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Do the Robot – The New Inquiry
"Miya Tokumitsu had a good critique of the Do What You Love ideology in Jacobin, in which she argues that “do what you love” means turn your passion into human capital — the real subsumption of identity in another guise. She writes,
According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Having a “real” passion for your job is the extension of exhibiting “genuine” feeling in the workplace, but instead of serving a customer, it serves a boss or client. Again the metric that establishes the reality of feeling is ex post profit. If no one wants your passionate work, it’s not really passionate and you are self-deluded.

Tokumitsu argues that genuinely lovable work is a privilege that comes at the expense of lots of unlovable work being done by others:
Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished).

As a result, Tokumitsu argues, unlovable work becomes “dangerously invisible” to those whom it permits to do what they love. And in the meantime, those who love what they do work harder for less or no pay.

But the logic that sees competitive advantage in the “human touch” means that all work must be lovable and be performed as such for customers (and the managers who are supposed to be their proxy). Unlovable work isn’t made invisible but is made to seem visibly, irrepressibly loved. After all, what keeps a crappy job from being automated, from this perspective, is the joy in it that a worker can manifest and woo customers with. What prevents a job from being automated is not necessarily its complexity, as Peter Frase explains in this post (and elsewhere):
From the perspective of the boss, replacing a worker with a machine will be more appealing to the degree that the machine is:

• Cheaper than the human worker
• More convenient and easier to control than the human worker

If workers demand more wages, machines become more attractive to bosses. Likewise with “meaningful work”: If workers demand more meaningful, lovable work, then they become less “convenient” to bosses. But workers whose value rests in how much they show they love their job are quite easy to control. Servility is built into the practice. Frase writes that “the truly dystopian prospect is that the worker herself is treated as if she were a machine rather than being replaced by one.” Even more dystopian is the prospect of being treated like a de facto machine while being expected to express boundless “human” joy about it.

The threat of automation, then, can be used to extract more emotional labor and more competitive advantage from humans. After all, one of the few things a robot can’t supply is enthusiasm."
labor  robhorning  authenticity  exploitation  robots  automation  emotionallabor  sales  2015  economics  business  peterfrase  miyatokumitsu  work  humans  huamntouch  passion 
august 2015 by robertogreco
What's the Point of Handwriting? | Hazlitt Magazine
"Maybe handwriting is neither a lost art nor an anachronism; perhaps new technology will show there is some useful alchemy left in the way language, the body, and our sense of identity intertwine."



"Maybe the limitations of the body carry some hidden benefit: that in marking out ideas at a pace slower than typing, there is some link between neural and muscle memory."



"Unlike digital’s precision, writing is blurry individuality under a general system. But in addition to this, we all have our own personalized understanding of arrows, squiggles, double-underlines and so on—little personal codes we develop over time to “talk to ourselves.” To write by hand is to always foreground an inevitable uniqueness, visually marking out an identity in opposition to, say, this font you’re reading right now.'



"If one can draw over and annotate a web page and then send it to a friend, the web at least feels less hegemonic, recalling the kind of interactivity and freedom of expression once found in the now-broken dream of blog comment sections."



"For all that, though, what pens do offer is both practical and symbolic resistance to the pre-programmed nature of the modern web—its tendency to ask you to express yourself, however creatively and generatively, within the literal and figurative constraints of a small, pre-defined box. There is a charming potential in the pen for activity that works against the grain of those things: to mark out in one’s own hand the absurdities of some top ten list, or underlining some particularly poignant paragraph in a way that a highlight or newly popular screenshotting tool doesn’t quite capture. Perhaps it’s the visual nature of the transgression—the mark of a hand slashed across a page—that produces emblematically the desire for self-expression: not the witty tweet or status update, nor just the handwritten annotation, but the doubled, layered version of both, the very overlap put to one’s own, subjective ends. And then there is more simple pleasure: that you are, in both an actual and metaphorical sense, drawing outside the lines. If one can draw over and annotate a web page and then send it to a friend, for example, the web at least feels less hegemonic, recalling the kind of interactivity and freedom of expression once found in the now-broken dream of blog comment sections."



