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robertogreco : zoominginandout   13

Laurel Schwulst, "Blogging in Motion" - YouTube
"This video was originally published as part of's NYC lecture series on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the at the School for Poetic Computation.

It has been posted here for ease of access.

You can find many other great talks on the site:

And specifically more from the NYC series: "

[See also: ]
laurelschwulst  2019  decentralization  p2p  web  webdesign  blogging  movement  travel  listening  attention  self-reflection  howwewrite  writing  walking  nyc  beakerbrowser  creativity  pokemon  pokemonmoon  online  offline  internet  decentralizedweb  dat  p2ppublishing  p2pweb  distributed  webdev  stillness  infooverload  ubiquitous  computing  internetofthings  casygollan  calm  calmtechnology  zoominginandout  electricity  technology  copying  slow  small  johnseelybrown  markweiser  xeroxparc  sharing  oulipo  constraints  reflection  play  ritual  artleisure  leisurearts  leisure  blogs  trains  kylemock  correspondence  caseygollan  apatternlanguage  intimacy 
16 days ago by robertogreco
The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: ]

[via: ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."

"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
21 days ago by robertogreco
The Convivial Society, No. 5: Action
"In any case, we occupy a perplexing place, it seems to me, given the nature of the world constituted by digital media. By "world" I mean something like the interpretation of reality that we inhabit. It is within these worlds that our action derives motive force and intelligibility. Human beings have always shared the same earth, but we have lived in very different worlds.

The shape of our world in this sense is molded by a number of factors, some of which are felt by others and some which may be unique to us. Invariably, however, our technology and media come into play. They sustain the symbolic and conceptual infrastructure of our worlds. They nourish and constrain the imagination. They generate habits and patterns of thought. They not only supply the contents of thought, they condition what is thinkable. And our actions are meaningful within these worlds and the implicit narrative frames they provide for our lives.

It seems to me that one consequence of digital media is the proliferation of such worlds and the emergence of a public sphere in which these worlds become unavoidably entangled, for better and, very often, for worse. Under these conditions, our worlds fray and shear. Motivation is sapped, purpose depleted. Regrettably, one result of this is reactionary violence. But another result is nihilism. Another still is apathy or paralysis. Ironic detachment is yet another. This is just one way the conditions for meaningful action are undermined.

Action also requires a context in order to be intelligible and meaningful. It requires a time and a place. But we are alienated from both time and place, so we are often at loss as to what we are to do. This dynamic was already identified by Kierkegaard in the mid-nineteenth century as the telegraph contributed to the emergence of "the news" as we have come to know it: daily dispatches of happenings from around the globe.

Kierkegaard, in Hubert Dreyfus's summary, believed "the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. Thus, the new power of the press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement . . . . Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility." Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Hannah Arendt, too, had a great deal to say about action, which for her was a deeply political phenomenon in the sense that it was made possible by the plurality of the human condition. "Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter," she wrote, "corresponds to the human condition of plurality … this plurality is specifically the condition — not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam — of all political life." Action, as she noted, happened "without the intermediary of things or matter." She imagines, thus, the face-to-face encounter where action is speech and speech is action. It was through action that we disclosed ourselves before others and received in return the integrity of the self.

She distinguished between the private and the public realm, an ancient distinction, of course. The private realm was the realm of the family, the household. The public realm was the realm where individuals appeared before one another and where their words and their deeds counted for something. She also introduced a third category, the social realm. A more recent development, it was the realm of mass society. A realm of a diminished plurality that also entailed anonymity. Individuals are aggregated in the social realm, but they do not appear before one another and thus action, in her sense, was undermined.

Much of her analysis, it seems to me, can be applied to what has become the realm of our appearance: social media. It is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.

