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Are.na Blog / Workshop Debrief: How to Use the Internet Mindfully
"Last weekend I got to collaborate with Willa Köerner of The Creative Independent (TCI) to facilitate a workshop at IAM Weekend, called “How to Use the Internet Mindfully.” The workshop built on an essay series TCI and Are.na published together last year, which asked a group of artists to reflect on the habits and philosophies that help them contend with the online attention economy. This time we wanted to do something similar in person, in a space where creative internet people could talk about our feelings together.

We asked participants to complete a worksheet designed to help them get a better handle on their internet and technology habits. (You can download the worksheet if you’d like to try this—it takes about 35 minutes to complete). The first step was making a mind map of one’s various screen-based activities. Using different colors, everyone then labeled those activities as either harmful or helpful on a personal level. Finally, people jotted down a few “relationship goals” between them and the Internet and brainstormed practical steps for building up their personal agency.

We spent the last part of the workshop sharing results with one another and thinking about reclaiming the web as an intimate, creative social space. Lots of interesting ideas emerged in our conversation, so I want to highlight a few things here that stood out in particular:

1. We often have mixed feelings about certain tools (and specific ways of using those tools). For example, posting to Instagram can be an exploratory and rewarding creative process. But the anxiety about “likes” that comes afterward usually feels empty and harmful. It’s hard to reconcile these opposing feelings within the realm of personal behavior. While we know that we’re ultimately in control of our own behavior, we also know that apps like Instagram are designed to promote certain patterns of use. We don’t want to quit altogether, but we’re struggling to swim against the current of “persuasive” tech.

2. We don’t have enough spaces for talking about the emotional side effects of living with the web. Before we really dug into strategies for using the Internet more mindfully, participants really wanted to share their feelings about social media, Internet burnout, and how the two are connected. We talked about mental health and how hard it is to feel in control of apps that are essentially designed for dependency. We discussed how few of us feel happy with our habits, even though everyone’s experience is different. We wondered about the stigma that surrounds any form of “addiction,” and whether it’s ok to talk about widespread Internet use in those terms. I’m really glad these questions bubbled up, since they helped build enough trust in the room to share the more personal elements of each person’s mind map.

3. We all want to feel personal autonomy, which takes many different forms. We had a lively exchange about different ways to limit the amount of digital junk food we allow ourselves to consume. Apple’s new screen-time tracker was one example that drew mixed responses. Some people felt that a subtle reminder helped, while others felt it was totally ineffective. Some preferred to impose a hard limit on themselves through a tool like Self Control, while others rejected the premise of measuring screen time in the first place. A lot of participants focused on wanting to control their own experience, whether by owning one’s own content or simply feeling enough agency to decide how to navigate the web. We talked a bit about the dilemma of feeling like our decision-making psychology has been “hacked” by addictive design, and how crappy it feels to replace our own intuition with another technical solution. We also acknowledged that setting our own boundaries means spending even more time and emotional capital than our apps have already taken from us. That additional effort is labor we consumers complete for free, even if we don’t usually see it that way.

4. The web feels too big for healthy interaction. We also talked about how using mainstream social media platforms these days can feel like shouting into a giant room with everyone else on Earth. Many of the healthy spaces where participants felt they could genuinely share ideas were ones where they put considerable time and emotional labor into building an intimate social context. People had a lot to say about the fact that users are locked in to their online personas with all kinds of personal and professional incentives. You simply can’t stop looking, or downsize your social circles, or abandon your long-term presence, without breaking an informal social contract you never realized you signed.

The context of the conference also made me think about how we frame the work we put into our relationship with technology. When we get in front of a group, what kind of “solutions” should we be advocating? At what point to individual strategies lead to politics and advocacy?

When you focus on personal habits for long enough, it’s easy to process societal issues as problems originating in your own behavior. But as with other kinds of “self-help,” this is a framing that ignores a grotesque power dynamic. Addiction and burnout are not only matters of consumer choice, but the costs of business decisions made by enormous technology companies. The tech industry – like big tobacco and big oil – has knowingly caused a set of serious social problems and then pushed the work of remediating them onto individual consumers. Now it’s up to users to defend themselves with tools like browser plug-ins and VPNs and finstas and time trackers. As we keep talking about using the internet mindfully, I hope we can connect the dots between this kind of individual action and the larger project of securing universal rights to privacy, anonymity, and personal autonomy. By asking ourselves which tools we want to use, and how we want to use them, hopefully we can open up a broader conversation about how we move beyond surveillance capitalism itself.

