robertogreco + 2019   339

Sarah Marshall on Twitter: "I think a lot abt how boomers are alarmed by what they see as millennial inactivity--our rented rooms, lack of purchases, houseplant children--& how their lives were often abt doing BIG things for their BIG careers w/o thinking
“I think a lot abt how boomers are alarmed by what they see as millennial inactivity–our rented rooms, lack of purchases, houseplant children--& how their lives were often abt doing BIG things for their BIG careers w/o thinking abt the consequences. We live in the consequences.

It’s like swooping through a big buffet, loading your plate, and then wondering why ppl in the next group are just eating rolls? And trying to take rolls out to the parking lot to give to the people out there who can’t get into the buffet? What’s happening??

And you, with your tummy full of chicken a la king, go through a range of emotions. Should I question the idea that I could take as much as I want because I thought there would always be plenty? Should I accept that there were things I didn’t understand then?

I’ve also been thinking a lot, lately, about how hostility often arises when we feel our vulnerability. The ego tenses to protect us from self-insight. & at the boomer/millennial buffet it appears as: why are you being such a self-righteous baby, HAVE STEAK. (There is no steak)

I find it most interesting when boomer ire is raised by the littleness of our lives. We want quiet things, we want to be peaceful, we want to adopt old dogs instead of having children. The inability to let people be when they quietly abstain for your way of life is so telling.

Because what if you really wanted to live in a room in a house with your friends and have an old dog and some plants and never amass debt or be the hero of anything and then quietly die? But you thought you couldn’t??

(I realize a lot of you have kids or want them, we’re sort of talking about my dreams now)

This is also why STONER is secretly a millennial novel: it’s about achieving the great dream of dying quietly without ruining anyone’s life by living yours”
slow  small  life  living  generations  2019  unschooling  deschooling  suceess  debt  children  sarahmarshall 
8 days ago by robertogreco
The Philosophy of Low-Tech: A Conversation with Kris De Decker : Never Apart
“In a way, to talk about low-tech is more of a critical position. “Low-tech mainly questions the idea that ‘more tech is always better’.” Many proposed solutions are about adding more and more complexity. “Look at what we’re trying to do with cars,” says Kris. “The car is creating problems, so we make electric cars. We add layers and layers of complexity, by making it self-driving, putting even more infrastructure around it… that’s not going to solve the problem. It’s only going to make the problem worse. You introduce more complexities, you need to repair more afterwards.””
lowtech  krisdedecker  criticism  criticalthinking  growth  cars  2019  electriccars  low-tech  low-techmagazine 
8 days ago by robertogreco
I Feel Better Now | Jake Bittle
"Depressed by the burden of life under capitalism? There's an app for that!"

...

"Much like climate change in the liberal imagination, depression in these programs is an effect without a cause."

...

"The same consumerist culture that once shunned mention of depression now also seeks to cannibalize its language for use in advertising and media."

...

"The navel-gazing recommended by apps like these has the potential to entice us away from larger questions about the structural forces that generate a great deal of our suffering."
depression  capitalism  navelgazing  2019  technology  samanthamash 
8 days ago by robertogreco
Car Crashes Aren't Always Unavoidable - The Atlantic
"The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives."

...

"Further entrenching automobile supremacy are laws that require landowners who build housing and office space to build housing for cars as well. In large part because of parking quotas, parking lots now cover more than a third of the land area of some U.S. cities; Houston is estimated to have 30 parking spaces for every resident. As the UCLA urban-planning professor Donald Shoup has written, this mismatch flows from legal mandates rather than market demand. Every employee who brings a car to the office essentially doubles the amount of space he takes up at work, and in urban areas his employer may be required by law to build him a $50,000 garage parking space.

For those who didn’t get the message from the sprawling landscape that zoning has created, the tax code sharpened it by lavishing rewards on those who drive and punishing those who don’t. On its own terms, the mortgage-interest tax deduction is neutral as to the type of home financed, but—given the twin constraints of zoning and mortgage lending—the deduction primarily subsidizes large houses in car-centric areas. Those who walk or bike to work receive no commuter tax benefit, while those who drive receive tax-deductible parking. Another provision of the tax code gives car buyers a tax rebate of up to $7,500 when their new vehicles are electric or hybrid; buyers of brand-new Audis, BMWs, and Jaguars can claim the full $7,500 from the American taxpayer. Environmentally, these vehicles offer an improvement over gas-powered cars (but not public or active transit). Even so, 85 to 90 percent of toxic vehicle emissions in traffic come from tire wear and other non-tailpipe sources, which electric and hybrid cars still produce. They also still contribute to traffic, and can still kill or maim the people they hit. Why are we taxing bus riders to pay rich people to buy McMansions and luxury electric SUVs?"

...

"
Tort law is supposed to allow victims to recover for harms caused by others. Yet the standard of liability that applies to car crashes—ordinary negligence—establishes low expectations of how safe a driver must be. Courts have held that a higher standard—strict liability, which forces more careful risk taking—does not apply to driving. Strict liability is reserved for activities that are both “ultrahazardous” and “uncommon”; driving, while ultrahazardous, is among the most common activities in American life. In other words, the very fact that car crashes cause so much social damage makes it hard for those who are injured or killed by reckless drivers to receive justice.

In a similar spirit, criminal law has carved out a lesser category uniquely for vehicular manslaughter. Deep down, all of us who drive are afraid of accidentally killing someone and going to jail; this lesser charge was originally envisioned to persuade juries to convict reckless drivers. Yet this accommodation reflects a pattern. Even when a motorist kills someone and is found to have been violating the law while doing so (for example, by running a red light), criminal charges are rarely brought and judges go light. So often do police officers in New York fail to enforce road-safety rules—and illegally park their own vehicles on sidewalks and bike facilities—that specific Twitter accounts are dedicated to each type of misbehavior. Given New York’s lax enforcement record, the Freakonomics podcast described running over pedestrians there as “the perfect crime.”"