Arendt, however, was also the theorist of new beginnings, of natality, and with this I will bring these comments to a close: “But there remains also the truth that every end in history also contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est– 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”"
conviviality  lmsacasas  2018  tools  toolsforconvivilaity  zoominginandout  morality  purpose  reality  understanding  violence  digital  socialmedia  kierkegaard  apathy  hubertdreyfus  hannharendt  action  intgrity  self-consciousness  michaelsacasas 
june 2018 by robertogreco
choice – Snakes and Ladders
"You can’t understand the place and time you’re in by immersion; the opposite’s true. You have to step out and away and back and forward, through books and art and music, and you have to do it regularly. Then you come back to the Here and Now, and say: Ah. That’s how it is.

But maybe 2% of the people you encounter will do this. The other 98% are wholly creatures of this particular intersection in spacetime, and can’t be made to care about anything else.

You can, then, have understanding or attention. Pick."
alanjacobs  2018  zoominginandout  immersion  place  time  atemporality  books  art  music  culture  perspective  seeing 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Conner Habib on Twitter: "13 I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - G…"
"I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.

She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time."

I want to tell you about an amazing woman who changed my life, and who you need to know about if you don't already: biologist Lynn Margulis.

She died on this day, 6 years ago.
She was my main intellectual mentor in life, my friend, my second mom.

Lynn made quite a few major scientific discoveries.
She's best known for proving that organisms and cells that have nucleuses have symbiotic origins - that they originate from the coming together of different bacteria (and sometimes protoctists/protozoa)

She also discovered, with James Lovelock, that the Earth regulates itself quite a bit like an organism - particularly through the interactions of bacteria and the abiota (the non-living aspects of the environment). This is called the Gaia Theory or biogeochemistry.

She created a whole new theory of evolution, of which Lewis Thomas said, "Darwin was wrong, and Lynn Margulis is right." That theory is in her book Acquiring Genomes with co-author Dorion Sagan.

When offered potentially millions of dollars by the US govt to do research on bacteria that could help with defense, Lynn Margulis hung up on the phone on them. She said, "If it's not public, it's not science."

If you've heard anything about gut biomes, that is a direct result of Lynn's tireless work, yet she is rarely credited.

Lynn's theory of evolution came from rejecting the capitalistic cost-benefit analysis version of evolution adopted by ppl like Richard Dawkins (who has almost no lab experience comparatively). She rediscovered the science of symbiotic evolution, pioneered by Russian scientists.

She was well-versed in postmodern theory and studied philosophy. She was fond of saying, "the first thing scientists need to learn is that there's no objective truth."
She knew hundreds of Emily Dickinson poems by heart and lived in the house next to hers in Amherst.

She won just about every science award you could ever win, except the Nobel, which she no doubt would have won had she not died of a stroke on this day in 2011.

In spite of her being one of the most influential and profound minds of our time, she is often overshadowed by her late husband, Carl Sagan. He was a fine person, but nowhere near as arduous in his efforts or profound in his thinking as Lynn Margulis.

I approached her after I started my grad studies as an MFA student. Lynn tried to dismiss me at first. "What does this have to do with environmental evolution?" was the first thing she said to me.

"I want to take your classes," I said.
She was thrilled that I was in the humanities&wanted to take science courses. I studied with her for three yrs.
She became my closest teacher. She took me to science conferences and gave me my most profound educational experiences.

I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.
She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time.

Lynn was a huge supporter of my decision to be in gay porn. She was lustful and sexual and very much a proponent of sexual liberation.

Please join me in honoring this tremendous intellect today.
I wrote an essay summarizing her work shortly after her death. It's under my Birthname so that her colleagues would recognize me as the author.
Here it is: "
lynnmargulis  zoominginandout  earth  perspective  connerhabib  details  systemsthinking  bigpicture  gaia  microcosm  science  andrekhalil  carlsagan  postodernism  philosophy  principles  bacteria  evolution  richarddawkins  charlesdarwin  doriansagan 
november 2017 by robertogreco
003: Craig Mod - I Want My Attention Back! • Hurry Slowly
"Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone near you is slowly draining away your cognitive energy and attention? (Even if it’s tucked away in a desk drawer or a bag.) Like it or not, the persistent use of technology is changing the quality of our attention. And not in a good way.

