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robertogreco : self-expression   8

The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

For all its influence as a shaper of individual decisions, the greater power of convenience may arise from decisions made in aggregate, where it is doing so much to structure the modern economy. Particularly in tech-related industries, the battle for convenience is the battle for industry dominance.

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much."



"By the late 1960s, the first convenience revolution had begun to sputter. The prospect of total convenience no longer seemed like society’s greatest aspiration. Convenience meant conformity. The counterculture was about people’s need to express themselves, to fulfill their individual potential, to live in harmony with nature rather than constantly seeking to overcome its nuisances. Playing the guitar was not convenient. Neither was growing one’s own vegetables or fixing one’s own motorcycle. But such things were seen to have value nevertheless — or rather, as a result. People were looking for individuality again.

Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the second wave of convenience technologies — the period we are living in — would co-opt this ideal. It would conveniencize individuality.

You might date the beginning of this period to the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1979. With the Walkman we can see a subtle but fundamental shift in the ideology of convenience. If the first convenience revolution promised to make life and work easier for you, the second promised to make it easier to be you. The new technologies were catalysts of selfhood. They conferred efficiency on self-expression."



"I do not want to deny that making things easier can serve us in important ways, giving us many choices (of restaurants, taxi services, open-source encyclopedias) where we used to have only a few or none. But being a person is only partly about having and exercising choices. It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.

Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.

An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life.

We need to consciously embrace the inconvenient — not always, but more of the time. Nowadays individuality has come to reside in making at least some inconvenient choices. You need not churn your own butter or hunt your own meat, but if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him.

Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Willow Smith & The Curious Case of The Carefree Black Girl - Black Girls Talking
"Willow Smith is a carefree black girl.

Now, I didn’t coin that term; its origins are to be uncovered somewhere in the murky waters of the internet by a far more intrepid explorer than I, but if it wasn’t birthed to describe Willow, I would be surprised.

The existence of the carefree black girl isn’t new, however. If you were a young girl in the 90s, as I was, you probably recognize her in Lisa Bonet. Denise Huxtable and Lisa Bonet somehow fused to become the ultimate carefree black girl: confident, stylish and supremely herself. I didn’t know many girls who didn’t want to be her. Didn’t we all dream of attending Hillman College? Had Hillman not been fictional, it probably would have been full of carefree black girls. Black girls with self-assurance so strong, you couldn’t help but admire it. I know I did then, and still do, even in someone as young as Willow Smith.

Willow exudes the confidence of a young girl who has been given the space and freedom for self-exploration as far away from the pressures society places on young girls of color as a privileged upbringing can afford. As others have rightly pointed out before me, Willow’s ability to explore various interests and forms of expression stems from a place of significant privilege—a fact that cannot be overlooked, and while her parents are indeed famous and wealthy, it is undoubtedly also their commitment to a manner of parenting that favors such exploration that has resulted in her confidence.

While Willow is not your average young black girl due to her upbringing, she is still subject to attempts to force her into the narrow silos in which black girls are allowed to exist. As witnessed in the YouTube comments section for the video of her latest output as one half of the duo Melodic Chaotic, a song called Summer Fling, respectability politics are already being bandied about regarding her musical and visual choices. Willow’s public existence and determination to explore all versions of herself represent a narrative that we don’t see nearly enough—one that moves away from the constraints placed on young black girls regarding their own bodies and their true, full selves. While many have focused on what they deem wrong with the Smiths’ parenting choices, perhaps the focus should shift to what it means to have a young black girl in the public eye who exhibits such a strong sense of self, as well as how to nurture that same sense of self in other girls.

Willow Smith’s commitment to herself is admirable; however, this issue extends beyond her. The larger issue at hand is one of young black girls being afforded the luxury of self-expression in a manner that is generally reserved for their young white counterparts. While young white girls, simply by virtue of being girls, face a host of pressures, their experiences differ greatly from those of young black girls with respect to the freedom to exercise agency over their own lives. Thanks to persistent societal inequality, black girls don’t often find the carefreeness with which white girls travel through childhood and adolescence mirrored in their own lives. The actions and bodies of white girls are not coded in the same manner as those of black girls, creating a disparity in perception and reception of their respective activity. With songs like Whip My Hair, or even Summer Fling, Willow Smith has tapped into a space that has publicly primarily been reserved for young white girls; a carefree space that should be open to all young girls, yet isn’t.

