recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : spotlight   2

Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

She was warm and generous and incredibly insightful, and she gave me no smooth answers, no simple way.

Central to our conversation was my worry about the massive surveillance capacities enabled by internet technologies and the way in which public assent to surveillance is fueled by the racism and militarism of the now eternal “War on Terror.” What could we do to combat this narrative? What could we do to change the underlying technologies such that they respect human agency and privacy?

Franklin agreed. This is a grave problem. But not a “technological” problem:

“Whether it’s heathens, witches, women, communists, whoever, the institution of an enemy as a political tool is inappropriate. The only solution is an insistence on a civilized democratic society. A civilized democratic society combats this and the wish of an authority to collect personal information on citizens and their activities and loyalties. Whether it’s done by spying, by bribing children, by workplace monitoring, by confession in the confession box of the church—the collection is the issue. The means—the technology—is secondary. The problem is a problem of authoritarian power. And at the root of this problem is the issue of justice, and justice is political.”

While justice can be understood, can be felt, there is no template to follow, or checklist to work through for ensuring a just outcome. The requirements are humility, a respect for context, and a willingness to listen to the most marginalized voices. Let these define the basic requirements of whatever you do. You must “put yourself in the position of the most vulnerable, in a way that achieves a visceral gut feeling of empathy and perspective—that’s the only way to see what justice is.”

Understanding justice, honoring those most vulnerable and including them as authors of any plan that impacts them, is a necessary starting place. But the problems associated with our current technologies won’t be solved by tweaking gears or redesigning mechanisms. A roadmap that centers on justice is only the first step. “For a very long time gadgets and machinery have been anti-people. If one wants to get away from the anti-people component, then you don’t argue technology as much as you argue capitalism.” Even with a view of what justice would look like and could be, attempts at radical change will, of course, be repulsed by powerful actors who benefit richly from the unjust status quo. Political change must be a part of the equation.

This isn’t a frenzied call for revolution. The bigger the scale, the bigger the vision for just change, the more difficult it will be to “get it through” a system in which power is aligned against justice (and, of course, the more difficult it will be to truly understand this vision’s vast impact on vulnerable populations and thus ensure it really supports justice.) Not that working to build practices and plans isn’t worthwhile—it is incredibly worthwhile. But you’re unlikely to have much real impact if you start with a grand announcement. “To proceed in a hostile world,” Franklin suggests, “call it an experiment. Admit that you don’t know how to do it, but ask for space and peace and respect. Then try your experiment, quietly.” In conditions not conducive to success, situate yourself out of the spotlight and proceed subtly, humbly, and be willing to downplay expectations while new forms incubate.

“My favorite word is an old Quaker term, ‘scrupling,’ used as an activity,” Franklin begins, addressing how to approach the vastness of the political and social problems we were discussing. “It comes out of the anti-slavery movement, originally. People would get together to ‘scruple,’ that is, discuss and debate a common problem, something they had scruples about—say, justice—for which they did not have a solution. This is scrupling, and this is something you and your friends can do.”

Gather and talk. Empathize and listen. Don’t chase the spotlight, and accept that some problems are big, and difficult, and that what you’re good at may not fix them. These are not the ways of charismatic executives and flash-bang inventors. These are not instructions for entrepreneurial success. These won’t produce bigger faster newer ways of doing things.

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
I Live in a Digital Dumpster Fire | Motherboard
"Right now, I can't see what tabs I have open, because I have too many open. I have 167,998 unread Gmail messages. I am writing this, right now, on a TextEdit file called Untitled 199, and I have exactly 32 instances of the program open. My dock is a disaster, and, very recently, my desktop had thousands of files on it. Oddly enough, my trash bin is empty.

I exist, digitally, in the equivalent of a dumpster fire. I wouldn't have it any other way. Or rather, I don't think I can exist any other way. I thought I was alone. I am not.

It turns out there are plenty of digital hoarders out there, and maybe we don't give a shit about virtual cleanliness because it doesn't really matter anymore.

"I don't particularly think digital clutter is a bad thing. It's just a consequence of how people use computers, asynchronously," ​Matthew Hughes, a British tech journalist who lives much like me, told me. "We don't use computers in a systematic, one-task-at-a-time kind of way, do we? We're always doing multiple things at once, and digital clutter is just a consequence of that."

[embedded tweet with image: "this is my desktop"]

I've tweeted photos of my desktop before, and had a mix of reactions. Most people are horrified. Some people want me to throw my computer in the trash—nothing will save it now, it's ruined forever, they say. I get it. But when I went looking for people like me, I didn't have much trouble finding them.

​Adrian Sanabria, a security researcher, told me that he opens tabs until his computer crashes. While he doesn't think that digital clutter and tab overload is totally harmless ("I've come the realization that I have anxiety over losing something interesting that I want to read," he said), fast internet connections, Google images, and search apps are making it very easy to throw shit wherever we want without adversely affecting our lives.

[image: Matthew Hughes's desktop]

We're creating massive, disgusting haystacks of files, but finding the needle we want is effortless, so who cares?

"I use FoundApp, and it is FANTASTIC for finding things. It works like Mac OS X’s Finder, but you can have it log into Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote—all your cloud stuff, and it will index and search those locations along with your local hard drive," Sanabria told me. "I have no idea what folder my files are in, and I don’t care."

Sanabria has also done away with his folder of memes and gifs that he used to have at the ready to deploy on Twitter at a moment's notice. Now, he finds them on Google much faster.

[image (animated GIF): "My desktop, pre-purge"]

There's the stereotype of the journalist, the professor, the academic, who has papers cluttered all over their office. I once walked past Bob Woodward's desk at the Washington Post, and he had mountains upon mountains of … stuff, everywhere. With a computer, you can be like that without showing other people.

One thing that surprised me about the people I talked to is they haven't always been like this (I have). Sanabria used to have inbox zero. So did Brian Fung, a great tech policy reporter with the Washington Post. And then, Twitter happened.

"I used to be an inbox zero kind of guy—leave no message unread, no RSS item unchecked, etc. But then with Twitter, I got used to just jumping into the feed for short stints. And then one day I woke up and realized, 'You know what? It's okay if you don't get through it all," he told me. "Since then, I've started treating my RSS feed like a slower version of Twitter. I ignore irrelevant emails. They pile up. It's fine. The desktop is much more manageable if you don't, you know, actually use the desktop."

[image "My dock"]

Fung "organizes" his desktop in reverse chronological order, and I do too. He says it turns the desktop into something like email—the most recent downloaded files show up at the top of any folder you're using to upload files with, and then it's easy.

We're not slobs, we're not overwhelmed, I don't even really think of myself as a hoarder. I eventually trash everything and forget about it. The thing that modern operating systems and modern search tools have done is make a whole host of systems viable. They work.

[image (animated GIF): "An inefficient way of deleting files"]

That said, I was wondering what life might be like if I cleaned up my act a bit. I purged my desktop. I set up a new folder for screenshots, which I used constantly, and I made my computer save them there automatically. I try to close my tabs when I can't see the icons anymore. I used a program called Sublime Text to write.

It's not for me. It's more effort than it's worth. Bury me with all my files; I'll know where to find them."
hoarding  digitalhoarding  search  os  technology  organization  digital  desktops  culture  spotlight  jasonkoebler  matthewhughes  adriansanabria  foundapp  clutter  finder  2015 
april 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read