"Identity online is fraught. You could make the argument that our collected personas—the affected shots of Instagram; the too-earnest Facebook status updates; the sarcastic, bitter tweets—are all an attempt to form some approximation of who we believe ourselves to be: we perform ourselves to become more authentic versions of ourselves. I know I at least do something like this, and have made winding, verbose arguments that documenting ourselves into being is how we use social media to become more human.

Yet I have also, in the writings of those such as Rob Horning, found reason to be deeply skeptical of the economic and ideological motives behind that push. Now that the web is a place of data collection, of surveillance, and of that strange urge to perform one’s personal brand in the right way, such naive notions of performance are no longer tenable. And yet … we still do it: inscribing shards of the self upon screens, despite the fact that, in a variety of ways, we must see and build our identities through the prisms that are handed to us, shaping ourselves to the nature of the newly corporatized web."



"Have you ever seen hand-drawn ink on a page, magnified? It is jagged and rough, full of an impossible number of imperfections. Zoom in far enough and even the most sophisticated digital algorithms would find it difficult to track the cartography of just one letter. There are simply too many undulations, too many indecipherable points to make sense of it. And perhaps this is what appeals with digital ink, too, as symbol, as metaphor—as just a fool’s hope: that in that discomfiting glide of a nib atop glass, there is still the human yearning to say, “I know who I am—here, let me show you.”"
navneetalang  handwriting  writing  2015  technology  slow  bodies  body  typing  memory  musclememory  digital  precision  annotation  uniqueness  individuality  microsoft  tablets  identity  robhorning 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [http://www.jessestommel.com/blog/files/dear-chronicle.html ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/surveillance-and-care/ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [http://robhorningtni.tumblr.com/post/112618248845/your-permanent-record ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:450933ec9018 ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Permanent Recorder – The New Inquiry
"Reducing self-knowledge to matters of data possession and retention like that seems to be the natural bias of a property-oriented society; as consciousness can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of, therefore it doesn’t count. But self-knowledge may not be a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quantity of memories, an amount of data. The self is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record. It is not an edit of our life’s footage."



"But what if we use social media not for self-knowledge but for self-destruction? What if we use social media to complicate the idea that we could ever “know ourselves”? What if we use social media to make ourselves into something unknowable? Maybe we record the footage of our lives to define therein what the essence of our self isn’t. To the degree that identity is a prison, self-knowledge makes the cell’s walls. But self-knowledge could instead be an awareness of how to move beyond those walls.

Not everyone has the opportunity to cast identity aside any more than they have the ability to unilaterally assert self-knowledge as a form of control. We fall into the trap of trying to assert some sort of objectively “better” or more “accurate” identity that reflects our “true self,” which is only so much more data that can be used to control us and remold the identity that is assigned to us socially. The most luxurious and privileged condition may be one in which you get to experience yourself as endlessly surprising — a condition in which you hardly know yourself at all but have complete confidence that others know and respect you as they should."

[Compare to: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:252f6d04a600
also here: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/112249466248/being-lost-is-being-open ]

[Update: another version of this here:
http://robhorningtni.tumblr.com/post/112618248845/your-permanent-record

and compare to
http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/surveillance-and-care/
(bookmarked: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:0b5b4c7a937f )

connections made via
http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-101 ]
robhorning  socialmedia  2015  identity  self-knowledge  control  presentationofself  surveillance  capitalism  realitytv  forgetting  facebook  permanentrecord  permanentrecords  alanjacobs  audreywatters 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Internal exile — authentic sharing
"If not for the burden of ownership, then, consumers would conceivably try on and discard the identities implied by products without much thought or sense of risk. They would forgo the “brand community” for a more fluid sense of identity. Perhaps they would anchor their identity in something other than products while enjoying the chance to play around with personae, by borrowing and not owning the signifying resonances of products.

