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Her Left Hand, The Darkness | Alison Smith | Granta Magazine
And she told me about how tired she was of being asked what it takes to be an author. ‘Don’t try to be an author,’ she said as we stood outside a lecture hall in the bitter cold. ‘You cannot control that. Instead, try to be a writer. And to do that, you must write. That’s it. It’s very simple. Why don’t people understand that?’ The words came out in a tumble and her breath, mixing with the frigid air, turned to crystal.
writing  literature  ursulaleguin 
july 2019 by timberwolfoz
Anne Galloway 'Speculative Design and Glass Slaughterhouses' - This is HCD
"Andy: You’ve got quite an interesting background. I’m going to ask you about in a second. I wanted to start with the quote from Ursula Le Guin that you have on your website. It’s from the Lathe of Heaven. “We’re in the world, not against it. It doesn’t work to try and stand outside things and run them that way, it just doesn’t work. It goes against life. There is a way, but you have to follow it, the world is, no matter how we think it ought to be, you have to be with it, you have to let it be.

Then on the More Than Human website, you have these three questions. What if we refuse to uncouple nature and culture? What if we deny that human beings are exceptional? What if we stop speaking and listening only to ourselves? The More Than Human lab explores everyday entanglements of humans and non-humans and imagines more sustainable ways of thinking, making, and doing. Anne, let’s get started by first talking about what do you mean by all of that?

Anne: The Ursula Le Guin quote I love mostly because a critical perspective or an activist perspective, anything that says we ought to be changing the world in any way, it always assumes that we need to fix something, that the world is broken and that designers especially are well-suited to be able to solve some of these problems. I like thinking about what it means to respond to injustice by accepting it, not in the sense of believing that it’s okay or right, because clearly, it’s been identify as unjust. I love Le Guin’s attention to the fact that there is a way to be in the world.

As soon as we think that we’re outside of it, any choices or decisions or actions that we take are, well, they sit outside of it as well. I like being embedded in the trouble. I like Donna Haraway’s idea of staying with the trouble. It’s not that we have to accept that things are problematic, but rather that we have to work within the structures that already exist. Not to keep them that way, in fact, many should be dismantled or changed. Rather, to accept that there is a flow to the universe.

Of course, Le Guin was talking about Taoism, but here what I wanted to draw attention to is often our imperative to fix or to solve or to change things comes with a belief that we’re not part of the world that we’re trying to fix and change. It’s that that I want to highlight. That when we start asking difficult questions about the world, we can never remove ourselves from them. We’re complicit, we are on the receiving end of things. We’re never distant from it. I think that subtle but important shift in deciding how we approach our work is really important."

"Andy: Yes, okay. I was thinking about this, I was reading, in conjunction, this little Le Guin quote, I was trying to think, it’s unusual in the sense that it’s a discipline or a practice of design that uses its own practice to critique itself. It’s using design to critique design in many respects. A lot of what speculative design is talking about is, look what happens when we put stuff into the world, in some way, without much thought. I was trying to think if there was another discipline that does that. I think probably in the humanities there are, and certainly in sociology I think there probably is, where it uses its own discipline to critique itself. It’s a fairly unusual setup.

Anne: I would think actually it’s quite common in the humanities, perhaps the social sciences, where it’s not common is in the sciences. Any reflexive turn in any of the humanities would have used the discipline. Historiography is that sort of thing. Applied philosophy is that sort of thing. Reflexive anthropology is that sort of thing. I think it’s actually quite common, just not in the sciences, and design often tries to align itself with the sciences instead.

Andy: Yes, there was a great piece in the Aeon the other day, about how science doesn’t have an adequate description or explanation for consciousness. Yet, it’s the only thing it can be certain of. With that, it also doesn’t really seem to come up in the technology industry that much, because it’s so heavily aligned with science. Technology, and you’ve got this background in culture studies and science and technology and society, technology is a really strong vein throughout speculative design. Indeed, your work, right? Counting sheep is about the Internet of Things, and sheep. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and why I am talking to you from the picture things to the Lord of the Rings, it basically looks like you’re living in part of the Shire in Middle Earth?

