recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : venturecapital   18

The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2018)
"It’s been quite a year for education news, not that you’d know that by listening to much of the ed-tech industry (press). Subsidized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, some publications have repeatedly run overtly and covertly sponsored articles that hawk the future of learning as “personalized,” as focused on “the whole child.” Some of these attempt to stretch a contemporary high-tech vision of social emotional surveillance so it can map onto a strange vision of progressive education, overlooking no doubt how the history of progressive education has so often been intertwined with race science and eugenics.

Meanwhile this year, immigrant, refugee children at the United States border were separated from their parents and kept in cages, deprived of legal counsel, deprived of access to education, deprived in some cases of water.

“Whole child” and cages – it’s hardly the only jarring juxtaposition I could point to.

2018 was another year of #MeToo, when revelations about sexual assault and sexual harassment shook almost every section of society – the media and the tech industries, unsurprisingly, but the education sector as well – higher ed, K–12, and non-profits alike, as well school sports all saw major and devastating reports about cultures and patterns of sexual violence. These behaviors were, once again, part of the hearings and debates about a Supreme Court Justice nominee – a sickening deja vu not only for those of us that remember Anita Hill ’s testimony decades ago but for those of us who have experienced something similar at the hands of powerful people. And on and on and on.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) kept up with its rosy repetition that social equality is surely its priority, a product feature even – that VR, for example, a technology it has for so long promised is “on the horizon,” is poised to help everyone, particularly teachers and students, become more empathetic. Meanwhile, the founder of Oculus Rift is now selling surveillance technology for a virtual border wall between the US and Mexico.

2018 was a year in which public school teachers all over the US rose up in protest over pay, working conditions, and funding, striking in red states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma despite an anti-union ruling by the Supreme Court.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) was wowed by teacher influencers and teacher PD on Instagram, touting the promise for more income via a side-hustle like tutoring rather by structural or institutional agitation. Don’t worry, teachers. Robots won’t replace you, the press repeatedly said. Unsaid: robots will just de-professionalize, outsource, or privatize the work. Or, as the AI makers like to say, robots will make us all work harder (and no doubt, with no unions, cheaper).

2018 was a year of ongoing and increased hate speech and bullying – racism and anti-Semitism – on campuses and online.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still maintained that blockchain would surely revolutionize the transcript and help insure that no one lies about who they are or what they know. Blockchain would enhance “smart spending” and teach financial literacy, the ed-tech industry (press) insisted, never once mentioning the deep entanglements between anti-Semitism and the alt-right and blockchain (specifically Bitcoin) backers.

2018 was a year in which hate and misinformation, magnified and spread by technology giants, continued to plague the world. Their algorithmic recommendation engines peddled conspiracy theories (to kids, to teens, to adults). “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer” as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci put it in a NYT op-ed.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still talked about YouTube as the future of education, cheerfully highlighting (that is, spreading) its viral bullshit. Folks still retyped the press releases Google issued and retyped the press releases Facebook issued, lauding these companies’ (and their founders’) efforts to reshape the curriculum and reshape the classroom.

This is the ninth year that I’ve reviewed the stories we’re being told about education technology. Typically, this has been a ten (or more) part series. But I just can’t do it any more. Some people think it’s hilarious that I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra, but it’s not funny at all. It’s depressing, and it’s painful. And no one fucking listens.

If I look back at what I’ve written in previous years, I feel like I’ve already covered everything I could say about 2018. Hell, I’ve already written about the whole notion of the “zombie idea” in ed-tech – that bad ideas never seem to go away, that just get rebranded and repackaged. I’ve written about misinformation and ed-tech (and ed-tech as misinformation). I’ve written about the innovation gospel that makes people pitch dangerously bad ideas like “Uber for education” or “Alexa for babysitting.” I’ve written about the tech industry’s attempts to reshape the school system as its personal job training provider. I’ve written about the promise to “rethink the transcript” and to “revolutionize credentialing.” I’ve written about outsourcing and online education. I’ve written about coding bootcamps as the “new” for-profit higher ed, with all the exploitation that entails. I’ve written about the dangers of data collection and data analysis, about the loss of privacy and the lack of security.

And yet here we are, with Mark Zuckerberg – education philanthropist and investor – blinking before Congress, promising that AI will fix everything, while the biased algorithms keep churning out bias, while the education/technology industry (press) continues to be so blinded by “disruption” it doesn’t notice (or care) what’s happened to desegregation, and with so many data breaches and privacy gaffes that they barely make headlines anymore.

Folks. I’m done.

I’m also writing a book, and frankly that’s where my time and energy is going.

There is some delicious irony, I suppose, in the fact that there isn’t much that’s interesting or “innovative” to talk about in ed-tech, particularly since industry folks want to sell us on the story that tech is moving faster than it’s ever moved before, so fast in fact that the ol’ factory model school system simply cannot keep up.

I’ve always considered these year-in-review articles to be mini-histories of sorts – history of the very, very recent past. Now, instead, I plan to spend my time taking a longer, deeper look at the history of education technology, with particular attention for the next few months, as the title of my book suggests, to teaching machines – to the promises that machines will augment, automate, standardize, and individualize instruction. My focus is on the teaching machines of the mid-twentieth century, but clearly there are echoes – echoes of behaviorism and personalization, namely – still today.