Ultimately, Willow represents what it means when young black girls are presented with a variety of potential paths to self-determination and self-acceptance; paths to a carefreeness that releases them from the pressures of a society wherein everything from their hair, to their language, to their bodies, to their names is fair game and policed. For evidence of this, one only has to look back to 9-year-old Beasts of the Southern Wild star and Academy Award nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis whose name was mocked and mangled during the entire award season, and who was sexualized in the name of comedy during the night of this year’s Academy Awards show. The bigger issue here is one of black girls moving through the world with a sense of freedom from the restrictions placed on their every move; one of young girls fully standing in their bodies despite outside forces attempting to minimize them at every turn.

So yes, I love and support Willow Smith, as well as every young carefree and not-so-carefree black girl who is just trying to make her way through this world on her own terms, because to be a carefree black girl is to be courageous and defiant in the face of sustained pressure to the contrary, and to be one at an age as young as Willow’s is to be definitively ahead of the curve."
carefreeblackgirls  2014  gender  race  willowsmith  self-determination  self-acceptance  self-expression 
may 2015 by robertogreco
What is Culturally Responsive Teaching? “It’s About Us”
"The value of ethnic studies is its ability to uncover the truth of racial and cultural histories that have been misrepresented and distorted for students of color and white students. It is empowering to see students experience communities of color in a new, radiant light. Greg’s class broadened my perspective and made it more relevant and real.

In academic speak: Culturally responsive teaching increases student engagement, fosters a sense of belonging, and helps students critically examine race, ethnicity and culture with fresh eyes. All important. Though nothing compares to seeing this through a 7th-grader’s eyes: “It’s about us. We can express ourselves. It’s fun.”"
ethnicstudies  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  history  2015  melindaanderson  race  ethnicity  culture  culturallyresponsiveteaching  howwelearn  education  belonging  self-expression 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The All and Nothing of Teaching | Diana Senechal
"This part strikes me as presumptuous. Yes, it is true that teachers who look inward are better equipped to solve daily problems than those who do not. But he assumes that it is the defective teachers who criticize the conditions and larger picture, whereas the effective teachers function well “under even under the most debilitating conditions of work” (as he says just a little later). He assumes, from the start, that the teacher who feels stress is deficient in some way. He states outright that teaching conditions simply are what they are and that good teachers work within them. He assumes that if you examine yourself and face your anger effectively, the stress of teaching will not take a toll. He disregards the possibility that introspection of this kind can make your work even more taxing, as you end up pondering problems, humbling yourself, admitting to your faults (even when they involved no “impulsive negative behavior” or anything close) and thinking about your work all around the clock.

But even those are not my main objection. Running through his argument is an assumption that teachers deserve nothing but must give fully of themselves. He does not consider that you can be a highly dedicated teacher, you can love your work, yet you might ask at some point, “when do I get to live as myself again?”

I have never had a job that I loved as deeply as teaching. Yet as a teacher I miss some basic things sorely. One of these is friendship. Over time, it has become more and more difficult to get together with friends; I almost always have something due the next day, have my mind on school, and can’t handle the complex process of finding a time to meet. (In New York City, it is not uncommon to make a phone appointment for the purpose of setting a time to get together: “Give me a call next Thursday, and then we can work out a plan.”) From my perspective, I have made many efforts to stay in touch, but the very problem lies in that phrase “staying in touch.” Friendship has a rhythm. Once the rhythm is broken down, it can be difficult to revive.

Friendships within the school are guarded and limited. Some colleagues may be potential friends, but you are usually in too much of a rush to say more than a quick hello. Students cannot be your friends; in fact, your responsibility is to build respectful and bounded rapport with them within the work you undertake together. As for parents, you may feel affinity toward them, but there’s a boundary, for understandable reasons.

I also miss the freedom of expression and reception that I had before becoming a teacher. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen if students came upon my writing and music (or, for that matter, favorite books and records). There’s no offensive material in there, but it hasn’t been pre-screened for teenagers, either. As a teacher, I have come to pre-screen everything I say and do, sometimes without realizing it. I rarely read a book that I am not planning to include in a lesson. I miss reading Philip Roth, for instance, or watching Godard films.

