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robertogreco : separatism   2

What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away | The New Yorker
"During the first few days of my Internet decluttering, I found myself compulsively checking my unchanged in-box and already-read text messages, and scanning the same headlines over and over—attempting, as if bewitched, to see new information there. I took my dog out for longer walks, initially trying to use them for some productive purpose: spying on neighbors, planning my week. Soon I acquiesced to a dull, pleasant blankness. One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky.

“Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” (Melville House). Odell, a multidisciplinary artist who teaches at Stanford, is perhaps best known for a pamphlet called “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch,” which she put together while in residence at the Museum of Capitalism, in Oakland. Odell investigated the origins of a blandly stylish watch that was being offered for free (plus shipping) on Instagram, and found a mirrored fun house of digital storefronts that looked as though they had been generated by algorithm. The retailers advertised themselves as brands that had physical origins in glitzy Miami Beach or hip San Francisco but were, in fact, placeless nodes in a vast web of scammy global wholesalers, behind which a human presence could hardly be discerned.

Like Newport, Odell thinks that we should spend less time on the Internet. Unlike him, she wants readers to question the very idea of productivity. Life is “more than an instrument and therefore something that cannot be optimized,” she writes. To find the physical world sufficiently absorbing, to conceive of the self as something that “exceeds algorithmic description”—these are not only “ends in and of themselves, but inalienable rights belonging to anyone lucky enough to be alive.” Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” She also developed a fascination, via Google Maps, with the creek behind her old kindergarten, and she went to see it with a friend. She followed the creek bed, which, she learned, runs beneath Cupertino’s shopping centers and Apple’s headquarters. The creek became a reminder that under the “streamlined world of products, results, experiences, reviews” there is a “giant rock whose other lifeforms operate according to an ancient, oozing, almost chthonic logic.”

Odell elegantly aligns the crisis in our natural world and the crisis in our minds: what has happened to the natural world is happening to us, she contends, and it’s happening on the same soon-to-be-irreparable scale. She sees “little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habitats for human thought”; both are endangered by “the logic of capitalist productivity.” She believes that, by constantly disclosing our needs and desires to tech companies that sift through our selfhood in search of profit opportunities, we are neglecting, even losing, our mysterious, murky depths—the parts of us that don’t serve an ulterior purpose but exist merely to exist. The “best, most alive parts” of ourselves are being “paved over by a ruthless logic of use.”

“Digital Minimalism” and “How to Do Nothing” could both be categorized as highbrow how-to—an artist and a computer scientist, both of them in their thirties, wrestling with the same timely prompt. (At one point, Odell writes, she thought of her book as activism disguised as self-help.) Rather than a philosophy of technology use, Odell offers a philosophy of modern life, which she calls “manifest dismantling,” and which she intends as the opposite of Manifest Destiny. It involves rejecting the sort of progress that centers on isolated striving, and emphasizing, instead, caregiving, maintenance, and the interdependence of things. Odell grew up in the Bay Area, and her work is full of unabashed hippie moments that might provoke cynicism. But, for me—and, I suspect, for others who have come of age alongside the Internet and have coped with the pace and the precariousness of contemporary living with a mixture of ambient fatalism and flares of impetuous tenderness—she struck a hopeful nerve of possibility that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Odell writes about the first electronic bulletin-board system, which was set up, in Berkeley, in 1972, as a “communal memory bank.” She contrasts it with Nextdoor, a notoriously paranoid neighborhood-based social platform that was recently valued at $1.5 billion, inferring that the profit motive had perverted what can be a healthy civic impulse. Newport, who does not have any social-media accounts of his own, generally treats social media’s current profit model as an unfortunate inevitability. Odell believes that there is another way. She cites, for example, the indie platform Mastodon, which is crowdfunded and decentralized. (It is made up of independently operated nodes, called “instances,” on which users can post short messages, or “toots.”) To make money from something—a forest, a sense of self—is often to destroy it. Odell brings up a famous redwood in Oakland called Old Survivor, which is estimated to be almost five hundred years old. Unlike all the other trees of its kind in the area, it was never cut down, because it was runty and twisted and situated on a rocky slope; it appeared unprofitable to loggers. The tree, she writes, is an image of “resistance-in-place,” of something that has escaped capitalist appropriation. As Odell sees it, the only way forward is to be like Old Survivor. We have to be able to do nothing—to merely bear witness, to stay in place, to create shelter for one another—to endure."



