famous people’s daily routines as anyone. But at the same time, I feel it’s important to resist the tyranny of “the day.”

What do I mean by that?

Well, we live in a world of seasons—and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that—but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.

In Lewis Mumford’s endlessly-rich 1937 book Technics and Civilization, he explains how the clock altered human relations by organizing everything around twenty-four little hours instead of, say, the rhythm of the seasons.

The consequences of this, Mumford argues, are profound:
When one thinks of the day as an abstract span of time, one does not go to bed with the chickens on a winter’s night: one invents wicks, chimneys, lamps, gaslights, electric lamps, so as to use all the hours belonging to the day. When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence.

Because of the clock, Mumford continues, “Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences….”

Since we all pretty much live according to “clock time” now, the autumnal equinox presents us with an opportunity to cast off our Apple Watches and reflect on some of the benefits of living according to what might be called “seasonal time.” To that end, I encourage you to step out of “clock time” and into “seasonal time.”

This will, no doubt, strike some as unappealing. Many people see nature as something to overcome or counteract, not as something to flow with or submit to. For others, it will be impossible. “Clock time” is simply imposed on them too strongly. But if you can do it, even just a little bit, I strongly recommend it, if only for the perspective it brings.

To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season.” What if we took that adage seriously, not just by buying pumpkin spice lattes but by doing key things in a more fall-like way? Fall-like might take different forms. The point is to embrace fall in particular and seasonal change in general. I’m definitely not recommending becoming “Mr. Autumn Man”. I’m talking about something else, something deeper.

One example I like is how novelist Lee Child sits down every September and begins work on a new Jack Reacher novel. He finishes up sometime the following spring and then spends the rest of the year doing other stuff—stuff like spending the entire month of August on vacation. (I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty nice.) Note, too, that this routine produces a book a year. (As someone who writes much more slowly, this sounds pretty nice to me as well.) And Child has been doing things this way since the late 1990s. (For more on Child’s process, see Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.)

Fall is a time to write for me as well, but it also means welcoming—rather than fighting against—the shorter days, the football games, the decorative gourds. Productivity writer Nicholas Bate’s seven fall basics are more sleep, more reading, more hiking, more reflection, more soup, more movies, and more night sky. I like those too. The winter will bring with it new things, new adjustments. Hygge not hay rides. Ditto the spring. Come summer, I’ll feel less stress about stopping work early to go to a barbecue or movie because I know, come autumn, I’ll be hunkering down. More and more, I try to live in harmony with the seasons, not the clock. The result has been I’m able to prioritize better.

And yes, fall for me also means some of the stereotypical stuff: apple picking, leafy walks, we’re even trying to go to a corn maze this year.

In sum, as the Earth wobbles around the Sun, don’t be afraid to switch things up. I can’t promise an uptick in productivity, but when you think of things in terms of seasons instead of a single day, the entire year becomes your canvas."
mattthomas  seasons  routine  2017  tempo  change  writing  work  productivity  rhythms  lewismumford  timferris  clocks  time  fall  autumn  clocktime  nature  calendars  leechild  nicholasbates 
october 2017 by robertogreco
“Students as Creators” and the Theology of the Attention Economy | Hapgood
"I was so struck this week by Benjamin Doxtdator’s latest post on showing students how to engage with social media in a way that subverts its purposes. On listening as an act of resistance. Of getting past glorifying connection as an end to that important question of purpose. I wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts it brought to mind, all of them far less organized and insightful than Benjamin’s work. It also draws on work by Chris Gilliard and Amy Collier. I hope to offer it as just a piece of what I hope is an emerging critique of how connectivism and constructivism has been practiced and sold in past years, and how we might reorient and reposition it knowing what we know now.

The particular brick I want to hammer at today is our decade-long infatuation with “students as creators”.

I have become deeply skeptical over the past four or five years about the “students as creators” rhetoric. It’s not that I don’t believe that students shouldn’t create – my best and most rewarding projects have always been about students creating public work on the web that makes the lives of others better. I’ve also seen the immense joy and motivation that a maker lab can provide students. And my new push for info-environmentalism is centered in producing things that make the web a better place. I believe in making stuff, and still align myself with constructivism as a philosophy, most days of the week.

But the rhetoric around “students as creators” is unbelievably bad. It parrots all of capitalism’s worst theology: we want to make “makers, not takers”, we value “doers, not thinkers.” As I said a few years back, the idea that universities should value “producers” and push our students towards “production” is actually the least subversive idea you could possibly have at a university. The most subversive idea you could have at a university these days is that you might think a few connected thoughts without throwing them into either publication or the attention economy. That you might think about things for the purpose of being a better human, without an aim to produce anything at all.

Likewise, I sometimes think we’ve convinced ourselves that the attention economy, when implemented on top of open source, is liberating. And so we celebrate with the class when students get comments from outsiders, or have had their posts go viral. We talk about building identity, portfolios, public persona, getting noticed. We don’t realize that we begin to sound more and more like a LinkedIn marketing drone.

And I’ve come to think that, in today’s world, one of the most valuable lessons we can give to students is not “how to build their identity on the web,” but how to selectively obscure it. How to transcend it. How to personally track it. How to make a difference in the world while not being fully public. To teach students not just to avoid Google, but to use Google safely (or as safely as possible). To have them look at their information environments not as vehicles of just self-expression, but as ways to transcend their own prejudices. To read and listen much much more than we speak. And to see what is needed through the lens of privilege – teaching the beauty of deference to the students with self-confidence and social capital, while teaching marginalized students to find communities that can provide them with the self-confidence they need.

And in different contexts, of course, the same student may need both types of instruction.

This post is a bit stream of consciousness, and so I want to pose a question here. Which experience do you think is more educational:

• A student runs a blog on open source software that expresses their opinions on selected chapters of Ready Player One – and gets a comment by author Ernest Cline!!!

• A heterosexual cis student resolves (individually) to follow 20 trans leaders on Twitter and retweet two things they say a week (with the student possibly using a pseudonymous account not tied to their identity). Other students examine their own bubbles and do similar things.

Story number one is the sort of story I used to tell ten years ago at conferences (albeit about different books). But that was before the attention economy swallowed democracy and everything else. Today I’m far more interested in story two, a story that is about not producing, and staying relatively invisible.

Attention (and knowledge of how to get that attention) is still important, of course. But attention for what? For what purpose? I’ve moved from the question of “How do we express ourselves on the internet?” to “How do we be better people on the internet?” Or maybe most importantly, “How do we use the internet to become better people?” Sometimes that involves creating, of course. But if we wish to do more than reinforce the rhetoric of the attention economy, we have to stop seeing that as some sort of peak activity. These skills aren’t a pyramid you climb, and creation is not a destination. Graduating a few more students who understand that will likely make the world a better place for everyone."
attention  productivity  socialmedia  mikecaulfield  2017  attentioneconomy  listenting  internet  web  online  benjamindoxtdator  sfsh  socialcapital  presentationofself  creativity  creation  resistance  listening  thinking  cv 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Why capitalism can’t survive without socialism - Vox
"Sean Illing

This raises a thorny question: The kinds of skills this technological economy rewards are not skills that a majority of the population possesses. Perhaps a significant number of people simply can’t thrive in this space, no matter how much training or education we provide.

Eric Weinstein

I think that's an interesting question, and it depends a lot on your view of education. Buckminster Fuller (a prominent American author and architect who died in 1983) said something to the effect of, "We're all born geniuses, but something in the process of living de-geniuses us." I think with several years more hindsight, we can see that the thing that de-geniuses us is actually our education.

The problem is that we have an educational system that's based on taking our natural penchant for exploration and fashioning it into a willingness to take on mind-numbing routine. This is because our educational system was designed to produce employable products suitable for jobs, but it is jobs that are precisely going to give way to an economy increasingly based on one-off opportunities.

Sean Illing

That’s a problem with a definable but immensely complicated solution.

Eric Weinstein

Part of the question is, how do we disable an educational system that is uniformizing people across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to remind ourselves that the hotel maid who makes up our bed may in fact be an amateur painter? The accountant who does our taxes may well have a screenplay that he works on after the midnight hour? I think what is less clear to many of our bureaucrats in Washington is just how much talent and creativity exists through all walks of life.

What we don't know yet is how to pay people for those behaviors, because many of those screenplays and books and inventions will not be able to command a sufficiently high market price, but this is where the issue of some kind of hybridization of hypercapitalism and hypersocialism must enter the discussion.

“We will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this continuing insensitivity”
Sean Illing

Let's talk about that. What does a hybrid of capitalism and socialism look like?

Eric Weinstein

I don't think we know what it looks like. I believe capitalism will need to be much more unfettered. Certain fields will need to undergo a process of radical deregulation in order to give the minority of minds that are capable of our greatest feats of creation the leeway to experiment and to play, as they deliver us the wonders on which our future economy will be based.

By the same token, we have to understand that our population is not a collection of workers to be input to the machine of capitalism, but rather a nation of souls whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered on independent, humanitarian terms. Now, that does not mean we can afford to indulge in national welfare of a kind that would rob our most vulnerable of a dignity that has previously been supplied by the workplace.

People will have to be engaged in socially positive activities, but not all of those socially positive activities may be able to command a sufficient share of the market to consume at an appropriate level, and so I think we're going to have to augment the hypercapitalism which will provide the growth of the hypersocialism based on both dignity and need.

Sean Illing

I agree with most of that, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to adapt to these new circumstances quickly enough to matter. What you’re describing is a near-revolutionary shift in politics and culture, and that’s not something we can do on command.

Eric Weinstein

I believe that once our top creative class is unshackled from those impediments which are socially negative, they will be able to choose whether capitalism proceeds by evolution or revolution, and I am hopeful that the enlightened self-interest of the billionaire class will cause them to take the enlightened path toward finding a rethinking of work that honors the vast majority of fellow citizens and humans on which their country depends.

Sean Illing

Are you confident that the billionaire class is so enlightened? Because I'm not. All of these changes were perceptible years ago, and yet the billionaire class failed to take any of this seriously enough. The impulse to innovate and profit subsumes all other concerns as far as I can tell."

"Sean Illing

I suppose that’s my point. If the people with the power to change things are sufficiently cocooned that they fail to realize the emergency while there’s still time to act, where does that leave us?

Eric Weinstein

Well, the claim there is that there will be no warning shots across the bow. I guarantee you that when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators left the confines of Zuccotti Park and came to visit the Upper East Side homes of Manhattan, it had an immediate focusing on the mind of those who could deploy a great deal of capital. Thankfully, those protesters were smart enough to realize that a peaceful demonstration is the best way to advertise the potential for instability to those who have yet to do the computation.

“We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars”
Sean Illing

But if you're one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters who fired off that peaceful warning shot across the bow six years ago, and you reflect on what’s happened since, do have any reason to think the message was received? Do you not look around and say, “Nothing much has changed”? The casino economy on Wall Street is still humming along. What lesson is to be drawn in that case?

Eric Weinstein

Well, that's putting too much blame on the bankers. I mean, the problem is that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the bankers share a common delusion. Both of them believe the bankers are more powerful in the story than they actually are. The real problem, which our society has yet to face up to, is that sometime around 1970, we ended several periods of legitimate exponential growth in science, technology, and economics. Since that time, we have struggled with the fact that almost all of our institutions that thrived during the post-World War II period of growth have embedded growth hypotheses into their very foundation.

Sean Illing

What does that mean, exactly?

Eric Weinstein

That means that all of those institutions, whether they're law firms or universities or the military, have to reckon with steady state [meaning an economy with mild fluctuations in growth and productivity] by admitting that growth cannot be sustained, by running a Ponzi scheme, or by attempting to cannibalize others to achieve a kind of fake growth to keep those particular institutions running. This is the big story that nobody reports. We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars."

"Sean Illing

So our entire economy is essentially a house of cards, built on outdated assumptions and pushed along with gimmicks like quantitative easing. It seems we’ve gotten quite good at avoiding facing up to the contradictions of our civilization.

Eric Weinstein

Well, this is the problem. I sometimes call this the Wile E. Coyote effect because as long as Wile E. Coyote doesn't look down, he's suspended in air, even if he has just run off a cliff. But the great danger is understanding that everything is flipped. During the 2008 crisis, many commentators said the markets have suddenly gone crazy, and it was exactly the reverse. The so-called great moderation that was pushed by Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others was in fact a kind of madness, and the 2008 crisis represented a rare break in the insanity, where the market suddenly woke up to see what was actually going on. So the acute danger is not madness but sanity.

The problem is that prolonged madness simply compounds the disaster to come when sanity finally sets in."
2017  capitalism  socialism  business  dystopia  history  seanilling  ericweinstein  economics  politics  policy  productivity  technology  inequality  revolution  dignity  creativeclass  creativity  repetition  ows  occupywallstreet  banks  banking  finance  ponzischemes  alangreenspan  timothygeitner  civilization  systems  systemsthinking  growth  society  science  automation 
august 2017 by robertogreco
FYS 2017: Living and Thinking in a Digital Age – Snakes and Ladders
"Instructor: Alan Jacobs

Office: Morrison 203.7

Email: alan [underscore] jacobs [at] baylor [dot] edu

This class is all about questions: How is the rise of digital technologies changing some of the fundamental practices of the intellectual life: reading, writing, and researching? How does writing on a computer differ from writing on a typewriter, or (still more) writing by hand? Has Google made information just too easy to find? Is the experience of reading on a Kindle or iPad significantly different from that of reading a paper codex? Moreover, how are these changes affecting the intellectual culture and communal practices of the Christian faith? We will explore these questions through a range of readings and conversational topics, and through trying out some interesting digital and analog tools.

But this is also a class in which we will reflect more generally on why you are here, in the Honors College of Baylor, and what you need to do (and be) to flourish. So we will also spend some time thinking about the character and purposes of liberal education, and I will explain to you why you need to buy earplugs and wash your hands regularly.

I have ordered two books for you to buy: Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape the Future and David Sax, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. All other readings will be PDFs available in this Dropbox folder. [ ]


1. There will be frequent (pop!) quizzes on your readings; these will count a total of 25% of your grade.

2. You will choose a digital or analog tool with which to organize your academic life this semester, learn to use it well, and give an oral report on it to the class, along with a handout. 15%

3. You will write a 3500-word research essay on a topic of your choosing, subject to approval by me. I will work with you to choose a good topic and focus it properly, and will read and evaluate a draft of the essay before you hand in a final version. 40%

4. In lieu of a final exam, you will write a personal narrative identifying the most important things you leaned in this class; as part of that you’ll offer a final evaluation of your chosen organizational tool. 20%

5. Borderline grades will be decided by class participation.

Here’s a handy list of organizational tools you might try, starting with digital ones:

• emacs org-mode
• Evernote
• Google Keep
• OneNote
• Pinboard
• Trello
• Workflowy
• Zotero

And now analog (paper-based) ones:

• Bullet Journal
• Hipster PDA
• Noguchi filing system
• Personal Kanban
• Zettelkasten

Here’s a guide [ ] to helping you think through the options — keyed to the Getting Things Done system, which is fine, though it’s not the only useful system out there. The key to this assignment is that you choose a tool and seriously commit to it, for this semester, anyway. You are of course welcome to ditch it as soon as the term is over. But what I am asking for is a semester-long experiment, so that you will have detailed information to share with the rest of us. N.B.: All the options I am suggesting here are free — if you want to pay for an app or service, you are certainly welcome to, but I wouldn’t ask that of you.