I’d be interested in talking more about these connections between individual and collective actions if we get to repeat the workshop. It would be great to work with a smaller group, simplify the worksheet slightly, and get really specific about what questions we’re trying to answer. I’d like to draw on a few other ways of thinking as well, like the Human Systems framework for example. If you’d be interested in collaborating, or just have thoughts on any of this, please send one of us an email: leo@are.na or willa@kickstarter.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts."
internet  mindfulness  are.na  2019  leoshaw  willaköerner  web  online  autonomy  technology  politics  advocacy  browsers  extensions  plug-ins  vpns  finstas  trackers  surveillancecapitalism  surveillance  self-help  power  socialmedia  presence  socialcontract  attention  psychology  burnout  addiction  instagram  creativity  likes  behavior 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Evaluating scholarship, or why I won’t be teaching Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | Blayne Haggart's Orangespace
"In his review, which is a wonder of careful thinking and contextualization, Morozov performs a couple of useful services. First, he highlights the extent to which Zuboff’s argument about how surveillance capitalism works rests on a tautology – “surveillance capitalists engage in surveillance capitalism because this is what the imperatives of surveillance capitalism demand” – that leaves they why of the matter unexamined. Second, he places her squarely within an intellectual tradition of “managerial capitalism” and a wider functionalist tradition in sociology associated with Talcott Parsons. Morozov argues that partly as a result of this (unacknowledged) mindset, Zuboff fails to understand the extent to which her critique of surveillance capitalism is actually a critique of capitalism, full stop. This inability to see anything outside the mindset of capitalism accounts for the way the book just kind of finishes without suggesting any real possible paths forward other than, we need a new social movement, and surveillance capitalism must be destroyed and replaced with a better form of (digital?) capitalism.

I hadn’t made those exact connections, and Morozov’s review does a great job in concisely summing up these intellectual frameworks. And if you didn’t know anything about managerial capitalism and Alfred Chandler, or the Italian Autonomists, you could also be forgiven for not making those connections either. I knew very little about managerial capitalism, nothing of Alfred Chandler. I am familiar with Parsons and my only exposure to the Italian Autonomists was by reading Hardt and Negri’s Empire during my PhD, which was enough to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with them.

Morozov’s final conclusion is both persuasive and damning from an academic perspective. The book, he says, could be politically powerful because it is a sharp broadside against two companies – Google and Facebook – that represent a clear and present danger to society. However, it “is a step backward in our understanding of the dynamics of the digital economy.”

I think that’s about right.

I am also pretty sure that, despite the acclaim it’s getting in non-Baffler circles, I’m not going to be teaching The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in my Global Political Economy of Knowledge course, but not because I disagree with Zuboff’s argument or feel threatened by her analysis. To the contrary, she’s pretty much telling me exactly what I want to hear. Or more to the point, what I want to believe.

I’m not going to be teaching it because as an academic work, it falls far short of the standards to which we should hold ourselves. It may be a politically effective polemic, but as scholarship that advances our understanding of the world, it is sorely lacking."



"Four tells of poor academic scholarship

1. Exaggerated claims to novelty"



"2. Absence of relevant literatures"



"So. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a study of the messy interactions between economic and social imperatives. (Actually, I’d argue it’s really two linked business case studies of Facebook and Google that wants to be a study of a larger system, but that’s another matter entirely.) This means that it is a study of political economy. Which means it has to engage with the political economy literature on surveillance (a specialized literature, but it does exist) and capitalism (its entire raison d’être). I expect it to engage with particular sources, like Srnicek, like Shawn Powers and Michael Jablonski’s The Real Cyber War. With, in other words, the books that can provide context and support for, and pushback against, its argument.

And if you’re talking about big trends in capitalism and society from a critical perspective, Hannah Arendt is not your go-to. You also need to go beyond the social-science founders – Durkheim, Marx, Weber. You need to engage with the likes of Susan Strange. Or Robert Cox. Or Michael Mann, people who are interested in exactly the same issues that you are dealing with. Karl Polanyi is great, and Zuboff grabs just the right concepts from him. But He. Is. Not. Enough.

(Polanyi was also much more than an “historian,” as Zuboff identifies him. As his Wikipedia entry makes clear, he was an “economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. Then again, the phrase “political economy” appears only four times in this book, and exclusively in the titles of cited books and articles in the endnotes.)

Finally, if one is talking about the dangers involved in a form of power that “knows and shapes human behaviour toward others’ ends” (page 8) and Antonio Gramsci’s conception of hegemony doesn’t rate a mention, I don’t even know. Especially if it’s presented as a completely new idea (in this case “instrumentarian power” – see: Exaggerated claims of novelty). The Gramscian concept of hegemony is all about how the powerful can get other groups to buy into ideologies that may not be in their best interests.