In his 1954 book La Technique (published in English a decade later as The Technological Society), the sociologist Jacques Ellul observes how education had become oriented towards creating technicians, less interested in intellectual development than in personality development – a new “psychopedagogy” that he links to Maria Montessori. “The human brain must be made to conform to the much more advanced brain of the machine,” Ellul writes. “And education will no longer be an unpredictable and exciting adventure in human enlightenment , but an exercise in conformity and apprenticeship to whatever gadgetry is useful in a technical world.” I believe today we call this "social emotional learning" and once again (and so insistently by the ed-tech press and its billionaire backers), Montessori’s name is invoked as the key to preparing students for their place in the technological society.

Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.

This is the only good grit:

[image of Gritty]

If I were writing a lengthier series on the year in ed-tech, I’d spend much more time talking about the promises made about personalization and social emotional learning. I’ll just note here that the most important “innovator” in this area this year (other than Gritty) was surely the e-cigarette maker Juul, which offered a mindfulness curriculum to schools – offered them the curriculum and $20,000, that is – to talk about vaping. “‘The message: Our thoughts are powerful and can set action in motion,’ the lesson plan states.”

The most important event in ed-tech this year might have occurred on February 14, when a gunman opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 others. (I chose this particular school shooting because of the student activism it unleashed.)

Oh, I know, I know – school shootings and school security aren’t ed-tech, ed-tech evangelists have long tried to insist, an argument I’ve heard far too often. But this year – the worst year on record for school shootings (according to some calculations) – I think that argument started to shift a bit. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools “security” products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, … [more]
audreywatters  education  technology  edtech  2018  surveillance  privacy  personalization  progressive  schools  quantification  gamification  wholechild  montessori  mariamontessori  eugenics  psychology  siliconvalley  history  venturecapital  highereducation  highered  guns  gunviolence  children  youth  teens  shootings  money  influence  policy  politics  society  economics  capitalism  mindfulness  juul  marketing  gritty  innovation  genetics  psychotechnologies  gender  race  racism  sexism  research  socialemotional  psychopedagogy  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  learning  howwelearn  teachingmachines  nonprofits  nonprofit  media  journalism  access  donaldtrump  bias  algorithms  facebook  amazon  disruption  data  bigdata  security  jacquesellul  sociology  activism  sel  socialemotionallearning 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Unexotic Underclass | The MIT Entrepreneurship Review
"The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics, investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it. I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere. In short, they contend that too many brains and dollars have been shoveled into resolving what I call ‘anti-problems’ – interests usually centered about food or fashion or ‘social’or gaming. Something an anti-problem company might develop is an app that provides restaurant recommendations based on your blood type, a picture of your childhood pet, the music preferences of your 3 best friends, and the barometric pressure of the nearest city beginning with the letter Q. (That such an app does not yet exist is reminder still of how impoverished a state American scientific education has descended. Weep not! We redouble our calls for more STEM funding.)

On the other side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that there are too many folks resolving anti-problems… BUT just to be on the safe side, the venture capitalists should keep pumping tons of money into those anti-problem entrepreneurs because you never know when some corporate leviathan – Google, Facebook, Yahoo! – will come along and buy what yesterday looked like a nonsense app and today is still a nonsense app, but a nonsense app that can walk a bit taller, held aloft by the insanities of American exceptionalism. For not only is our sucker birthrate still high in this country (one every minute, baby!), but our suckers are capitalists bearing fat checks.

On the other other side, a side that receives scant attention, scanter investment, is where big problems – little b, little p – reside. Here, you’ll find a group I’ll refer to as the unexotic underclass. It’s rather quiet in these parts, except during campaign season when the politicians stop by to scrape anecdotes off the skin of someone else’s suffering. Let’s see who’s here.

To your left are single mothers, 80% of whom, according to the US Census, are poor or hovering on the nasty edges of working poverty. They are struggling to raise their kids in a country that seems to conspire against any semblance of proper rearing: a lack of flexibility in the workplace; a lack of free or affordable after-school programs; an abysmal public education system where a testing-mad, criminally-deficient curriculum is taught during a too-short school day; an inescapable lurid wallpaper of sex and violence that covers every surface of society; a cultural disregard for intelligence, empathy and respect; a cultural imperative to look hot, spend money and own the latest “it”-device (or should I say i-device) no matter what it costs, no matter how little money Mum may have.

Slightly to the right, are your veterans of two ongoing wars in the Middle East. Wait, we’re at war? Some of these veterans, having served multiple tours, are returning from combat with all manner of monstrosities ravaging their heads and bodies. If that weren’t enough, welcome back, dear vets, to a flaccid economy, where your military training makes you invisible to an invisible hand that rewards only those of us who are young and expensively educated.

Welcome back to a 9-month wait for medical benefits. According to investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who was embedded in Iraq, and has now authored The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle against America’s Veterans, 9 months is the average amount of time a veteran waits for his or her disability claim to be processed after having filed their paperwork. And by ‘filed their paperwork,’ I mean it literally: veterans are sending bundles of papers to some bureaucratic Dantean capharnaum run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where, by its own admission, it processes 97% of its claims by hand, stacking them in heaps on tables and in cabinets.