Anne: I do live in a place that looks remarkably like the Shire. It’s a bit disconcerting at times. The science and technology question in speculative design I think is first of all a matter of convenience. Science fiction, speculation, they lean historically, habitually towards science and tech. It becomes an easy target for critique. Not that it’s not necessary, but it’s right there, so why not? There’s that element to it. It has an easier ability to be transformed into something fanciful or terrifying, which allows for certain kinds of storytelling through speculation, that I think people, both creators and audiences or readers really enjoy.

Now, the irony of all of this, of course is that arguably one of the greatest concerns that people have would be tied to technological determinism, the idea that we’re going to have these technologies anyway, so what are we going to do about it? Now, when you speculate using these technologies, what you’re doing is actually reinforcing the idea that these technologies are coming, you play right into the same technological determinism that you’re trying to critique. In fact, one of the counting sheep scenarios was designed specifically to avoid the technology. It was the one that got the most positive responses."

"Andy: With all of this, and I may this pop at the beginning, just before we were recording, that there’s a sense of, because of everything going on in the world, that if only designers could run the world, everything would be fine, right, because we can see all of the solutions to everything. What would you want designers to get out of this kind of work or this kind of perspective?

Anne: Humility. That simple. I am one of those people. It’s because of being an ethnographer as well and doing participant observation and interviewing many people and their ideas about design. I’ve run into far more people who think that designers are arrogant than ones who don’t. This has always really interested me. What is it that designers do that seems to rub non-designers the wrong way? Part of it is this sense of, or implication that they know better than the rest of us, or that a designer will come in and say, “Let me fix your problem”, before even asking if there is a problem that the person wants fixed.

I actually gave a guest lecture in a class just the other day, where I suggested that there were people in the world who thought that designers were arrogant. One of the post-graduate students in the class really took umbrage at this and wanted to know why it was that designers were arrogant for offering to fix problems, but a builder wasn’t, or a doctor wasn’t.

Andy: What was your answer?

Anne: Well, my answer was, generally speaking, people go to them first and say, “I have this problem, I need help.” Whereas, designers come up with a problem, go find people that they think have it and then tell them they’d like to solve it. I think just on a social level, that is profoundly anti-social. That is not how people enjoy socially interacting with people.

Andy: I can completely see that and I think that I would say that argument has also levelled, quite rightly, a lot of Silicon Valley, which is the answer to everything is some kind of technology engineering startup to fix all the problems that all the other technology and engineering startups that are no longer startups have created. It’s probably true of quite a lot of areas of business and finance, as well, and politics, for that matter. The counter, I could imagine a designer saying, “Well, that’s not really true”, because one of the things as human-centred designers, the first thing we do, we go out, we do design ethnography, we go and speak to people, we go and observe, we go and do all of that stuff. We really understand their problems. We’re not just telling people what needs to be fixed. We’re going there and understanding things. What’s your response to that?

Anne: Well, my first response is, yes, that’s absolutely true. There are lots of very good designers in the world who do precisely that. Because I work in an academic institution though, I’m training students. What my job involves is getting the to the point where they know the difference between telling somebody something and asking somebody something. what it means to actually understand their client or their user. I prefer to just refer to them as people. What it is that people want or need. One of the things that I offer in all of my classes is, after doing the participant observation, my students always have the opportunity to submit a rationale for no design intervention whatsoever.

That’s not something that is offered to people in a lot of business contexts because there’s a business case that’s being made. Whereas, I want my students to understand that sometimes the research demonstrates that people are actually okay, and that even if they have little problems, they’re still okay with that, that people are quite okay with living with contradictions and that they will accept some issues because it allows for other things to emerge. That if they want, they can provide the evidence for saying, “Actually, the worst thing we could do in this scenario is design anything and I refuse to design.”