In this episode, I talk with writer, designer and technologist Craig Mod — who’s done numerous experiments in reclaiming his attention — about how we can break out of this toxic cycle of smartphone and social media addiction and regain control of our powers of concentration.

Key takeaways from the interview:

• How Facebook and other social media apps are lulling us into “attention slavery”

• Why interrupting your workflow to post on social media — and sharing pithy thoughts or ideas — shuts down your creative process

• How short digital detox retreats and/or meditation sessions can “defrag your mind” so that you can deploy your attention more consciously and more powerfully

• Why mapping your ideas in large offline spaces — e.g. on a whiteboard or blackboard — gives you “permission” to get messy and evolve your thinking in a way that’s impossible on a screen

• How changing the quality of your attention can change your relationship to everything — art, conversations, creativity, and business"

"Favorite Quotes

“If there was a meter of 1 to 10 of how present you are or how much you can manipulate your own attention — how confident you are that you could, say, read a book for three hours without an interruption, without feeling pulled to something else. I would say the baseline pre-smartphone was a 4 or 3. Now, it’s a 1.”

“I think that a life in which you are never present, in which you have no control over your attention, in which you’re constantly being pulled in different directions, is kind of sad — because there is this incredible gift of consciousness. And when that consciousness is deployed smartly, it’s amazing the things that can be built out of it.”


Here’s a shortlist of things Craig and I talked about in the course of the conversation, including where you can go on a meditation retreat. You should be aware that vipassana retreats are offered free of charge, and are open to anyone.

Craig’s piece on attention from Backchannel magazine

Vipassana meditation retreat locations

Craig’s article on post-100 hours of meditation

Film director Krzysztof Kieslowski

Writer and technologist Kevin Kelly

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern "
attention  craigmod  zoominginandout  ideas  thinking  focus  meditation  technology  blackboards  messiness  presence  writing  relationships  conversation  art  creativity  digitaldetox  maps  mapping  brainstorming  socialmedia  internet  web  online  retreats  jocelynglei  howwethink  howewrite  concentration  interruption  kevinkelly  vipassana  krzysztofkieslowski  largehadroncollider  cern 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Anthropoid Condition - The Los Angeles Review of Books
[via: "Great interview w/ John D. Peters at @LAReviewofBooks: . A lot of people think they’re smart; Peters is really smart."

"Peters’s new book, “The Marvelous Clouds,” is easiest the smartest thing I’ve read in a ages, btw. " ]

"BRÍAN HANRAHAN: What distinguishes your understanding of 'media' in The Marvelous Clouds from other, maybe better-known uses of the term?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: 'Media' is one of those terms whose meaning is as imprecise as a plate of spaghetti. And like 'spaghetti,' few can tell if it is a plural or singular noun. My academic preference is to say “media are” with a plural verb in order to underline the diversity of media forms and formats, but most people are happy to talk about media as a mass noun and use the term to refer to everything from journalists and publicity to furnace filters and hard drives. In the field of media studies, media typically are more clearly defined as a cluster of institutions, audiences, and programs (e.g., Disney, BBC, or Google), but there is a minority tradition I favor that sees media more broadly as staples, environments, and data processors of all kinds — as elements in the middle. Some of my critics say this view stretches the concept beyond its breaking point, but I believe ubiquitous computing has already stretched media more than our concepts have: thanks to digital transformations, media are so environmentally pervasive that we need an encompassing definition to match. Theory is usually playing catch-up.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: The book delves into innumerable subjects, skipping through dozens of disciplines: anthropology, zoology, theology, astronomy, the history of technology, cultural history of many kinds, philosophy and literature and more. But if there is one term that you seem to identify with, it is 'media theory.' On the face of it, that might seem a modest label for such a broad vision. So what is “media theory,” as you understand it, and what can be learned from it?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Glad that you think it is a matter of skipping rather than skidding! The book presupposes a view of knowledge and research that it doesn’t spell out at any length. What would the university look like if we took seriously the mortality of the human knower and the responsibility to speak to the species rather than only to one’s peers? I believe it would be a less turfy, more humble, and more interdisciplinary place, one less focused on the newest thing and more open to long stretches of time.[i] Labeling fields of study often amounts to little more than a branding exercise, so my unpretentious choice of “media theory” is, among other things, an indirect comment on academic tribalism. Media theory has almost no barriers to entry — you’d be amazed at how readily some people opine on media without any sense of the field’s traditions or concepts — and almost anyone can call themselves a media theorist; as beings who live in the middle, in medias res, I think that every human being is potentially such a creature. Media theory, at its best, is a means of seeking greater awareness of the basic conditions in which we live.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Clouds, unlike fire, sky, and sea, don’t get chapters to themselves in the book, but they are in the title, and they are a recurring motif. What is so interesting about clouds for a media theorist and historian?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Clouds are interesting because they bring together so many great questions. It’s hard to boil down something I’ve thought so much about, but here goes.[ii]