My policies on attendance, grading, and pretty much everything else may be found here [ ]. You’ll find a good deal of other useful information on that site also.


This is a course on how the digital worlds we live in now — our technologies of knowledge and communication — will inevitably shape our experience as learners. So let’s begin by trying to get a grip on the digital tech that shapes our everyday lives:

8.22 Introduction to course (with handouts)
8.24 boyd, It’s Complicated, Introduction and Chapter 7
8.29 Wilmer, Sherman, and Chein, “Smartphones and Cognition”
8.31 Rosen, “My Little Sister Taught Me How to Snapchat”

But you’re not just smartphone users, you’re college students. So let’s try to get a better understanding of why we’re here — or why we might be:

9.5 Meilaender, “Who Needs a Liberal Education?“
9.7 Carr, “The Crisis in Higher Education”; Robbins, “Home College”

With some of the initial coordinates in place, let’s get some historical context:

9.12 Jacobs, “Christianity and the Book”
9.14 Blair, “Information Overload”

And now let’s take a deeper dive into the conditions of our moment, and of the near future:

9.19 Kelly, The Inevitable, Introduction and Chapters 1-4
9.21 Kelly, Chapters 5-8
9.26 Kelly, Chapters 9-12
9.28 Sax, The Revenge of Analog, Introduction and Part I
10.3 Sax, Part II
10.5 Concluding discussion of Kelly and Sax

We’ll spend a couple of days finding out how your experiments in organization have been going:

10.10 reports from half of you
10.12 reports from the rest of you

Now that we’re pretty well equipped to think more seriously about the technological and educational challenges facing us, we’ll spend the rest of the term learning some practical strategies for information management, and revisiting some of the key issues we’ve raised in light of our recently acquired knowledge. First, you’re going to get a break from reading:

10.17 Dr. J’s Handy Guide to Owning Your Online Turf, Part 1
10.19 Dr. J’s Handy Guide to Owning Your Online Turf, Part 2

So, back to reading:

10.24 Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Parts I-III
10.26 Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Parts IV-VI
10.31 further discussion of Web Literacy
11.2 Piper, “Out of Touch” and Clive Thompson, “Reading War and Peace on my Phone”
11.7 Mueller and Oppenheimer, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard”; Hensher, “Why Handwriting Matters”; Trubek, “Handwriting Just Doesn’t Matter”
11.9 Zomorodi, “Bored and Brilliant”; draft of research essay due

And finally, we’ll put what we’ve learned to use in thinking about what kind of education we’re pursuing here in the Honors College at Baylor:

11.14 Jacobs, “Renewing the University”
11.16 writing day; research essay due 11.17
11.21 “Engaging the Future of Higher Education”
11.28 continued discussion of “Engaging the Future”
11.30 Wrapping up
12.5 Personal narrative due"
alanjacobs  syllabus  online  internet  tools  onlinetoolkit  reading  education  highered  highereducation  classideas  gtd  productivity  kevinkelly  davidsax  readinglists  technology  cognition  socialmedia  christianity  humanities  infooverload  webliteracy  wen  handwriting  notetaking  thewhy  digital  analog  digitalage  syllabi 
july 2017 by robertogreco
A Field Guide to 'jobs that don't exist yet' - Long View on Education
"Perhaps most importantly, the Future of Jobs relies on the perspective of CEOs to suggest that Capital has lacked input into the shape and direction of education. Ironically, the first person I found to make the claim about the future of jobs – Devereux C. Josephs – was both Businessman of the Year (1958) and the chair of Eisenhower’s President’s Committee on Education Beyond High School. More tellingly, in his historical context, Josephs was able to imagine a more equitable future where we shared in prosperity rather than competed against the world’s underprivileged on a ‘flat’ field.

The Political Shift that Happened

While the claim is often presented as a new and alarming fact or prediction about the future, Devereux C. Josephs said much the same in 1957 during a Conference on the American High School at the University of Chicago on October 28, less than a month after the Soviets launched Sputnik. If Friedman and his ‘flat’ earth followers were writing then, they would have been up in arms about the technological superiority of the Soviets, just like they now raise the alarm about the rise of India and China. Josephs was a past president of the Carnegie Corporation, and at the time served as Chairman of the Board of the New York Life Insurance Company.

While critics of the American education system erupted after the launch of Sputnik with calls to go back to basics, much as they would again decades later with A Nation at Risk (1983), Josephs was instead a “besieged defender” of education according to Okhee Lee and Michael Salwen. Here’s how Joseph’s talked about the future of work:
“We are too much inclined to think of careers and opportunities as if the oncoming generations were growing up to fill the jobs that are now held by their seniors. This is not true. Our young people will fill many jobs that do not now exist. They will invent products that will need new skills. Old-fashioned mercantilism and the nineteenth-century theory in which one man’s gain was another man’s loss, are being replaced by a dynamism in which the new ideas of a lot of people become the gains for many, many more.”4

Josephs’ claim brims with optimism about a new future, striking a tone which contrasts sharply with the Shift Happens video and its competitive fear of The Other and decline of Empire. We must recognize this shift that happens between then and now as an erasure of politics – a deletion of the opportunity to make a choice about how the abundant wealth created by automation – and perhaps more often by offshoring to cheap labor – would be shared.

The agentless construction in the Shift Happens version – “technologies that haven’t been invented yet” – contrasts with Josephs’ vision where today’s youth invent those technologies. More importantly, Josephs imagines a more equitable socio-technical future, marked not by competition, but where gains are shared. It should go without saying that this has not come to pass. As productivity shot up since the 1950’s, worker compensation has stagnated since around 1973.

In other words, the problem is not that Capital lacks a say in education, but that corporations and the 0.1% are reaping all the rewards and need to explain why. Too often, this explanation comes in the form of the zombie idea of a ‘skills gap’, which persists though it keeps being debunked. What else are CEOs going to say – and the skills gap is almost always based on an opinion survey  – when they are asked to explain stagnating wages?5

Josephs’ essay echoes John Maynard Keynes’ (1930) in his hope that the “average family” by 1977 “may take some of the [economic] gain in the form of leisure”; the dynamism of new ideas should have created gains for ‘many, many more’ people. Instead, the compensation for CEOs soared as the profit was privatized even though most of the risk for innovation was socialized by US government investment through programs such as DARPA.6"

"Audrey Watters has written about how futurists and gurus have figured out that “The best way to invent the future is to issue a press release.” Proponents of the ‘skills agenda’ like the OECD have essentially figured out how to make “the political more pedagogical”, to borrow a phrase from Henry Giroux. In their book, Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and billionaire Ted Dintersmith warn us that “if you can’t invent (and reinvent) your own job and distinctive competencies, you risk chronic underemployment.” Their movie, of the same title, repeats the hollow claim about ‘jobs that haven’t been invented yet’. Ironically, though Wagner tells us that “knowledge today is a free commodity”, you can only see the film in private screenings.

I don’t want to idealize Josephs, but revisiting his context helps us understand something about the debate about education and the future, not because he was a radical in his times, but because our times are radical.

In an interview at CUNY (2015), Gillian Tett asks Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman what policy initiatives they would propose to deal with globalization, technology, and inequality.9 After Sachs and Krugman propose regulating finance, expanding aid to disadvantaged children, creating a robust social safety net, reforming the tax system to eliminate privilege for the 0.1%, redistributing profits, raising wages, and strengthening the position of labor, Tett recounts a story:
“Back in January I actually moderated quite a similar event in Davos with a group of CEOs and general luminaries very much not just the 1% but probably the 0.1% and I asked them the same question. And what they came back with was education, education, and a bit of digital inclusion.”

Krugman, slightly lost for words, replies: “Arguing that education is the thing is … Gosh… That’s so 1990s… even then it wasn’t really true.”

For CEOs and futurists who say that disruption is the answer to practically everything, arguing that the answer lies in education and skills is actually the least disruptive response to the problems we face. Krugman argues that education emerges as the popular answer because “It’s not intrusive. It doesn’t require that we have higher taxes. It doesn’t require that CEOs have to deal with unions again.” Sachs adds, “Obviously, it’s the easy answer for that group [the 0.1%].”

The kind of complex thinking we deserve about education won’t come in factoids or bullet-point lists of skills of the future. In fact, that kind of complex thinking is already out there, waiting."

"Stay tuned for the tangled history of the claim if you're into that sort of thing..."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  inequality  education  credentialing  productivity  economics  society  statistics  audreywatters  billclinton  democrats  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  capitalism  johndewey  andreasschleicher  kerifacer  lindadarling-hammond  worldeconomicforum  oecd  labor  work  futurism  future  scottmcleod  karlfisch  richardriley  ianjukes  freetrade  competition  andrewold  michaelberman  thomasfriedman  devereuxjosephs  anationatrisk  sputnik  coldwar  okheelee  michaelsalwen  ussr  sovietunion  fear  india  china  russia  johnmaynardkeynes  leisure  robots  robotics  rodneybrooks  doughenwood  jobs  cwrightmills  henrygiroux  paulkrugman  gilliantett  jeffreysachs  policy  politics  globalization  technology  schools  curriculum  teddintersmith  tonywagner  mostlikelytosuccess  success  pedagogy  cathydavidson  jimcarroll  edtech 
july 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."

"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"

"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."

"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:


And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."

"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."

"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Tinderbox: The Tool For Notes
"A new era for Tinderbox: the tool for notes. Tinderbox 7 is faster, more expressive, and more helpful than ever – the invaluable tool for capturing and visualizing your ideas.

• Composites build big ideas from small notes
• Gorgeous new fonts make your work even more legible
• Quick links connect notes instantly
• Hundreds of improvements

Whether you’re plotting your next thriller or writing your dissertation, designing a course, managing a legal practice, coordinating a campaign or planning a season of orchestral concerts, Tinderbox 7 will be your personal information assistant."

[via this thread:

"Anyone use good software for organizing a huge writing project? I dabbled in Scrivener but always give up. Want more org than writing tool."

"tinderbox is great for sprawling projects when the questions aren't yet known. Ask James Fallows about it"

"Eastgate is amazingggggg <3"

"Check history of Eastgate & hypertext — pioneering and sticking it out even to this day!!! "

"(To be fair, tinderbox is kinda convoluted and I haven’t picked it up as part of regular work, but I’m a huge admirer…!)"

"More from Fallows about Tinderbox: "

"Tinderbox has a learning curve, but it was essential for me. @eastgate "

"Check on Tinderbox and big writing projects with @JamesFallows" ]
tinderbox  software  productivity  notetaking  writing  caseygollan  allentan  natematias  eastgate  jamesfallows  mac  osx  applications 
june 2017 by robertogreco
David Byrne | Journal | ELIMINATING THE HUMAN
"My dad was an electrical engineer—I love the engineer's’ way of looking at the world. I myself applied to both art school AND to engineering school (my frustration was that there was little or no cross-pollination. I was told at the time that taking classes in both disciplines would be VERY difficult). I am familiar with and enjoy both the engineer's mindset and the arty mindset (and I’ve heard that now mixing one’s studies is not as hard as it used to be).

The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive."
davidbyrne  2017  automation  ai  business  culture  technology  dehumanization  humanism  humanity  gigeconomy  labor  work  robots  moocs  socialmedia  google  facebook  amazon  yuvalharari  social  productivity  economics  society  vr  ebay  retail  virtualreality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
The Slow Professor movement: reclaiming the intellectual life of the university - Home | The Sunday Edition | CBC Radio
"You have heard of the slow food, there's a "slow professor" movement.

Two university professors say they feel time-crunched, exhausted and demoralised. They say they are being asked to be more efficient at the expense of more thoughtful teaching.
"Really, we're being encouraged to stay away from the really big questions because they're going to take too long to think through. You want to pump out as much stuff as quickly as you can. That's going to have a consequence for how thoughtful things are." — Barbara K. Seeber

Maggie Berg, a professor of English at Queen's University, and Barbara K. Seeber, a professor of English at Brock University, are co-authors of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.

Berg and Seeger argue universities squeeze as much intellectual capital out of professors as possible, and closely monitor the output of their mental exertions.

They spoke to Michael about their book and their mission to "reclaim the intellectual life of the university.""

[Update: See also: "We need a “slow food” movement for higher education" ]
slow  highereducation  highered  education  academia  reflection  2017  barbaraseeber  maggieberg  deliberation  slowprofessor  productivity  standardization  speed  homogeneity  slowfood  knowledgeproduction  universities  corporatism  corporatization  competition  economics  fastknowledge  research  adminstrativebloat  teaching  howweteach  wisdom  faculty  howwelearn  friendship  benjaminginsberg  management  power  labor  work  casualization  adjuncts  busyness  time  anxiety  stress  davidposen  credentials  credentialization  joy  beauty  transferableskills 
february 2017 by robertogreco
POLITICAL THEORY - Karl Marx - YouTube
"Karl Marx remains deeply important today not as the man who told us what to replace capitalism with, but as someone who brilliantly pointed out certain of its problems. The School of Life, a pro-Capitalist institution, takes a look.


“Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising, leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the ideas of its most famous and ambitious critic, Karl Marx. This isn’t very surprising. In practice, his political and economic ideas have been used to design disastrously planned economies and nasty dictatorships. Frankly, the remedies Marx proposed for the ills of the world now sound a bit demented. He thought we should abolish private property. People should not be allowed to own things. At certain moments one can sympathise. But it’s like wanting to ban gossip or forbid watching television. It’s going to war with human behaviour. And Marx believed the world would be put to rights by a dictatorship of the proletariat; which does not mean anything much today. Openly Marxist parties received a total of only 1,685 votes in the 2010 UK general election, out of the nearly 40 million ballots cast…”"
karlmarx  marxism  capitalism  2014  work  labor  specialization  purpose  alienation  disconnection  hierarchy  efficiency  communism  belonging  insecurity  economics  primitiveaccumulation  accumulation  profit  theft  exploitation  instability  precarity  crises  abundance  scarcity  shortage  productivity  leisure  unemployment  freedom  employment  inequality  wealth  wealthdistribution  marriage  relationships  commodityfetishism  feminism  oppression  ideology  values  valuejudgements  worth  consumerism  materialism  anxiety  competition  complacency  conformity  communistmanifesto  inheritance  privateproperty  banking  communication  transportation  eduction  publiceducation  frederickengels  generalists  specialists  daskapital 
january 2017 by robertogreco
How America's 'Culture of Hustling' Is Dark and Empty - The Atlantic
"Q: You write about the "unnecessary," "wasteful," and "stupid" routines, obsessions, and goals that you once pursued and that most of American culture preaches as the means of accessing the good life—careers, professional ambition, the drive for prestige, etc. You have left that behind for a peaceful "retirement" in Mexico, but during your retirement, you've written five books. How do you differentiate between pointless hustling and meaningful work? You write that more people should "let the universe do its thing." How do we do that and strive for work that gives our lives a sense of purpose and source of meaning? 