...

"All of these laws can be reversed directly by the legislative bodies responsible for passing them in the first place. However, a growing body of academic research suggests that, even when most people favor less restrictive zoning, local officials will side with wealthy homeowners who favor the status quo. In these cases, state legislators can be called upon to help. Reformers have succeeded in doing so in Oregon and have shown promise in California. Far less attention has been paid, however, at the federal level. Recently, several Democratic candidates for president have released federal plans to prod states and cities to relax their zoning.

Congress could condition a small share (say, 5 percent) of federal funds on the adoption by states of housing-production goals or Vision Zero design standards calibrated for safety. Conditional appropriations, which are how Congress goaded states into raising the drinking age, are already in use for numerous transportation programs.

Litigation for dangerous street design is another promising way to hold public entities accountable. So far, plaintiffs have mostly sought money damages, but they can also seek design changes through injunctive relief, including by class action. This has the potential to move not only laws and budgets but the entire discourse around street safety.

Finally, reformers could seek recognition of the freedom to walk. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act and state and local counterparts, as well as case law recognizing a constitutional right to movement, suggest such a right to mobility.

Americans customarily describe motor-vehicle crashes as accidents. But the harms that come to so many of our loved ones are the predictable output of a broken system of laws. No struggle for justice in America has been successful without changing the law. The struggle against automobile supremacy is no different."
2019  cars  law  zoning  accidents  insurance  policy  government  taxes  publictransit  pedestrians  parking  cities  urban  urbanism  transportation  transit  speedlimits  california  us  design  safety  health  risks  tortlaw  negligence  oregon  housing  litigation  gregoryshill 
10 days ago by robertogreco
What Do People in Solitary Confinement Want to See? | The New Yorker
“Willie Sterling III imagined this: a line of people, bonded by a belief in his humanity, travelling up a hill in southern Illinois to a cross that sits at its peak. The cross was Bald Knob Cross of Peace, a colossus more than a hundred feet tall. It was made of concrete and varnished with porcelain, and wherever you were, within thousands of miles, you strode in its shadow. Sterling saw his believers huddled at its base, praying for his deliverance from solitary confinement and for him to be granted parole after more than three decades behind bars.

Sterling envisioned this scene as part of a program—begun by a group of lawyers, community members, artists, and currently and formerly incarcerated men and their families, and based in Chicago—that fulfills the photography requests of inmates being held in solitary confinement. Tamms Correctional Center, where Sterling was held for several years, and which closed in 2013, was the only supermax prison in the state of Illinois; it housed people who were deemed “the worst of the worst,” as its first warden, George Welborn, told the Chicago Tribune in 1998, and it held the majority of them in what was euphemistically referred to as isolation. Tamms had seven hundred beds, five hundred of them in an all-solitary-confinement supermax facility. Those in solitary spent at least twenty-two hours a day in their cells. Some days, they were not let out at all. For meals, boiled eggs and loaves of congealed food were slid through a thin aperture in the steel cell door. The sink and the toilet were combined into one structure.

In 2006, activists formed a poetry committee to mitigate the sensory deprivation that the prison inflicted on the people held there. They exchanged letters and poems with the inmates. Two years later, the committee transformed into Tamms Year Ten, a coalition that protested the conditions at the prison, with the goal of seeing it shuttered. The group also asked inmates to fill out a form describing a picture that they would like to receive. A volunteer would then create it.

Laurie Jo Reynolds, the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, recently described to me, over the phone, the work that was done to fulfill Sterling’s request: “We got a caravan of sixteen family members. I got an a-cappella singer, one of our volunteers, to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ And then we had to work it out with the proprietor of Bald Knob Cross that we would have dinner there, because it was dark by the time it was over.” In the wide-shot photo, the cross looms against a colorless sky as a crowd of people, dressed in white and black, huddles nearby, heads lowered. To Sterling, the image was an amulet, a prayer frozen in time. One year after Sterling received it, he was granted parole.”



“According to many human-rights organizations, the prolonged lack of human contact and sensory deprivation that inmates experience in solitary confinement qualifies as torture. The legislative campaign that Tamms Year Ten spearheaded succeeded in closing the prison. The photo-request project continued, in affiliation with the watchdog group Solitary Watch. Now known as Photo Requests from Solitary, it is run by Reynolds, Jean Casella, a co-director of Solitary Watch, and Jeanine Oleson, a professor of photography at Parsons School of Design. According to Casella, in six years, the program has received a few hundred requests for people imprisoned in Illinois, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.”



“The sensual urges of the incarcerated are often demonized, dismissed as criminal or undeserved, but Photo Requests from Solitary regards them without judgment. Within the parameters of prison rules, the group fulfills requests of an erotic bent. Reynolds told me fondly about a man named Johnny, who asked for a particular screenshot of Jennifer Lopez’s butt from the “Jenny from the Block” music video. She noted that many men’s requests for pictures of women seemed tender, oriented to narrative and tableau—more like what you would see in “women’s porn,” she said. Dan, for instance, requested a modest fantasy: a picture of a “black female with hazel eyes,” with “orange and blue in the sky” and a Mercedes-Benz of “powder blue.” His request was realized via a collaboration between Photo Requests and Vice. The photographer, Jason Altaan, made the image glaringly arty; I wonder how Dan liked it.

Not all of the people who volunteer for these assignments are artists or photographers, per se. Most fulfill the assignments straightforwardly, without interpreting or embellishing, even when the requests are conceptual—men and women asking to be represented as howling wolves, or crying lions, or sad clowns. The volunteers do their best to be another person’s eyes, and to respect the significance of the exchange. (You can visit the project’s Web site and, if you’d like, fulfill a request of your own.) Frank, imprisoned in California, enclosed a photograph of his daughter with his form, asking that she be Photoshopped into an image of the Pyramid of the Sun, in Teotihuacán, Mexico. Jason Mena placed her in the sky above the structure, as if she were the sun. One man requested a new picture of his daughter; a volunteer travelled to her home to take it. In the box, time stands still and it doesn’t. Chris asked to see a photograph of the Barclays Center, in downtown Brooklyn, which had been built while he was incarcerated. “I just want to see it the best way the photographer can capture it. To feel as if I’m right there,” he wrote.