First, clouds raise very fundamental questions of where significance lies. Clouds are often thought to be blank and meaningless, the playthings of whimsy. Hardly. Few things are so packed with meaning. Once you start looking at clouds, you see them everywhere in art, literature, religion, and popular culture, and of course in the sky. The question of what clouds mean is a deep one; reading clouds is the paradigm case of how to interpret nature and how not to. Clouds tell us about the weather and the future, and reading the sky is a basic human task; in Iowa, where I live, like many places, clouds are among the most spectacular forms of natural beauty. Of course, there is a long tradition of scorn starting from at least Aristophanes aimed at anyone who finds meaning in clouds, but it is just as foolish to say clouds have no meaning (ask a sailor, pilot, or farmer if clouds mean nothing). The meaning that remains once you subtract human intention turns out to be rich, and I argue that media theory should take this abundant zone of meaning seriously.

Second, from the poison gas clouds of World War I to the mushroom cloud of World War II to the data cloud today, clouds are telling historical markers. While writing the book, I would tell people I was writing about clouds, and they’d sometimes respond, Oh, I work in IT too! (The cloud metaphor, with its hints of benign oversight and calm flow, richly serves the ideological interests of the IT industry.) That the default meaning of “cloud” has become “server-based data storage” is a symptom of nature being absorbed by technology and technology becoming second nature. It is remarkable how casually we accept this monstrous hybrid of atmospheric aerosols and computing infrastructure without a second thought. Clouds are thus a symptom of what it is fashionable to call the anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human agency alters nature radically.

Third, clouds are an elemental background that surrounds us — and unnoticed environments are prime territory for media theory. A central point of the book is that if we define media as carriers of significance then media should include natural elements; studying aerosol clouds and data clouds side by side gives me a way to make this point.

Fourth, clouds raise two fundamental problems in media theory: how to record phenomena that exist in time and how to represent ones that do not conform to a symbolic system.

Regarding recording, the book is a meditation on how media capture and fail to capture time, and clouds are a good example of entities whose nature is to vanish. Clouds illustrate media ontology. Like sounds and music, clouds exist by disappearing. They exist in time. Clouds are highly material — just this morning so much rain dumped on southeastern Iowa as to trigger flashflood warnings again — and their dynamic materiality is suggestive for media under volatile digital conditions (probably one reason the cloud metaphor took hold so readily).

Regarding representing, clouds bear significance, but without any code to clarify what they mean. Their meanings are essentially vague. The history of cloud media, in painting and photography, is the struggle to capture sensuous objects that are also abstract. (The sky was painting abstract impressionist images long before humans did!) Clouds are the original white noise. Well before analog media such as film and sound recording broke the stranglehold of the symbolic in the late nineteenth century, painters struggled to depict cloud colors and forms, often with stunning results. The ability to represent the indefinite is one of the great achievements of modern mathematics and media, and clouds were at the vanguard here too. If you want to understand how meaning works, you have to understand vagueness, and clouds are a chief example.