A: The tipoff for me is somatic. Whenever a project comes to me, one that is right, that is genuine, I feel a kind of “shiver” in my body, and that tells me that it corresponds to something very deep in me, and that I need to pursue it. That has been my guide with literally every book I wrote. Trusting this kind of visceral reaction means that you are willing to let life “come and get you.” It means who you are is defined from the inside, not the outside. In terms of what’s really important, we don’t have much choice, and that’s as it should be. The decision is made by a larger energy or unconscious process, and when it’s right, you know it.

Most Americans have a dull sense that their lives are fundamentally “off”—because for the most part, they are. They hate their lives, but to get through the day, besides taking Prozac and consulting their cell phone every two minutes, they talk themselves into believing that they want to be doing what they are doing. This is probably the major source of illness in our culture, whether physical or mental.

In the film Definitely, Maybe, Ryan Reynolds works for an ad agency and says to himself at one point that he never imagined he’d be spending his days trying to convince people to buy Cap’n Crunch for their kids instead of Fruit Loops. As far as striving goes, Goethe wrote: “Man errs as long as he strives.” Sit still, meditate, just let the answer arise from the body. (It may take a while.)

Q: So much of American culture is results obsessed. You write in your book about appreciating pleasures as they come, whether they are sexual, intellectual, or emotional. Do you think much of happiness is about learning to appreciate pleasure in the moment and not attaching it some tangibly measurable result?

A: It took me a long time to understand that I, or, my ego, had no idea what was best for me. Some part of happiness undoubtedly derives from a Zen enjoyment of whatever is in front of you, but a big part of it is knowing who you are and being that person. This is ontological knowing, and it’s very different from intellectual knowing.

Q: Your message of detachment from materially measurable pursuits and your encouragement of leisure, creativity, and relaxed living is un-American (I mean this as a compliment). Why is American culture so addicted to speed, movement, action, and "progress"?

A: This is, in some ways, the subject of my book Why America Failed. America is essentially about hustling, and that goes back more than 400 years. It’s practically genetic, in the U.S., by now; the programming is so deep, and so much out of conscious awareness, that very few Americans can break free of it. They’re really sleepwalking through life, living out a narrative that is not of their own making, while thinking they are in the driver’s seat.

It’s also especially hard to break free of that mesmerization when everyone else is similarly hypnotized. Groupthink is enormously powerful. Even if it occurs to you to stop following the herd, it seems crazy or terrifying to attempt it. This is Sartre’s “bad faith,” the phenomenon whereby a human being adopts false values because of social pressure, and is thus living a charade, an inauthentic life. It’s also what happens to Ivan Illych in the Tolstoy story, where Ivan is dying, and reviews his life during his last three days, and concludes that it was all a waste, because he lived only for social approval."

[See also: ]
culture  hustling  via:austinkleon  morrisberman  work  hustle  society  productivity  ambition  careers  prestige  motivation  us  howwework  slow  retirement  2013  davidmasciotra  results  stress  pleasure  leisurearts  artleisure  knowing  creativity  life  living  consumption  materialism  authenticity  socialpressure  meaning  meaningmaking 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman | Technology | The Guardian
"All of our efforts to be more productive backfire – and only make us feel even busier and more stressed"

"At the very bottom of our anxious urge to manage time better – the urge driving Frederick Winslow Taylor, Merlin Mann, me and perhaps you – it’s not hard to discern a familiar motive: the fear of death. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel has put it, on any meaningful timescale other than human life itself – that of the planet, say, or the cosmos – “we will all be dead any minute”. No wonder we are so drawn to the problem of how to make better use of our days: if we could solve it, we could avoid the feeling, in Seneca’s words, of finding life at an end just when we were getting ready to live. To die with the sense of nothing left undone: it’s nothing less than the promise of immortality by other means.

But the modern zeal for personal productivity, rooted in Taylor’s philosophy of efficiency, takes things several significant steps further. If only we could find the right techniques and apply enough self-discipline, it suggests, we could know that we were fitting everything important in, and could feel happy at last. It is up to us – indeed, it is our obligation – to maximise our productivity. This is a convenient ideology from the point of view of those who stand to profit from our working harder, and our increased capacity for consumer spending. But it also functions as a form of psychological avoidance. The more you can convince yourself that you need never make difficult choices – because there will be enough time for everything – the less you will feel obliged to ask yourself whether the life you are choosing is the right one.

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?

For Merlin Mann, consciously confronting these questions was a matter of realising that people would always be making more claims on his time – worthy claims, too, for the most part – than it would be possible for him to meet. And that even the best, most efficient system for managing the emails they sent him was never going to provide a solution to that. “Eventually, I realised something,” he told me. “Email is not a technical problem. It’s a people problem. And you can’t fix people.”"
time  timemanagement  productivity  psychology  gtd  2016  oliverburkeman  stress  busyness  frederickwinslowtaylor  taylorism  merlinmann  technology  thomasnagel  humans  seneca  efficiency 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Arianna Huffington on a Book About Working Less, Resting More - The New York Times
"We hear a lot about the many things that are disrupting the American workplace: the decline of manufacturing, demographics, globalization, automation and, especially, technology. And it’s true — all of those are roiling the world of work, not just in America but worldwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you can start by putting down your phone — better yet, put it in another room — and picking up this much-needed book."
alexsoojung-kimpang  ariannahuffington  work  rest  creativity  2016  books  burnout  labor  sleep  workaholism  conservation  sherryturkle  productivity  detachment  neuroscience  psychology  sociology  routine  inspiration  innovation  lifehacks  efficiency 
december 2016 by robertogreco
All That Multitasking is Harming, Not Helping Your Productivity. Here’s Why. | KQED Future of You | KQED Science
"How the Digital Age Zaps Productivity

I visited Gazzaley in his UCSF laboratory, Neuroscape, to learn more about the science of distraction. Gazzaley pulled up, on a TV screen, a 3-D image of a brain, created from an MRI Scan. He pointed to different sections to explain what’s going on when our attention flits between tasks.

“The prefrontal cortex is the area most challenged,” Gazzely says. “And then visual areas, auditory areas, and the hippocampus — these networks are really what’s challenged when we are constantly switching between multiple tasks that our technological world might throw at us.”

When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. The process of splitting our attention usually leads to mistakes.

In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peak at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley says we woefully overestimate our ability to multitask.

“An example is when you attempt to check your email while on a conference call,” says Gazzaley. “The act of doing that makes it so incredibly obvious how you can’t really parallel process two attention-demanding tasks. You either have to catch up and ask what happened in the conversation, or you have to read over the email before you send it — if you’re wise!”

Answering an Email Takes A Lot Longer Than You Think

Gazzaley stresses that our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts hinders high-level thinking. If you’re working on a project and you stop to answer an email, the research shows, it will take you nearly a half-hour to get back on task.

“When a focused stream of thought is interrupted it needs to be reset,” explains Gazzaley. “You can’t just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and recreate all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another.”

In other words, repetitively switching tasks lowers performance and productivity because your brain can only fully and efficiently focus on one thing at a time.

Plus, mounting evidence shows that multitasking could impair the brain’s cognitive abilities. Stanford researchers studied the minds of people who regularly engage in several digital communication streams at once. They found that high-tech jugglers struggle to pay attention, recall information, or complete one task at a time.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” says Stanford neuroscientist Anthony Wagner. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

The researchers are still studying what’s causing multitaskers to perform poorly on cognitive tests. It could be that they are born with an inability to concentrate, or digital distractions are taking a toll. In any case, the researchers believe the minds of multitaskers are not performing optimally.

And the habit of multitasking could lower your score on an IQ test, according to researchers at the University of London.

Creating Digital Boundaries

But don’t worry. Gazzaley says. It’s not about opting out of technology. In fact, there’s a time and place for multitasking. If you’re in the midst of a mundane task that just has to get done, it’s probably not detrimental to have your phone nearby or a bunch of tabs open. The distractions may reduce boredom and help you stay engaged. But if you’re finishing a business plan, or a high-level writing project, then it’s a good idea to set yourself up to stay focused."
multitasking  cognition  collaboration  email  organization  productivity  2016  adamgazzaley  larryrosen 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Want to Create Things That Matter? Be Lazy. - 99U
"The late Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, was one the most brilliant minds of twentieth century science. To his colleagues at Cornell, however, he seemed lazy. As Feynman admitted in a 1981 interview: “I’m actively irresponsible; I tell everybody I don’t do anything; if anyone asks me to be on a committee…’no’ I tell them.”

The acclaimed post-modern science fiction author Neal Stephenson also comes across as lazy. In an essay titled “Why I am a Bad Correspondent,” Stephenson explains that he’s not that interested in spending time interacting with readers. Stephenson has no public e-mail address and asks that you don’t invite him to attend conferences or attempt to engage him in social media conversation. If you insist on trying to book him for an appearance, he warns “I almost never accept these and when I do, I charge a lot of money, I demand expensive travel arrangements, and I perform no prep work—I just show up and wing it.”

I’ve spent the past decade researching and writing about elite performers in creative fields. In this time, I’ve noticed that examples like Feynman and Stephenson are common. That is, many people who excel in producing things that matter have work habits that seem downright lazy by the standards in their field.

At first, this may just seem to be just another quirk of the high-performing set, but I argue that it’s worth diving deeper into this paradox as the underlying explanation provides useful insight for anyone looking to spend less time spinning their wheels and more time producing results the world cares about.


The key to explaining this lazy producer paradox is to introduce a more refined understanding of “work.” For many ambitious people, work is defined to be any activity that can potentially benefit you professionally. For most fields, of course, there are an endless number of things that satisfy this definition—from professors joining endless committees to writers maintaining exhausting social media presences. It’s due in large part to this generic notion of work that we spawned the culture of busyness that afflicts us today, where the measure of your success becomes synonymous with the measure of your exhaustion. This understanding of “work,” however, is flawed. It’s more useful to divide this activity into two distinct types of effort, deep and shallow:

1. Deep Work: Cognitively demanding tasks that require you to focus without distraction and apply hard to replicate skills.

2. Shallow Work: Logistical style tasks that do not require intense focus or the application of hard to replicate skills.

For example: solving a hard theorem is deep work, while chiming in on the latest departmental e-mail chain is shallow; writing a chapter of your novel is deep work, while tweeting about a novel you like is shallow. The shallow activities are not intrinsically bad, but they’re not skilled labor, and therefore offer (at best) a small positive contribution to your efforts to produce value.

If we rethink the laziness shown in our above examples through this lens, we realize what Feynman and Stephenson are really doing is eliminating large amounts of shallow work from their schedule to maintain a priority on deep work. By doing so, they’re taking advantage of the following crucial but overlooked reality: deep work is what produces things that matter in the world.

Richard Feynman, for example, could be lazy about many of the standard obligations of academics because he used that time to instead focus deeply on the ground-breaking ideas that made him famous. As he clarified in the interview mentioned above, “to do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time…it needs lots of concentration.”

Neal Stephenson justifies his snubbing of his readers for similar reasons. As he explained in his Bad Correspondent essay:

“If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.”

Both Feynman and Stephenson are making a case for prioritizing depth over shallowness. They recognize that deep work is what produces things that “will be around for a long time.” Whereas shallow work is an activity that can impede more important deep efforts and therefore cause more net harm than good. It might slightly help your writing career in the moment to be retweeted, but the long term impact of a distracting Twitter habit could be the difference between a struggling novelist and an award-winning star like Stephenson.


What’s the lesson to take away here? If you’re driven to produce things that matter, then you need to put deep work at the center of your professional life. To do so will probably require that you become lazier in the Feynman and Stephenson sense of the term: that is, you must treat with sluggish wariness efforts that keep you away from depth, regardless of how many small benefits they promise. Few people, of course, can completely eliminate shallow work from their professional lives, nor would they want to if they could. But shifting your general mindset toward one that embraces depth and shuns shallowness can make a big difference in the amount of value you produce.

To put it another way: become hard to reach, avoid new tech tools, be slow to answer e-mails, become blissfully ignorant of memes, turn down coffee requests, refuse to “hop on” calls, and spend whole days outside working in a single idea—these are exactly the type of lazy behaviors that can change the world."
creativity  productivity  focus  depth  2016  calnewport  via:austinkleon  richardfeynman  nealstephenson  howwework  work 
september 2016 by robertogreco
After years of intensive analysis, Google discovers the key to good teamwork is being nice — Quartz
[via: ]

"Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another.

The findings echo Stephen Covey’s influential 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Members of productive teams take the effort to understand each other, find a way to relate to each other, and then try to make themselves understood."
2016  google  work  niceness  kindness  labor  teams  howwework  commonsense  understanding  administration  leadership  management  sfsh  conversation  productivity  projectaristotle 
july 2016 by robertogreco
How the ‘first-in-last-out’ ethic is creating a culture of overwork | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
[via: ]

"There is no doubt that working long hours in short sprints is sometimes necessary. But years of research shows that consistently logging too much at the office harms both productivity and the quality of one’s work. For certain jobs, such as those in the medical or industrial fields, overwork raises the prevalence of accidents and mistakes that can be costly and dangerous. This was a major reason Henry Ford cut the workweek to 40 hours back in 1914, and saw profits and productivity soar.

Office staff that are overworked spend time doing increasingly meaningless tasks and tend to get lost in the weeds, eventually becoming unproductive. Stanford University economist John Pencavel found that a worker’s output drops sharply if he or she works too much. In one study, employees who put in more than 70 hours of work a week accomplished little more than those who worked 56 hours on a consistent weekly basis. In other words, those extra 14 hours were a complete waste of time.

If we know the consequences of overwork, why do businesses think it’s a good strategy? Employers face fixed costs per employee, which means that inducing one employee to put in long hours, even if they are less productive, may be cheaper than hiring a second employee to split the work.

Rising inequality is another factor in this equation. As businesses have downsized their labor force over the past several decades, a trend exacerbated by the recession of 2008, spending extra time at the office felt like a small price to pay for those who remained. Research shows that overwork is especially prevalent within many occupations that have the biggest gap between their highest and lowest-paid workers, including business and finance, the legal profession, and computer and mathematical science. And while some of these workers are well compensated, there are many more that are putting in an increasing number of hours without seeing any increase in pay."

As a greater number of people began putting in longer hours, overwork became embedded in certain workplaces and organizational cultures. And, while the advent of technology allowed more flexible schedules for many workers, it also blurred the boundaries between work and home. Because evaluating the productivity of creative or knowledge workers is difficult, many managers consciously or subconsciously use long work hours and face time at the office as an evaluation metric rather than more concrete deliverables. A study of one firm by Boston University’s Erin Reid found that managers couldn’t tell the difference between their workers who were working 80-hour weeks, and those who just pretended to work 80 hours (while actually working much less). Both groups did well in their performance reviews. In contrast, those employees who were transparent in their need to work fewer hours were marginalized and received lower performance reviews regardless of what they accomplished.

