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robertogreco : quinnorton   6

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  transcontextualization 
november 2017 by robertogreco
I Don’t Know if Je Suis Charlie — Matter — Medium
"The stigmatizing is starting. The usual suspects of conservative politics, in both America and Europe, are making the usual cries that we must protect free speech and cultural freedom by destroying it, but only for Muslims. Besides the obvious self-contradiction of this idea, there is another notion embedded in it: that Islam has some magical quality that generates extremism. But extremism isn’t really an Islamic affliction if you look at the question historically and in depth. Like all forms of violence, as well as addiction and property crime, extremism seems to follow poverty around, like little hell ducklings that have imprinted upon the most vulnerable among us.

It was true before Charlie, and it still remains true, that the majority of contemporary victims of terrorism are Muslims, and the main capturers and killers of journalists are governments and their political groups. As if to throw this point into sharp relief, politicians around the EU began calling for more ways to restrict speech online. The UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, citing the Paris attack, called for legislation that would allow for universal surveillance in the UK, saying, “Do we want to allow a means of communication between people which… we cannot read?” A question to which the majority of journalists would answer: “Hell yes.”

Antiterrorism measures the world round seem to be doing little to stop terrorism, but the tools and laws get used against activists and journalists disproportionately. Even in America, courtesies extended to journalists are suspended if something is considered “national security” — a fuzzy phrase with no technical definition, but nonetheless used against journalists like James Risen."



"Extremism is a kind of insanity made of anger. Most people, white, black, Christian, Muslim, man or woman, never live with that kind of anger — the kind that makes you want to throw your life away just to hurt someone or something.

I think that I have been that angry. I have wanted to kill people, and felt ready to, when I was much younger. I was stopped by a friend while walking down the street with a rifle in my hands, intent on taking another life. That friend helped me get back to my senses, get back on the right side of the line. It was many years ago, and it’s not my story to tell, but it is a moment I will never forget. So, when I turned to my computer and saw the images of the armed assailants, and the smiling portraits of the writers and artists they had murdered, I saw a little bit of myself in both. Je suis Charlie, people hate me for offending their way of life. But I have crossed over to the hate, too. Thank whatever there is to thank, I got back.

There will always be those who have left the territory of civilization — those people for whom the rules and the punishments don’t matter anymore. But they are rare. The everyday profusion of horror in something like the attack on Charlie, the bombing of the NAACP, the terrible acts of Boko Haram: There are too many to be only the violently insane and insensible. The commonness speaks to the swaths of unwanted humanity we have now, people living without a better dream than killing those they disagree with.

Extremism doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. It’s not the territory of a particular religion or ideology. It isn’t some easy path. It doesn’t happen overnight. As a person who has walked down the street, gun in hand, thinking that I would kill, I can say this: You don’t get there overnight. You don’t get there alone. You get there after everything else you could imagine being good in life is gone, or you are sure the last good things are going to be taken from you. For most people, the day you pick up a gun is the day you don’t think anyone will hear your needs any other way."



"I don’t know if je suis Charlie, if I am Charlie. I don’t like the caricatures that reproduce racist images of Jews, or paint all Muslims as bearded Arabs with giant noses. Some of my French friends have said Charlie Hebdo is more anti-racist than racist, but it’s complicated. They could be right, I don’t know enough about French culture or the nuances of what Charlie Hebdo does to understand. That’s why we have free speech, to make room for things we don’t understand. I don’t want to post them, and I won’t, because my free speech means I don’t have to post things I don’t like. But I think the portrayal of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing National Front party, with her racist father as an Alien-style jaw within her jaws, is pretty funny. It was made by Cabu, who died on Wednesday. I could get a bit Charlie for that.

I am not the Kouachi brothers, but I can see how it went wrong for them, at least in the abstract. I can see how people leave sanity behind and pass into violence, how extremism and hate can swallow them up. If, someday, someone shoots me because they hated what I wrote, I will be like Charlie. I am not particularly interested in what happens to my attacker if I am attacked. I’m not sure I’m very interested in justice, per se. I’d rather not get attacked in the first place. I’d rather we prevented people from getting to that point.