Andy: Right, that and the people made trade-offs all the time because of the pain of change is much … [more]
annegalloway  design  2019  speculativefiction  designethnography  morethanhuman  ursulaleguin  livestock  agriculture  farming  sheep  meat  morethanhumanlab  activism  criticaldesign  donnaharaway  stayingwiththetrouble  taoism  flow  change  changemaking  systemsthinking  complicity  catherinecaudwell  injustice  justice  dunneandraby  consciousness  science  technology  society  speculation  speculativedesign  questioning  fiction  future  criticalthinking  whatif  anthropology  humanities  reflexiveanthropology  newzealand  socialsciences  davidgrape  powersoften  animals  cows  genevievebell  markpesce  technologicaldeterminism  dogs  cats  ethnography  cooperation  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  slow  slowness  time  perception  psychology  humility  problemsolving  contentment  presence  peacefulness  workaholism  northamerica  europe  studsterkel  protestantworkethic  labor  capitalism  passion  pets  domestication 
june 2019 by robertogreco
“On a Sunbeam,” the Sci-Fi Comic That Reimagines Utopia | The New Yorker
[Full comic available to read online:
https://www.onasunbeam.com/ ]

[See also:
https://twitter.com/TillieWalden ]

"Tillie Walden is an almost shockingly young (born in 1996) comics creator who received wide attention last year for “Spinning,” a beautiful, melancholy graphic memoir about her years as a pre-teen and then teen figure skater. That book excelled in its tactful line work and use of white space; it looked neither superhero-ish nor ugly-on-purpose nor nearly realist but utterly sympathetic, with vast cold rinks and faces whose expressions you could share. “Spinning” was also a coming-out story, and a school story, and what scholars call a Künstlerroman, the story of how a young person becomes an artist—although, like most Künstlerromanen, it left unresolved the question of what she’d make next.

“On a Sunbeam” is the magnificent, sweeping, science-fictional answer. The big, densely plotted volume has all the virtues of “Spinning,” plus the scale, the sense of wonder, and the optimism intrinsic to what’s called space opera or science fantasy. (Think “Star Trek” and Starfleet Academy.) As with “Spinning,” it can be hard to equal in prose the comic’s inviting, spare line work, use of black-and-white, and expressive qualities. (Walden can make one pen stroke on one character’s face equal two pages of dialogue.) “On a Sunbeam” is at once a queer coming-of-age story, a story about how to salvage lost love and youth, and a multigenerational story about how to thrive in a society that does not understand who you are or what you can do. It is the kind of story that adults can and should give to queer teens, and to autistic teens, and to teens who care for space exploration, or civil engineering, or cross-cultural communication. It is also a story for adults who were once like those teens, and the kind of story (like the Aeneid, but happier) whose devotees might occasionally return to it, hoping for divine advice from a randomly chosen line, or panel, or page.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. “On a Sunbeam”—whose five hundred and thirty-eight pages, rendered in three colors, first appeared serially, online, where it can still be read for free—begins, like some Victorian novels, with two separate plots and settings, years apart. In the A plot, we meet three adult engineers and construction workers who fly their own fish-shaped spaceship from job to job, rebuilding and restoring architecture from their past (which is our distant future). The charismatic, impulsive Alma reports to Charlotte, their cautious commander; Elliot, “our very own mechanical genius,” is nonbinary (taking they/them pronouns) and non-speaking, like many autistic adults in our day. Formerly a trio “together for ages,” the team now has two younger employees: Jules, Alma’s voluble niece, and the anxious newbie Mia, fresh out of her space-based boarding school.

We see through Mia’s eyes, and through Walden’s pen, the comforting intimacy of their sleeping quarters, with its Teddy bears and bunk beds; the sublime ruined space cathedral and the other flying buildings they restore; and the realistic tasks that Mia and Jules slog through—hauling rubble, sharing sandwiches, and trying to “get through a whole day without turning into jelly” from overwork. We worry when Mia worries, and we have fun when she has fun. Jules puts into words the way Mia feels: “We don’t actually do this job to fix things,” she says. “We do it ’cause we get to climb and jump off stuff.”