Advocates estimate that eighty thousand people are currently housed in solitary confinement, though the difficulty of tracking confined populations means that the number may be larger. A small exhibition of Photo Requests from Solitary was recently held at the Brooklyn Public Library, featuring banners printed with blown-up copies of some of the prisoners’ requests. I noticed that observers lingered longer on the request forms than they did on the pictures. Regrets, anguish, and hope emanated from the handwriting. The descriptions were abundant and precise, sometimes ecstatic—images that the inmates assembled from language long before they were made visual. “Motion!,” Mark, in Pennsylvania, writes. “I’ve been in solitary for twenty-three years and three days today. It’s like living in a still-life painting;. . . I’d like to see things moving. Perhaps traffic at night, lights shining and the trails from lights whizzing past.”“
doreenstfélix  photography  society  prison  solitaryconfinement  2019  imagery  sensorydeprivation  senses  humanrights  incarceration  solidarity 
11 days ago by robertogreco
Day'von Hann is just the latest black child robbed of his life — and then robbed of his youth or even the perception of innocence - Mission Local
"Yes. Let’s be honest. Despite connotations that any “teen” or “juvenile” out in the Mission in the wee hours was up to no good and obviously had it coming, violent crime rates in this and nearly every city are a fraction of what they were a generation ago. “Helicopter parenting” is a thing now, but it wasn’t then. And, back then, the nation’s violent crime rates were more than double what they are now. You wouldn’t know about it based on how news stories are written and framed, but San Francisco doesn’t even crack the nation’s Top-100 most dangerous cities, as measured by violent crime per capita.

A lot of Mayberry-type towns do, though. Chicago, which Donald Trump claimed “there are those who say” is worse than Afghanistan, cracks the list at No. 91. Muskogee, Okla. — a place where even squares can have a ball; we still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse; and white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all — is nearly 30 slots higher at No. 62.

So, that’s a fact. But Day’von Hann had an apostrophe in his name. And that’s a fact, too.

“There is no black innocence,” Taylor says. “When you are a victim, it’s almost like a sort of twist on double jeopardy. You become involved in the community’s violence; the act of being shot makes you connected to ‘urban violence.’ The particulars of your innocence are trivial. You were there where the violence was and these communities were long ago dismissed as ‘bad neighborhoods.’”

The presumption of culpability and guilt attached to young people of color like Hann does not tend to apply to white youths. Studies have shown that law-enforcement officials perceive black children to be both older than and more likely guilty than white contemporaries.

This is pervasive and systemic and transcends mere first impressions. How else to interpret why the black girl caught licking cartons of ice cream in a Texas Wal-Mart was initially threatened with a 20-year incarceration while a New Jersey judge argued that a white boy accused of rape deserved leniency because he hailed from “a good family”?

Crime rates aren’t lower than they’ve ever been, but they’re far, far lower than they were even during the so-called good times. And yet people seem to be more scared than they’ve ever been. This month in Arizona, a white man stabbed a 17-year-old black boy in the neck at a Circle-K, killing him. The rationale? The boy was playing rap music, and the man said rap music makes him feel unsafe.

I don’t know about you, but getting stabbed in the neck makes me feel unsafe.

Taylor sees all of this — the victim-blaming, the denial of innocence and youth, the pervasive fear in the face of quantitatively better crime numbers — as part of a continuum.

“The way in which our political narratives function tend to give peace of mind to the portion of society that feels like it cannot wrestle with larger issues like urban violence or gun violence or youth violence,” he says. The people parsing the term “child” in a story about a brutal homicide “can sleep better at night living in a society where an innocent black boy is shot down like a dog in the street and the takeaway is ‘he’s older than you’re saying he is.’”

In photos, Day’von “Day Day” Hann is quick to smile. He’s short and scrawny in a way only kids are and, seen through older eyes, appears to be in that transitional phase. He’s 15, at the cusp of moving from what he was to what he’d be.

The man who held Day Day’s hand and tried to ease his pain didn’t ask his age. He learned from our story that Hann was just 15. “I sat with this young man as he died, in the dark, on the sidewalk,” wrote the neighbor. “I didn’t know his age, but my impression was, he was just a kid.”

And he was."
joeeskenazi  language  sanfrancisco  children  media  race  racism  2019  missiondistrict  themission  day'vonhann  jamestaylor  innocence  jeffreyepstein 
11 days ago by robertogreco
The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging – Emergence Magazine
"As we listen and seek to connect, we should remember and honor this difference. At the same time, let us not allow otherness to bar the door to kinship, curiosity, and imagination. There is a bridge. That bridge is made from the gift of our attention. Sometimes attention is focused into science, but mostly it is an opening to the languages of birds in the everyday.

What do we hear in the bird voices of our homes? Every species has a sonic signature, and individuals within species have their own unique voices. In this diversity of acoustic expression are embedded many meanings.

First, the particularities of species, each with its own cadence and tempo. House wren. Bald eagle. Song sparrow. Raven. By noticing and naming, we take the first step into friendship and understanding, crossing the gulf between species. Sound is a particularly powerful connector because it travels through and around barriers, finding us and calling us out of inattention. We walk across town and notice our avian cousins. Kinship and community are no longer just ideas, but are lived, sensual relationships."

...