Finally, clouds have long been associated with thinking, philosophizing and ultimate things, so they fit my atmospheric interests well. I know the title opens me up to wisecracks about academic loftiness. But in a world run by data-analytics Luftmenschen, it is good to get reacquainted with clouds and other kinds of sky media.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Why does the media culture of cetaceans, as you imagine it, play such a large role in your history of planetary technics? And what distinguishes your approach from previous thinking about the cetacean world? As you point out, dolphins and whales have long been subjects of utopian fantasy, as well as scientific communications research.

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Cetaceans, the family of whales, porpoises, and dolphins, are often considered among the most intelligent animals on earth (especially dolphins), but they lack the infrastructures that anchor human existence such as feet, hands, fire, clothing, writing, right angles, celestial orientation, and all other forms of technology. Cetaceans thus present a kind of thought experiment about what it might be like to live in a technology-free habitat. Cetaceans could have techniques — say, of dancing, fishing, or communicating — but they could not have technologies, i.e., made materials that shape other materials, including their environments and minds. They live in habitats immune to fabrication, and thus offer a stark contrast to the human “technosphere,” our domesticated bubble of carbon and silicon, GMO crops and insulation. Intelligent marine mammals offer a radical alternative, at least in thought, to our essentially and externally technical history, and show us how much of what we take to be human depends on our technical supports."

[too much to quote]
johnduhampeters  matthomas  2015  interviews  media  feminism  clouds  cloud  infrastructure  hubris  cetaceans  anthropocene  technology  technosphere  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  writing  history  inderdisciplinary  silos  whitenoise  time  meaning  online  internet  tribalism  academia  mediatheory  slow  zoominginandout  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  transdisciplinary 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Public Books — Can There Be a Feminist World?
"My work stands, then, in a spectrum, from theory through the teaching of theory in the West and the elite schools of the world, into the practice of activism. I am not interested in the activism of literacy. When we send our children to school, we do not send them to learn literacy. I do not have different standards. My standards are the same at Columbia University and my rural schools. The Human Development Index, in order to measure a country’s development, asks for quantity: how many years of schooling. When the team that put the Index together look for their own children, they look for quality. As long as there is this difference between human beings, we will not have a just world. Superficial activists located in the international civil society make much of access to education. They do not have the time, patience, or yet preparation to realize that the wretched quality of education in the bottom layers of society, even when available to women, does not change internalized core values—rape and bribe as normal. (In fact, quality education without slow humanities training also does nothing much to change this. We will remember this as I go on with my words this evening.)"

"I am a teacher of the humanities. I do not directly influence state policy. Humanities teachers are like personal trainers in the gym of the mind. They believe that unless this work is done at the same time as agitating for merely legal change, generation after generation, persistently, supplemented by rearranging the desires of people, nothing can succeed. In the long run, if laws have to be constantly enforced on the majority, without any change in how people really think about rape, honor killings, gender discrimination in general—and I mean people, men and women—the laws become useless, ways of dodging them proliferate, and force takes over; not a feminist world. Short-term problem solving should not be stopped. There are too many problems. But the kind of work we do, silent work, quiet work, slow work, is the work that sustains everything. “Public awareness” preaches to the choir, at best makes the choir a bit larger. “Sustainable” is used only in the economic/ecologic sphere. We humanities teachers can be the sustainers, because generation after generation, we can produce the will to sustain. We can work toward being the long-term producers of problem solvers. We do not solve problems top-down, 24/7, with little result."