Perhaps that alternate anchor for the self could be precisely the sort of human interaction that exceeds the predictable, programmable exchanges dictated by the market, and its rational and predictable incentives. This is the sort of interaction that people call “authentic.” (Or we could do away with anchors for the self altogether and go postauthentic — have identity only in the process of “discarding” it. )

Sharing companies do nothing to facilitate that sort of interaction; indeed they thrive by doing the opposite. (Authenticity marketing does the same thing; it precludes the possibility of authenticity by co-opting it.) They subsume more types of interaction and exchange to market structures, which then they mask by handling all the money for the parties involved. This affords them the chance to pretend to themselves that the exchange has stemmed from some “meaningful” rather than debased and inauthentic commercial connection, all while keeping a safe distance from the other party.

Sharing companies and brand communities mediate social relations and make them seem less risky. Actual community is full of friction and unresolvable competing agendas; sharing apps’ main function is to eradicate friction and render all parties’ agenda uniform: let’s make a deal. They are popular because they do what brand communities do: They allow people to extract value from strangers without the hassle of having to dealing with them as more than amiable robots.

When sharing companies celebrate the idea of community, they mean brand community. And if they appropriate rhetoric about breaking down the attachment to owning goods as a means of signifying identity and inclusion, it’s certainly not because they care about abolishing personal property, or pride in it. It’s because they are trying to sell their brand as an alternative to the bother of actually having to come up with a real alternative to product-based personal identity.

The perhaps ineluctable problem is that belonging to communities is hard. It is inefficient. It does not scale. It doesn’t respond predictably to incentives. It takes more work the more you feel you belong. It requires material sacrifice and compromise. It requires a faith in other people that exceeds their commercial reliability. It entails caring about people for no reason, with no promise of gain. In short, being a part of community is a total hassle but totally mandatory (like aging and dying), so that makes us susceptible to deceptive promises that claim to make it easy or avoidable, that claim to uniquely exempt us. That is the ruse of the “sharing economy”—the illusion it crates that everyone is willing to share with you, but all you have to do is download an app."
community  robhorning  sharingeconomy  sharing  2015  communities  interaction  capitalism  identity  authenticity  consumerism  inclusion  property  personalproperty  brands  trust  uber  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
enough about us - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"This is all really, really good stuff — vital stuff — and yet I find that reading it makes me tired. More about me? More about us? More about the endless performative dance of selfhood? Even if the analysis is critical rather than consumerist or celebratory, it keeps turning us inward. This kind of semiotic/cultural analysis is my thing, in a very serious way, but there’s so much of it now I just want to go for a walk with my dog or sit under a tree and listen to birds or practice some form of kenotic meditation.

Anyone who has ever tried to think knows the value of escaping, from time to time, the gravitational pull of even those topics that most fascinate you and seeing them in new and vivid ways after re-entry. (“The Eureka Phenomenon,” Isaac Asimov called it in an essay that used to be a staple of freshman composition courses.) This is not to say that taking a break from thinking about the technologically-assisted self is an escape from the self. But it reorients you; it reminds you that the world is bigger than your habitual, everyday experience of it. That’s a good thing."
lanjacobs  exhaustion  timeoiut  2014  digitaldualism  identity  self  joshglenn  judithdonath  robhorning  pause  slow  perspective  backburner  isaacasimov 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Artistic autonomy and subsumption – The New Inquiry
"Under neoliberalism, the ability to enjoy or make art can seem like a consolation prize for entrepreneurial subjectivity, the best modality of that sort of subjectivity rather than a respite from it. Enjoying and making art, in some ways, become more and more the same experience of curation in internet-based art — the value of an individual work becomes hard to differentiate from the value of being able to circulate it meaningfully and make its value augment itself through greater exposure. The “prosumer” mentality comes to govern aesthetics and autonomy, as autonomy is experienced in ersatz freedom to consume what you want and well, and to make what you want of yourself through those appropriative gestures. (Appropriative art being a kind of production that is necessarily marked by tasteful and clever consumption.)