I am sure of this: If, as a society, we want to starve extremism, to save cartoonists in France and prevent the strange fruit of the American South, to stop suicide bombers in the Middle East and the violence of the Nigerian countryside, we do that by not starving children. We do it by feeding their bodies and minds and hopes."
quinnorton  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  #JeSuisCharlie  charliehebdo  freedom  freespeech  2015  france  religion  freedomofspeech  racism  islamophobia  extremism  journalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

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

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

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Count | Quinn Said
"This is what I ask: when you walk into a room, count. Count the women. Count the people of color. Count by race. Look for who isn’t there. Look for class signs: the crooked teeth of childhoods without braces, worn-out shoes, someone else who is counting. Look for the queers, the older people, the overweight. Note them, see them, see yourself looking, see yourself reacting.

This is how we begin."
quinnorton  2013  activism  gender  race  sociology 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Stand together or fall apart » No measure of health
"But I still have a lot of time for the gradualists, too. For one thing, a lot of fiery radicals miss opportunities to make real improvements in our lives within existing systems. Legalising same-sex marriage neither ended homophobia nor helped anyone who doesn’t fit a fairly traditional domestic template, but how many deportations has it forestalled? Obamacare is gravely compromised—a shadow of the reform it should have been—but how many bankruptcies will it prevent? Just because these are partial, provisional victories doesn’t mean they weren’t worth fighting for, and won’t stop me from cheering for them.

Just as importantly, I still share the gradualists’ fear. A while back, I tweeted something to the effect of “How can we have the Revolution without La Terreur?” and no-one answered. That’s not exactly a scientific measure, but I still don’t have an answer, still haven’t heard a good one from anyone else, and fear that the trauma that is Egypt today proves the point. Without such an answer, the thought of a true rupture still gives me sickening vertigo.

So what can we do? I like to look for middle ways, but I don’t see an adequate one here. I still write to electeds, and I will vote when I’m finally allowed, but I’m consciously minimising the time I spend on this kind of politics, because the potential wins are so dispiritingly far short of the change we need. The best I have is doing what I can to build and support human scale alternatives to the intermediated, dehumanising political economy we have as a default. In my more idealistic moments, I think we can just slowly render the old, ossified systems irrelevant and watch them fade away. Usually I see it as prototyping."
timmaly  quinnorton  ta-nehisicoates  2013  eldangoldenberg  tejucole  politics  policy  gradualists  democracy  middlegrounds  canon  action  activism  beginners  welcome  makerspaces  community  libraries  tools  toollibraries  communitiesofpractice  cynicism  compassion  conviviality  cooperation  coops  despair  work  decentralization  ecosystems  interdependence  lcproject  openstudioproject 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Bradley Manning and the Two Americas — Medium, Long — Medium
"If you see America as a place within borders, a bureaucratic and imperial government that acts on behalf of its 350 million people, if you see America as its edifices, its mandarins, the careful and massive institutions that have built our cities and vast physical culture, the harsh treatment of Manning for defying that institution makes sense, even if it was, at times, brutal.

But if you see America as an idea, and a revolutionary one in its day, that not only could a person decide her fate but that the body of people could act together as a great leader might lead — and that this is a better way to be — Manning didn’t betray that America.

The second America doesn’t have that name anymore. It morphed and grew just as the first, promulgated for a moment from the east side of the mid-North American continent, but going on to become a sense of democracy, the rights of man. It merged with the other spirits born of the Enlightenment and became the force behind science, technology, free speech, and populist will.

Then the ideas of self-determination and the freedom to know blossomed as they never had before in the dying days of the 20th century. The second America became a strange and amorphous transnational creature. It became networked.

The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now.

Both Americas were so successful they are at this point slightly startled to find they have to share the world with the other. All the while, the law, a poor third player in this drama, has tried to straddle the two like a man trying to stand on two battleships while they drift apart."