Much of the book is about how surveillance capitalists are working to change human nature so that human thinking more closely resembles that of machine learning. Absolutely correct, but not only is this not the first time that the powers that be have worked to reshape what we think of as human nature, it’s also kind of what it means to rule a society, any society. That’s what the whole concept of hegemony is all about, as any student of Gramscian thought could tell you. Or what someone like Susan Strange or Robert Cox (the two thinkers I’m using in my own work on these very subjects) would note. Knowing that this type of activity is simply how power works in human society puts a different spin on what Zuboff is arguing. It’s not so much that surveillance capitalists are rewiring human nature, but that their ideology is antithetical to a particular type of human nature, namely one in the liberal-democratic vein. Actually engaging with the voluminous work on hegemony and the social construction of knowledge, however, would have challenged Zuboff’s argument that the knowing and shaping of “human behavior toward others’ ends” is unique to surveillance capitalism.

(Maybe the problem is with capitalism itself? As Morozov noted in a follow-up tweet, “My critique of Zuboff’s new book boils down to a paraphrase of Horkheimer: ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you’d better keep quiet about surveillance capitalism’.”)

And it’s just a bit odd that Michel Foucault doesn’t get so much as a mention beyond a reference in a footnoted title about neoliberalism. In a book that’s all about the relationship between power and knowledge."



"3. Unclear framework"



"4. Use of hyperbole: These go to eleven"



"The final verdict: No go

To be honest, before reading Morozov’s critique, watching the glowing reviews come in, I started questioning my judgment. Sure, there were flaws in the book, some of which I would have called out immediately if committed by an undergraduate, but how much did they really matter?

Part of me, I’m embarrassed to say, was swayed by the identity of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’s author. A professor emerita. From Harvard. Who had done important previous work in the field. Even though I know better, I got inside my own head, internalizing the academic class system that places certain schools and scholars above others. The “important voices” whose work is guaranteed a respectful hearing merely by virtue of their pedigree or institution.

The saddest thing is, my receptiveness to this argument from authority says as much about where I see myself in the academic food chain as it does about a Harvard professor. Even though I have witnessed the most idiotic arguments and proposals made by scholars from top-ranked universities, endured recycled banalities from leading lights with nothing to say, and read the most embarrassing articles by celebrated Ivy-league academics. Even though I will put my Canadian Carleton University education up against anyone’s from Oxford or Yale or Harvard. I know this.

And yet, there was that part of me, whispering, But look at who she is. She’s an Authority. Look at all the praise she’s getting, the panels she’s on. Maybe you’re just being judgmental. Maybe you’re being too critical. Maybe you’re wrong.

Well, maybe I am wrong, but a failure to produce an honest critique because of our respective places in the academic food chain is the absolutely worst reason not to make the critique. One of my proudest moments as a teacher was when I heard that a second-year student had written a fantastic, well-researched and impeccably argued paper about how I’d been wrong about something I’d claimed in my Introduction to International Relations class. (And she was right.) We should expect all academics to live up to the same standards we set for our students.

So, no. After spending an entire work week reading this book, after taking over 100 pages of notes and thinking about it constantly for far too long afterwards, I do not believe that The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a good piece of scholarship. It is not careful in its presentation of evidence. It chooses hyperbole over accuracy. It fails to engage with the relevant literatures and critical voices that would challenge what ends up being a one-sided, almost existentially bleak argument.

Its lack of engagement with the relevant literatures makes possible the blind spots, trenchantly catalogued by Morozov, regarding surveillance capitalism’s relationship to capitalism, as well as those regarding the role of the state as something more than a bit player in this epic story. These impair the book’s value in terms of its analysis and, as Morozov’s comments about Zuboff’s failure to consider the “capitalism” part of “surveillance capitalism” suggest, its prescriptions. Why the book … [more]
blaynehaggart  shoshanazuboff  evgneymorozov  criticsm  surveillancecapitalism  mnagerialism  harvard  pedigree  academia  hierarchy  criticism  robertcox  highered  highereducation  michelfoucault  hannaharendt  hyperbole  2019  hegemony  technology  economics  politics  policy  scholarship  authority  elitism 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ben Tarnoff on Twitter: "Zuboff is a giant, and I am learning a lot from her new book. But I would respectfully dissent from her view, expressed both here and in her book, that "surveillance capitalism" is a radically worse form of capitalism than the one
"Zuboff is a giant, and I am learning a lot from her new book. But I would respectfully dissent from her view, expressed both here and in her book, that "surveillance capitalism" is a radically worse form of capitalism than the one that preceded it. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

In her book, she describes SC as a "rogue capitalism" that "abandon[s] capitalism's reciprocities with people and society" and exceeds “the historical norms of capitalist ambitions" by "claiming dominion over [new] human, societal, and political territories."