In the past 5 years, the number of vets who’ve died before their claim has even been processed has tripled. This is America in 2013: 40 years ago we put a man on the moon; today a young lady in New York can use anti-problem technology if she wishes to line up a date this Friday choosing only from men who are taller than 6 feet, graduated from an Ivy, live within 10 blocks of Gramercy, and play tennis left-handed…

…And yet, veterans who’ve returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have to wait roughly 270 days (up to 600 in New York and California) to receive the help — medical, moral, financial – which they urgently need, to which they are honorably entitled, after having fought our battles overseas.

Technology, indeed, is solving the right problems.

Let’s keep walking. Meet the people who have the indignity of being over 50 and finding themselves suddenly jobless. These are the Untouchables of the new American workforce: 3+ decades of employment and experience have disqualified them from ever seeing a regular salary again. Once upon a time, some modicum of employer noblesse oblige would have ensured that loyal older workers be retained or at the very least retrained, MBA advice be damned. But, “A bas les vieux!” the fancy consultants cried, and out went those who were ‘no longer fresh.’ As Taylor Swift would put it, corporate America and the Boomer worker “are never ever getting back together.” Instead bring in the young, the childless, the tech-savvy here in America, and the underpaid and quasi-indentured abroad willing to work for slightly north of nothing in the kinds of conditions we abolished in the 19th century.

For, in the 21st century, a prosperous American business is a soaring 2-storied cake: 1 management layer at top thick with perks, golden parachutes, stock options, and a total disregard for those beneath them; 1 layer below of increasingly foreign workers (If you’re lucky, you trained these people before you were laid off!), who can’t even depend on their jobs because as we speak, those sameself consultants – but no one that we know of course — are scouring the globe for the cheapest labor opportunities, fulfilling their promise that no CEO be left behind.

Above all of this, the frosting on the cake, the nec plus ultra of evolutionary corporate accomplishment: the Director of Social Media. This is the 20-year old whose role it is to “leverage social media to deliver a seamless authentic experience across multiple digital streams to strategic partners and communities.” In other words, this person gets paid six figures to send out tweets. But again, no one that we know.

Time and space and my own sheltered upbringing defend me from giving you the whole tour of the unexotic underclass, but trust that it is big, and only getting bigger."



"There’s nothing wrong with the entrepreneurship-as-salvation gospel. Nothing wrong with teaching more people to code. But it’s impractical in the short term, and misses the greater point in the long term: We shouldn’t live in a universe of solipsistic startups… where I start a company and produce things only for myself and for people who resemble me. Let’s be honest. Very few of us are members of this unexotic underclass. Very few of us even know anyone who’s in it. There’s no shame in that. That we have sailed on a yacht of good fortune most of our lives — supportive generous families, a stable peaceful democracy, excellent schooling, prestigious careers and companies, relatively good health – is nothing to be ashamed of. Consider yourselves remarkably blessed."



"When I look at the bulk of startups today – while there are notable exceptions (Code for America for example, which invites local governments to request technology help from teams of coders) – it doesn’t seem like we’ve aspired to something nobler: it just looks like we’ve shifted the malpractice from feeding the money machine to making inane, self-centric apps. Worse, is that the power players, institutional and individual — the highflying VCs, the entrepreneurship incubators, the top-ranked MBA programs, the accelerators, the universities, the business plan competitions have been complicit in this nonsense.

Those who are entrepreneurially-minded but young and idea-poor need serious direction from those who are rich in capital and connections. We see what ideas are getting funded, we see money flowing like the river Ganges towards insipid me-too products, so is it crazy that we’ve been thinking small? building smaller? that our “blood and judgment” to quote Hamlet, have not been “so well commingled?”

We need someone bold (and older than us) to stand up for Big Problems which are tough and dirty. But what we especially need is someone to stand up for big problems – little b, little p –which are tough and dirty and too easy to overlook.

We need:

A Ron Conway, a Fred Wilson-type at the venture level to say, ‘Kiddies, basta with this bull*%!..  This year we’re only investing in companies targeting the unexotic underclass.”

A Paul Graham and his Y Combinator at the incubator level, to devote one season to the underclass, be it veterans, single moms or overworked young doctors, Native Americans, the list is long:  “Help these entrepreneurs build something that will help you.”