"Ford, in his funny and slightly cynical way, was identifying a quality so profound to the Internet its people usually didn’t even realize it was new. This idea that participation was more important than qualification, that what made your opinion important was that you had an opinion. This was a new thing in the world, with its own magic. The Why-Wasn’t-I-Consulted faction showed up as open source and free software. It was there when bloggers took on the hoary greats of the news business. It powered Wikipedia, which shocked the world by doing better than anything the old world of accredited expertise could do. The un-consulted could not only appear as a creative force; they could appear as critique, suddenly coalescing into an Anonymous DDOS, or a street protest. They began to make their demands known, from Spain to Cairo to New York, talking across borders and ideological divides, creating distributed media, and above all, having opinions on things."



"Ellsberg related the story of a panel on which he debated his own actions and those like him, with someone who seemed to him a surprisingly vigorous opponent. “I asked him after we’d had a debate, whether we really disagreed as much as had appeared in the debate,” Ellsberg continued,

“And he said ‘Oh, I think you’re evil.’ That was a little startling. And I said really? Why do you think that? He said ‘You undermine authority and that’s evil.’”

Can we really do without authority? Can we make a better world by letting everyone in on the secrets, by letting everyone act according to their conscience? Our system, for better or worse, isn’t about that. Democracy as we know it, the democracy invented in the 18th century, was never about everyone being equal. It is about getting rid of bad leaders peacefully, and hopefully arriving at better ones, more closely aligned with the people, committed to serving them better.

I asked Ellsberg, “Weren’t you undermining a system?” Speaking of himself and Manning, Ellsberg answered: “[We were] undermining the sense that the American state is a force for good on the whole in the world… I have no doubt that the majority of Americans think that we intend to and prefer to support democracy in the world.” Instead, he explained, we are a self-interested empire with no particular regard for global democracy. “What Bradley Manning did, and what I did, with these two large leaks… what they revealed was the long term or wide spread operations of an empire.”"



"And Snowden in the time since has revealed the dirty details of its mass surveillance, its tools of control.

The empire hasn’t liked that enforced openness one bit, as Obama made clear to Price at breakfast. But in September of that year, the empire had a new problem. The spirit of the Arab Spring and the Spanish summer protests moved into a park in Lower Manhattan, and set up camp, just as they had done elsewhere. They were lit up not only by anger but by a network. Occupy Wall Street was born, and spread across the U.S. and the Western world faster than an epidemic can travel, faster than the sound of their own voices. The spread of Occupy was constrained only by the speed of light and thought. Once again, WikiLeaks and even more the still quiet, still-in-custody Manning became one of the movement’s many rallying points.

This was because at its core, Occupy Wall Street was a disagreement with power about what America is. Not a new disagreement, but one whose tension and time had come — a disagreement that became a battle."



"This is an age of unprecedented classification and unprecedented access, of openness and secrecy that are filling the world like gasses, just as they pervade the space of Manning’s military courtroom. Despite its unassuming setting, this trial has been the beginning of a fight over how the Internet is redefining democracy. The contradictions are not mere metaphors, they are architectural, they are logistical; they invade our cities, our politics, and even our bodies."



"No one knows yet what happens when we conflict with our minders.

Manning allegedly told Lamo, the person who turned him in, “God knows what happens now, hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… if not… i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens.”

At this moment, Snowden has vanished into Russia, Assange still passes time in trapped in an embassy. The embattled NSA has announced it will be letting go of 90% of its systems administrators. Afghanistan and Iraq are wracked with seemingly endless violence, while the whole Middle East teeters in uncertainty. In America, people are upset and confused, and our European allies have been in turns condemning us and dealing with domestic scandals as it’s come out they’ve been surveilling with us, too. Our government is fighting constitutional scandals on every side, while privacy services shut down or flee our borders. The world is shrouded in confusion and fear.

Manning, now 25, awaits his sentence. His future is more understandable than ours right now. While we spin into conflict about information, about access, about who gets consulted, Manning will go away into the quiet of a military prison, retired, for now, from the information war he helped start."
quinnorton  2013  bradleymanning  democracy  us  internet  wikipedia  authority  control  edwardsnowden  security  privacy  secrecy  transparency  whistleblowing  truth  power  barackobama  julainassange  wikileaks  information  freedom  global  arabspring  loganprice  activism  complacency  canon  worldchanging  ows  occupywallstreet  danielellsberg  richardnixon  informationwar  adrianlamo  paulford 
august 2013 by robertogreco

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