That’s why we need a cultural shift. The Obama Administration’s decision to raise the overtime income threshold gives some hope that things will change for certain workers. But policy reforms can only go so far. It’s hard to contemplate that any worker will suddenly cite “productivity” and leave the office before their colleagues do without the explicit approval of their boss. Businesses, then, must lead the way, and there are a number of companies that are doing so.

Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, locks the doors at 6pm and bans employees from working from home because, as CEO Rich Sheridan says, “tired programmers start putting in lots of bugs”. Similarly, Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School did an experiment with the Boston Consulting Group and found that mandating predictable, required time off resulted in higher employee satisfaction and retention. For these kinds of shorter work hours to be successful, of course, businesses must change the way they evaluate performance and focus on results and not hours.

It’s important that these companies do not apply these policies on a case-by-case basis, which often backfire for those who take advantage of them, primarily women. That is because those who receive this “special treatment” are often resented by colleagues, or seen as less competent. Businesses who truly want to combat overwork, therefore, must implement and enforce policies that apply to everyone.

That begins with ditching the hours-as-productivity model. Managers should instead focus on what is actually being produced rather than how long somebody stayed at work, at least for professional workers. That also means helping employees set realistic deadlines, and then getting out of the way. Giving workers more autonomy over their work results in greater efficiency, and results in more engaged, happier workers as well.

Managers must set an example and protect non-work time by limiting their own after-hours communication, and mandating more regular work hours and vacations. They should also clearly define this non-work time, and not leave it to their employees to set boundaries. In fact, telling employees to take as much time as they need may actually result in people taking less time off, as they tend to fall back on the expectation that “good” employees are the ones that work the hardest.

With all due respect to Mr Bloomberg, most of us have responsibilities outside of work that make it impossible to fulfill this “first-in-last-out” mindset. And even if we could, it’s clear that doing so not only wastes our time but also the time and money of our employers."
work  productivity  bridgetansel  workism  workaholism  henryford  history  economics  johnpencavel  overwork  labor  culture  social  leadership  management  administration 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Deciphering Glyph :: Email Isn’t The Thing You’re Bad At
"We’re In This Together, Me Especially

A lot of guidance about what to do with your email addresses email overload as a personal problem. Over the years of developing my tips and tricks for dealing with it, I certainly saw it that way. But lately, I’m starting to see that it has pernicious social effects.

If you have 24,000 messages in your Inbox, that means you aren’t keeping track or setting priorities on which tasks you want to complete. But just because you’re not setting those priorities, that doesn’t mean nobody is. It means you are letting availability heuristic - whatever is “latest and loudest” - govern access to your attention, and therefore your time. By doing this, you are rewarding people (or #brands) who contact you repeatedly, over inappropriate channels, and generally try to flood your attention with their priorities instead of your own. This, in turn, creates a culture where it is considered reasonable and appropriate to assume that you need to do that in order to get someone’s attention.

Since we live in the era of subtext and implication, I should explicitly say that I’m not describing any specific work environment or community. I used to have an email startup, and so I thought about this stuff very heavily for almost a decade. I have seen email habits at dozens of companies, and I help people in the open source community with their email on a regular basis. So I’m not throwing shade: almost everybody is terrible at this.

And that is the one way that email, in the sense of the tools and programs we use to process it, is at fault: technology has made it easier and easier to ask people to do more and more things, without giving us better tools or training to deal with the increasingly huge array of demands on our time. It’s easier than ever to say “hey could you do this for me” and harder than ever to just say “no, too busy”.

Mostly, though, I want you to know that this isn’t just about you any more. It’s about someone much more important than you: me. I’m tired of sending reply after reply to people asking to “just circle back” or asking if I’ve seen their email. Yes, I’ve seen your email. I have a long backlog of tasks, and, like anyone, I have trouble managing them and getting them all done4, and I frequently have to decide that certain things are just not important enough to do. Sometimes it takes me a couple of weeks to get to a message. Sometimes I never do. But, it’s impossible to be mad at somebody for “just checking in” for the fourth time when this is probably the only possible way they ever manage to get anyone else to do anything.

I don’t want to end on a downer here, though. And I don’t have a book to sell you which will solve all your productivity problems. I know that if I lay out some incredibly elaborate system all at once, it’ll seem overwhelming. I know that if I point you at some amazing gadget that helps you keep track of what you want to do, you’ll either balk at the price or get lost fiddling with all its knobs and buttons and not getting a lot of benefit out of it. So if I’m describing a problem that you have here, here’s what I want you to do.

Step zero is setting aside some time. This will probably take you a few hours, but trust me; they will be well-spent."
email  2016  productivity  gtd  advice 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Laila Lalami explains how to procrastinate (hint: you're off to a good start) - LA Times
"So you see, I do not lack for discipline. But I still need to waste a lot of time.

I’m genuinely surprised that I get anything done at all. In the last 10 years, I have somehow managed to publish three novels, in addition to dozens of stories, columns, reviews and essays. I have no explanation for this, except that perhaps the procrastination is not an impediment to my writing process, but an intimate part of it.

Just because I’m scrolling through a feed or reading the newspaper or idly jumping from website to website doesn’t mean that my brain shuts off. It’s still trying to flesh out characters, create scenes, work out plot points, or think of a better way to structure a paragraph.

Writing a novel is like living in a house full of ghosts — even when you ignore them, they’re still there, waiting to talk to you. They have all the time in the world. No matter how much you avoid them, the time comes when you have to confront them. Hear them out. See what they have to say. Over time, their features become clearer, their voices stronger, their histories richer, their lives fuller.

And so, once I have exhausted myself with avoidance, I must face the inevitable. Get it down on the page, I tell myself. You can always revise it later.

It’s only when I’m facing the blank screen that all my procrastination doesn’t seem like such a waste of time. I already have a rough idea what the widowed mother will say to her son-in-law when he asks about the will, what the necklace she will wear to the funeral means to her, and what it will take for her to finally lose her temper. When I’m revising, the time I’ve wasted away from the novel might help me figure out that the argument at the gravesite must be cut and moved to the kitchen instead. Little details that I might not have noticed if I had dutifully sat at my desk all day long suddenly stick out, begging to be explored.

So I’ve come to accept that there is no cure for me. I’ll do anything to avoid working on my novel. Even writing a column on procrastination."
lailalalami  writing  howewrite  procrastination  2016  time  productivity  discipline 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You — Better People — Medium
"You’re actually making it HARDER to have a conversation

Back before we met, I had two primary modes of digitally communicating with people:

1. Real Time
Some of the digital platforms I used were inherently “real time” (phone, Skype, IRC, Google Hangouts, etc.), where there was a built-in expectation of an immediate, rapid-fire conversation wherein everyone involved was more or less fully-present and participating.

2. Asynchronous
Conversely, there were other platforms that were inherently asynchronous (email, voicemail, iMessage, Twitter DMs, etc.), where there was no expectation of an immediate response, and people tended to send cogent feedback in their own time.

Then you came along, and rocked everyone’s world by introducing a conversational melting pot that is neither fully real time, nor fully asynchronous. You’re somewhere in between:

You’re asynchronish.

At first I thought this sounded delightful — it would be the best of both worlds! I was always free to drop someone a line, and if they were feeling chatty, a full-fledged conversation could simply spring up, with no need to switch platforms.

After getting to know you better, though, I’ve found that your “asynchronish” side is less impressive than I first thought. It leads to everyone having half-conversations all day long, with people frequently rotating through one slow-drip discussion after another, never needing to officially check out because “hey! it’s asynchronous!”"

"You’re turning my workdays into one long Franken-meeting

I think you and I can both agree that meetings are kind of the worst. And, on the surface, you do totally obviate the need for a ton of them. I can definitely think of many times in which a quick Slack whip-around has saved me from all kinds of interpersonal tedium. So thank you for that.

However, I’m wondering what the cost of it is. Specifically, I wonder if conducting business in an asynchronish environment simply turns every minute into an opportunity for conversation, essentially “meeting-izing” the entire workday."

"I belong to roughly 10 different Slack teams. People are very used to messaging me (directly or publicly) whether I’m online or not, so there’s a heavy social expectation for me to keep those conversational plates spinning on an ongoing basis, even if I’m signed out of all your clients.

I really don’t want to leave the people I care about hanging, but I haven’t seen any native way to let them know I may be gone for a while, and to perhaps try me elsewhere. This all seems a bit possessive on your part, whether you meant it to be or not — how do I take a vacation without taking you with me? How would you help me if I wound up in the hospital?

For better or for worse, you’ve gone from a novelty to a supernova in the blink of an eye. It’s only been two years, and many already act as if it’s impossible to remember what life was like before you came along."

"The question isn’t quality of design; you are stunningly well-designed in supporting the human tendencies you’re set up to support. I’m just not sure that those tendencies are ones I really want more of in my life right now. It seems that everyone’s social habits around using you are lagging pretty far behind your marvelous technical advancements."
slack  asynchronous  messaging  email  meetings  2016  asynchronish  work  productivity  conversation  samuelhulick  cabelsasser  jasonfried  joshpigford  chat 
march 2016 by robertogreco
How 'Treat Yourself' Became a Capitalist Command - The Atlantic
"In a 1982 lecture that went on to be published as an essay called "Technologies of the Self," the French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that looking after oneself, rather than being a form of navel-gazing or narcissism, is a kind of “vigilance” that dates back to antiquity. For Socrates, Plato, and their ilk, Foucault writes, “taking care of yourself eventually became absorbed into knowing yourself.”* As the thinking went, only with the proper amount of time set aside for the “active leisure” of reading, studying, and ruminating could a person come to grips with the profound nature of the universe and his own mortality.

After bubbling up through academic communities in the ‘80s, the term “self-care” accumulated health-related connotations as it gained mainstream renown. In the ‘90s, it referred to the way that patients could take supplementary responsibility for themselves in conjunction with their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. This was not particularly surprising: Foucault once advised that “one must become the doctor of oneself,” and his theories inspired individual-focused health care even before WebMD.

What might surprise both ’80s professors and ’90s medical professionals, though, is the degree to which self-care has also become a capitalist enterprise. American culture, with its typical anything-worth-doing-is-worth-overdoing attitude, has reduced self-care to buying stuff and, even more counter-intuitively, to trying to become a more productive employee. In other words, active self-care was originally considered necessary to be a philosopher, typically for elite white men who had the luxury to sit and think. Now, America has democratized it by making it seemingly available to all—at least, for a price.

The advertising industry has nudged self-care away from introspection and towards reflexive consumerism. According to copywriters, you “deserve” everything from “a break today” (at McDonald’s) to “brighter eyes” (with new make-up) from “a decent sandwich” (from Milio’s) to, simply, “the best” (in the form of Beats By Dre). The implication is clear: Consumers who fail to purchase such treats are depriving themselves, failing to meet their own needs. By the late 2000s, the trope “you deserve it!” had irritated, among others, Rush Limbaugh, various entrepreneurs, and frugal bloggers. As one of those bloggers points out, “We definitely do not deserve the bondage that comes with being under obligation to a credit-card company.”

In this way, capitalism has taken what Foucault called “a general attitude and also a precise act every day” and broken it down into a series of indulgent yet somehow necessary purchases of cosmetics, electronics, and fast food. When combined with the constant reminders that well-being also requires a sensible diet and lots of exercise, America’s overall approach to self-care begins to appear shallow, haphazard, and contradictory.

Just like the advertising industry, the American office has taken up the cause, because employees who don’t keep themselves in good working order can represent lost revenue. According to William Davies, whose book The Atlantic excerpted this summer, many companies wrestle with the problem of employees who are regularly absent, unmotivated, or suffering from “persistent, low-level mental-health problems.” And, he goes on, “the way in which these problems manifest themselves in the workplace, threatening productivity as they do so, has placed them among the greatest problems confronting capitalism today.”

The kind of self-care being peddled to the 21st-century American white-collar worker is a cure for a quintessentially 21st-century American problem: that jobs demand ever-increasing amounts of time, energy, and creativity. Capitalism, faced with a problem it created, is itself trying to provide a solution. Little wonder, then, that the suggested fix isn’t to convince workers to actually take their vacation days or to go back to a more humane schedule of 40 hours a week, both of which would help employees to prioritize their own well-being. Instead, to avoid burnout, people are encouraged to spend more and exercise harder.

This message can be seen splashed across the homepages of a number of media outlets. At the Huffington Post, one writer attempted to model for readers how to “add self-care to your schedule” by showing how “seven super successful women leaders” do it. The results were off-putting, Type-A solutions such as “6:00 AM outdoor boot camp” and, for breakfast, “Parsley protein shakes.” Sleep deprivation and liquid breakfasts may not seem joyless to everyone, but they hardly qualify as pampering, let alone paying careful attention to one's needs. And on Jezebel’s Millihelen blog, the writer Jane Marie confesses that she does not know how to conceive of self-care in a practical way, since “everything that comes to mind either takes too much time or too much money.” (Appropriately enough, Gawker Media, which owns Jezebel, just announced that it is shuttering Millihelen and starting a new sub-site focused specifically on “health, beauty, and self-care.”)

Self-care may never have been easy, but it was once simple and certainly not expensive. It required little more than the ability and wherewithal for introspection. Foucault’s “active leisure,” the time “to study, to read,” is not impossible to carve out time for. Workers and employers alike only have to recognize that determining and meeting one’s needs has value, regardless if it can produce any profit."
consumerism  capitalism  marketing  2015  self-care  michelfoucault  health  williamdavies  treatingthesymptom  mentalhealth  productivity  esterbloom  foucault 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Art Of Not Working on Vimeo
"The artist Ignacio Uriarte was stuck at a dead-end office job. Until one day he started to experiment with this concept—doing office work but without the actual work.

Episode two looks at art, office life and the freedom of zoning out.

Notes for this Episode:
I first heard about Ignacio’s work on Benjamen Walker’s podcast Theory of Everything:
You can see more of Ignacio’s art on his website: "
igniaciouriarte  art  work  labor  officework  productivity  2015  freedom  constraints  repetition 
december 2015 by robertogreco
"I'm Doing Work" on Vimeo
[More from this series:

"Sluggish is a video web series that brings together different stories around a single idea. Sometimes the stories are about art and sometimes they’re about science or history or sports but they are always about everyday things that are weird and esoteric and they are always fun.

It’s a bit like a visualized podcast.

The series is a completely independent project produced in Berlin and shot around the world. It is an ongoing experiment for me and there are many things I plan to try out here so I hope you stick around to see how it evolves. Season two is already in the works.

What are the upsides of doing nothing? The first season takes on the current universal obsession with the concept of productivity while trying to explore the benefits of wasting your time.

It’s pretty much your best chance to feel good about wasting your time watching online videos."