The head of an MIT or an HBS or a Stanford Law at the academic level, to tell the entire incoming class: “You are lucky to be some of the best engineering and business and law students, not just in the country, but in the world.  And as an end-of-year project, you are going to use that talent to develop … [more]
creativity  entrepreneurship  poverty  inequality  wickedproblems  purpose  siliconvalley  class  venturecapital  problemsolving  economics  capitalism  work  labor  unemployment  veterans  via:sha  underclass  inequity  business  cznnaemeka  2013 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Your Job is Political: Tech Money in Politics
"Tech companies have made a lot of people very rich. A few fortunes have been made through profits off of sales but most of them come from profits from a large "exit event": an IPO or sale. Profits are split between shareholders, which usually includes some employees but is composed mainly of outside investors, both people and firms. We call early stage investors--who usually take very large percentages of ownership in return for the risk of investing in an unknown--venture capitalists or VCs. When we work at tech companies, our labor is going to grow the investment these people have made. When those investments do pay off, more & more of these obscenely rich people have been spending their money on political campaigns and races. I gave a talk at JSFest Oakland exploring some of the issues they're spending it on and what we might see in the future; this is the cleaned-up text version of that talk, with sources."
politics  money  california  kelseyinnis  2014  influence  power  sixcalifornias  corporatism  technology  siliconvalley  wealth  rockershipschools  johndanner  reedhastings  timdraper  proposition38  proposition39  privatization  schools  californianideology  venturecapital  lobbying  petewilson  greydavis  arthurrock  menloventures  accelpartners  benchmarkcapital  kleinerperkins  johndoerr  publiceducation  publicschools  vouchers  blendedlearning  edtech  ronconway  charterschools 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Convivial Tools in an Age of Surveillance
"What would convivial ed-tech look like?

The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as the Web is not some sort of safe and open and reliable and accessible and durable place. The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as though the move from institutions to networks magically scrubs away the accumulation of history and power. The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as though posting resources, reference services, peer-matching, and skill exchanges — what Illich identified as the core of his “learning webs” — are sufficient tools in the service of equity, freedom, justice, or hell, learning.

“Like the Web” is perhaps a good place to start, don’t get me wrong, particularly if this means students are in control of their own online spaces — its content, its data, its availability, its publicness. “Like the Web” is convivial, or close to it, if students are in control of their privacy, their agency, their networks, their learning. We all need to own our learning — and the analog and the digital representations or exhaust from that. Convivial tools do not reduce that to a transaction — reduce our learning to a transaction, reduce our social interactions to a transaction.

I'm not sure the phrase "safe space" is quite the right one to build alternate, progressive education technologies around, although I do think convivial tools do have to be “safe” insofar as we recognize the importance of each other’s health and well-being. Safe spaces where vulnerability isn’t a weakness for others to exploit. Safe spaces where we are free to explore, but not to the detriment of those around us. As Illich writes, "A convivial society would be the result of social arrangements that guarantee for each member the most ample and free access to the tools of the community and limit this freedom only in favor of another member’s equal freedom.”

We can’t really privilege “safe” as the crux of “convivial” if we want to push our own boundaries when it comes to curiosity, exploration, and learning. There is risk associated with learning. There’s fear and failure (although I do hate how those are being fetishized in a lot of education discussions these days, I should note.)

Perhaps what we need to build are more compassionate spaces, so that education technology isn’t in the service of surveillance, standardization, assessment, control.

Perhaps we need more brave spaces. Or at least many educators need to be braver in open, public spaces -- not brave to promote their own "brands" but brave in standing with their students. Not "protecting them” from education technology or from the open Web but not leaving them alone, and not opening them to exploitation.

Perhaps what we need to build are more consensus-building not consensus-demanding tools. Mike Caulfield gets at this in a recent keynote about “federated education.” He argues that "Wiki, as it currently stands, is a consensus *engine*. And while that’s great in the later stages of an idea, it can be deadly in those first stages.” Caulfield relates the story of the Wikipedia entry on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, which, 16 minutes after it was created, "someone – and in this case it probably matters that is was a dude – came and marked the page for deletion as trivial, or as they put it 'A non-notable article incapable of being expanded beyond a stub.’” Debate ensues on the entry’s “talk” page, until finally Jimmy Wales steps in with his vote: a “strong keep,” adding "I hope someone will create lots of articles about lots of famous dresses. I believe that our systemic bias caused by being a predominantly male geek community is worth some reflection in this context.”

Mike Caulfield has recently been exploring a different sort of wiki, also by Ward Cunningham. This one — called the Smallest Federated Wiki — doesn’t demand consensus like Wikipedia does. Not off the bat. Instead, entries — and this can be any sort of text or image or video, it doesn’t have to “look like” an encyclopedia — live on federated servers. Instead of everyone collaborating in one space on one server like a “traditional” wiki, the work is distributed. It can be copied and forked. Ideas can be shared and linked; it can be co-developed and co-edited. But there isn’t one “vote” or one official entry that is necessarily canonical.

Rather than centralized control, conviviality. This distinction between Wikipedia and Smallest Federated Wiki echoes too what Illich argued: that we need to be able to identify when our technologies become manipulative. We need "to provide guidelines for detecting the incipient stages of murderous logic in a tool; and to devise tools and tool systems that optimize the balance of life, thereby maximizing liberty for all."

Of course, we need to recognize, those of us that work in ed-tech and adopt ed-tech and talk about ed-tech and tech writ large, that convivial tools and a convivial society must go hand-in-hand. There isn’t any sort of technological fix to make education better. It’s a political problem, that is, not a technological one. We cannot come up with technologies that address systematic inequalities — those created by and reinscribed by education— unless we are willing to confront those inequalities head on. Those radical education writers of the Sixties and Seventies offered powerful diagnoses about what was wrong with schooling. The progressive education technologists of the Sixties and Seventies imagined ways in which ed-tech could work in the service of dismantling some of the drudgery and exploitation.