"My Newport-inspired Internet cleanse happened to coincide with a handful of other events that made me feel raw and unmanageable. It was the end of winter, with its sudden thaws and strange fluctuations—the type of weather where a day of sunshine feels like a stranger being kind to you when you cry. I had just finished writing a book that had involved going through a lot of my past. The hours per day that I had spent converting my experience into something of professional and financial value were now empty, and I was cognizant of how little time I had spent caring for the people and things around me. I began thinking about my selfhood as a meadow of wildflowers that had been paved over by the Internet. I started frantically buying houseplants.

I also found myself feeling more grateful for my phone than ever. I had become more conscious of why I use technology, and how it meets my needs, as Newport recommended. It’s not nothing that I can text my friends whenever I think about them, or get on Viber and talk to my grandmother in the Philippines, or sit on the B54 bus and distract myself from the standstill traffic by looking up the Fermi paradox and listening to any A Tribe Called Quest song that I want to hear. All these capacities still feel like the stuff of science fiction, and none of them involve Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. It occurred to me that two of the most straightforwardly beloved digital technologies—podcasts and group texts—push against the attention economy’s worst characteristics. Podcasts often demand sustained listening, across hours and weeks, to a few human voices. Group texts are effectively the last noncommercialized social spaces on many millennials’ phones.

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be."
jiatolentino  2019  internet  attention  jennyodell  capitalism  work  busyness  resistance  socialmedia  instagram  twitter  facebook  infooverload  performance  web  online  nature  nextdoor  advertising  thoreau  philosophy  care  caring  maintenance  silence  happiness  anxiety  leisurearts  artleisure  commodification  technology  selfhood  identity  sms  texting  viber  podcasts  grouptexts  digitalminimalism  refusal  calnewport  mobile  phones  smartphones  screentime  ralphwaldoemerson  separatism  interdependence 
april 2019 by robertogreco
"Fleeting pockets of anarchy" Streetwork. The exploding school. | Catherine Burke - Academia.edu
"Colin Ward (1924–2010) was an anarchist and educator who, together with Anthony Fyson, was employed as education officer for the Town and Country Planning Association in the UK during the 1970s. He is best known for his two books about childhood, The Child in the City (1978) and The Child in the Country (1988). The book he co-authored with Fyson, Streetwork. The Exploding School (1973), is discussed in this article as illustrating in practical and theoretical terms Ward’s appreciation of the school as a potential site for extraordinary radical change in relations between pupils and teachers and schools and their localities. The article explores the book alongside the Bulletin of Environmental Education, which Ward edited throughout the 1970s. It argues that the literary and visual images employed in the book and the bulletins contributed to the powerful positive representation of the school as a site of potential radical social change. Finally, it suggests that “fleeting pockets of anarchy” continue to exist in the lives of children through social networking and virtual environments that continue to offer pedagogical possibilities for the imaginative pedagogue."



"Paul Goodman’s work had particular relevance to the development of ideas expressed in Streetwork. Through his fiction, Goodman developed the idea of the “exploding school” which realised the city as an educator. Playing with the notion of the school trip as traditionally envisaged, he created an image of city streets as host to a multitude of small peripatetic groups of young scholars and their adult shepherds. This image was powerfully expressed in Goodman’s 1942 novel, TheGrand Piano; or, The Almanac of Alienation.

Ward quotes extensively from this novel in Streetwork because the imagery and vocabulary so clearly articulate a view of the city and the school that is playfully subversive yet imaginable. In a dialogue between a street urchin and a professor, Goodman has the elder explain:
this city is the only one you’ll ever have and you’ve got to make the best of it. On the other hand, if you want to make the best of it, you’ve got to be able to criticize it and change it and circumvent it . . . Instead of bringing imitation bits of the city into a school building, let’s go at our own pace and get out among the real things. What I envisage is gangs of half a dozen starting at nine or ten years old, roving the Empire City (NY) with a shepherd empowered to protect them, and accumulating experiences tempered to their powers . . . In order to acquire and preserve a habit of freedom, a kid must learn to circumvent it and sabotage it at any needful point as occasion arises . . . if you persist in honest service, you will soon be engaging in sabotage.