"The Art of Not Working"

"To Dive or Not to Dive"

"Fighting Blue Sky Thinking" ]
work  productivity  stevenpoole  leisure  effort  priorities  gtd  labor  idleness  michaelbar-eli  gavinpretor-pinney  doingnothing  football  soccer  economics  bias  actionbias  emotionallabor  care  caring  decisionmaking  timewasting  2015  ignaciouriarte  art  futbol  sports 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver - Poem 133 | Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003 (Poetry and Literature, Library of Congress)
"The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver"
poems  poetry  maryoliver  nature  life  living  prayer  productivity  change  attention 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Whole of Work - Features - Source: An OpenNews project
"I shouldn’t have to say this, but here we are: work that is excessive, consuming north of 40 hours a week and without regular holidays, leads to burnout and reduced productivity, not to mention a toll on workers’ mental and physical health. We should build workplaces that encourage healthy work habits because we are not monsters, but also because we benefit from sane work cultures because they achieve better results.

With that out of the way, parental leave, holidays, paid sick time, flexible hours, and remote-friendly environments are all table stakes for a holistic work culture. Holistic technologies rely on the creativity and leadership of all parties involved—so they are especially sensitive to environments that engender fatigue. Too often, work cultures neglect the fact that workers have bodies, forgetting that food, exercise, and rest are design requirements.

In addition to long hours, push notifications arriving 24/7 and expectations that workers are “always on” are similarly dangerous. A lot of recent technology makes connecting with far-off colleagues trivial, but that’s both a boon and a responsibility. Team leaders have to set an example by promoting responsible time off policies and setting expectations that off time is off limits. Likewise, unlimited vacation policies are only a perk if workers make use of them.

Most importantly, the egalitarianism necessary for productive collaboration requires that we work to reduce the effects of structural discrimination—otherwise, not every team member will be able to contribute fully. We don’t—we cannot—live in a meritocracy, so habits and expectations that force workers to prioritize work over life silently privilege the young, healthy, wealthy, and childless. If we’re going to build diverse workplaces—and we’d better—then it’s critical that we support the whole life of every worker, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.


There’s one final point I’ll make about holistic technology: it need not be constrained to the work of making products, but can extend to the products themselves. Many of the products most in vogue today—Slack, GitHub, Trello, or any member of the somewhat misnamed category of content management systems—are themselves tools for collaboration. Which means those tools can also aspire to holistic processes, creating environments in which individuals can take control of their work rather than being controlled by it.

Franklin notes that the real danger of prescriptive technologies is that they lend themselves to a culture of compliance: that is, a prescriptive process teaches people that they must do things a certain way, and so instills in them habits of following the rules. She writes:
The acculturation to compliance and conformity has, in turn, accelerated the use of prescriptive technologies in administrative, government, and social services. The same development has diminished resistance to the programming of people. (19)

The programming of people. In other words, prescriptive technologies lend themselves towards systems and structures that treat people as automatons, diminishing both their talents and their humanity. If we want communities of creative people—that is, people who do not merely accept the way things have always been done but try to improve them—then we cannot afford to breed compliance, in either our workplaces or among our users. The Times expose of Amazon also notes, almost as an aside, that the inhumane culture extends all the way down to warehouse workers who are expected to operate under conditions better suited to robots. If we bristle at working under those kinds of conditions ourselves, what excuse have we for imposing them on others? Moreover, what makes us believe that the programming of people will be limited to those on the lower rungs?

We can’t hoard holistic processes for ourselves—we need to also imbue the tools and systems we create with those same principles. That is, we should encourage collaboration and documentation; anticipate needs for both synchronous and asynchronous workflows; create meaningful ways to denote time working and time away; and most importantly we should resist, at all costs, the temptation to build rigid, prescriptive processes that users must slavishly follow.

Holistic technologies represent better ways of working—and living. We should both enthusiastically adopt them and work to ensure they are the norm, not the exception."
mandybrown  work  collaboration  communication  diversity  2015  ursulafranklin  generalists  specialists  labor  technology  burnout  care  caring  productivity  autonomy  competition  documentation  process  transparency 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Forced to Love the Grind | Jacobin
"During the Cold War, defense companies like Lockheed in the Santa Clara Valley drew scores of ambitious scientists; these workers seemed to share certain personality traits, including social awkwardness, emotional detachment, and, namely, a single-mindedness about their work to the point at which “they devoted every waking hour to it, usually to the exclusion of nonwork relationships, exercise, sleep, food, and even personal care.” In the late ’50s, Lockheed’s own company psychologists created a label for this particular bundle of traits: “the sci-tech personality.”

Managers had found a type of worker who gladly put aside, seemingly for the long term, nonwork desires and obligations, and even the most basic physical needs of hygiene and sleep. These workers were branded not as worrisome but as “passionate,” with all the positive connotations of that word. And by the 1980s, a valley full of “passionate” workers was fertile ground for a burgeoning tech industry. Passionate overworkers like Steve Jobs became icons, not just to tech workers but also to the culture at large.

With passion as a new workplace requirement, it needed to be measured in some way, so that the passion of individual workers could be compared and used to mete out rewards and punishments. Enter the managers, who resorted to the laziest, most easily graphable, least imaginative way possible to gauge this intangible quality: hours spent in the office.

This intractable policy remains largely in place today. “We just don’t know any other way to measure [workers], except by their hours,” an office manager sighed to a team of workplace consultants in 2014. This exasperation was aired a year after the consultants did a study of the same workplace, which revealed that employees were more productive when encouraged to take intermittent breaks and were (gasp) “permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.”

Passion as measured by hours has put the workweek on a course of runaway inflation, to the point at which people are actually shortening their lives and endangering others — sometimes in sudden, tragic form — in pursuit of an ever-elusive ideal of capitalistic individualism."

"The falsity of passion-as-hours logic is that, quite simply, it produces shoddy work, which is not what someone who is ostensibly passionate about his or her work would allow. Emphasizing passion as a value in employees diminishes other potential — seemingly obvious — attitudes toward work that have more to bear on the quality of the work itself, things like competence and good faith.

Passion, overwork, and 24/7 temporality are linked together by much more than the need for simple managerial metrics. Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming argue that work today is of such a nature that it exploits workers not only during their time in the workplace, but also in their very act of living.

Employers seek to capture our “human qualities like social intelligence, reciprocity, communication, and shared initiative.” They add, “The traditional point of production — say the factory assembly line — is scattered to every corner of our lives since it is now our very sociality that creates value for business.”

This logic applies to nearly every level of the workforce, from the public face an executive provides for his corporation to barista small talk. When personal authenticity is demanded every moment at work, “our authenticity is no longer a retreat from the mandatory fakeness of the office, but the very medium through which work squeezes the life out of us.” If everyone is always working anyway and the distinctions between our work and nonwork selves are muddled, staying in the office for an extra hour or three doesn’t seem a terribly significant decision.

And when a worker has internalized a DWYL ethic, it hardly seems like a decision at all."
2015  miyatokumitsu  passion  labor  employment  siliconvalley  work  fatigue  wellbeing  exploitation  productivity  capitalism  sararobinson 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."

"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."

"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield |
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Avidly / How Email Ruined My Life
"It is not surprising that this self-perpetuating mode of interaction comes alongside a proliferation of (self-)assessment and (self-)documentation—talking about what you will, have, or are doing instead of just doing it. Thus the ability to communicate about everything, at all times, seems to have come with the attendant requirements that we accompany every action with a qualitative and quantitative discourse about that action. Inside and in addition to this vast circularity are all those things that one’s job actually entails on a practical, daily basis: all the small questions, all the little tasks that need to be accomplished to make sure a class gets scheduled, a course description is revised, or a grade gets changed. Given how few academic organizations have well-functioning automatic systems that might allow these elements to be managed simply, and that my own university seems especially committed to individually hand-cranking every single gear involved in its operation on an ad hoc basis, most elements of my job mean that emails need to be sent to other people.

Once I send an email, I can do nothing further until someone sends an email back, and thus in a sense, sending that email became a task in itself, a task now completed. More and more it is just a game of hot potato with everyone supposedly moving the task forward by getting it off their desk and onto someone else’s, via email. Every node in this network are themselves fighting to keep up with all their emails, in the back and forth required before anything can actually be done. The irony of the incredible speed of digital mediation is thus that it often results in an intractable slowness in accomplishing simple tasks. (My solution has been to return to the telephone, which easily reduces any 10-email exchange into a 2-minute conversation. Sidenote: I never answer my own phone.)

In case it isn’t already clear, such an onslaught of emails, and the pressure of immediacy exerted sometimes explicitly but mostly by the character of the media, means that we no longer get to leave work (or school, or our friends or our partners). We are always at work, even during time off. The joy of turning on our vacation auto-reply messages is cursory, for even as we cite the “limited access” we will have to email (in, like, Vancouver), we know that we can and will check it. And of course we know that everyone else knows that it’s a lie. Even if we really do take time away from email, making ourselves unavailable (not looking at email, not answering our texts) does not mean email has not been sent to us and is not waiting for us. And we know it, with virtually every fiber of our being. Our practical unavailability does not mitigate our affective understanding that if we ignore email too long, not only will work pile up, but there will be emotional consequences. I can feel the brewing hostility of the email senders: irritated, anxious, angry, disappointed. Even if I start to relax on one level, on another my own anxiety, irritation, and guilt begin to grow. Email doesn’t go away. It’s never over. It’s the fucking digital Babadook, a relentless, reflexive reminder of the unfathomable mass underlying every small transaction of information."
email  toread  via:shannon_mattern  labor  productivity  catherinezimmer 
july 2015 by robertogreco
art as industrial lubricant - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"Holy cow, does Nick Carr pin this one to the wall. Google says, "At any moment in your day, Google Play Music has whatever you need music for — from working, to working out, to working it on the dance floor — and gives you curated radio stations to make whatever you’re doing better. Our team of music experts, including the folks who created Songza, crafts each station song by song so you don’t have to."

Nick replies:
This is the democratization of the Muzak philosophy. Music becomes an input, a factor of production. Listening to music is not itself an “activity” — music isn’t an end in itself — but rather an enhancer of other activities, each of which must be clearly demarcated....  

Once you accept that music is an input, a factor of production, you’ll naturally seek to minimize the cost and effort required to acquire the input. And since music is “context” rather than “core,” to borrow Geoff Moore’s famous categorization of business inputs, simple economics would dictate that you outsource the supply of music rather than invest personal resources — time, money, attention, passion — in supplying it yourself. You should, as Google suggests, look to a “team of music experts” to “craft” your musical inputs, “song by song,” so “you don’t have to.” To choose one’s own songs, or even to develop the personal taste in music required to choose one’s own songs, would be wasted labor, a distraction from the series of essential jobs that give structure and value to your days. 

Art is an industrial lubricant that, by reducing the friction from activities, makes for more productive lives.

If music be the lube of work, play on — and we'll be Getting Things Done."
nicholascarr  2015  alanjacobs  music  google  muzak  geoffmoore  productivity  latecapitalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Education Myth by Ricardo Hausmann - Project Syndicate
"In the 50 years from 1960 to 2010, the global labor force’s average time in school essentially tripled, from 2.8 years to 8.3 years. This means that the average worker in a median country went from less than half a primary education to more than half a high school education.

How much richer should these countries have expected to become? In 1965, France had a labor force that averaged less than five years of schooling and a per capita income of $14,000 (at 2005 prices). In 2010, countries with a similar level of education had a per capita income of less than $1,000.

In 1960, countries with an education level of 8.3 years of schooling were 5.5 times richer than those with 2.8 year of schooling. By contrast, countries that had increased their education from 2.8 years of schooling in 1960 to 8.3 years of schooling in 2010 were only 167% richer. Moreover, much of this increase cannot possibly be attributed to education, as workers in 2010 had the advantage of technologies that were 50 years more advanced than those in 1960. Clearly, something other than education is needed to generate prosperity.

As is often the case, the experience of individual countries is more revealing than the averages. China started with less education than Tunisia, Mexico, Kenya, or Iran in 1960, and had made less progress than them by 2010. And yet, in terms of economic growth, China blew all of them out of the water. The same can be said of Thailand and Indonesia vis-à-vis the Philippines, Cameroon, Ghana, or Panama. Again, the fast growers must be doing something in addition to providing education.

The experience within countries is also revealing. In Mexico, the average income of men aged 25-30 with a full primary education differs by more than a factor of three between poorer municipalities and richer ones. The difference cannot possibly be related to educational quality, because those who moved from poor municipalities to richer ones also earned more.

And there is more bad news for the “education, education, education” crowd: Most of the skills that a labor force possesses were acquired on the job. What a society knows how to do is known mainly in its firms, not in its schools. At most modern firms, fewer than 15% of the positions are open for entry-level workers, meaning that employers demand something that the education system cannot – and is not expected – to provide.

When presented with these facts, education enthusiasts often argue that education is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for growth. But in that case, investment in education is unlikely to deliver much if the other conditions are missing. After all, though the typical country with ten years of schooling had a per capita income of $30,000 in 2010, per capita income in Albania, Armenia, and Sri Lanka, which have achieved that level of schooling, was less than $5,000. Whatever is preventing these countries from becoming richer, it is not lack of education.

A country’s income is the sum of the output produced by each worker. To increase income, we need to increase worker productivity. Evidently, “something in the water,” other than education, makes people much more productive in some places than in others. A successful growth strategy needs to figure out what this is.

Make no mistake: education presumably does raise productivity. But to say that education is your growth strategy means that you are giving up on everyone who has already gone through the school system – most people over 18, and almost all over 25. It is a strategy that ignores the potential that is in 100% of today’s labor force, 98% of next year’s, and a huge number of people who will be around for the next half-century. An education-only strategy is bound to make all of them regret having been born too soon.

This generation is too old for education to be its growth strategy. It needs a growth strategy that will make it more productive – and thus able to create the resources to invest more in the education of the next generation. Our generation owes it to theirs to have a growth strategy for ourselves. And that strategy will not be about us going back to school."
economics  policy  education  2015  ricardohausmann  productivity  labor  work  growth  schooling  income  society 
june 2015 by robertogreco
">>>> Since y’all always wanna talk about not romanticizing shit, how about we stop romanticizing pain and discomfort? 

>>>> Stop telling people they will only ever be successful if they take risks and leave their comfort zone.

>>>> Stop telling people that choosing contentment and security over “success” is lazy

>>>> Stop belittling disabled and mentally ill people for not “trying hard enough to overcome” their disabilities.

>>>> Stop forcing people to do things they hate to make them “grow as a person”

>>>> Stop telling people they’re supposed to hurt, that they’re supposed to be scared, that they’re supposed to be struggling to get by. 

>>> I thought that I was really really explicit in this post, but apparently I was still too vague, because people aren’t getting it. So let me clear something up.


>>> Like, I don’t care how productive a person is. I don’t care how much they “contribute to society.” I don’t give a fuck if they don’t have a job, if they don’t leave the house, if they don’t get out of bed every day. I care about people who are LITERALLY WORKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH because some of y’all care more about “production” than you do about people. 

>>> Whenever I make posts like this, people always leave the same comments. “Okay, but what about the people who are forty years old and live in their parent’s basements and have never had a job in their lives and don’t care about anything.” 

>>> ….What about them? Like, I have maybe met one person in my entire life who fits half of that description. But I know dozens upon dozens of young people who are making themselves sick, causeing themselves chronic health problems, ruining their mental health, because they are trying to live up to other’s standards of success. 