But where are we now? Instead we find ourselves with technologies working to make that exploitation and centralization of power even more entrenched. There must be alternatives — both within and without technology, both within and without institutions. Those of us who talk and write and teach ed-tech need to be pursuing those things, and not promoting consumption and furthering institutional and industrial control. In Illich’s words: "The crisis I have described confronts people with a choice between convivial tools and being crushed by machines.""
toolforconviviality  ivanillich  audreywatters  edtech  technology  education  2014  seymourpapert  logo  alankay  dynabook  mikecaufield  wardcunningham  web  internet  online  schools  teaching  progressive  wikipedia  smallestfederatedwiki  wikis  society  politics  policy  decentralization  surveillance  doxxing  gamergate  drm  startups  venturecapital  bigdata  neilpostman  paulofreire  paulgoodman  datapalooza  knewton  computers  computing  mindstorms  control  readwrite  everettreimer  1960s  1970s  jonathankozol  disruption  revolution  consensus  safety  bravery  courage  equity  freedom  justice  learning 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Ello | quinn
"Ello needs to make money, and that means Ello eventually needs to charge someone. So who can it charge? The only way to make the massive returns VCs like is to charge companies or governments. These are the only thing in our society rich enough to consistently feed the VC mouths. (this is why I strongly recommend against taking VC money -- it's much like adopting 15 children at once, it limits your options.) The only thing a social network can sell to companies are its users. It could work, to have Ello sponsored by X corporation for a given day or week or whatever, but in this business environment part of X corporation's demand for its money is going to be user data. So there you're back to tracking your users like everyone else. Ello could charge databrokers and governments for their user data too, but that also drives them towards being Facebook, Twitter, etc.

That leave Ello to charge their users. This is a fine business model and the one that has supported more things for most of human history. I like this model, I even pay for online services now, though not many -- not many are worth it, and they usually track me anyway. Asking users to pay allows Ello to do something no other online company is doing right now -- optimize Ello for users. This is a great advantage for Ello, because it would mean they could actually listen to users and give them an experience that would, given enough time, be so much better than the massive social networks that people would love joining Ello.

But of course this is a problem too... most users can't pay. Some people like to complain, say that we deserve to be surveiled because no one is willing to pay for anything. This is a ridiculous statement, people all over the world are paying for things every day of their lives. But until we do something about the distribution of the world's wealth, the vast majority of people, even those with internet access, will find that paying a high enough amount for it to be worthwhile for Ello to collect it will cause a real decline in their quality of life.

obligatory graph:

hmm, I can't get obligatory graph to load. I less than three you, betas. ;) Anyway.

The only people that can pay Ello right now are in that top wealth quintile, and then probably the top 2/3rds of it at best. But social networks are like languages -- they are only worthwhile when they are broadly adopted. This makes an incredibly compelling case for user tracking and adverts, since success as a broad network makes the most sense by giving network access away and then selling the people to companies. This is a hard model to escape, to be honest, and it always has been. Companies and governments are essentially colonizing the internet, extracting, monetizing, and controlling the humans therein just like they did during the colonial period, only with less physical violences. Facebook is essentially John Company.

There are only two ways I can see that Ello can escape getting crushed by the contemporary versions of John Company (which did a huge amount of crushing in its day). One is to beat them at their own game and become the next John Company/Facebook/etc, which means becoming better at colonial extraction on users -- most likely in the growth arena -- actual former colony nations. If they don't have the stomach for this kind of evil, and and I deeply hope they don't, the other way is to make far less money. To be, compared to the big VC funded players, a small business with hopeful growth over the course of decades, not quarters.

This is going to mean working out something no one has been able to yet -- differential pricing on the net. The best system of payment they could have, with a magic wand and a fairy godmother etc interceding would be to extract something like $.25 a day from users in the top billion, maybe $.05 a day from the next billion, and possibly nothing or money losing from users in the last 3 billion. The problem is that people hate differential pricing, see it as unfair, when they can see it. They can't see income inequality all the time in their houses and neighborhoods and work places, so that doesn't bother them. They can't see massive surveillance and manipulation, so that doesn't bother them. But dear god, when they see a price list with differential pricing, people go purple with rage. So that's a problem.

Nowadays there's a lot you can do with geolocating IPs, and showing people variable content based on where they are. This could mean that Ello could price based on that, and for now, I believe that's their best option. But no VC will ever accept that, and chances are if Ello has or ever will take VC, they are already dead and just don't know it yet. Their chances of beating Facebook are next to none, especially as they would have to betray everything they've said they were about, and there is no other model that could feed the VC mouth.

Introducing variable pricing, pricing on features, and multiple payment systems over time could let Ello developers make a comfortable living. But at no time in the near future would it make them .com millionaires. To make Ello compelling and free of surveillance and extraction means making a service many can use and doesn't cost too much. Eventually, wide enough adoption to be meaningful to the world means opening it up and making it a protocol other people can build businesses on that don't provide much or any revenue for Ello. It means striving to enter that most dreaded of economic states -- becoming a commodity.

Making social networking a common commodity could remake the world, like the world wide web, or vaccination did. But like the world wide web and vaccination, they aren't ever going to let Paul Budnitz become Cornelius Vanderbilt or Mark Zuckerberg. He'd have to settle for the hope that a lifetime of hard work and enough money to live could let him be Tim Berners-lee or Jonas Salk.