On the other hand, there are things I could not have done except as a teacher. CONTRARIWISE may be the most rewarding project of my life. I see the students taking off with it, defining it, making it more than I originally imagined, yet I help see this through and work on it day after day. The philosophy teaching itself has been an extraordinary experience: writing a curriculum, putting it into practice, dealing with many challenges, and seeing it take shape and grow in meaning. The Philosophy Roundtables have been delightful and moving. The last one (about the philosophy of humor) was one of my favorites, but each one carries a distinct memory.

So, there are no regrets, and I am in no rush, but I am starting to look beyond teaching. No situation is perfect, but certain combinations work better than others. This has nothing to do with bitterness, frustration, or inability to reach goals. It has more to do with wanting to do certain things that don’t fit in the teaching persona. What Haberman fails to acknowledge is that this persona cloaks a life; the thicker the introspection, the greater the weight of the cloth."
teachers  teaching  dianasenechal  friendship  2014  self  expression  self-expression  selflessness  burnout  introspection  self-care 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Mitch Resnick: The Role of Making, Tinkering, Remixing in Next-Generation Learning | DMLcentral
"…best learning experiences come when people are actively engaged in designing things, creating things, & inventing things—expressing themselves.

…if we want people to really be fluent w/ new technologies & learn through their activities, it requires people to get involved as makers—to create things.

…best experiences come when…making use of the materials in the world around you, tinkering w/ things…coming up w/ a prototype, getting feedback…iteratively changing it…making new ideas, over & over…adapting to the current situation & the new situations that arise.

In our after school programs, we see many kids who have been unsuccessful in traditional educational settings become incredibly successful when they are given the opportunity to make, tinker, & remix.

…there are lessons for schools from the ways that kids learn outside of schools…

Over time, I do think we need to rethink educational institutions as a place that embraces playful experimentation."
tcsnmy  mitchresnick  mit  mitmedialab  medialab  scratch  mindstorms  lego  informallearning  learning  unschooling  deschooling  schools  play  prototyping  making  doing  remix  remixing  remixculture  self-expression  technology  lcproject  howardrheingold  makers  creators  iteration  iterative  wedo  lifelongkindergarten  education  experimentation  invention  feedback  2011  toshare 
september 2011 by robertogreco
The Never-Ending Story | design mind
Harris: "I think that’s something stories can do—prepare their way of finding meaning in this madness and bringing some order to the chaos.

…creating a space that’s more about slowing down and contemplating and being introspective is a prerequisite for getting people to tell stories that have impact.

…Cow Bird is basically a storytelling platform that people can use to tell stories online using photos, sound maps, timelines, videos, and casts of characters. It’s geared towards long-form narrative…when many different people tell stories, the system automatically finds connections between them and weaves them together into a kind of meta-story…The platform automatically analyzes all the text in your memory, figures out your cast of characters, and connects it to previous stories.

…one of the pieces of this system I’ve been building is that to tell the story you have to dedicate it to somebody, which creates a gift economy of stories."

[via http://twitter.com/frogdesign/status/105785778331852800 via @bobulate]
design  art  writing  storytelling  jonathanharris  cowbird  slow  slowness  multimedia  thisishuge  gamechanging  2011  interviews  classideas  curating  curation  twitter  facebook  longform  meaning  meaningmaking  meaningfulness  self-expression  internet  web  stories  social  socialsoftware  metastory  relationships  connectivism  narrative  memory  memories  soundscapes  soundmaps  timelines  video  gifteconomy 
august 2011 by robertogreco
The 2837 University « AGITPROP
"a project that re-imagines the Agitprop space & the surrounding neighborhood as the site of a micro-university, with the goal of opening a conversation about re-purposing the concept of University Education in the context of the ongoing critique of the corporatization of the University. We will begin by investigating the relation of the construction of a mass consumer class in the US after WWII & the formulation of a new concept of individuality that borrowed its notion of self-expression from the legacy of Romanticism, all the while yoking the seeming freedom of expression to the profit system of hyper-inflated production and infinite obsolescence. As the university system is increasingly dominated by corporate interest, the very notion of the student is replaced by that of the consumer, and the value of a university education is understood strictly in terms of the acquisition of readily available skills & knowledge bases that are immediately transferable to exchange value."
sandiego  northpark  local  highereducation  highered  microuniversities  californiabiennial  art  activism  agitprop  lcproject  education  change  corporatism  self-expression  2837university  collaboration  community  consumerism  obsolescence  romanticism  freedom  altgdp  toparticipate  cityclassroom  thethirdparty  the2837university  agitpropproject 
january 2011 by robertogreco

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