>>> I care about people being SAFE. I care about people being HAPPY. I care about people TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWN HEALTH. 

>>> I don’t give a fuck about how productive the are. 

>> this

> productivity is predicated on capitalism and whiteness."
productivity  capitalism  wellbeing  disabiliuty  mentalhealth  pain  discomfort  contentment  security  success 
june 2015 by robertogreco
How to turn a liberal hipster into a capitalist tyrant in one evening | Comment is free | The Guardian
"And because the theatre captures data on every choice by every team, for every performance, I know we were not alone. The aggregated flowchart reveals that every audience, on every night, veers towards money and away from ethics.

Svendsen says: “Most people who were given the choice to raise wages – having cut them – did not. There is a route in the decision-tree that will only get played if people pursue a particularly ethical response, but very few people end up there. What we’ve realised is that it is not just the profit motive but also prudence, the need to survive at all costs, that pushes people in the game to go down more capitalist routes.”

In short, many people have no idea what running a business actually means in the 21st century. Yes, suppliers – from East Anglia to Shanghai – will try to break your ethical codes; but most of those giant firms’ commitment to good practice, and environmental sustainability, is real. And yes, the money is all important. But real businesses will take losses, go into debt and pay workers to stay idle in order to maintain the long-term relationships vital in a globalised economy.

Why do so many decent people, when asked to pretend they’re CEOs, become tyrants from central casting? Part of the answer is: capitalism subjects us to economic rationality. It forces us to see ourselves as cashflow generators, profit centres or interest-bearing assets. But that idea is always in conflict with something else: the non-economic priorities of human beings, and the need to sustain the environment. Though World Factory, as a play, is designed to show us the parallels between 19th-century Manchester and 21st-century China, it subtly illustrates what has changed."

"The whole purpose of this system of regulation – from above and below – is to prevent individual capitalists making short-term decisions that destroy the human and natural resources it needs to function. Capitalism is not just the selfish decisions of millions of people. It is those decisions sifted first through the all-important filter of regulation. It is, as late 20th-century social theorists understood, a mode of regulation, not just of production.

Yet it plays on us a cruel ideological trick. It looks like a spontaneous organism, to which government and regulation (and the desire of Chinese migrants to visit their families once a year) are mere irritants. In reality it needs the state to create and re-create it every day.

Banks create money because the state awards them the right to. Why does the state ram-raid the homes of small-time drug dealers, yet call in the CEOs of the banks whose employees commit multimillion-pound frauds for a stern ticking off over a tray of Waitrose sandwiches? Answer: because a company has limited liability status, created by parliament in 1855 after a political struggle.

Our fascination with market forces blinds us to the fact that capitalism – as a state of being – is a set of conditions created and maintained by states. Today it is beset by strategic problems: debt- ridden, with sub-par growth and low productivity, it cannot unleash the true potential of the info-tech revolution because it cannot imagine what to do with the millions who would lose their jobs.

The computer that runs the data system in Svendsen’s play could easily run a robotic clothes factory. That’s the paradox. But to make a third industrial revolution happen needs something no individual factory boss can execute: the re-regulation of capitalism into something better. Maybe the next theatre game about work and exploitation should model the decisions of governments, lobbyists and judges, not the hapless managers."
capitalism  economics  ethics  money  values  2015  rationality  behavior  priorities  policy  sustainability  survival  worldfactory  paulmason  latecapitalism  psychology  zoesvendsen  growth  productivity  banks  banking  government  governance  regulation  longterm  shortterm 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (The Political Roots of Widening Inequality)
"A deeper understanding of what has happened to American incomes over the last 25 years requires an examination of changes in the organization of the market. These changes stem from a dramatic increase in the political power of large corporations and Wall Street to change the rules of the market in ways that have enhanced their profitability, while reducing the share of economic gains going to the majority of Americans.

This transformation has amounted to a redistribution upward, but not as “redistribution” is normally defined. The government did not tax the middle class and poor and transfer a portion of their incomes to the rich. The government undertook the upward redistribution by altering the rules of the game.

Intellectual property rights—patents, trademarks, and copyrights—have been enlarged and extended, for example. This has created windfalls for pharmaceuticals, high tech, biotechnology, and many entertainment companies, which now preserve their monopolies longer than ever. It has also meant high prices for average consumers, including the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation.

At the same time, antitrust laws have been relaxed for corporations with significant market power. This has meant large profits for Monsanto, which sets the prices for most of the nation’s seed corn; for a handful of companies with significant market power over network portals and platforms (Amazon, Facebook, and Google); for cable companies facing little or no broadband competition (Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon); and for the largest Wall Street banks, among others. And as with intellectual property rights, this market power has simultaneously raised prices and reduced services available to average Americans. (Americans have the most expensive and slowest broadband of any industrialized nation, for example.)

Financial laws and regulations instituted in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929 and the consequential Great Depression have been abandoned—restrictions on interstate banking, on the intermingling of investment and commercial banking, and on banks becoming publicly held corporations, for example—thereby allowing the largest Wall Street banks to acquire unprecedented influence over the economy. The growth of the financial sector, in turn, spawned junk-bond financing, unfriendly takeovers, private equity and “activist” investing, and the notion that corporations exist solely to maximize shareholder value.

Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations—notably airlines and automobile manufacturers—allowing them to abrogate labor contracts, threaten closures unless they receive wage concessions, and leave workers and communities stranded. Notably, bankruptcy has not been extended to homeowners who are burdened by mortgage debt and owe more on their homes than the homes are worth, or to graduates laden with student debt. Meanwhile, the largest banks and auto manufacturers were bailed out in the downturn of 2008–2009. The result has been to shift the risks of economic failure onto the backs of average working people and taxpayers.

Contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations. Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information. CEOs have used stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options. Tax laws have created loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes, and reduced estate taxes on great wealth.

All these instances represent distributions upward—toward big corporations and financial firms, and their executives and shareholders—and away from average working people."

"The underlying problem, then, is not that most Americans are “worth” less in the market than they had been, or that they have been living beyond their means. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive. The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II. As a result, their means have not kept up with what the economy could otherwise provide them.

To attribute this to the impersonal workings of the “free market” is to disregard the power of large corporations and the financial sector, which have received a steadily larger share of economic gains as a result of that power. As their gains have continued to accumulate, so has their power to accumulate even more.

Under these circumstances, education is no panacea. Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires reversing the upward distributions within the rules of the market, and giving workers the bargaining leverage they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth. Yet neither will be possible as long as large corporations and Wall Street have the power to prevent such a restructuring. And as they, and the executives and managers who run them, continue to collect the lion’s share of the income and wealth generated by the economy, their influence over the politicians, administrators, and judges who determine the rules of the game may be expected to grow.

The answer to this conundrum is not found in economics. It is found in politics. The changes in the organization of the economy have been reinforcing and cumulative: As more of the nation’s income flows to large corporations and Wall Street and to those whose earnings and wealth derive directly from them, the greater is their political influence over the rules of the market, which in turn enlarges their share of total income.

The more dependent politicians become on their financial favors, the greater is the willingness of such politicians and their appointees to reorganize the market to the benefit of these moneyed interests. The weaker unions and other traditional sources of countervailing power become economically, the less able they are to exert political influence over the rules of the market, which causes the playing field to tilt even further against average workers and the poor.

Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority, whose incomes have stagnated and whose wealth has failed to increase, join together to demand fundamental change. The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress."
robertreich  2015  economics  inequality  histoy  corporatism  politics  policy  wealth  productivity  globalization  markets  capitalism  labor  work  insecutiry  greatrecession  recession  unemployment  underemployment  finance  banks  banking  wallstreet  education  government  ideology 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Broad-Based Wage Growth Is a Key Tool in the Fight Against Poverty | Economic Policy Institute
"Over the last three-and-a-half decades, progress in reducing poverty has been painfully slow despite significant gains in economic productivity and average incomes. During the same time period, the inflation-adjusted wages of most low- and middle-income households have been essentially stagnant, which is the root cause of rising income inequality.

A primary objective of the Economic Policy Institute’s Raising America’s Pay initiative is to expose the roots of growing inequality and demonstrate inequality’s real, adverse effects on low- and middle-income households (Bivens et al. 2014). In this paper, we explore how wage stagnation and growing inequality have undermined progress in reducing poverty.

Between 1979 and 2013, hourly wage growth stagnated for the vast majority—even while those at the bottom relied increasingly heavily on their wages to make ends meet. At the same time, the vast majority of annual earnings increases for the bottom fifth were due to increasing work hours, not rising hourly wages. Income inequality over this period also increased—largely due to stagnant wages for low- and middle-income households—and became the single most important factor in the increase in poverty.

To show the significance of wage growth in reducing poverty, we simulate what would have happened to poverty rates had we experienced broad-based wage growth from 1979 to 2013. We first examine the effects on poverty had wage inequality not increased since 1979 (i.e., had everyone’s wages grown at the same rate as average wages). Next we examine how the poverty rate would have been lower had economic gains been broadly shared (i.e., had all wages grown at the same rate as economy-wide productivity). Both simulations show that we could achieve real gains in poverty reduction by ensuring that lower-income workers are able to share in our country’s economic growth. And even these projected gains likely understate the extent to which a full-employment economy could alleviate poverty, as it would disproportionately benefit low-wage workers. Had wages grown in tandem with productivity over 1979–2013 and if the economy were at full employment, the non-elderly market-based poverty rate (i.e., the poverty rate for Americans under age 65 before safety-net supports are taken into account) would be 4.2 percentage points lower. This means that 11.2 million fewer people would be in poverty.

These simulations show that increasing inequality, stagnant wages, and chronic shortfalls in labor demand have come at a serious cost to poverty-reduction efforts. Indeed, the economy’s failure to deliver gains to low-wage workers in recent decades means that the tax-and-transfer system is responsible for all of the progress made in poverty reduction since 1967. To boost the pace of poverty reduction going forward, fiscal transfers that help low-income families almost surely need to be accompanied by policies to foster widely shared wage growth. In fact, the simulated 4.2 percentage-point poverty-rate decline from using full employment and broad-based wage growth to reduce poverty is more than half as large as the poverty reduction from our entire range of anti-poverty programs.

Without wage gains, the tax-and-transfer system needs to work harder every year simply to keep poverty rates from increasing. We argue that a policy agenda to fight poverty must include an agenda to raise wages. This agenda should include raising the minimum wage, setting a new overtime threshold, eliminating wage theft, strengthening workers’ collective bargaining rights, and targeting full employment.

The paper’s key findings include: [continues]"
poverty  inequality  us  economics  2015  productivity  policy  wages  income  taxes  taxation  wealthtransfer  labor  work  elisegould  alyssadavis  willkimball 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Bullet Journal: An analog note-taking system for the digital age
"For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future."
calendars  productivity  jornals  via:lukeneff  lists  gtd 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’ -
"Most newly stylish coinages carry with them some evidence of grammatical trauma. Consider “affluencer,” “selfie,” “impactful.” Notes of cynicism and cutesiness come through. But every now and then a bright exception to this dispiriting routine appears. A rookie word makes its big-league debut, a stadium of pedants prepares to peg it with tomatoes and — nothing. A halfhearted heckle. The new word looks only passably pathetic. Maddeningly, it has heft.

“Mindfulness” may be that hefty word now, one that can’t readily be dismissed as trivia or propaganda. Yes, it’s current among jaw-grinding Fortune 500 executives who take sleeping pills and have “leadership coaches,” as well as with the moneyed earnest, who shop at Whole Foods, where Mindful magazine is on the newsstand alongside glossies about woodworking and the environment. It looks like nothing more than the noun form of “mindful” — the proper attitude toward the London subway’s gaps — but “mindfulness” has more exotic origins. In the late 19th century, the heyday of both the British Empire and Victorian Orientalism, a British magistrate in Galle, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with the formidable name of Thomas William Rhys Davids, found himself charged with adjudicating Buddhist ecclesiastical disputes. He set out to learn Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan tongue and the liturgical language of Theravada, an early branch of Buddhism. In 1881, he thus pulled out “mindfulness” — a synonym for “attention” from 1530 — as an approximate translation of the Buddhist concept of sati.

The translation was indeed rough. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, more nearly, “memory of the present,” which didn’t track in tense-preoccupied English. “Mindfulness” stuck — but may have saddled the subtle sati with false-note connotations of Victorian caution, or even obedience. (“Mind your manners!”)

“Mindfulness” finally became an American brand, however, a hundred years later, when the be-here-now, Eastern-inflected explorations of the ’60s came to dovetail with self-improvement regimes. In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist in New England and a longtime meditator in the Zen Buddhist tradition, saw in Rhys Davids’s word a chance to scrub meditation of its religious origins. Kabat-Zinn believed that many of the secular people who could most benefit from meditation were being turned off by the whiffs of reincarnation and other religious esoterica that clung to it. So he devised a new and pleasing definition of “mindfulness,” one that now makes no mention of enlightenment: “The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”"

"If it’s a revolution, it’s not a grass-roots one. Although mindfulness teachers regularly offer the practice in disenfranchised communities in the United States and abroad, the powerful have really made mindfulness their own, exacting from the delicate idea concrete promises of longer lives and greater productivity. In January, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kabat-Zinn led executives and 1 percenters in a mindfulness meditation meant to promote general well-being. Many in pinstripes and conference lanyards also took time away from panels on Bitcoin and cybersecurity to communally breathe, and to attend a packed session called The Human Brain: Deconstructing Mindfulness, led by Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health."

"Mindfulness as “keeping in tune” has a nice ring to it. But it’s “focused on the task at hand” that appeals to managers, like Jackson, who are conscious of performance goals. Might workplace mindfulness — in the cubicle or on the court — be just another way to keep employees undistracted and to get them to work harder for nothing but airy rewards? In this context of performance enhancement, “mindfulness” seems perilously close to doggerel from the same playbook that brought us corny affirmations, inner children and vision boards.

Maybe the word “mindfulness” is like the Prius emblem, a badge of enlightened and self-satisfied consumerism, and of success and achievement. If so, not deploying mindfulness — taking pills or naps for anxiety, say, or going out to church or cocktails — makes you look sort of backward or classless. Like driving a Hummer.

As usual with modish and ideologically freighted words, this one has also come to inform high-minded prescriptions for raising children. Evidently they’re no longer expected to mind their manners; we are expected instead to mind their emotional states. Recently, Hanna Rosin, in Slate, argued that mindful parenting might be a Trojan horse: Though the mindful mother claims to stay open-minded about her child’s every action and communication, she ends up being hospitable to only the kid’s hippie, peacenik side — the side she comes to prefer.

In Rosin’s example, a mother supposedly mindful of her son’s capacity for violence nonetheless doesn’t rest until he gives a peaceable, sympathetic explanation for it — that he was hurt and overreacted. “I was mad, and he had it coming,” which might be the lad’s own truth, doesn’t fly. The mother’s “mindful attention,” rather than representing freedom from judgment, puts a thumb on the scale.