So, Ello, what do you want?"

[See also: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/09/hello-ello.html ]
ello  quinnnorton  2014  jonassalk  markzuckerberg  corneliusvanderbilt  vc  venturecapital  business  monetization  funding  advertising  privacy  socialmedia  variablepricing  pricing 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth of Magical Futures — Kate Losse
"Despite its (now frequently mocked) claims to meritocracy, Silicon Valley loves its hierarchies. However, because these hierarchies often look somewhat different than old-time corporate ones, they are often opaque to outsiders looking in. My book The Boy Kings is among other things a diagram of hierarchy as it was architected at Facebook in Facebook’s early years, where the closer one was to a Mark-Zuckerberg-when-he-started-Facebook combination of age, race, and gender qualities the higher one was in the hierarchy (a hierarchy that appears not to have changed much given the industry's recently released diversity data). In the past year tech's particular version of hierarchy has been more widely acknowledged and critiqued, and thus we are now in the situation where people as powerful as Peter Thiel are being asked to comment on tech’s diversity and misogyny problems, as in yesterday’s Reddit Ask Me Anything interview with Thiel.

Peter Thiel’s answer to misogyny in tech was that we need more women founders, and this answer struck me as interesting on a number of levels, and also somewhat opaque to someone looking into this world from outside. Why women founders? On the one hand, the possibility that a woman founder would construct the hierarchy at her company differently than Mark Zuckerberg is compelling. On the other, the idea of women founders as a solution to tech misogyny also makes existing male founders and investors unaccountable for misogyny as it exists today. Thiel is saying that he and his funded companies are not responsible for the misogynist environments they themselves have built, and furthermore, that they can’t fix them-- only a woman founder can.

This is a problem, because the misogynist hierarchies that exist in tech today are not mystical outcomes, but very real products of the values of the people involved at the formation of a company, which are investors and founders. Investors and board members in addition to founders influence everything from how much equity goes to individual employees, to perks and play budgets (which often are not evenly distributed across the company), to the construction of departments, their relative importance, and the resources accordingly allocated to them. And not coincidentally the privileged departments, on this model, tend to be those occupied by people who look most like the founder and investors (at Facebook this was product engineering, which dominated other forms of engineering, which dominated non-engineering departments, which tended to have the largest degree of race and gender diversity).

But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all. That is, all of the women who are currently working in tech, up and down the employee stack, many at companies that Thiel may be invested in, do not seem in Thiel’s formulation to really exist to him. They do not have a seat at the table. They are not acknowledged as agents of change, or as subjects of discrimination (for example, in the AMA, Thiel cited the Bay Area “housing crisis” as a worse problem than sexism in tech, not knowing that the housing crisis disproportionately affects women and people of color because of the wage discrimination marginalized people face at work).

That is, according to Thiel’s “women founders” logic, he can only imagine women as agents/subjects if they are the founder of a company. And this, in the end, is exactly why and how tech is such a diversity disaster: because there are so many ways powerful people in the industry have of ignoring that marginalized people are working at their companies and are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination right now. This is why many powerful people in tech can only conceive moves to “change” the industry in terms of magical futures like “more women founders” or “getting young girls to code”. The women working in the industry right now are being written off in favor of these magical futures, and as long as this is the case, the now of tech (whether the now is today or twenty years from today) will be unchanged.

This is why you should be skeptical whenever you see powerful men arguing for magical future outcomes in regard to diversity. Instead, ask what they can do right now to affect discrimination in their companies. For example, what are they doing to rectify across the board pay and equity discrepancies between men and women, or white men and people of color? What do their harassment policies look like? Investors like Peter Thiel directly influence these decisions at startups they fund (even if “influence” means “failing to advise founders to avoid discriminatory practices”, which is a form of influence). So when men like Thiel speak of magical futures, we should always be asking them: what are you doing today?"
katelosse  siliconvalley  sexism  internet  culture  business  women  technosolutionism  peterthiel  gender  californianideology  meritocracy  facebook  markzuckerberg  vc  venturecapital  technology  libertarianism 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Reclaiming Innovation
"Udell notes: "There's a reason I keep finding novel uses for these trailing-edge technologies. I see them not as closed products and services, but rather as toolkits that invite their users to adapt and extend them.""

"Rather than framing everything at the course level, we should be deploying these technologies for the individual."

"Viewed as a whole, the web today bears little resemblance to the innately democratic and decentralized network that seduced and enticed us a decade ago."

"Railing against the academy's failure to embrace a perceived risk can be dismal fun for many of us, but an honest appraisal of our own missteps has to be in the mix."
2014  jimgroom  brianlamb  audreywatters  internet  web  highered  highereducation  it  ict  technology  mooc  moocs  disruption  open  edupunk  lms  openpublishing  publishing  adomainofone'sown  diy  decentralization  anildash  georgesiemens  stephendownes  jonudell  benjaminbratton  vendors  silos  security  privacy  venturecapital  tonyhirst  timberners-lee  bryanalexander  openness  reclaimhosting  indieweb 
june 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Marc Andreessen’s Crude and Nuanced Tech Cynicism — Weird Future — Medium
"On Saturday night, serial-tweet-lover Marc Andreessen started a list.