"With some attention and perhaps the help of a recording device, we can hear the individuality of birds around our homes. But understanding the meanings embedded in these sounds is harder. In the human realm, I can learn the singular voices of people speaking in a foreign tongue, but I’ll completely fail to understand what they say and mean. How much more difficult is the task with creatures separated from us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

Yet, attentive bird-listeners hear the edges of meaning. Individuality in bird sounds is not random or accidental; it reveals the personality of each bird. In the society of chickadees, some birds have open and exploratory personalities, others are more careful and precise. The rattle of kingfishers and the wood thrushes’ evening song take on new inflections when birds court and pair. At the nest, we hear information flowing in a stream of sound between mated birds. No two phoebe nestlings beg for food in the same way. When sparrow youngsters babble and practice their songs, they explore acoustic spaces in ways that parallel human speech: improvisational, repetitive, refined by listening to elders. In the trees at dusk, crows warble softly to themselves as they preen. A raven’s call is filled with mocking irony as the bird mimics for its companions the call of a sandhill crane. Parrots laugh, causing those around them to frolic and play. As robins gather on a lawn, a blue jay screams a red-shouldered hawk call, a deception that the bird repeats with great gusto when humans walk under its tree. These are not the dead clankings of machines, nor are they the mere utilitarian grunts of feeding or social tokens of sexual union. These sounds are intricate, layered, responsive, generative, and humorous.

Laboratory studies reveal that bird utterances are imbued with understanding, full of representation, organized by rules, powered by creativity, and shaped by culture and context. Bird sound-making has internal grammatical rules. Their brains learn and innovate. Birds hear and remember nuances of sound, connecting abstract acoustic patterns to the physicality of their ecological and social worlds. They listen to the voices of other species and understand what is meant. Social interaction with kin and neighbors molds the shape of individual sounds and the organization of these parts into a whole.

These scientific studies, valuable as they are in expanding our understanding, have queried bird language in only a handful of species, often with the goal of testing whether specific rules of human grammar also manifest in birds. Thus far, science alone is insufficient to the task of hearing birds. A few dozen experiments conducted by a handful of researchers will not open the ears of the human species to the voices of our cousins. Language-learning is for everyone.

When we understand the meanings of a sound made by a bird, nerves in two different brains touch and signal. The link between nerve cells is made from vibrating air, a connection as strong and real as the chemical links among nerves in a single brain. Bird sounds, then, are sonic neurotransmitters that leap across species boundaries.

When we understand the meanings of a sound made by a bird, nerves in two different brains touch and signal."
birds  sound  listening  multispecies  morethanhuman  2019  language  nature  davidhaskell  understanding  intelligence  biology  communication  wildlife  meaning  kinship 
11 days ago by robertogreco
Shit's Totally FUCKED! What Can We Do?: A Mutual Aid Explainer - YouTube
"Freaked out by police? Pissed about ICE? Outraged at gentrification? What should we do? People are overwhelmed, pissed, and scared right now. This video is about how mutual aid projects are a way to plug into helping people and mobilizing for change. Check out the mutual aid toolkit at BigDoorBrigade.com for more inspiration and information about starting mutual aid projects where you live!"
mutualaid  deanspade  activism  2019  explainer  prisonabolition  government  lawenforcement  policy  politics  police  participatory  organizing  organization  democracy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropy 
11 days ago by robertogreco
Brent Jackson on Twitter: "New phone who dis… "
“New phone who dis [image: "iPad Pro connected to Raspberry Pi 4 running Gatsby develop with Theme UI docs site open"]

Basic setup:
- iPad Pro 11" (with USB-C)
- Raspberry Pi 4 (ssh + power via USB-C)
- Blink Shell for SSH
- Raspian with Node.js, Git, Vim, etc.

The most frustrating part is that I know the iPad’s hardware is fully capable of what the Raspberry Pi is doing here

To run Gatsby develop and view in it iOS, I use the `--host 0.0.0.0` flag and open the dev server at `raspberrypi.local:8000`– webpack hot reload works most of the time but sometimes needs a hard refresh

To install Node.js, I use `wget` to download the tar from http://nodejs.org , extract it and manually move it to /usr/local/bin

Setting up the RPi4 to run in OTG gadget mode, the steps are very similar to how you do it for the Pi Zero (there’s a few guides out there)

Download the image from http://raspberrypi.org and write to an SD card.
- Add dtoverlay=dwc2 to /boot/config.txt
- Add modules-load=dwc2,g_ether to /boot/cmdline.txt (after rootwait)
- touch /boot/ssh to enable ssh

For vim, I cloned the repo from github and built locally according to the instructions in the readme

I tried to build Zeit Now CLI, but it didn’t work and I couldn’t find any relevant documentation

Also ran into issues where some USB-C cables just did not work at all (sounds like an issue with the RPi), so if you don’t see a light, try another cable. Currently using the Apple MacBook USB-C charge cable (iPad cable was a no-go)”

[via: https://www.are.na/block/4577252 ]
ipad  ipadpro  programming  coding  whatisacomputer  2019  brentjackson  raspberrypi  gatsby  node.js  vim  usb-c  git  ios  ipados 
14 days ago by robertogreco
A lengthy ramble through many responses to that FaceTime Attention Correction tweet (4 Jul., 2019, at Interconnected)
"Rachel Coldicutt’s response sums it up for me. Auto-correct for facial expressions is Attention Correction is a nutshell. Not only because auto-correct has both positive and negative consequences, but also because — in this case — an idea of “correctness” in face-to-face communication is invented, and the idea that there is or should be “correctness” here is something I would push back on very strongly.

Coldicutt’s final point, which is to bring in power, is the most important point in all of this: looking through the lens of power is where discussion of this feature should begin and end.