"This creates a particular problem for us, as concerned women, because women in the underclass, as I said before, are socially obliged to care for others. Socially obliged. In the ethical, therefore, we have to learn to work within this contradiction. When we work with homeworkers, sweated labor inside the home without any workplace regulation at all, sometimes the women themselves say: we are supposed to do all the work at home anyway, and here we are getting paid for it, so what’s your problem? This is the kind of contradiction—women willing their subjection as ethical—within which you have to work. If ethics is other-directedness, because women and servants have always been obliged to be directed toward others, we are obliged to work within this contradiction and take this practice away from cultural requirements into training for what I will call, in this brief talk, the literary—not literature, because what I am talking about is not identical with what is recognized as literature, which came into being, in terms of history, very recently, and which is also specific to certain areas of the world. What we define as the literary is that of which the reading, making sense, is for its own sake, necessarily requiring that you suspend yourself in what the writer or the speaker says, rather than using it for self-interest. This is classroom teaching in literature. In any kind of classroom teaching in literature, you know that the teacher who teaches you how to read what the writer means, rather than making the writer’s text resemble what you yourself think, is teaching the literary. This is real literary teaching. This so-called training in reading is a practice of moving away from your self-interest into the other’s interest. It is just training for unconditional ethics; it does not make you ethical. It is like going to the gym and training your body, which does not necessarily make you an athlete; but without it, you will not be able to do anything. It is training. So always “me,” “my rights,” and so forth is not going to produce a just world.

If at the bottom there is no training for intellectual labor because we have denied the right to intellectual labor, from within the caste/race/class/gender/colonial system, millennially, we have punished them for intellectual labor and trained them for nothing but obedience; then, at the top, intellectual labor is no longer understood or undertaken because of this untrained use of the digital, of so-called social media. I am not a technophobe, but the digital is like a powerful wild horse, you have to have a slow-trained mind, in order to use it properly.
I am not against social media. I am not against any civil society worker. To be against is to deny complicity. I am so much for the digital that I think people need to prepare for it. Otherwise cybercrime, pornography. The New York Times reported that top Silicon Valley executives send their children to schools where there is no computer training. Why do they do that? Because they best of all know, they understand, that you cannot use this incredibly powerful and dangerous instrument with minds that are untrained."

"I belong to the middle class, and I was born in 1942 in Calcutta, where and when the middle class had servants. Being humane and kind to servants is not a just world; it is feudal benevolence. The idea of democracy is where you think about other people not as things, but as equal. That is different from feudal benevolence, which is a lot present both here, in my world, and in the rest of the world, transforming itself now to long-distance remote-control top-down philanthropy. There is no systemic instrument of social justice any more. In the 1980s, when I worked in Algeria, I would ask women in the so-called “socialist villages”: “What is it to vote?” The answers made it clear to me that voting had something to do with insights that the postcolonial state belongs to citizens, females and males. And then in 1991, after the Islamic Salvation Front came to power by democratic procedure in Algeria, I also saw the massive involvement of chador-wearing office-cleaning women, altogether underreported, in overturning an elected government, and the rest is history. Since 1986, my involvement with the landless illiterate, in the country of my citizenship, and of my first language because you can only teach in a language you know well, has made me realize that the question we asked—“What is it to vote?”—is the presupposition for developing democratic intuition rather than only a test."

"In conclusion, a summary: because I work in high theory in a very elite school, teaching this material to students, and also at the other end, teaching and training the very poor, trying to learn from below, because they are very different from us, the landless illiterate in the world’s largest democracy, I am learning to share my experience at both ends in terms of a gender-just world. My theory is therefore one of supplementing, wherever one’s own sphere of interest is universalized. I base social theory on gender. I say that ethical theory, a theory of unconditional ethics, can be practically taught through the literary-philosophical. I base political intervention on a performative contradiction that must presuppose what it wants to achieve. Supplementing work is persistent, I say, and define activism as imaginative training for epistemological performance; in labor movement work, ecological work, among the poor. The thing dearest to my heart is teaching the intuitions of democracy through an understanding of the meaning of the right to intellectual labor, on top as well as below. Thank you for your attention. Flesh it out for your own world."