1/Degrees of tech cynicism from crude to nuanced?
https://twitter.com/pmarca/status/447604341591908352

Andreessen ought to know tech cynicism — he’s been around for awhile. Indeed as co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used web browser, his career more or less spans the life of the web as we know it.

2/That can’t possibly work.
https://twitter.com/pmarca/status/447604381764960256

Today, Andreessen is a venture capitalist. He’s half of the name of Andreessen Horowitz, a firm whose holdings represent a range of successful tech start-ups. They put money into Skype, Facebook, Twitter, AirBnB, and Instagram. They also put money into Groupon and Zynga, but you can win ‘em all (actually, since both companies IPO’d, their stocks falling to 1/3 of peak valuation doesn’t really matter to Andreessen Horowitz — the exit is the win).

In short, Andreessen has seen some shit.

Embedded tweets take up too much space, so I’m gonna go ahead and paste in the rest of his list by hand.

3/Normal people will use it, but it’s trivial. 4/It will never replace [legacy]. 5/It will replace [legacy], which is why the world is going to hell. 6/Yes, fine, but just wait until [big company] does it. 7/Yes, fine, but just wait until [hypothetical better version that doesn’t actually exist] does it. 8/I can’t believe how much money those kids made from that. 9/It’s a clear and obvious bubble. 10/Whatever, innovation is dead.

That’s it. That’s the list.

Marc Andreessen thinks “Whatever, innovation is dead” is the most nuanced form of tech cynicism available.

You know, it happens. Andreessen is a busy man, what with all the innovation and disruption he’s got to fund and then exit from. When your days are that packed, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. If you have to spend all your time immersed in the promise of tech, your cynic muscles can atrophy and even the crudest cynicism might seem nuanced.

But we can do better. Here are a some additions.

11/ Normal people will use it, and then they’ll stop because it is a fad.

12/ It is as vulnerable to the logic of disruption as [legacy].

13/ It will prioritize speed of implementation over security, offering users’ personal data to hackers, advertisers, and spies on a silver platter.

14/ It will succeed long enough for a successful exit, then crash and burn, enriching VCs but doing little to improve the world as a whole.

15/ Although it preaches revolution, it will end up reproducing and empowering the structures of injustice that dominate today.

16/ It will intensify the growing concentration of wealth and power that appears to be endemic to economies which take advantage of network effects.

17/ Because it is being implemented in a country where food and healthcare are treated as luxuries rather than basic human rights, its success will multiply the misery in the world as it lays waste to [legacy].

18/ It is being created and sold to a tiny cadre of wealthy inter-connected players who are so convinced of their own intelligence that it doesn’t occur to them to ask around and find out the needs of other people.

19/ It will be powered by ads.

20/ It will do nothing to slow the headlong rush of global civilization into any number of catastrophes which would in turn render it irrelevant.

21/ It preys on and amplifies human weakness.

22/ It will have unintended consequences.

23/ It will do nothing to mitigate the chaos it leaves in its wake."

[Also

24/ It will re-enable scams that regulation had previously tamped down in [legacy].
https://twitter.com/doingitwrong/status/447812538638794752

25/ Its successful ubiquity will force users to contort their selves so they can slot into an ill-considered early design decision.
https://twitter.com/doingitwrong/status/447813472580300800 ]
timmaly  technology  marcandreessen  cynicism  technosolutionism  criticism  2014  internet  web  civilization  inequality  power  advertising  money  vc  venturecapital  legacy  unintendedconsequences  fads  wealth  economics  innovation  disruption 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Maciej Ceglowski - Barely succeed! It's easier! - YouTube
"We live in a remarkable time when small teams (or even lone programmers) can successfully compete against internet giants. But while the last few years have seen an explosion of product ideas, there has been far less innovation in how to actually build a business. Silicon Valley is stuck in an outdated 'grow or die' mentality that overvalues risk, while investors dismiss sustainable, interesting projects for being too practical. So who needs investors anyway?

I'll talk about some alternative definitions of success that are more achievable (and more fun!) than the Silicon Valley casino. It turns out that staying small offers some surprising advantages, not just in the day-to-day experience of work, but in marketing and getting customers to love your project. Best of all, there's plenty more room at the bottom.

If your goal is to do meaningful work you love, you may be much closer to realizing your dreams than you think."
via:lukeneff  maciejceglowski  2013  startups  pinboard  culture  atalhualpa  larrywall  perl  coding  slow  small  success  community  communities  diversity  growth  sustainability  venturecapital  technology  tonyrobbins  timferris  raykurzweil  singularity  humanism  laziness  idleness  wealth  motivation  siliconvalley  money  imperialism  corneliusvanderbilt  meaning  incubators  stevejobs  stevewozniak  empirebuilders  makers  fundraising  closedloops  viscouscircles  labor  paulgraham  ycombinator  gender  publishing  hits  recordingindustry  business  lavabit  mistakes  duckduckgo  zootool  instapaper  newsblur  metafilter  minecraft  ravelry  4chan  backblaze  prgmr.com  conscience  growstuff  parentmeetings  lifestylebusinesses  authenticity  googlereader  yahoopipes  voice  longtail  fanfiction  internet  web  online  powerofculture  counterculture  transcontextualism  maciejcegłowski  transcontextualization 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Ian Bogost - Educational Hucksterism
"Thus, the really traumatic lesson to me is that all of the rational arguments by Mark and others about the educational downsides of MOOCs really don't matter, because MOOC providers don't actually care about education anyway. They're merely using education as a cover story, as the latest "industry ripe for disruption." Just as Google hasn't necessarily provided a better version of journalism but simply a more centralized, leveraged, and privately beneficial one, so Coursera won't necessarily do so for education either. In fact, success for MOOCs doesn't require better education. All it requires is fungibility."