But I'm not sure that this reciprocity-oriented, not-too-ambitious Good Capitalism ever existed. Or if it did, it only existed briefly, during the postwar era of social-democratic compromise made possible by lots of class struggle.

Instead of defining SC as a "rogue capitalism," I think it's more useful to see SC (or data/informational/platform/etc capitalism) as a new mode of capital accumulation *within* capitalism that helps manage/displace certain contradictions.

This view has two advantages, I think. The first is that it gives us a clearer understanding of how SC works by emphasizing its continuities with other modes of accumulation ("cheap nature," imperialism, accumulation by dispossession, good old exploitation, etc).

The second is that I think it gives us a clearer understanding of what's wrong with SC. In her book, I find that Zuboff often spiritualizes the harms inflicted by SC, speaking of the damage done to "human nature" rather than the damage done to actual humans.

In sum, I think SC is bad because of what it (and capitalism as a whole) does to historically specific humans: it dispossesses and exploits, depletes the social and ecological resources on which we depend, and robs us of our free time. Onward to the abolition of the value form!"

[via:
"Thread. Been thinking about this a lot. Still need to read the book and work through the ideas, but the notion that SC is a perverted form of capitalism (rather than capitalism itself being the problem) isn’t one that resonates with me." [quoting the first tweet in the thread above]
https://twitter.com/hypervisible/status/1087733174988345344

"One of the other problems is it seems to play up the “nobody could have seen this coming” argument, which overlooks the many social critics who pretty explicitly warned about all of this."
https://twitter.com/libshipwreck/status/1087737924538503169

"Oh wow. Yeah that's not good (or accurate). It would be ironic if the book length treatment is the thing that moves me away from using the term."
https://twitter.com/hypervisible/status/1087738194471411712

"She doesn't even actually argue that strange distinction. It feels very much like a "Hey, your privilege is showing" kind of moment."
https://twitter.com/tante/status/1087733729261506564

"I've been arguing for a while that the critique of "surveillance" or "data" capitalism is largely a reaction by the bourgeoisie who is faced with similar vectors of exploitation and discrimination working class people have been living with for decades"
https://twitter.com/tante/status/1087734134867410947

"I come from a working class background and to me that train of thought feels kinda "Yeah, that's how our lives have been for ages, nice for you rich people to join us""
https://twitter.com/tante/status/1087734471191867392

"Black person here! Truth!"
https://twitter.com/hypervisible/status/1087734830626934784

"I spent an evening arguing with Prof. Zuboff about her thesis a year or so ago, and basically she isn't arguing against capitalism, and in fact thinks that the solution to the problem of 'surveillance capitalism' lies within democratic capitalism."
https://twitter.com/murakamiwood/status/1087736107784122368

"I agree with this dissent, which echoes prior scholarly critiques of Zuboff's earlier important work, which similarly misrepresents technological formations as if they are triggers of fundamentally new forms of capitalism."
https://twitter.com/ltaub/status/1087735610872352769 ]
bentarnoff  2019  capitalism  surveillance  siliconvalley  technology  surveillancecapitalism  data  class  exploitation  history  shoshanazuboff 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology | Ryan Boren
"The marketing of mindsets is everywhere. Grit, growth mindset, project-based mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, innovator’s mindset, and a raft of canned social-emotional skills programs are vying for public money. These notions jump straight from psychology departments to aphoristic word images shared on social media and marketing festooned on school walls.

Growth mindset and Positive Behavior Support marketing have joined Leader in Me marketing at our elementary school. Instead of being peppered with synergy and Franklin Covey’s trademarks and proprietary jargon, we’re now peppered with LiM and growth mindset and PBS. Like every marketed mindset going back to the self-esteem movement, these campaigns are veneers on the deficit model that ignore long-standing structural problems like poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and childism. The practice and implementation of these mindsets are always suborned by deficit ideology, bootstrap ideology, meritocracy myths, and greed.