Inspired by such envisaged possibilities, Ward came to his own view of anarchism, childhood and education. Sabotage was a function of the transformational nature of education when inculcated by the essential elements of critical pedagogy. In this sense, anarchism was not some future utopian state arrived at through a once-and-for-all, transformative act of revolution; it was rather a present-tense thing, always-already “there” as a thread of social life, subversive by its very nature – one of inhabiting pockets of resistance, questioning, obstructing; its existence traceable through attentive analysis of its myriad ways and forms.

Colin Ward was a classic autodidact who sought connections between fields of knowledge around which academic fences are too often constructed. At the heart of his many enthusiasms was an interest in the meaning and making of space and place, as sites for creativity and learning."



"Fleeting pockets of anarchy and spaces of educational opportunity

The historian of childhood John Gillis has borrowed the notion of the “islanding of children” from Helgar and Hartmut Zeiher as a metaphor to describe how contemporary children relate, or do not relate, to the urban environments that they experience in growing up. Gillis quotes the geographer David Harvey, who has noted that children could even be seen to inhabit islands within islands, while “the internal spatial ordering of the island strictly regulates and controls the possibility of social change and history”. This could so easily be describing the modern school. According to Gillis, “archipelagoes of children provide a reassuring image of stasis for mainlands of adults anxious about change”.

Since the publication of Streetwork, the islanding of childhood has increased, not diminished. Children move – or, more accurately, are moved – from place to place, travelling for the most part sealed within cars. This prevents them encountering the relationships between time and space that Ward believed essential for them to be able to embark on the creation of those fleeting pockets of anarchy that were educational, at least in the urban environment. Meanwhile, the idea of environmental education has lost the urban edge realised fleetingly by Ward and Fyson during the1970s. Environmental education has become closely associated with nature and the values associated with natural elements and forces

If the curriculum of the school has become an island, we might in a sense begin to see the laptop or iPad as the latest islanding, or at least fragmenting, device. Ward and Fyson understood the importance of marginal in-between spaces in social life,where they believed creative flourishing was more likely to occur than in the sanctioned institution central spaces reflecting and representing state authority. This was, they thought, inevitable and linked to play, part of what it was to be a child. The teacher’s job was to manage that flourishing as well as possible, by responding to the opportunities continually offered in the marginal spaces between subjects in the curriculum and between school and village, city or town. They believed that such spaces offered educational opportunities that, if enabled to flourish through the suggested pedagogy of Streetwork and the implications of the exploding school, might enrich lives and environments across the generations. It was in the overlooked or apparently uninteresting spaces of the urban environment that teachers, with encouragement, might find a rich curriculum. Today, we might observe such “fleeting pockets of anarchy” in the in-between spaces of social media, which offer as yet unimagined opportunities and challenges for educational planners to expand the parameters of school and continue to define environmental education as radical social and urban practice."
colinward  cityasclassroom  anarchism  tonyfyson  streetwork  2014  catherineburke  education  unschooling  deschooling  1970s  society  theexplodingschool  children  socialnetworking  pedagogy  johngillis  urban  urbanism  islanding  parenting  experience  agesegregation  safety  anarchy  sabotage  subversion  autodidacts  autodidacticism  criticalpedagogy  childhood  learning  paulgoodman  freedom  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  cities  resistance  questioning  obstructing  obstruction  revolution  lewismumford  ivanillich  paulofreire  peterkropotkin  patrickgeddes  autodidactism  living  seeing  nationalism  separatism  johnholt  youth  adolescence  everyday  observation  participatory  enironmentaleducation  experientiallearning  place  schools  community  communities  context  bobbray  discovery  discoverylearning  hamescallaghan  blackpapers  teaching  kenjones  radicalism  conformity  control  restrictions  law  legal  culture  government  policy  spontaneity  planning  situationist  cocreation  place-basededucation  place-basedlearning  place-based  place-basedpedagogy 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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