But looking at this from the perspective of people who are  somehow supposed to be artists outside of capitalism is wrong. It’s not that artists are artists, then capitalism corrupts them. Its that capitalism sets up a situation where people with certain means can experience themselves as artists and try to move away from more determined-seeming modes of subjectivity within capitalism. The “artists” have the wherewithal and the habitus to try to distance themselves from wage drudgery and meaningless work and declare themselves autonomous — but within capitalism. It’s a measure of capitalism’s continued success and expansion that more and more people feel confident in describing themselves as creative, as artists. The neoliberalist turn hinges precisely on this, that more and more people can imagine themselves artists — in part because ordinary consumption has become a mode of personal expression, in part because capital has placed various forms of audience-building media at nearly every nonimpoverished individual’s disposal, in part because every scrap of one’s life gets turned to account as reputation, as human capital. We get an audience for our creative autonomy in action, a scenario which depends on (is subsumed by) the apparatus of communicative capitalism. If we are being “creative” without an audience, it no longer registers as an expression of autonomy; social media has crowded out the space in which an individual could be content to create without spectators. Now that is simply a failure of nerve, not independence — it’s too easy to circulate one’s gestures of creativity to rest easy in obscurity."



"Social media use is arguably a masochistic practice that dissolves the self while simultaneously building it out as data/capital for media companies and marketers. (I spell out the masochism part here.) This empties the self phenomenologically, leaving a blankness that engages with the various interfaces. But this process feeds data into the networks’ algorithms which can then restore the self to the social media user as a processed good — a substantiated identity that is objective,a reflection of achieved reputation, achieved human capital. Once again, this resolves some of the pressure of neoliberal subjectivity while sustaining it as an essential form. The self is reported back to us as a jackpot of algorithmically synthesized personal “truths” — and these payoffs keep us somewhat mindlessly engaged with social media. The urgency of self-production as capital switches into a consumer experience of the produced self passively as pleasurable product and then switches back again into insecure search for confirmation through the production of more data in the same form — more updates, more Tweets, etc. to produce the desired feedback of a constituted identity. I will post these notes, and sit back awaiting confirmation of my reality."
robhorning  economics  capitalism  neoliberalism  art  making  creativity  2014  autonomy  usbsumption  humancapital  self  identity  socialmedia  labor 
march 2014 by robertogreco
launch and iterate - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"I enjoyed this brief interview [http://www.full-stop.net/2014/02/04/features/the-editors/tldr-rob-horning/ ] with Rob Horning of The New Inquiry, and was particularly taken with this passage:
What do you think is good about the way we interact with information today? How has your internet consumption changed your brain, and writing, for the better?

I can only speak for myself, but I find that the Internet has made me far more productive than I was before as a reader and a writer. It seems to offer an alternative to academic protocols for making “knowledge.” But I was never very systematic before about my “research” and am even less so now; only now this doesn’t seem like such a draw back. Working in fragments and unfolding ideas over time in fragments seems a more viable way of proceeding. I’ve grown incapable of researching as preparation for some writing project — I post everything, write immediately as a way to digest what I am reading, make spontaneous arguments and connections from what is at hand. Then if I feel encouraged, I go back and try to synthesize some of this material later. That seems a very Internet-inspired approach.

Let me pause to note that I am fundamentally against productivity and then move on to the more important point, which is that online life has changed my ways of working along the lines that Horning describes — and I like it.