“Money Doesn’t Have to Be an Obstacle,” “Race Doesn’t Matter,” “Just Work Harder,” “Everyone Can Go to College,” and “If You Believe, Your Dreams Will Come True.” These notions have helped fueled inequity in the U.S. public education system. Mindset marketing without structural ideology, restorative practices, and inclusion is more harmful than helpful. This marketing shifts responsibility for change from our systems to children. We define kids’ identities through the deficit and medical models, gloss over the structural problems they face, and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset. This is a gaslighting. It is abusive.

Canned social-emotional skills programs, behaviorism, and the marketing of mindsets have serious side effects. They reinforce the cult of compliance and encourage submission to authoritarian rule. They line the pockets of charlatans and profiteers. They encourage surveillance and avaricious data collection. Deficit model capitalism’s data-based obsession proliferates hucksterism and turn kids into someone’s business model. The behaviorism of PBS is of the mindset of abusers and manipulators. It is ideological and intellectual kin with ABA, which autistic people have roundly rejected as abusive, coercive, and manipulative torture. We call it autistic conversion therapy. The misbehavior of behaviorism is an ongoing harm.

Instead, acknowledge pipeline problems and the meritocracy myth, stop bikeshedding the structural problems of the deficit model, and stop blaming kids and families. Develop a school culture based not on deficit ideologies and cargo cult shrink wrap, but on diversity & inclusion, neurodiversity, the social model of disability, structural ideology, and indie ed-tech. Get rid of extrinsics, and adopt instead the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Provide fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of time for major muscle movement instead of mindset bandages for the pathologies caused by the lack of these three critical things.

“Self-esteem that’s based on external sources has mental health consequences.” Stop propagating the latest deficit/bootstrap/behaviorism fads. Develop the critical capacity to see beyond the marketing. Look beyond deficit model compliance to social model inclusion. The social model and structural ideology are the way forward. Growth mindset and behaviorism, as usually implemented, are just more bootstrap metaphors that excuse systems from changing and learning.

Deficit ideology, surveillance capitalism, mindset marketing, and behaviorism are an unholy alliance. Fix injustice, not kids. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.”"
ryanboren2017  mindset  marketing  behavior  behaviorism  deficitideology  disabilities  disability  race  education  learning  grit  growthmindset  projectbasedlearning  entrepreneurship  innovation  psychology  racism  poverty  sexism  bootstrapping  meritocracy  greed  childism  ableism  socialemotional  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  capitalism  health  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  diversity  inclusion  neurodiversity  edtech  autonomy  mastery  purpose  self-esteem  compliance  socialemotionallearning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Equitable Schools for a Sustainable World - Long View on Education
"“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.” bell hooks

Instead of writing a review of Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski, I want to try reading it differently, from back to front. I’ll start with the last topic, equity, and then proceed to talk about: innovation, boredom, learning, economics, and information literacy. But first, I want to touch on the book’s epigraph: Seth Godin tells us to “Make schools different.”

Different is an interesting word. It’s certainly a different word from what people have used to call for educational transformation in the past. If we were to draw up teams about educational change, I’m confident that McLeod, Shareski, and I would all be against the authoritarian ‘no excuses’ strand of reform that fears student agency. We’re also for meaningful engagement over glittery entertainment.

Yet, we also part ways very quickly in how we frame our arguments. They argue that we should “adapt learning and teaching environments to the demands of the 21st Century.” Our “changing, increasingly connected world” speeds ahead, but “most of our classrooms fail to change in response to it.” I start from a different position, one that questions how the demands of the 21st Century fit with the project of equity."



"What makes McLeod and Shareski’s take different from the long history of arguments about schools? Here’s their answer:

“In some respects, the concerns in this book are no different from the concerns of the authors of A Nation at Risk… We agree schools need to change, but that change should have to do with a school’s relevance, not just with its achievement scores.”

I think that relevance is exactly the right word, but we must ask relevant to what?

Their answer is the “demands of the 21st Century” that come from “shifting from an industrial mode to a global model and innovation model.” In Godin’s book, he presents the data center as a source of individual opportunity. While that can be true, the number of well-paying jobs at Google and Youtube stars will always be limited. Freedom of expression and civic participation can’t flourish in an age of economic precarity.

So what are the alternatives?

Jennifer M. Silva writes a counter-narrative to the worship of self-sufficiency and competition, and exposes “the hidden injuries of risk”, which often lead to isolation, a hardening of the self, and tragedy. One of her interview subjects died because she lacked affordable health-care.