And so my question is this:

since the category of “unreal” (deep fake, fictional, mediated) video is here to stay, and only going to grow, and knowing that gaze awareness is important and, yes, something that should be available to design with; listening to the many concerns and always sensitive to the dynamics of power and vulnerability; how could Apple present this Attention Correction feature differently today (it may be nothing more than displaying an icon on the receiving end) in order to help us develop the best cues and social norms to not only minimise damage, but to best position us for an inclusive, collaborative, technology-positive future?"
mattwebb  2019  video  videochat  facetime  apple  ai  manipulation  realism  bias  autism  attention  eyecontact  technology  deepfakes  mediation  rachelcoldicutt  communication  norms  correctness  power 
15 days ago by robertogreco
How to Make Homemade Pizza, Grandma Pie-Style | Bon Appétit
“A chewy-crisp crust, endless topping ideas, and do-ahead ease. Pizza made in a sheet pan is the simplest, tastiest way to feed a crowd.”
recipes  pizza  2019  glvo 
15 days ago by robertogreco
The Book That Made Me: An Animal | Public Books
"The Lives of Animals was the first book I read in college—or at least the first book I read in a strange, amazing seminar that rewired my brain in the first semester of freshman year. The course was about animals, and I signed up for it probably because it was a course my dad, who had been advising me on all things college, would have taken himself. He kept animal effigies all over the apartment: portraits of a donkey and a marmot in the bathroom; a giant poster of “The External Structure of Cock and Chicken” in the living room; dog figures of many breeds; pigs, his favorite, in all shapes and sizes, in every single nook and cranny. In the dining room he had a huge pig sculpture made of leather, which in retrospect was a strange and morbid combination: one animal skinned to make an image of another. Our cocker spaniel had chewed its face beyond recognition by the time my mom got around to throwing it out.

My dad passed away in 2016, two years after they got divorced, and I faced the monumental task of disposing of his menagerie. I kept many things, of course, but couldn’t keep them all. It was so easy to throw out or donate clothes, housewares, furniture, even books. I didn’t know what to do with the creatures, who seemed to contain his spirit more than anything else. I laughed when I found a key chain in a random drawer: a little brass effigy of one pig mounting another. That was his humor. That was his mind, his way of seeing, his culture—which was based, like all cultures, in certain ideas about nature. Frankly, he was a difficult man to know even when he was alive. The animals offered me a way in, as they probably did for him.

Anyway, he was the one who saw the listing for a course named “Zooësis” and thought I might like it. And I really did, from the moment our indefatigably brilliant professor, Una Chaudhuri, asked us to read J. M. Coetzee’s weird, hybrid book. The Lives of Animals is a novella, but Coetzee delivered it as a two-part Tanner Lecture at Princeton in 1997, and it centers, in turn, on two lectures delivered by its aging novelist protagonist, Elizabeth Costello. During her visit to an obscure liberal arts college, she speaks hard-to-swallow truths about the cruelties we visit upon animals, making a controversial analogy between industrialized farming and the Third Reich. But the content of her lectures is almost less important than the reactions they generate and the personal consequences she incurs, which Coetzee shows us by nesting the lectures within a fictional frame. People get incensed; the academic establishment rebukes her argument, her way of arguing, everything she represents. Even her family relationships buckle under the weight of a worldview that seems to reject reason.

Her first lecture is about the poverty of philosophy, both as a basis for animal ethics and as a medium for thinking one’s way into the mind of another kind of creature. But her second lecture is about the potential of poetry, and it’s captivating in its optimism about the ability of human language to imagine radically nonhuman forms of sensory experience—or, perhaps more radically, forms of sensory experience we share with other species.

As a person who has worked within the field commonly known as animal studies but has never worked with real animals (unlike so many great boundary-crossing thinkers: the late poet-philosopher-veterinarian Vicki Hearne, the philosopher-ethologist Vinciane Despret, et al.), I often find myself bummed out by the inadequacy of representation: Specifically, what good are animals in books? Are they not inevitably vessels of human meaning? In Flush, her novel about the inner life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Virginia Woolf has another way of putting the problem: “Do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” To which I would add: Do they not destroy, or at least ignore, the creature beyond the symbol as well?

Coetzee has a different view. Or Costello, at least, has some different ideas about what poetry can do. She celebrates poems like Ted Hughes’s “The Jaguar” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”—“poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him.” She finds value in poems that try to capture the fluid complexity of a moment of contact across species, rather than try to preserve an imagined essence of the animal in amber. She also defends the human imagination as something more powerful than we give it credit for. My favorite line from the book is her response to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel insists that it’s impossible for a human to know the answer to his titular question. Costello rebuts: “If we are capable of thinking our own death, why on earth should we not be capable of thinking our way into the life of a bat?” I think it takes an effort of heart, more than mind, to follow her train of thought.

The novella reflects her resistance to the imperious voice of human reason—and her embrace of the messiness of the subjective imagination—on many levels. She’s uneasy at the bully pulpit, as was Coetzee himself. For the longest time I thought that the narrator was omniscient—an impersonal God figure aligned with Coetzee’s own position at that Princeton lectern. But then I read the novella again, preparing to teach it in a lit class where we were also reading Jane Austen. I realized that the narrator filters everything through the perspective of John Bernard, Costello’s son, who has a strange tendency to obsess over his mother’s body (paging Dr. Freud: “Her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby”) and profoundly ambivalent feelings about her. He is torn between sympathy and repulsion, connection and alienation. He is torn, also, between her perspective, which persuades him to an extent, and the perspective of his wife, Norma, a philosophy professor who loathes her and has no patience for her anti-rationalist message.

The question this novella raises is always that of its own construction: Why is it a novella in the first place? What does Coetzee communicate through fiction that he couldn’t have communicated through a polemic? I think the technique of focalization, which grounds everything in John’s perspective, shows us exactly what an abstract polemic about animals couldn’t: the impossibility of speaking from a position outside our embodiment, our emotions, our primordial and instinctual feelings toward kin. In other words, the impossibility of speaking about animals as though we were not animals ourselves.

Every time I read the book—definitely every time I teach it—the potentialities of its form grow in number. I find new rooms in the house of fiction that reveal how grand a mansion it is. I display it proudly, in the center of a bookshelf lined with animal books like Marian Engel’s Bear, Woolf’s Flush, J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, Kafka’s stories, and John Berger’s Pig Earth. The shelf is my own version of my father’s menagerie, brimming with all manner of complex and contradictory creatures. All of them are representations, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real, or any less alive.