Before she joined this close-knit crew, Mia attended an élite boarding school. This is where Walden sets her B plot, a place of crushes, mean girls, shifting rivalries, vast halls, anti-gravity stations, and a school-wide, slightly Quidditch-like sport called Lux, whose fish-shaped flight craft race and dodge through tunnels and in midair. Almost as soon as we meet Mia, she falls hard for a new and far more academically talented student named Grace, who reciprocates. Grace convinces a forbidding coach to let Mia chase her dream of playing Lux. The sport is normally off limits to first-years, but our couple won’t let that rule stop them. “We may be freshmen,” Grace declares, “but you can’t put an age limit on passion and dedication.”

“On a Sunbeam” is less like any other American comic, page by page, than it is like a film by Hayao Miyazaki. For Walden, faces and bodies are not types or dummies for action scenes but ways to convey emotion and expression, even as the backdrops—speleological, astronomical, aquatic, or forested—flourish and shine. Walden’s dialogue—never talky, but never too sparse to follow—complements her characters’ body language; it also brings out the feeling of ninth and tenth grade, when every impediment seems like an apocalypse, and every kind word like an angel’s violin. But that dialogue is also a clue to a set of cosmic mysteries that connect younger and older characters, present and backstory, A plot and B plot. Why does Charlotte’s employer distrust her? What does Elliott fear, and why can’t they go home? Can Mia and Jules adjust to life with this tightly knit, and apparently romantic, triad? Will Mia find love?

Mia has already found it, with Grace, and then lost it. Just as in “Spinning”—and in several other comics by Walden, short and long—our point-of-view character fell hard for a smart, dark-skinned girl when both were in their teens, and then that girl left, suddenly, and without much explanation. In “Spinning,” the real Walden goes on with her heartbroken life. In this much longer but equally heartbreaking epic, the school-age couple of Mia and Grace break up for far more complex reasons, and a mission to a secluded planet of volcanic tunnels and warriors with Amish hats (really) is required to rescue Grace, who may not want to be rescued.

It’s probably no coincidence that this comic, so sensitive to its characters’ feelings, is also uncommonly sensitive to newly visible identities: non-speaking autistics, people in triads, people trying to make queer romance work under pressure and across a racial divide. One identity Walden doesn’t draw: men. There are none here, and no one asks why, which means—as in earlier utopias—that all romantic love in this universe would read as queer, or gay, in ours. (Since there are no men, there are no gay men or trans men; perhaps they live on other planets, or in other books.)

Like all science-fictional utopias, “On a Sunbeam” feels imperfect, even (to quote Ursula K. Le Guin) “ambiguous.” But it also feels magnificent: it’s a world in which many readers would want to live, and a way to envision solutions to real-life problems that seem intractable now. It’s a queer love story in a universe where benevolent authorities still get things wrong; it’s also, for all its spacecraft and planets and xenogeology and (eventually) aliens, a story that purists might label not as science fiction but as science fantasy. But such genre labels—though inevitable—seem beside the point. As always for Walden, even when she is writing and drawing pilots and engineers, the point is not how things work but how people feel, and what choices they help one another make.

Comics critics and would-be comics sophisticates—especially the kind who spurn superheroes—may think we have to choose between realistic characters who experience permanent loss and change, on the one hand, and escape, sublimity, and sheer wonder, on the other. Those sophisticates are wrong. “On a Sunbeam” is not the first American science-fiction comic to say so (consider “Finder,” or “Saga”), but it may be the most consistently beautiful, the most self-assured, the one with the best love story, and the one most vaultingly effective in its transitions between small-scale and large, between the deadly caverns under an exoplanet’s mountain and the look on a hopeful girl’s face."
comics  toread  stephanieburt  tilliewalden  2018  illustration  storytelling  utopia  queer  autism  sciencefiction  scifi  hayaomiyazaki  emotions  expression  nonbinary  künstlerroman  comingofage  teens  youngadult  fiction  srg  emotion  bodylanguage  howwewrite  ambiguous  ursulaleguin 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem | Literary Hub
"Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action. Among the virtues that matter are those traditionally considered feminine rather than masculine, more nerd than jock: listening, respect, patience, negotiation, strategic planning, storytelling. But we like our lone and exceptional heroes, and the drama of violence and virtue of muscle, or at least that’s what we get, over and over, and in the course of getting them we don’t get much of a picture of how change happens and what our role in it might be, or how ordinary people matter. “Unhappy the land that needs heroes” is a line of Bertold Brecht’s I’ve gone to dozens of times, but now I’m more inclined to think, pity the land that thinks it needs a hero, or doesn’t know it has lots and what they look like."