What Silva finds is that “working-class young adults… feel a sense of powerlessness and mystification towards the institutions that order their lives. Over and over again, they learn that choice is simply an illusion.” Writing in a global context, (2014), Alcinda Honwana gives a name – waithood – to this experience of youth who are “no longer children in need of care, but … are still unable to become independent adults.” Honwana explicitly rejects the idea that waithood represents a “failed transition on the part of the youth themselves,” and she carefully documents the agency of the youth she interviewed in South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Mozambique.
“Young people I interviewed showed strong awareness of the broader socio-economic and political environments that affect their lives. They are acutely conscious of their marginal structural position and they despise and rebel against the abuse and corruption that they observe as the elites in power get richer and they become poorer … They are critical of unsound economic policies that focus on growth but do not enlarge the productive base by creating more jobs.”

There’s no sustainable future in Western countries measuring educational success by the extent to which they out-compete the globalized Other. In her conclusion, Silva presents Wally, who is like her other working-class interview subjects in every respect except his political activism, as a token of hope. Instead of privatizing his problems, he is able to translate them into political issues. The alternative lies not in making schools different, but making the world ‘different’, sustainable, and just."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  equality  equity  socialjustice  schools  sustainability  education  children  economics  globalization  competition  bellhooks  scottmcleod  deanshareski  litercy  infoliteracy  sethgodin  capitalism  digitalredlining  digitaldivide  chrisgilliard  marianamazzucato  hajoonchang  innovation  labor  work  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  jordanweissman  aliciarobb  carljames  race  class  boredom  richardelmore  mikeschmoker  robertpianta  johngoodlad  engagement  passivity  criticism  learning  howwelearn  technology  johndewey  democracy  efficiency  davidsnedden  neoliberalism  richardflorida  tonyagner  erikbrynjolfsson  andremcafee  carlbenediktfrey  michaelosborne  davidautor  inequality  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  shoshanazuboff  jonathanalbright  henrygiroux  jennifersilva  alcindahonwana  change  precarity 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Frontier notes on metaphors: the digital as landscape and playground - Long View on Education
"I am concerned with the broader class of metaphors that suggest the Internet is an inert and open place for us to roam. Scott McLeod often uses the metaphor of a ‘landscape’: “One of schools’ primary tasks is to help students master the dominant information landscape of their time.”

McLeod’s central metaphor – mastering the information landscape – fits into a larger historical narrative that depicts the Internet as a commons in the sense of “communally-held space, one which it is specifically inappropriate for any single individual or subset of the community (including governments) to own or control.” Adriane Lapointe continues, “The internet is compared to a landscape which can be used in various ways by a wide range of people for whatever purpose they please, so long as their actions do not interfere with the actions of others.”

I suspect that the landscape metaphor resonates with people because it captures how they feel the Internet should work. Sarah T. Roberts argues that we are tempted to imagine the digital as “valueless, politically neutral and as being without material consequences.” However, the digital information landscape is an artifact shaped by capitalism, the US military, and corporate power. It’s a landscape that actively tracks and targets us, buys and sells our information. And it’s mastered only by the corporations, CEOs and venture capitalists.

Be brave? I have no idea what it would mean to teach students how to ‘master’ the digital landscape. The idea of ‘mastering’ recalls the popular frontier and pioneer metaphors that have fallen out of fashion since 1990s as the Internet became ubiquitous, as Jan Rune Holmevik notes. There is of course a longer history of the “frontiers of knowledge” metaphor going back to Francis Bacon and passing through Vannevar Bush, and thinking this way has become, according to Gregory Ulmer, “ubiquitous, a reflex, a habit of mind that shapes much of our thinking about inquiry” – and one that needs to be rethought if we take the postcolonial movement seriously.

While we might worry about being alert online, we aren’t exposed to enough stories about the physical and material implications of the digital. It’s far too easy to think that the online landscape exists only on our screens, never intersecting with the physical landscape in which we live. Yet, the Washington Post reports that in order to pave the way for new data centers, “the Prince William County neighborhood [in Virginia] of mostly elderly African American homeowners is being threatened by plans for a 38-acre computer data center that will be built nearby. The project requires the installation of 100-foot-high towers carrying 230,000-volt power lines through their land. The State Corporation Commission authorized Dominion Virginia Power in late June to seize land through eminent domain to make room for the towers.” In this case, the digital is transforming the physical landscape with hostile indifference to the people that live there.

Our students cannot be digitally literate citizens if they don’t know stories about the material implications about the digital. Cathy O’Neil has developed an apt metaphor for algorithms and data – Weapons of Math Destruction – which have the potential to destroy lives because they feed on systemic biases. In her book, O’Neil explains that while attorneys cannot cite the neighborhood people live in as a reason to deny prisoners parole, it is permissible to package that judgment into an algorithm that generates a prediction of recidivism."