I regard my father with some of the ambivalence that John, the son in Coetzee’s story, feels toward his own mother and her thoughts on animals. But I encounter the creatures he left behind with warmth, solidarity, and hope."
via:timoslimo  jmcoetzee  multispecies  morethanhuman  senses  writing  howwewrite  language  whywewrite  fiction  animals  bodies  unachaudhuri  philosophy  elizabethbarrettbrowning  virginiawoolf  vincianedespret  animalrights  vickihearne  rainermariarilke  tedhughes  narration  thomasnagel  imagination  messiness  janeausten  perspective  novellas  kafka  johnberger  marianengel  jrackerley  hope  solidarity  communication  embodiment  emotions  persuasion  mattmargini  canon  books  reading  howweread  teaching  howweteach  farming  livestock  sensory  multisensory  animalstudies  poetry  poems  complexity  grief  literature  families  2019 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Paper Books Can’t Be Shut Off from Afar – Popula
[See also (referenced within):
"Microsoft is about to shut off its ebook DRM servers: "The books will stop working""
https://boingboing.net/2019/06/28/jun-17-2004.html ]

“Private ownership—in particular the private ownership of books, software, music and other cultural information—is the linchpin of a free society. Having many copies of works of art, music and literature distributed widely (e.g., many copies of the same book among many private owners, or many copies of the same audio files, torrents or blockchain ledger entries on many private computers) protects a culture against corruption and censorship. Decentralization strategies like these help to preserve press freedom, and individual freedom. The widespread private ownership of cultural artifacts guarantees civil liberties, and draws people into their culture immanently, persistently, giving it life and power.

Cory Doctorow’s comment on Friday at BoingBoing regarding private ownership of books is well worth reading; he wrote it because Microsoft is shutting down its e-books service, and all the DRM books people bought from them will thus vanish into thin air. Microsoft will provide refunds to those affected, but that isn’t remotely the point. The point is that all their users’ books are to be shut off with a single poof! on Microsoft’s say-so. That is a button that nobody, no corporation and no government agency, should be ever permitted to have.

“The idea that the books I buy can be relegated to some kind of fucking software license is the most grotesque and awful thing I can imagine,” Doctorow said.

At this very moment, governments are forbidding millions of people, Chinese people, Cubans, Belarusians and Egyptians and Hungarians and many, many others all over this world, from reading whatever they want.

So if there is to be a fear of the increasing adoption of e-books such as those offered by Microsoft, and to a far greater degree, Amazon, that’s by far the scariest thing about it. Because if you were to keep all your books in a remotely controlled place, some villain really could come along one day and pretty much flip the switch and take them all away — and not just yours but everyone’s, all at once. What if we had some species of Trump deciding to take action against the despicable, dangerous pointy-heads he is forever railing against?

Boom! Nothing left to read but The Art of the Deal.

I don’t intend on shutting up about this ever, and I’m sure Doctorow won’t either, bless him.”
mariabustillos  books  print  drm  decentralization  2019  microsoft  kindle  china  cuba  belarus  egypt  hungary  censorship  totalitarianism  georgeorwell  society  freedom  corporations  ip  intellectualproperty  ownership  ebooks  libery  power  culture  corydoctorow 
20 days ago by robertogreco
▶ Audrey Watters | Gettin' Air with Terry Greene
"Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) is an ed-tech folk hero who writes at Hack Education @hackeducation where, for the past nine years, she has taken the lead in keeping the field on its toes in regards to educational technology's "progress". Her long awaited and much anticipated book, "Teaching Machines", will be out in the new year."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  terrygreene  bfskinner  technology  schools  education  turnitin  history  learning  behaviorism  cognition  cognitivescience  psychology  automation  standardization  khanacademy  howweteach  liberation  relationships  agency  curiosity  inquiry  justice  economics  journalism  criticism  vr  facebook  venturecapital  capitalism  research  fabulism  contrafabulism  siliconvalley  archives  elonmusk  markzuckerberg  gatesfoundation  billgates 
23 days ago by robertogreco
Thrive Charter Schools All Hat and No Cattle
[See also:

“Thrive charter schools will not be renewed after state school board took no action”
https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/sd-me-thrive-charter-20190314-story.html

“San Diego Unified denies renewal of Thrive charter schools, raising debate about how to judge school quality”
https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/sd-me-thrive-charter-rejected-20181114-story.html ]
charterschools  sandiego  2018  thrivepublicschools  schools  education  2019 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Jonathan Kozol: Joe Biden Didn’t Just Praise Segregationists. He Also Spent Years Fighting Busing | Democracy Now!
[See also:

"Part 2: Jonathan Kozol on “When Joe Biden Collaborated with Segregationists”"
https://www.democracynow.org/2019/6/26/jonathan_kozol_on_when_joe_biden

and

"When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists: The candidate’s years as an anti-busing crusader cannot be forgotten—or readily forgiven."
https://www.thenation.com/article/joe-biden-education-busing-opposition/

"Unlike Bernie Sanders, who recently proposed a Thurgood Marshall Plan for public education that calls for a renewal and expansion of desegregation plans by means of transportation, Biden still believes his original position was correct and, according to one of his aides, Bill Russo, sees no reason to revise it. No matter how he tries to blur the edges of his past or present beliefs, no matter how he waffles in his language in order to present himself as some kind of born-again progressive, Biden has not shown that he can be trusted to confront our nation’s racist past and one of its most urgent present needs.