"William James said of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, “Surely the cutting edge of all our usual misfortunes comes from their character of loneliness.” That is, if I lose my home, I’m cast out among those who remain comfortable, but if we all lose our homes in the earthquake, we’re in this together. One of my favorite sentences from a 1906 survivor is this: “Then when the dynamite explosions were making the night noisy and keeping everybody awake and anxious, the girls or some of the refugees would start playing the piano, and Billy Delaney and other folks would start singing; so that the place became quite homey and sociable, considering it was on the sidewalk, outside the high school, and the town all around it was on fire.”

I don’t know what Billy Delaney or the girls sang, or what stories the oat gatherers Le Guin writes about might have told. But I do have a metaphor, which is itself a kind of carrier bag and metaphor literally means to carry something beyond, carrying being the basic thing language does, language being great nets we weave to hold meaning. Jonathan Jones, an indigenous Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi Australian artist, has an installation—a great infinity-loop figure eight of feathered objects on a curving wall in the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane that mimics a murmuration, one of those great flocks of birds in flight that seems to swell and contract and shift as the myriad individual creatures climb and bank and turn together, not crashing into each other, not drifting apart.

From a distance Jones’s objects look like birds; up close they are traditional tools of stick and stone with feathers attached, tools of making taking flight. The feathers were given to him by hundreds who responded to the call he put out, a murmuration of gatherers. “I’m interested in this idea of collective thinking,” he told a journalist. “How the formation of really beautiful patterns and arrangements in the sky can help us potentially start to understand how we exist in this country, how we operate together, how we can all call ourselves Australians. That we all have our own little ideas which can somehow come together to make something bigger.”

What are human murmurations, I wondered? They are, speaking of choruses, in Horton Hears a Who, the tiny Whos of Whoville, who find that if every last one of them raises their voice, they become loud enough to save their home. They are a million and a half young people across the globe on March 15 protesting climate change, coalitions led by Native people holding back fossil fuel pipelines across Canada, the lawyers and others who converged on airports all over the US on January 29, 2017, to protest the Muslim ban.

They are the hundreds who turned out in Victoria, BC, to protect a mosque there during Friday prayers the week after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. My cousin Jessica was one of them, and she wrote about how deeply moving it was for her, “At the end, when prayers were over, and the mosque was emptying onto the street, if felt like a wedding, a celebration of love and joy. We all shook hands and hugged and spoke kindly to each other—Muslim, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, atheist…” We don’t have enough art to make us see and prize these human murmurations even when they are all around us, even when they are doing the most important work on earth."
rebeccasolnit  heroes  change  democracy  collectivism  multitudes  2019  robertmueller  gretathunberg  society  movements  murmurations  relationships  connection  femininity  masculinity  leadership  patience  negotiation  listening  strategy  planning  storytelling  bertoldbrecht  violence  attention  ursulaleguin  williamjames  1906  sanfrancisco  loneliness  comfort  billdelaney  jonathanjones  art  humans  humanism  scale  activism  action 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Category-Defying Genius of Ursula K. Le Guin - The New York Times
Don’t shove me into your pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.”
ursulaleguin  generalist 
april 2019 by mayonissen
RT : I have posted this before, but love this reply sent by in 1987 to publishers Harcourt Brace Jovanovic…
UrsulaLeGuin  from twitter
january 2019 by Cabble
Her Left Hand, The Darkness | Alison Smith | Granta Magazine
"In The Wave in the Mind, one of Le Guin’s many collections of essays, she wrote, ‘All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people.’ When I met Le Guin, I was in outer space, hovering in that darkness. Cast out from my homeworld, I spent my days orbiting a new world, afraid to land." This is great.
literature  writing  ursulaleguin  life 
january 2019 by infovore
Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin | Books | The Guardian
The youngest child of one of America’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy on his mother’s lifelong advocacy of freedom and her towering final speech
toread  ursulaleguin  sf 
december 2018 by sasha_feather
Unschooling Unpacked – A Semantic Musing | Growing Minds

Unschooling on the other hand represents my resistance to the dominant model and the resulting dominant mindset of compulsory schooling and all that it represents.