"When I talk to students about the implications of their searches being tracked, I have no easy answers for them. How can youth use the net for empowerment when there’s always the possibility that their queries will count against them? Yes, we can use google to ask frank questions about our sexuality, diet, and body – or any of the other ways we worry about being ‘normal’ – but when we do so, we do not wander a non-invasive landscape. And there few cues that we need to be alert or smart.

Our starting point should not be the guiding metaphors of the digital as a playground where we need to practice safety or a landscape that we can master, but Shoshana Zuboff’s analysis of surveillance capitalism: “The game is selling access to the real-time flow of your daily life –your reality—in order to directly influence and modify your behavior for profit. This is the gateway to a new universe of monetization opportunities: restaurants who want to be your destination. Service vendors who want to fix your brake pads. Shops who will lure you like the fabled Sirens.”



So what do we teach students? I think that Chris Gilliard provides the right pedagogical insight to end on:
Students are often surprised (and even angered) to learn the degree to which they are digitally redlined, surveilled, and profiled on the web and to find out that educational systems are looking to replicate many of those worst practices in the name of “efficiency,” “engagement,” or “improved outcomes.” Students don’t know any other web—or, for that matter, have any notion of a web that would be different from the one we have now. Many teachers have at least heard about a web that didn’t spy on users, a web that was (theoretically at least) about connecting not through platforms but through interfaces where individuals had a significant amount of choice in saying how the web looked and what was shared. A big part of the teaching that I do is to tell students: “It’s not supposed to be like this” or “It doesn’t have to be like this.”
"
banjamindoxtdator  2017  landscapes  playgrounds  georgelakoff  markjohnson  treborscolz  digitalcitizenship  internet  web  online  mckenziewark  privacy  security  labor  playbor  daphnedragona  gamification  uber  work  scottmcleod  adrianelapointe  sarahroberts  janruneholmevik  vannevabush  gregoryulmer  francisbacon  chrisgilliard  pedagogy  criticalthinking  shoshanazuboff  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  safiyanoble  google  googleglass  cathyo'neil  algorithms  data  bigdata  redlining  postcolonialism  race  racism  criticaltheory  criticalpedagogy  bias 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Shoshan Zuboff on “Big Data” as Surveillance Capitalism
"VII. HOW TO CONSTRUCT A FUTURE THAT WE CAN CALL HOME

Why is it that the declaration of surveillance capitalism has met so little resistance? Searle’s reasoning is a good guide. Agreement? Yes, there were and are plenty of people who think surveillance capitalism is a reasonable business model. (We’ll have to leave why they think so to another discussion.) Authority? Yes. The tech leaders have been imbued with the authority of expertise and idolized as entrepreneurs. Persuasion? Absolutely. All the neoliberal buzzwords of entrepreneurialism, creative destruction, disruption, etc. persuaded many that these developments were right and necessary. A quid pro quo? Yes, powerfully so. The new free services of search and connection were exactly what we needed and have become essential to social participation. When Facebook went down last month, a lot of Americans called 911 (emergency services).

Was there any use of force or other means to foreclose alternatives? No military force was needed. Instead, as the new logic became the dominant business model for online companies and start-ups, it spawned millions of related institutionalized facts— ancillary and intermediary business services, professional specializations, new language, IPOs, tons of cash, network effects, unprecedented concentrations of information power. All these limit our sense that there can be any alternative. And finally, how about a lack of understanding? This is the most salient reason of all. Most people did not and could not appreciate the extent to which the new “facts” depended upon surveillance. This colossal asymmetry of understanding helps explain why Edward Snowden was necessary. Somebody had to be Ed Snowden

What kind of resistance has been offered and why has it failed to stop the spread of surveillance capitalism? Here I depart from Searle in order to introduce two distinct varieties of declaration that I think can help us understand more about how the future unfolds. I suggest that the kind of resistance that has been offered so far takes the form of what I call the “counter-declaration.” A counter-declaration is defensive. It addresses the institutional facts asserted by the declaration. The process of countering seeks to impose constraints or achieve compromise, but it does not annihilate the contested fact. In addressing those facts, it invariably increases their power. Negotiation inevitably legitimates the other. This is why many governments refuse to negotiate with terrorists. As Searle noted, even talking about something or referring to it increases its reality by treating it as a thing that is already real. It’s a classic quick-sand situation in that the more you fight it, the more it sucks you in.