[via: ]
via:aworkinglibrary  2015  feminism  gayatrichakravortyspivak  slow  education  technology  socialmedia  gender  obedience  humanities  liberalarts  zoominginandout  sustainability  class  care  literacy 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Science teacher: Buckets with holes
"Buckets come as they are, and they do one thing--they hold things. Everything, actually.

In these parts they're generally made of plastic, the residual order of plants that took in the sunshine unfathomably long ago. (Oh, I could give you a number with a lot of zeroes, but let's be honest, none of us beyond the Feynmans and the Einsteins know how big a few hundred million truly is.)

Most of the buckets in my home were likely made in China, because it's cheaper to make them there than here, even with the cost of shipping. I used to work on the docks. I've been in the hold of very big ships. If the ship is big enough, it can carry enough buckets to make shipping costs almost negligible.

But someone making a bucket in China, a long, long away, cannot possibly know why I need this particular bucket today.

But I do. So I modify it.


I bottled a bucket's worth of mead today. Eric, who loves my daughter Kerry, keeps a couple of hives in Montclair. He gave me a gallon of honey from his hive. A gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds, a gallon of water about 8 pounds. There's a lot of stuff in honey that's not water.

Each pound of honey took over 50,000 miles of bee flight, so my melomel took the better part of a million miles of flight to make. Millions of yeast critters took the honey and converted it into mead--those surviving now sit in my compost pile in the backyard. I said a prayer for them, or maybe I said it for me, but I prayed anyway, because something good happened to me that I did not deserve.

My mead bucket has a 3/4" hole drilled near the bottom, so I can put in a plastic spigot (also made in China) that lets me drain the fermented mead in a controlled fashion.


I clam. Every couple of weeks I get enough meat from the mudflats around here to feed Leslie and me for a few days. I pray for the clams, too, as I drop them into scalding water. I have no idea what they feel, but I know what I do, and praying helps.

My clam bucket has about a hundred tiny holes drilled in the bottom. I used an electric drill.

The power to drill the holes came from Beesley's Point Generating Station a few miles north of here. It burns coal (made from old plants, but not as old as those that made the plastic for my bucket). It also uses old tires, made from rubber plants likely alive in my lifetime.

And yes, I think of these things as I muddle through my day.
I pray a lot.


I teach biology. Our desires change all the time, but our needs are the same as they have been for millenia.

Our needs come down to the stuff of plants, of yeast, of love. Most of what we need I'll never understand, but I teach a very human process that gets us closer to understanding the infinite every day.

But, of course, the infinite can never be understood.

So I pray…"
michaeldoyl  2014  systems  systemsthinking  prayer  supplychains  materials  clamming  energy  networks  zoominginandout  process  everyday  complexity 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry: Letter to Wes Jackson… | UKIAH BLOG
Home Economics (1982)

[This evening, August 3rd, will be our second First Friday of Neighbors Reading at Mulligan Books downtown Ukiah, 6-7pm. We share favorite passages from favorite books around topics of community, transition, resilience, or anything else, as part of the second semester of Mendo Free Skool. We video the readings for Community TV and invite your participation. I will be reading from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry... passages from an essay The Family Farm, from his book Home Economics. What follows is the opening essay from that book... -DS]

Dear Wes,

I want to try to complete the thought about “randomness” that I was working on when we talked the other day.

The Hans Jenny paragraph that started me off is the last one on page twenty-one of The Soil Resource:
Raindrops that pass in random fashion through an imaginary plane above the forest canopy are intercepted by leaves and twigs and channeled into distinctive vert space patterns of through-drip, crown-drip, and stem flow. The soil surface, as receiver, transmits the “rain message” downward, but as the subsoils lack a power source to mold a flow design, the water tends to leave the ecosystem as it entered it, in randomized fashion.

My question is: Does “random” in this (or any) context describe a verifiable condition or a limit of perception?

My answer is: It describes a limit of perception. This is, of course, not a scientist’s answer, but it may be that anybody’s answer would be unscientific. My answer is based on the belief that pattern is verifiable by limited information, whereas the information required to verify randomness is unlimited. As I think you said when we talked, what is perceived as random within a given limit may be seen as part of a pattern within a wider limit.