For me, schooling is THE most potent agent of continued colonialism. It is the master’s tool to keep the master’s empire intact. It is where we learn to live in and uphold empire. It is colonizing by nature: the pedagogy; the coercive nature; the content and mindset that speaks to white-heteropatriarchal-capitalist power, planetary destruction, creative destruction, competition, adultism, epistimicide, cultural extinction and language extinction.

And so unschooling is resistance: It is by nature decolonizing, it is more in tune with nature, open to all knowledge systems, embracing of the multitude ways of learning, nurturing, cooperative, culturally regenerating, child honoring and consent based!

Of course there are and always will be the dissenters and disruptors that emerge from the industrial schooling system, swimming against the tide and resisting the effects of schooling (lf you’re reading this then you’re most likely one of the dissenters!). But by and large, as we all exit the schooling system, we exit with our minds colonised into a particular understanding of the world, of what constitutes knowledge and learning and how learning looks. This is not something we can simply shrug off. It takes considerable work to deschool from this and potentially a lifelong process of deschooling. In the meantime communities, children, families and the earth suffer.

While I was working on this piece I was going to suggest that maybe our native unschoolers, as the next generation, can shrug off the word as Wendy proposes. But then I got a massage from Ben Draper that debunked that thought. He writes about the influence of those schoolish messages that now show up for him as a father, even though he grew up relatively free of the coercive schooling institutions. The influence of the school mindset extends to even those that have lived and learned outside of it!

Finally, schooling epitomises social injustice. Its compulsory nature takes away the right of a child to have any say in her education. It is adultism in action, laying the foundation for the other kinds of oppressive practices, like racism; classism; sexism; cissexism; heterosexism and ableism. It would make sense that schools should be the agents of change instead of agents of entrenchment. They aren’t. Unschooling begins with social justice. First for the child, which by its nature requires us to investigate and then resist the systems that perpetuate the multitude of societal oppressions that is supported by the schooling structure.

And that is why I can’t give up on the word unschooling. That is why it resonates with me. That is why I am comfortable with the word schooling being there. It needs to be there. In the same way that colonization makes up the bulk of the word decolonization – which serves to name that system that fundamentally changed our psyches and cultures and societies and continues to do so, I want to understand it , name it rather than erase the source of how I came to be. Similarly, I don’t want to erase the role and responsibility of schooling in how I now think, act and feel and that thanks to schooling I am in need of constant introspection to safeguard myself from reverting to patterns of thought and actions dictated by my constantly lurking schooled mindset. Schooling has a significant historical and contemporary role to play in how society functions. It is ever present and therefore the need for the word unschooling is ever present. For me.

Maybe John Holt didn’t envision this word unschooling to represent decolonization and social justice in this way, But I am claiming it for myself. That is the nature and evolution of words.

As long as schooling is around and it influences how we see children, learning and is instrumental in creating and upholding this unjust society , I will be using this word uschooling. Despite Ursula K Le Guin’s warning that “To oppose something is to maintain it”.

I fear I am unable to take heed of her words just yet."
2018  unschooling  deschooling  zakiyyaismail  education  howwelearn  learning  children  johnholt  language  english  homeschool  resistance  colonialism  decolonization  ursulaleguin  opposition  adultism  agesegegation  cissexism  injustice  socialjustice  ableism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Index of Ursula K. Le Guin's Blog
Covers her years of blogging, 2010 to 2017
blog  UrsulaLeGuin  authors 
september 2018 by amoore
Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: an interview with Ursula le Guin | The Anarcho-Geek Review
MArgaret Killjoy interview with Ursula Le Guin, about the role of fiction in changing society, about her anarchism, and even get to ask her about the singular “they” pronoun.
writing  interview  ursulaleguin 
august 2018 by moriann

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