It’s profoundly tempting to dismiss as cant any word current with Davos, the N.B.A. and the motherhood guilt complex. Mindful fracking: Could that be next? Putting a neuroscience halo around a byword for both uppers (“productivity”) and downers (“relaxation”) — to ensure a more compliant work force and a more prosperous C-suite — also seems twisted. No one word, however shiny, however intriguingly Eastern, however bolstered by science, can ever fix the human condition. And that’s what commercial mindfulness may have lost from the most rigorous Buddhist tenets it replaced: the implication that suffering cannot be escaped but must be faced. Of that shift in meaning — in the Westernization of sati — we should be especially mindful."
mindfulness  2015  productivity  labor  words  virginiaheffernan  sati  buddhism  jonkabat-zinn  rhysdavid  meditiation  posturing  trends  openmindedness  parenting  davos  mentalhealth  awareness  via:ablerism 
april 2015 by robertogreco
s p a c i n g : : : whose space is public space?
"Sometimes I feel an urgent need to get out of Toronto, and this is one of those times. The strain does not come from difficult friendships or celebrity magazines or the noise, so much as my relationship to my fellow pedestrian. The crisis is almost always a crisis about strangers; it’s a crisis of eye contact. Someone approaches and the problem of whether to look away or look at them — and if to look, how long to keep looking for — does not resolve itself easily, quietly, in the background. It becomes a loud problem, and as people pass by, the anxiety of how to act and this question about responsibility to my fellow humans, paid out in a momentary acknowledgement of our mutual humanity, prohibits me from thinking about anything else.

In such a state it is difficult to accept that we really are free on the streets of Toronto; free to look or not look as we choose, without consequence and without affecting anyone for the better or worse. In times like these, it feels as though what it means to look at someone and what it means to decide to not look is as central an ethical dilemma as any; that the question of our responsibility to each other really comes down to how we interact with people we do not know. What degree of regard are the hundreds of strangers we pass in a single day worth?

That walking among others should present itself as a dilemma is pathetic. Perhaps it is because we are primarily a culture of drivers, not pedestrians. Even if we do not drive, still we share the streets with many who do, who do not occupy the sidewalks with pleasure but rather are wishing there was less space to travel between the restaurant and their parked car. “Urbanity and automobiles are antithetical in many ways,” writes Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust, a history of walking. “A city of drivers is only a dysfunctional suburb of people shuttling from private interior to private interior.” This is also true in a city of transit users — we rush to the streetcar stop, take a seat, look through whatever newspaper is lying closest. Walking is no longer, as Solnit points out, “a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned.” As a result, we are jarred by our encounters. Eye contact is an irritation. It disrupts the work of getting somewhere.

Most of us accept as inevitable the sort of eye contact that is most pervasive, that rushed and fearful glance. You might argue that this way of looking is respectful; that since privacy is so scarce in a city, it is gracious to look away. But I have experienced such gentle looks away — giving them, getting them — and they’re not what I am talking about and not the norm. There still remains that quick glance away, which often leaves me with a feeling of shame or a sense of the diminishment of my humanity. And as I sweep my eyes rapidly from someone’s face onto the mailbox, I recognize that, in my wake, I may leave that person with this same anxiety.

For some people, it seems clear, if someone looks quickly and uncomfortably away as soon as eye contact is made, no matter. This crisis doesn’t exist for them; the interaction barely registers. I wonder if such people are suffering from what George Simmel calls “the blasé attitude.” He defines it as the result of the over-stimulation of nerves that accompanies life in a metropolis, which results in a “blunting of discrimination, [so] that the meaning and differing values of things, and thereby the things themselves, are experienced as insubstantial. They appear to the blasé person in an evenly flat and gray tone; no one object deserves preference over any other.” The lamppost, that boy, same difference.

But for those of us who are not suffering from the blasé attitude, who are very conscious of the reality of the people we encounter, why do we look away embarrassed or scared, rather than gently, politely, in good conscience? Perhaps in every glance there is desire expressed. I don’t mean sexual desire — though sometimes there’s that — as much as the sort Constant Nieuwenheuys described when he wrote, in 1949, “When we say desire in the twentieth century, we mean the unknown, for all we know of the realm of our desires is that it continuously reverts to one immeasurable desire for freedom.”

Perhaps the desire expressed in every glance, that we see in another person’s face and they see in ours, is a desire for freedom — which on the street comes down to the freedom to look at each other. We are naturally curious about other people. From the start, as babies, we are drawn to the eyes of our parents. Imagine a cat, neurotically trying not to look directly at a passing cat. We need eye-to-eye contact. We want to see each others’ faces. It is why we take and keep photographs, watch television, hang portraits in our homes. There is something terrible about looking at each other, only to have reflected back our own (and the other person’s) thwarted, repressed desire to look. Somewhere we have failed magnificently.

Our culture is such that a greater value even than freedom is productivity, utility. I was having a conversation with a friend about leisure, and she was saying how much she enjoys doing nothing, just wandering aimlessly around her house, thinking. “I find it so productive,” she decided. Even an activity we enjoy precisely because it is not about production we must ultimately justify by way of its productivity. This being the situation we find ourselves in, how can we ever justify to ourselves or to each other the value of those most fleeting relationships, lasting at most two seconds long, with a stream of people we will never see again? What is the utility of the quarter-of-a-second-long relationship?

When we look and look away, we reveal what we want — communion, citizenry — and what we lack — communion, citizenry. It is not unreasonable to think the health of a culture can be judged by how many seemingly inconsequential encounters and experiences are shared among its citizens. Take the option of making real eye contact with strangers — frank, fully conscious, unafraid, respectful, not obtrusive. This level of engagement would be satisfying, but so exhausting to sustain; possibly too relentless and demanding for a city-dweller, since to look at someone in this way is to acknowledge and recognize how they’re like you, how they are like everyone you know and love, and so to become responsible for them, just as you are responsible for those you love. But while your duty to your friend is directed only at your friend, as needed, your duty to a stranger can be paid only to the collective, constantly.

We need to learn how to look away well, but we cannot fake it. We cannot look from someone’s face comfortably until we find what we are looking for in it."

[quoted here: ]
sheilaheti  communition  citizenship  civics  productivity  community  privacy  unknown  constantnieuwenheuys  strangers  attention  consciousness  culture  society  collectivism  utility  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  nothing  wandering  idleness  relationships  togetherness 
april 2015 by robertogreco
In praise of strategic complacency :
"My own feelings about mentoring – and the category of ECR – are at best ambivalent. Mentoring in the professional neoliberal workplace of is one of those classic words that can be used to invoke or simulate institutional benevolence when there is actually a waning of reciprocity in the employment relation. Whereas once academia resembled a vocation, with a clear model of apprenticeship that led to security and stability, this is no longer the reality we face. This is part of the post-Fordist shift in economic capital and employment that is moving from organizations to networks. The form of recognition encouraged by the current regime is less about accumulation and duration of service, and more about flexibility and productivity. Put simply: you are only as good as your last five years, or even, it seems, three years. You only need to look at what is happening at my own university to see how this can play out.

Mentoring also suggests an ongoing interest in the development of a career, the gradual realisation of your individual potential. It’s not enough to have gotten the job. No, landing the job is just the first step in a constant process of planning, assessing and maximizing “opportunities”. From now on, there will be little if any time to sit back and acknowledge your achievements, and yet part of what I want to suggest today is that you must fight for this time. And beware of people offering “opportunities”!

This is because the system is set up to make you feel that you are never doing enough, just as technology has accelerated the amount of things we are expected to be able to do. This results in us all feeling like we are constantly behind, always “catching up”. How many times do you hear yourself saying that to people: “we must catch up soon”. The “catch up” is one of the principal manifestations of our present ontological bearing. At work, it occurs in small and large ways, whether it is the sense of defeat you feel in “wasting” an hour deleting email or the failure you might feel at not seeing your colleagues regularly for coffee. But mostly it presents as a chronic low level internalized suspicion of incompetence, that there just isn’t enough time to do everything you need to do properly."
academia  grants  writing  mentoring  economics  neoliberalism  2015  service  internships  employment  relationships  fordism  post-fordism  networks  hierarchy  work  productivity  labor  via:mattthomas  melissagregg  complacency 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Who’s to blame for the digital time deficit? – Judy Wajcman – Aeon
"For all the smart tech, we still feel pressed for time. Are digital services the problem, or are we humans to blame?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we feel pressed for time today, it is not because of technology, but because of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set. Digital time is no different – ultimately it needs to be understood as a product of the ways in which humans use, interact with and indeed build technology. If we want technology to bring us a better future, we must contest the imperative of speed and democratise engineering. We must bring more imagination to the field of technological innovation. Most of all, we must ask bigger questions about what kind of society we want. Technology will follow, as it usually does."
technology  productivity  efficiency  2015  judywajcman  speed  digital  time  innovation  well-being  leisure  slow  parenting  busyness  hyperproductivity  environment  via:anne  society  work 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages. []
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages.

Lighten up your email with the Emotional Labor extension. Works on any email sent through Gmail.

First write an email. Then click the smiley face to brighten up the tone of the email before sending."

[Describes in this post:

"I feel more acutely aware of the strain of feigned enthusiasm when I am writing email. I guess it is not much different than day to day interactions like answering “things are going good” when asked, when actually things are not so great. But some email correspondence feels like a race to collect and dispense exclamation marks and xoxos. As if we could cash them all in for prizes upon achieving — Darth Vader voice, flashlight under chin — inbox zero.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!!

That paragraph I just wrote appears more cynical than I intended. But that’s my point. It is hard to communicate in words. It is work. What was once the concern of professional writers is now a burden we all share, as we communicate all day long over email and texts.

We might garnish our messages with emoticons and emojis like strewing garland and bunting to demonstrate emotion. Sometimes that comes out naturally. But that fake smile, “yeah, things are going good,” way of deflecting attention, and containing unhappiness, plays out differently in written correspondence. When I attempt to display an emotion I don’t actually feel over email, I fret over sounding insincere or abrupt or otherwise upsetting someone unintentionally.

That’s why I made this: the Emotional Labor email extension. Install it in Chrome, then click on the smiley face after composing an email in Gmail to brighten up the mood of the letter. It replaces serious words with playful ones, swaps out periods for exclamation marks, and a adds cheerful introductory text.

Everyone has a story you tell again and again. But you alter it a bit upon each re-telling don’t you? You edit it for length, you play up certain details depending upon company. Customer service is where that line blurs. It can be impossible to tell whether a voice on the phone is automated or a real person speaking committedly to a script.

I was inspired to create the extension after many futile attempts to start using canned responses. “Canned responses” — email written in advance to send again and again — is a common bullet point on content listicles suggesting ways someone might improve their productivity. Canned responses are kind of like a one-on-one FAQ. If people often ask directions to your office, you can write a canned response to send rather than writing the directions out over and over. Or, if you are a vendor that often receives the same question from customers, you can send a canned response with the answer instead of cutting-and-pasting again and again. I have a few shortcuts for texting on my phone (autocorrect “OMW” to “On my way!” has saved me precious seconds when I’ve needed to remove my gloves to text someone in the cold.) But I never found a reason to use canned answers. Nothing in my life is structured for its use.

The Emotional Labor extension is also a response to an app released last year: Romantimatic. It automates sending texts like “I love you” and other sweet nothings to a person’s love interest. While canned answers were developed for professional use, the Romantimatic app less ambiguously demonstrates where credence to authenticity should outweigh urgency and obligation. One of the suggested messages to send is “I can’t get you off my mind,” which is ridiculously untrue if this app is in use.

The Emotional Labor email extension looks fake. That’s the point. I wanted to reveal my exhaustion, my fatigue in needing to attend to so much correspondence. Until there is an emoticon for “Things are kind of not great but I don’t want to disturb you let’s just pretend things are fine,” that’s the grey area where this project resides. I made this to reveal the friction in my indecisiveness — how many xs do I normally sign off — one, two, three?

Perhaps it may be of some use!!!! Or, at the very least, I hope you find it amusing!!!!!

extensions  gmail  email  joannemcneil  writing  communication  2015  tone  correspondence  automation  emotions  emotionallabor  cannedresponses  productivity 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Why Should We Support the Idea of an Unconditional Basic Income? — Working Life — Medium
[Section titles: ]

"What would you do?
Didn’t they try this in Russia?
The magic of markets
Can we really improve capitalism or is this just theory?
Larger rewards lead to poorer performance.
Capitalism 2.0 sounds great and all but can we afford it?
Okay, it’s affordable… but wouldn’t people stop working?
But still, what about those few who WOULD stop working?
Why would (insert who you dislike) ever agree to this?"
universalbasicincome  capitalism  communism  economics  markets  2014  scottsantens  namibia  poverty  danielpink  productivity  power  choice  workweek  hours  thomaspiketty  psychology  motivation  canada  seattle  denver  1970s  taxes  taxation  inequality  alaska  mincome  employment  unemployment  work  labor  freedom  empowerment  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
"The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them. Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does. I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value. I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is. This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well."
bullshitjobs  via:ayjay  davidgraeber  economics  2015  idleness  productivity  labor  work  morality  discipline  socialvalue  capitalism  control  power  dignity  wageslavery 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Chain restaurants are killing us: Billionaire bankers, minimum-wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation -
"At both the corporate and the franchise level, industry officials are keeping their mouths shut about the strike, and for obvious reasons. Acknowledging worker discontent is a no-win situation for enterprises that have invested so much in depicting themselves as enclaves of family-friendly happiness. I mean, nothing deflates a carefully constructed brand image like an angry worker standing out front screaming about not being able to vaccinate her six-month-old on said brand’s lousy pay.

However, the industry’s D.C. attack dog, Rick Berman, felt no such compunction, and commenced snarling immediately. On the day of the strike in August 2013, his Employment Policies Institute ran a full- page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal featuring a big photo of a Japanese kitchen robot. The fast-food protests “aren’t a battle against management,” the ad proclaimed, but a “battle against technology.” Should workers push too hard for super-size wages, shiny automatons might well be deployed in restaurants across the country, making you-know-who totally redundant.

The ad’s implication was that companies employ humans as an act of charity. If those ingrate humans mouth off too much, those noble companies will just go ahead and take the bottom-line steps they’ve magnanimously refrained from taking until now. “Hard work” and an “honest living” actually mean nothing in this world; capital means everything. Look on my technology, ye powerless, and despair!

I thought about that nightmare of automation for quite a while after Berman’s ad ran. It has a grain of truth to it, of course. Journalists have been replaced with bloggers and crowdsourcing. Factory hands have been replaced with robots. University professors are being replaced with adjuncts and MOOCs. What else might the god Efficiency choose to de-skill?