If this is so then Dr. Jenny, for accuracy’s sake, should have said that rainwater moves from mystery through pattern back into mystery.

If “mystery” is a necessary (that is, honest) term in such a description, then the modern scientific program has not altered the ancient perception of the human condition a jot. If, in using the word “random,” scientists only mean “random so far as we can tell,” then we are back at about the Book of Job. Some truth meets the eye; some does not. We are up against mystery. To call this mystery “randomness” or “chance” or a “fluke” is to take charge of it on behalf of those who do not respect pattern. To call the unknown “random” is to plant the flag by which to colonize and exploit the known. (A result that our friend Dr. Jenny, of course, did not propose and would not condone.)

To call the unknown by its right name, “mystery,” is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.

This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of our indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.

What impresses me about it, however is the insistent practicality implicit in it. If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions. The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample. But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one: Act on the basis of ignorance. Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things— for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second chances are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on.

What I think you and I and a few others are working on is a definition of agriculture as up against mystery and ignorance-based. I think we think that this is its necessary definition, just as I think we think that several kinds of ruin are the necessary result of an agriculture defined as knowledge-based and up against randomness. Such an agriculture conforms exactly to what the ancient program, or programs, understood as evil or hubris. Both the Greeks and the Hebrews told us to watch out for humans who assume that they make all the patterns."

[via Charlie's newsletter 6, 5 ]
wendellberry  via:vruba  1982  mystery  science  random  patterns  patternsensing  zoominginandout  religion  belief  myth  myths  information  perspective  perception  modernism  indifference  ignorance  local  global  knowledge 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Infovore » First Read / Second Read
"Disclaimer: like so many of the so-called “smart things” I’ve ever said, this is basically a Matt Jones paraphrase.

Jones once explained, talking in the studio one day, a theory that had come from car design: First Read / Second Read.

What I remember him saying:

to design a really memorable car, you need a strong first read. A really strong first read. That’s the single shape, barely a single line that you remember at a glance. Like this:

You know what car I’m showing you already.

But: it’s not enough to have a strong first read. Then, when you’re closer, or double-taking, you need a strong second-read: that detail echoed, firming up the original shape, but making the coherence clear:

And then, on the third read, once you’ve encompassed the detail therein, you still need something to satisfy the eye: details to take in, subtleties and shapes.

The Beetle is an obvious way of showing this, but it really works: it’s not just that strong first read that makes the Beetle so beautiful; it’s the strong first, second, and third reads all co-existing at once that make it work quite so well. Detail that you never get sucked into won’t work; a striking first impression that goes nowhere won’t work.

And Jones, astute as ever, would point out this applied to many forms of design: often, getting the strong first read would be hard, sucking someone into the detail we’d made – but sometimes, you’d also have to focus on backing up that first read with detail."
design  tomarmitage  mattjones  layering  details  zoominginandout  2014  subtlety  engagement  games  gaming  attention  cars  via:tealtan 
february 2014 by robertogreco
LESS AND MORE (The 15 Things Charles and Ray Eames Teach Us)
"1. Keep good company
2. Notice the ordinary
3. Preserve the ephemeral
4. Design not for the elite but for the masses
5. Explain it to a child
6. Get lost in the content
7. Get to the heart of the matter
8. Never tolerate “O.K. anything.”
9. Remember your responsibility as a storyteller
10. Zoom out
11. Switch
12. Prototype it
13. Pun
14. Make design your life… and life, your design
15. Leave something behind

Excerpt from The 15 Things Charles and Ray Eames Teach Us by Keith Yamashita"
eames  keithyamashita  design  glvo  explanation  zoom  zooming  prototyping  making  life  howto  wisdom  lists  noticing  company  purpose  howwework  via:preoccupations  zoominginandout 
august 2011 by robertogreco

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