What are examples of counter-declarations? Google and other Internet companies have been the targets of many privacy-related lawsuits. Some of these efforts have imposed real constraints, such as prohibiting Google Street View cars to extract personal data from computers inside homes, or the class action that resulted in Facebook’s suspension of its invasive “Beacon” program. Legal actions like these can limit certain practices for a time, but they do not topple the institutionalized facts of surveillance capitalism in the target or other companies. Encryption is another counter-declaration. When we encrypt, we acknowledge the reality of the thing we are trying to evade. Rather than undoing that reality, encryption ignites an arms race with the very thing it disputes. Privacy tools like “opt out” or “do not track” are another example. When I click on “do not track,” what I am really saying is “do not track me.” My choice does not stop the company from tracking everyone else.

I want to be clear that I am not critical of counter-declarations. They are necessary and vital. We need more of them. But the point I do want to make is that counter-declarations alone will not stop this train. They run a race that they can never win. They may lead to a balance of power, but they will not in and of themselves construct an alternative to surveillance capitalism.

What will enable us to move forward in a new way? As I see it, we will have to move on to a new kind of declaration that I am calling a “synthetic declaration.” By this I mean a declaration that synthesizes the opposing facts of declaration and counter-declaration. It arises from— and draws to it —new and deeper wellsprings of collective intentionality. It asserts an original vision. If the counter-declaration is check, the synthetic declaration is checkmate.

Does information capitalism have to be based on surveillance. No. But surveillance capitalism has emerged as a leading version of information capitalism. We need new synthetic declarations to define and support other variants of information capitalism that participate in the social order, value people, and reflect democratic principles. New synthetic declarations can provide the framework for a new kind of double movement appropriate to our time.

Are there examples? There are glimmers. The past year brought us Ed Snowden, who asserted a new reality at great personal sacrifice by claiming this to be a world in which the information he provided should be shared information. Wikileaks has also operated in this spirit. The EU Court’s decision on the right to be forgotten points in the direction of a synthetic declaration by establishing new facts for the online world. (In my view, it also faltered, perhaps inadvertently, by also establishing new facts that grant Google inappropriate new powers.

Mathias Doepfner’s open letter to Google chairperson Eric Schmidt, published in FAZ last spring, called for a synthetic declaration in the form of a unique European narrative of the digital, one that is not subjugated to the institutional facts asserted by the Internet giants.

Indeed, I think it can be said that the German people are now drawing on their unique historical experience to produce their own synthetic declaration that insists on a different kind of digital future. Note that The Economist just published an article titled “Googlephobia in Germany.” The aim of such language is to suggest that it’s neurotic and therefore irrational to oppose Google’s practices. It’s a classic counter-declaration that reveals the powerful effect of Germany’s new thinking. The real fear is that Germany might produce a synthetic declaration that opens a space for alternative forms of information capitalism to flourish.

I am mindful of a long list of demands that were damned as “neurotic” and unreasonable in America a century ago, as the contest over 20th century capitalism accelerated: labor unions, a living wage, business regulation, racial equality, womens’ right to vote, a high school education…. For anyone who thinks Germany’s concerns are “phobic,” one need only recall the revelations less than a year ago that the NSA was spying on Joaquin Almunia, the EU official who presides over the Google antitrust case. Or the recently published emails that provide fresh glimpses of the collaborative relationship between the NSA and Google. And should we mention that Google’s chairperson, Schmidt, also sits on the board of the Economist Group?

Our world sorely needs more —and more comprehensive—synthetic declarations that point us in a wholly new direction. We need new facts that assert the primacy of humanity, the dignity of the person, the bonds of democratic community strengthened by individual empowerment and knowledge, and the well being of our planet. This does not mean that we should construct utopias. Rather, it means that we should draw upon the authentic promise of the digital— the promise that we grasped before Ed Snowden entered history.

In the shadow and gloom of today’s institutional facts, it has become fashionable to mourn the passing of the democratic era. I say that democracy is the best our species has created so far, and woe to us if we abandon it now. The real road to serfdom is to be persuaded that the declarations of democracy we have inherited are no longer relevant to a digital future. These have been inscribed in our souls, and if we leave them behind— we abandon the best part of ourselves. If you doubt me, try living without them, as I have done. That is the real wasteland, and we should fear it."
soshanazuboff  via:steelemaley  2014  bigdata  declarations  internet  web  online  edwardsnowden  joaquinalmunia  hannaharendt  hamesburnham  frankschirrmacher  germany  europe  advertising  capitalism  surveillancecapitalism  surveillance  privacy  democracy  counterdeclarations  feedom  courage  law  legal  dataexhaust  data  datamining  google 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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