[See also: http://computinged.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/moocs-are-a-fundamental-misperception-of-how-learning-works/ AND http://whimsley.typepad.com/whimsley/2012/12/peer-to-peer-hucksterism-an-open-letter-to-tim-wu.html ]
ianbogost  moocs  timwu  markguzdial  economics  business  siliconvalley  venturecapital  capitalism  highered  highereducation  learning  education  2013  coursera  mooc 
january 2013 by robertogreco
PandoMonthly: A Fireside Chat With Sarah Lacy And Chris Sacca - YouTube
[via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 relating to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/23/a-self-made-man-looks-at-how-he-made-it/ ]

[Once specific portion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViHuU6-CFDo ]

"I think, sometimes, like, arguing with libertarians can be really frustrating because, I think, it can be, um..., I think it can be intellectually lazy. And I think it can be convenient, and, in the same way that, um, you know when everything is going right it's easy to attribute it to your own success and when things are going wrong, it's because you got fucked or because you were unlucky etc., like, I think sometimes, like, the libertarian point of view can be, um..., can be rooted in a limited set of circumstances where you give yourself a little more credit than, um.., than you want, or than you are due, probably."
problemsolving  money  optimism  buckminsterfuller  wealthdistribution  incomegap  entrepreneurship  gambling  finance  decisionmaking  incentives  motivation  employment  elitism  regulation  government  traviskalanick  uber  politics  startups  women  gender  pandomonthly  sarahlacy  paternalism  economics  society  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  capitalism  2012  chrissacca  libertarianism  sharingeconomy 
december 2012 by robertogreco
How VCs Turned My Startup Into A Nightmare
"In the twenty-odd years of its existence, the Web has become the province of virtual monopolies (and the U.S. has become stuck at over 8 percent unemployment) for this exact reason: the inability of those in charge to realize the interconnectedness of the culture. Particularly, the false conviction among the rich that the middle class needs them more than they need the middle class, culminating, perhaps, in the ravings of Edward Conard and his cockamamie trickle-down-on-steroids theories.

So long as we continue to measure "success" — and allocate cultural and political influence — in dollars, we will remain at the mercy of those suffering the curse of Midas — the special gift of paralyzing all they touch through their thirst for gold."
middleclass  wealthdistribution  class  monopolies  finance  capitalism  money  success  edwardconard  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  vc  startups  technology  business  2012  mariabustillos 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Joichi Ito Named Head of M.I.T. Media Lab - NYTimes.com
"For centuries diplomas have been synonymous w/ the nation’s universities.

That makes MIT’s decision to name a 44-year old Japanese venture capitalist who attended, but did not graduate, from 2 American colleges as director of one of the world’s top computing science laboratories an unusual choice…

Mr. Ito first attended Tufts where he briefly studied computer science but wrote that he found it drudge work. Later he attended the U of Chicago where he studied physics, but once again found it stultifying…later wrote of his experience: “I once asked a professor to explain the solution to a problem so I could understand it more intuitively. He said, ‘You can’t understand it intuitively. Just learn the formula so you’ll get the right answer.’ That was it for me.”

Mr. Ito’s colleagues minimize the fact that he is w/out academic credentials. “He has credibility in an academic context,” said Lawrence Lessig…"
mit  medialab  joiito  larrylessig  innovation  dropouts  postcredentials  credentials  alternative  alternativeeducation  learningbydoing  2011  creativecommons  unschooling  deschooling  connectivism  connections  mozilla  venturecapital  mitmedialab 
april 2011 by robertogreco
US politics is angry, polarised, and gridlocked. Can it be reformed? | Timothy Garton Ash | Comment is free | The Guardian
"If you ask what will be the biggest geopolitical story of the 2010s, my best guess is "rising China and struggling America". Where that competition has got to by 2020 will depend crucially on America's ability to put its house in order. Physician, heal thyself. If you want to feel optimistic about America's chances of renewal, go to Silicon Valley. For a downer, look to Washington. The struggle for America's recovery is the battle of the iPad against the filibuster. In Silicon Valley, just down the road from where I write this, you see everything that is still inspiring about American society: innovation rooted in science and intellectual freedom; entrepreneurs and risk-taking venture capital exploiting that innovation commercially; a dynamic, open society that attracts the brightest from everywhere – Indians, Chinese, Europeans ... Change in Silicon Valley happens at the speed of science fiction; in Washington, at the pace of Brezhnev's Soviet Union."
via:cityofsound  us  politics  policy  economics  progress  2010  china  media  partisanship  government  siliconvalley  innovation  society  entrepreneurship  venturecapital  freedom  science 
october 2010 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read