Here’s a suggestion: the ideological carnival barkers in D.C. As I watched the creaking libertarian apparatus go into action, sending its suit-and-tie spokesmen before the cameras to denounce unions and order fast-food workers to shut up, I wondered how long capital would tolerate its old-fashioned existence. In many cases, these people haven’t had an original thought in years. Their main job is to appear concerned on Fox News and collect a six-figure sinecure at some industry-subsidized think tank. To say that they “work hard” for an “honest living” is to bend meaning to the point where its fragile chicken bones snap beneath its rubbery flesh. In a sane world, they are the ones who would be most profitably replaced, their space in the CNBC octobox taken by Hatsune Miku–style projections, attractive Republican holograms whose free-market patter could be easily cued up by a back-office worker in Bangalore."
fastfood  2014  thomasfrank  chains  economics  capitalism  globalization  banking  minimumwage  us  technology  ideology  health  cities  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cars  deproffessionaliazation  automation  efficiency  productivity  obesity  power  control  inequality  work  labor 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future — Medium
'Living under permanent surveillance and what that means for our freedom'

"Put a collar with a GPS chip around your dog’s neck and from that moment onwards you will be able to follow your dog on an online map and get a notification on your phone whenever your dog is outside a certain area. You want to take good care of your dog, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the collar also functions as a fitness tracker. Now you can set your dog goals and check out graphs with trend lines. It is as Bruce Sterling says: “You are Fluffy’s Zuckerberg”.

What we are doing to our pets, we are also doing to our children.

The ‘Amber Alert’, for example, is incredibly similar to the Pet Tracker. Its users are very happy: “It’s comforting to look at the app and know everyone is where they are supposed to be!” and “The ability to pull out my phone and instantly monitor my son’s location, takes child safety to a whole new level.” In case you were wondering, it is ‘School Ready’ with a silent mode for educational settings.

Then there is ‘The Canary Project’ which focuses on American teens with a driver’s license. If your child is calling somebody, texting or tweeting behind the wheel, you will be instantly notified. You will also get a notification if your child is speeding or is outside the agreed-on territory.

If your child is ignoring your calls and doesn’t reply to your texts, you can use the ‘Ignore no more’ app. It will lock your child’s phone until they call you back. This clearly shows that most surveillance is about control. Control is the reason why we take pleasure in surveilling ourselves more and more.

I won’t go into the ‘Quantified Self’ movement and our tendency to put an endless amount of sensors on our body attempting to get “self knowlegde through numbers”. As we have already taken the next step towards control: algorithmic punishment if we don’t stick to our promises or reach our own goals."

"Normally his self-measured productivity would average around 40%, but with Kara next to him, his productiviy shot upward to 98%. So what do you do with that lesson? You create a wristband that shocks you whenever you fail to keep to your own plan. The wristband integrates well, of course, with other apps in your “productivity ecosystem”."

"On Kickstarter the makers of the ‘Blink’ camera tried to crowdfund 200.000 dollars for their invention. They received over one millions dollars instead. The camera is completely wireless, has a battery that lasts a year and streams HD video straight to your phone."

"I would love to speak about the problems of gentrification in San Francisco, or about a culture where nobody thinks you are crazy when you utter the sentence “Don’t touch me, I’ll fucking sue you” or about the fact this Google Glass user apparently wasn’t ashamed enough about this interaction to not post this video online. But I am going to talk about two other things: the first-person perspective and the illusionary symmetry of the Google Glass.

First the perspective from which this video was filmed. When I saw the video for the first time I was completely fascinated by her own hand which can be seen a few times and at some point flips the bird."

"The American Civil Liberties Union (also known as the ACLU) released a report late last year listing the advantages and disadvantages of bodycams. The privacy concerns of the people who will be filmed voluntarily or involuntarily and of the police officers themselves (remember Ai Weiwei’s guards who were continually watched) are weighed against the impact bodycams might have in combatting arbitrary police violence."

"A short while ago I noticed that you didn’t have to type in book texts anymore when filling in a reCAPTCHA. Nowadays you type in house numbers helping Google, without them asking you, to further digitize the physical world."

"This is the implicit view on humanity that the the big tech monopolies have: an extremely cheap source of labour which can be brought to a high level of productivity through the smart use of machines. To really understand how this works we need to take a short detour to the gambling machines in Las Vegas."

"Taleb has written one of the most important books of this century. It is called ‘Anti-fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder’ and it explores how you should act in a world that is becoming increasingly volatile. According to him, we have allowed efficiency thinking to optimize our world to such an extent that we have lost the flexibility and slack that is necessary for dealing with failure. This is why we can no longer handle any form of risk.

Paradoxically this leads to more repression and a less safe environment. Taleb illustrates this with an analogy about a child which is raised by its parents in a completely sterile environment having a perfect life without any hard times. That child will likely grow up with many allergies and will not be able to navigate the real world.

We need failure to be able to learn, we need inefficiency to be able to recover from mistakes, we have to take risks to make progress and so it is imperative to find a way to celebrate imperfection.

We can only keep some form of true freedom if we manage to do that. If we don’t, we will become cogs in the machines. I want to finish with a quote from Ai Weiwei:
“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.”
aiweiwei  surveillance  privacy  china  hansdezwart  2014  google  maps  mapping  freedom  quantification  tracking  technology  disney  disneyland  bigdog  police  lawenforcement  magicbands  pets  monitoring  pettracker  parenting  teens  youth  mobile  phones  cellphones  amberalert  canaryproject  autonomy  ignorenomore  craiglist  productivity  pavlok  pavlov  garyshteyngart  grindr  inder  bangwithfriends  daveeggers  transparency  thecircle  literature  books  dystopia  lifelogging  blink  narrative  flone  drones  quadcopters  cameras  kevinkelly  davidbrin  googleglass  sarahslocum  aclu  ferguson  michaelbrown  bodycams  cctv  captcha  recaptcha  labor  sousveillance  robots  humans  capitalism  natashadowschüll  design  facebook  amazon  addiction  nassimtaleb  repression  safety  society  howwelearn  learning  imperfection  humanism  disorder  control  power  efficiency  inefficiency  gambling  lasvegas  doom  quantifiedself  measurement  canon  children 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Productivity is Taking Over Our Lives | New Republic
"The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defense against its own realization. 

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

Nor is there any downward cut-off point for “our current obsession with busyness”, as one researcher, Andrew Smart, describes it in his intriguing book Autopilot: the Art and Science of Doing Nothing. Smart observes, appalled, a genre of literary aids for inculcating the discipline of “time management” in children. (Time is not amenable to management: it just keeps passing, whatever you do.) Not allowing children to zone out and do nothing, Smart argues, is probably harming their development. But buckling children into the straitjacket of time management from an early age might seem a sensible way to ensure an agreeably docile new generation of workers."

"This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity—as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult—has nothing to do with its value. Economics does not know how to value Rainer Maria Rilke over a prolific poetaster in receipt of an official laureateship. (One can be confident that, while mooching around European castles and writing nothing for years on end, Rilke would never have worn a T-shirt that announced: “I’m doing work”.) And his life sounds like more fun than one recent Lifehacker article, which eagerly explained how to organise your baseball cap collection by hanging the headwear on shower-curtain hooks arrayed along a rail."
gtd  gttingthingsdone  productivity  control  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  idleness  stevenpoole  2013  time  management  efficiency  davidgraeber  andrewsmart  rainermariarilke 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Report: Teachers Better at Using Tech than Digital Native Students -- THE Journal
[Agree, but with some skepticism. While I agree that we shouldn't make assumptions about tech savviness and that the concept of digital natives is problematic, if the primary basis of “using tech better“ is about productivity and academic “success” than. On the other hand “using technology to solve daily problems” sounds like a great measurement. Time to dig into the details of the research. ]

"The report's conclusion: "Today's school-age learners are no more technology savvy than their teachers. The previous assumption used to profile students as digital natives did not apply to the students in this study. In fact, teachers' technology use experiences surpassed students whether it [was] inside or outside of school."

The researchers found that "students used technology outside of school for working on school projects, maintaining social networks and entertainment" — but mostly for playing games and listening to music. Teachers showed similar patterns of usage but with greater frequency. Teachers also tended to depend "much more on using technology to solve daily problems, to improve productivity, and as learning aids."

Wang noted that teacher age had no impact on the kinds of technology skills they have. The gap between them and their students lies with how little opportunity students get to practice technology beyond pursuing their personal interests.

"In many ways," the researchers wrote, "it is determined by the requirements teachers place on their students to make use of new technologies and the ways teachers integrate new technologies in their teaching."

The report recommends that "high-quality training" be provided to teachers to help them learn how to integrate content-specific technology into their lessons and how to teach their students how to use technology more effectively."

"School-age students may be fluent in using entertainment or communication technologies, but they need guidance to learn how to use these technologies to solve sophisticated thinking problems," Wang noted. "The school setting is the only institution that might create the needs to shape and facilitate students' technology experience. Once teachers introduce students to a new technology to support learning, they quickly learn how to use it."
technology  education  digitalnatives  2014  communication  entertainment  criticalthinking  problemsolving  learning  howwelearn  productivity 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Speed Kills: Fast is never fast enough - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster."

"The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."

"The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out."
speed  health  life  trends  2014  via:anne  marktaylor  filippomarinetti  futurists  futuristmanifesto  modernism  modernity  charliechaplin  efficiency  living  slow  thorsteinveblen  wealth  inequality  values  us  growth  economics  writing  finance  education  highered  highereducation  communication  internet  web  online  complexity  systemsthinking  systems  humanities  liberalarts  stem  criticalthinking  creativity  reflection  productivity  reading  howweread  howwewrite  thinking  schools  schooling  evaluation  assessment  quantification  standardization  standardizedtesting  society  interdisciplinary  professionalization  specialization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  learning  howwelearn  howwethink  neuroscience  slowness  deliberation  patience  generosity  consumption  competition  competitiveness  subtlety  sustainability  community  cooperation  nietzsche  capitalism  latecapitalism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Pitfalls of Productivity -
"There’s also the question of who really benefits when workers get more done. Mr. Poole writes critically of companies’ productivity initiatives:

“The latest wheeze is the Big Data field of ‘workforce science,’ in which everything – patterns of emails, the length of telephone calls — may be measured and consigned to a comparative database to create a perfect management panopticon. It is tempting to suspect that the ambition thus to increase ‘worker productivity’ is aimed at getting more work out of each employee for the same (or less) money.”

And while workers who get more productive may initially see raises or promotions, the labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein told Op-Talk, companies will soon come to expect that higher level of productivity from everybody: “over time, and not very much time, the corporation will say ‘this is the new work norm.’” This has already happened, he added, with the expectation that workers be reachable around the clock. A better approach, he said, would be to improve job protections and stability, since workers are actually more productive when their employment is more secure.

For Mr. Bailey, though, productivity doesn’t necessarily mean working more at your job: “I think everybody has a different reason for wanting to become more productive, and I think you should figure that out before you invest in your productivity,” he said. “I think of productivity as way to accomplish more meaningful things in a short amount of time, so you can make more time for the things that are actually important to you.”

And Dr. Gregg suggested that the systems we use to organize our work could be used to bring us together rather than to drive us apart. “I would like to encourage a kind of mindfulness that is less individual and more collective,” she said. Her hope for productivity apps and other technologies is that “they’ll allow us to have a better conversation about collective work practices, and what are the conditions that individuals feel that they need to get done what’s being asked of them in the workplace.”

“Mindfulness can also mean being mindful of others,” she said, “and that’s really the collective labor tradition that I would like to see continue.”"
gtd  gettingthingsdone  productivity  busyness  2014  annanorth  chrisbailey  stevenpoole  frederickwinslowtaylor  efficiency  melissagregg  slow  taylorism  jessicalamb-shapiro  bigdata  nelsonlichtenstein  mindfulness  labor  work  capitalism  industrialization 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Mindfulness Backlash -
"She’s not the only one to question the emphasis on meditation as a path to productivity. In Salon earlier this year, Joshua Eaton argued that the new corporate embrace of mindfulness — he mentioned a panel titled “Three Steps to Build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way” — privileged a particular kind of “individual spiritual development” over any kind of collective consciousness or social activism. “Many Buddhists,” he wrote, “now fear their religion is turning into a designer drug for the elite.”

Michael Stone sounded a similar note a few weeks later, also in Salon, when he called for Buddhists to speak out against the use of meditation by large corporations and the U.S. military. “Mindfulness is a deeply political practice,” he wrote, “designed to reduce stress and suffering both in our own hearts and in the world of which we are a part.” It shouldn’t, he argued, be used to make members of the world’s biggest military better at killing.

In a response to Mr. Stone at BigThink, Derek Beres argued that what Google and other companies are offering isn’t really mindfulness, because it’s in the service of a product that’s fundamentally anti-mindful (that is, the Internet). If your goal is to make people surf the web more, he wrote, all the meditation in the world isn’t going to bring you true enlightenment.

At the core of this debate is a question about what mindfulness should be. For some, it remains a fundamentally religious practice, one rooted in Buddhism’s ethics and understanding of social justice (Stone writes, “The first ethical principle that the Buddha taught in his description of living mindfully is ‘not Killing’”).

But in the mainstream, mindfulness is often seen simply as a tool, a way of calming and focusing oneself. As such it can be used to de-stress after a long day, to get more done at the office, or even to wage war."
mindfulness  productivity  appropriation  2014  meditation  buddhism  annanorth  stress  military  via:jeeves 
october 2014 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses - This man who speaks to you was born 55 years ago...
""This man who speaks to you was born 55 years ago in Vienna. One month after his birth he was put on a train, and then on a ship and brought to the Island of Brac. Here, in a village on the Dalmatian coast, his grandfather wanted to bless him. My grandfather lived in the house in which his family had lived since the time when Muromachi ruled in Kyoto. Since then on the Dalmatian Coast many rulers had come and gone - the doges of Venice, the sultans of Istanbul, the corsairs of Almissa, the emperors of Austria, and the kings of Yugoslavia. But these many changes in the uniform and language of the governors had changed little in daily life during these 500 years. The very same olive-wood rafters still supported the roof of my grandfather’s house. Water was still gathered from the same stone slabs on the roof. The wine was pressed in the same vats, the fish caught from the same kind of boat, and the oil came from trees planted when Edo was in its youth.

My grandfather had received news twice a month. The news now arrived by steamer in three days; and formerly, by sloop, it had taken five days to arrive. When I was born, for the people who lived off the main routes, history still flowed slowly, imperceptibly. Most of the environment was still in the commons. People lived in houses they had built; moved on streets that had been trampled by the feet of their animals; were autonomous in the procurement and disposal of their water; could depend on their own voices when they wanted to speak up. All this changed with my arrival in Brac.

On the same boat on which I arrived in 1926, the first loudspeaker was landed on the island. Few people there had ever heard of such a thing. Up to that day, all men and women had spoken with more or less equally powerful voices. Henceforth this would change. Henceforth the access to the microphone would determine whose voice shall be magnified. Silence now ceased to be in the commons; it became a resource for which loudspeakers compete. Language itself was transformed thereby from a local commons into a national resource for communication. As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.

I hope that the parallel now becomes clear. Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modem means of communication."

— Ivan Illich: Silence is a Commons, a talk given in Japan in 1982. This is something I will reflect on and, later, write about."
ivanillich  commons  1982  vulnerability  speech  communication  technology  motorization  acceleration  productivity  silence  busyness  loudspeakers  news  speed  slow 
october 2014 by robertogreco
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