There’s a mantra among some software developers, most notably at Google: Launch and iterate. Get your app out there even with bugs, let your customers report and complain about those bugs, apologize profusely, fix, release a new version. Then do it again, and again. (Some developers hate this model, but never mind.) Over the past few years I’ve been doing something like this with my major projects: throw an idea out there in incomplete or even inchoate form and see what responses it gets; learn from your respondents’ skepticism or criticism; follow the links people give you; go back to the idea and, armed with this feedback, make it better.

Of course, writers have always done something like this: for example, going to the local pub and making people listen to you pontificate on some crack-brained intellectual scheme and then tell you that you’re full of it. And I’ve used that method too, which has certain advantages ... but: it’s easy to forget what people say, you have a narrow range of responses, and it can’t happen very often or according to immediate need. The best venue I’ve found to support the launch-and-iterate model of the intellectual life: Twitter."
productivity  research  cv  howwework  criticalmess  criticalmesses  internet  web  online  haphazardness  circling  unfolding  writing  robhorning  2014  via:ablerism  thinking  gtd  iteration  skepticism  criticism  feedback  twitter  process  alanjacobs  howwewrite  messiness 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Mind Games Forever – The New Inquiry
"Gamification in social media turns out to be no different from Berne’s head games. Both use quantification to generate incentives that can supplant the receding master motive of intimacy. But Berne, and the generation of readers that bought into him, believed that all the games had to go if we were ever going to face up to ourselves. Today, the social-media game lets us push one another to more and more self-expression, as though info dumps were an approach to truth. Our demands for attention are no longer tactfully oblique; they are explicitly instrumental. On social ­media passive aggressiveness can show itself as open and honest aggression. At last, we can do away with the inconvenient codes of etiquette. Grove Press’s valiant crusade against censorship hasn’t been for naught.

Social media are a broad refinement of the self-help scam, offering not just texts but an entire interactive apparatus that can incite anxiety about the self while pretending to assuage it. Games People Play, like all self-help books, lets us pretend that our problems (which stem from having to relate to others) are generic and thus readily fixable with off-the-shelf solutions, while our virtues (all our own sole responsibility) are totally unique, not imbricated with our vices at all. Social media carry this further: By replacing presence with networking, and spontaneous interaction with preformatted expression, they purport to resolve the generic problems that beset us in social life, leaving us with a space in which we can’t help but elaborate our best self, in as much detail as we can muster. What is supposed to be special about us is precisely that which doesn’t admit the influence of others but that we can impose on others without shame or restraint. In practice, what that means is there is nothing special about us, and we can never shut up about it."
gamification  socialmedia  robhorning  2013  self-help  scams  presence  networking  interaction  spontaneity  influence  attention  etiquette  grovepress  ericberne  society  community  censorship  compulsivity  psychology  poppsychology  socialrecognition  games 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Liquid Modernity and Social Media – The New Inquiry
"Consumer capitalism prescribes choice over stability, so we are inundated with options but without any enduring frames of reference to make our choices lastingly meaningful, definitive. Options just beget a consciousness of more options. Choosing consigns us to making more and more choices, until the inevitable decision fatigue & ego depletion sets in…the only choice we aren’t offered is the choice not to choose. We’re cut off from all other sources of meaning that might support a different conception of how to be."

"Indeed, the production of consumers itself devours an intolerably large fraction of the total costs of production"

"Now liberation would be an escape from the implications of limitless choice: that we can’t enjoy anything without it being shadowed by the possibility we are missing out on something better. Becoming oneself is just another way of second-guessing oneself."

"Our algorithmic elder brother encourages us all to surveil & report on one another to make his…"
socialnetworks  socialnetworking  performativeidentity  precarity  security  belonging  community  facebook  subjectivity  neoliberalism  labor  immateriallabor  marxism  decisionfatigue  zygmuntbauman  fomo  being  egodepletion  choosing  consumers  consumption  theself  marketing  surveillance  socialmedia  capitalism  society  freedom  liberation  identity  paradoxofchoice  consumerism  choice  choices  2012  robhorning 
september 2012 by robertogreco

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