As the mainstream media repeatedly reminds us, Biden is a likable man in many ways. Even his critics often speak about his graciousness. But his likability will not help Julia Walker’s grandkids and her great-grandchildren and the children of her neighbors go to schools where they can get an equal shot at a first-rate education and where their young white classmates have a chance to get to know and value them and learn from them, as children do in ordinary ways when we take away the structures that divide them."]
jonathankozol  2019  joebiden  racism  race  elections  2020  education  schools  schooling  busing  segregation  integration  fannielouhamer  thrurgoodmarshall  juneteenth  corybooker  desegregation  amygoodman  newyork  california  illinois  delaware  maryland 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Why is life expectancy faltering? | Society | The Guardian
"For the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in western Europe – and doctors and experts believe that the impact of austerity is a major factor"
us  uk  austerity  economics  health  2019  lifeexpectancy  government  society 
25 days ago by robertogreco
The real reasons why the US refuses to go metric - The Verge
[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbdx2nOQKKo ]

“We’re lazy, but that isn’t the only problem

In 1975, the United States passed the Metric Conversion Act. The legislation was meant to slowly transition its units of measurement from feet and pounds to meters and kilograms, bringing the US up to speed with the rest of the world. There was only one issue: the law was completely voluntary. Of course, that meant it pretty much never took off.

Over 40 years later, the US lives in a metric gray area. Sure, it has a few laws requiring that consumer goods list both metric and US customary measures, but it still remains isolated in its US customary measures bubble. So what would it take for that bubble to burst?

In the latest Verge Science video, we take a look at three lesser-known reasons behind the US’s reluctance to adopt the metric system. Apart from the obvious (it just can’t be bothered), there’s a small glimmer of hope for internationalists everywhere.”
metricsystem  us  measurement  2019  science  standards 
26 days ago by robertogreco
This map shows how LA politicians have created a city for the rich
“Our politicians have handed over staggering amounts of public money and land for luxury development. In doing so, they’ve effectively worked overtime to make this city as hostile as possible to the working class.”



“Ultimately, the elites have been wildly successful: LA is the most desired location for global real estate investors in North America, and Mayor Garcetti can cheer that we’ve “been named the most economically vibrant city in the world.” On the flip side, the county’s Black population has declined by 150,00 since 1990, 650,000 children are hungry, and LA is one of the most unaffordable places on earth. These are the contradictions of a booming city under 21st Century capitalism; ones that our politicians have enthusiastically embraced at every step of the way.”
losangeles  development  2019  maps  mapping  jacobwoocher  politics  policy  gentrification  dtla  funding  capitalism  inequality  incarceration  criminalization 
27 days ago by robertogreco
Gnamma #25 - Undoing Los Angeles
"I spent the weekend in Los Angeles, as a place to work a little bit but mostly see friends and re-center myself in my favorite city.

I find myself having to justify an affinity for LA nearly anywhere I go (but especially in the Bay). My parents were confused when I moved, but I think that their understandings were rooted in memories of what LA was portrayed to be through the 1992 race riots and before the Clean Air Act had really kicked into gear—slightly more apocalyptic.

The social world I lived in before the moving West was full of Northeast Ivy League bullshit and otherwise inherited from my parents (cerebral, university-centric). This sphere did not seem to think much of Los Angeles, probably because its cultural production is not seen as high-brow enough to be accepted by Brahmin standards. Or maybe because Los Angeles makes little sense, from an urban planning perspective if your reference points are Boston, New York, DC. Or maybe because LA's legendary vapidity is assumed to create an intellectual wasteland of vice and appearance.

I read Geoff Manaugh's post about Los Angeles [http://bldgblog.com/2007/10/greater-los-angeles/ ] just a couple days before I moved to the city (having never been before), and can't imagine a better tone-setting read. It celebrates how you can find anything in LA if you drive around the right block. In this vein, I've enjoyed collecting quips about what I call "LA Phenomenology" [https://www.are.na/lukas-w/la-phenomenology ]—how can a short paragraph speak to the deep plurality, dynamism, and strangeness of this place?

I found most critiques of LA to be both true and not true, which is one of the reasons I became intellectually attached to the place. LA is incredible at self-narratizing, which leads to a wonderful weave of narrative and reality in the city—where the line between the two becomes irrelevant. Lots of people have opinions about what LA "is" and how LA "feels," and these could seem true or false depending on how far you drive along the freeway. I don't mean to deny that every city has plurality within it; my particular experience of Los Angeles' forced me to reconsider my terms of engagement with a city. LA forced me to slow down to the pace that the freeways permit and meet it on its own terms, closely examining my assumptions about the place versus what was actually going on, in front of my eyes: a highly navigable city full of thoughtful people, deep roots, and fascinating ecology.

(I need to credit at least some people in furthering these thoughts. My friend Tristan has been my primary influence on theorizing Los Angeles. One of my first conversations on the subject was at a cafe in La Jolla with Sascha Pohflepp, who passed away recently. He welcomed me warmly to the bizarreness of Southern California and was the first to tell me about Reyner Banham—I am so thankful that our paths crossed.)

A discussion I've had a few times in the Bay revolves around Northern vs. Southern California water rights. In order to supply drinking water to their populations, San Diego and Los Angeles share an artificial watershed that is 1.5 times the area of the state of California [https://www.are.na/block/1912858 ]. ("Artificial Watershed" here being the combined natural watershed and area that delivers water via hydraulic infrastructure to the place.) They are sucking the Owens Valley and Colorado River dry. Northern California, just by being more rainy but also having more proximity to Sierran snowpack, has much smaller artificial watershed. Northern California views Southern California as parasitic as it pulls precious water down the Aqueduct that otherwise could have stayed where it was, upholding ecological or hydrological process rather than fulfilling urban uses.

Of course, we can't undo Los Angeles. Southern California is fully terraformed, home to millions, and a key cultural player—cutting the water supply would be an extreme human rights abuse. Sustainability in water and otherwise will be some difficult ongoing complex of cultural shifts, technology, policy, and luck. "Sustainable Cities" are both slippery to define and difficult to achieve—is a sustainable Los Angeles one that is affordable? That has enough water? That produces zero waste? That celebrates a diverse population? All of the above and more, of course, I hope, but hard triage decisions are upon us.

I found Los Angeles lovely not because it "works" in the sense of how Monocle magazine thinks a pleasant city should work, but because I reframed its demonstrated dysfunction (celebrity-centric culture, ignored public transit, punishingly walkable streets, landlord-as-investor model) as fertile symptoms of the difficulty of making a city address its own reality and be livable. Perhaps I love Los Angeles because I feel like if LA can make it, anywhere can.

Getting gas at the Arco on Figueroa where the 5 and 110, and Arroyo Seco and LA River, meet,
Lukas"
losangeles  lukaswinklerprins  geoffmanaugh  2019  cities  socal  california  norcal  saschaphflepp  place 
27 days ago by robertogreco
Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online | WIRED
"KUDOS TO THE fans. One of the nominees for the Hugo Awards this year is Archive of Our Own, a fanfiction archive containing nearly 5 million fanworks—about the size of the English Wikipedia, and several years younger. It's not just the fanfic, fanart, fanvids, and other fanworks, impressive as they are, that make Archive of Our Own worthy of one of the biggest honors in science fiction and fantasy. It's also the architecture of the site itself.

At a time when we're trying to figure out how to make the internet livable for humans, without exploiting other humans in the process, AO3 (AO3, to its friends) offers something the rest of tech could learn from.

Here's a problem that AO3 users, like the rest of the internet, encounter every day: How do you find a particular thing you're interested in, while filtering out all the other stuff you don't care about? Most websites end up with tags of some sort. I might look through a medical journal database for articles tagged "cataracts," search a stock photo site for pictures tagged "businesspeople," or click on a social media hashtag to see what people are saying about the latest episode of #GameOfThrones.

Tags are useful but they also have problems. Although "cataracts," "businesspeople," and #GameOfThrones might seem like the most obvious tags to me, someone else might have tagged these same topics "cataract surgery," "businessperson," and #GoT. Another person might have gone with "nuclear sclerosis" (a specific type of cataract), "office life," and #Daenerys. And so on.

There are two main ways of dealing with the problem of tagging proliferation. One is to be completely laissez-faire—let posters tag whatever they want and hope searchers can figure out what words they need to look for. It's easy to set up, but it tends to lead to an explosion of tags, as posters stack on more tags just in case and searchers don't know which one is best. Laissez-faire tags are common on social media; if I post an aesthetic photo of a book I'm reading on Instagram, I have over 20 relevant tags to choose from, such as #book #books #readers #reader #reading #reads #goodreads #read #booksofig #readersofig #booksofinstagram #readersofinstagram #readstagram #bookstagram #bookshelf #bookshelves #bookshelfie #booknerd #bookworm #bookish #bookphotography #bookcommunity #booklover #booksbooksbooks #bookstagrammer #booktography #readers #readabook #readmorebooks #readingtime #alwaysreading #igreads #instareads #amreading. "Am reading" indeed—reading full paragraphs of tags.

The other solution to the proliferation of competing tags is to implement a controlled, top-down, rigid tagging system. Just as the Dewey Decimal System has a single subcategory for Shakespeare so library browsers can be sure to find Hamlet near Romeo and Juliet, rigid tagging systems define a single list of non-overlapping tags and require that everyone use them. They're more popular in professional and technical databases than in public-facing social media, but they're a nice idea in theory—if you only allow the tag "cataract" then no one will have to duplicate effort by also searching under "cataracts" and "cataract surgery."

The problem is rigid tags take effort to learn; it's hard to convince the general public to memorize a gigantic taxonomy. Also, they become outdated. Tagging systems are a way of imposing order on the real world, and the world doesn't just stop moving and changing once you've got your nice categories set up. Take words related to gender and sexuality: The way we talk about these topics has evolved a lot in recent decades, but library and medical databases have been slower to keep up.

The Archive of Our Own has none of these problems. It uses a third tagging system, one that blends the best elements of both styles.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don't have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don't need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don't need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.

AO3's trick is that it involves humans by design—around 350 volunteer tag wranglers in 2019, up from 160 people in 2012—who each spend a few hours a week deciding whether new tags should be treated as synonyms or subsets of existing tags, or simply left alone. AO3's Tag Wrangling Chairs estimate that the group is on track to wrangle over 2 million never-before-used tags in 2019, up from around 1.5 million in 2018.

Laissez-faire and rigid tagging systems both fail because they assume too much—that users can create order from a completely open system, or that a predefined taxonomy can encompass every kind of tag a person might ever want. When these assumptions don't pan out, it always seems to be the user's fault. AO3's beliefs about human nature are more pragmatic, like an architect designing pathways where pedestrians have begun wearing down the grass, recognizing how variation and standardization can fit together. The wrangler system is one where ordinary user behavior can be successful, a system which accepts that users periodically need help from someone with a bird's-eye view of the larger picture.

Users appreciate this help. According to Tag Wrangling Chair briar_pipe, "We sometimes get users who come from Instagram or Tumblr or another unmoderated site. We can tell that they're new to AO3 because they tag with every variation of a concept—abbreviations, different word order, all of it. I love how excited people get when they realize they don't have to do that here."

When I tweeted about AO3's tags a while back, I received many comments from people wishing that their professional tagging systems were as good, including users of news sites, library catalogs, commercial sales websites, customer help-desk websites, and PubMed (the most prominent database of medical research). The other websites that compared favorably to AO3 were also on the fannish side of the spectrum and used a similar system of human-facilitated tag wrangling: librarything (a website where you can list all your books) and Danbooru (an anime imageboard). But, we might ask ourselves, why use humans? Couldn't machine learning or AI or another hot tech buzzword wrangle the tags instead?

One reason for the humans is that AO3 began developing its routines in 2007, when the tech wasn't as advanced and they had a lot of willing volunteers. But even now, tag wranglers are skeptical that a machine could take over their tasks. One wrangler, who goes by the handle spacegandalf, pointed me to the example of a character from an audio drama called The Penumbra Podcast who didn't have an official name in text for several episodes after he was introduced. Yet people were writing fanfic—and trying to tag it by character—before they had any name to tag it with.

Because spacegandalf had listened to this podcast—AO3 deliberately recruits and assigns tag wranglers who are members of the fandoms that they wrangle for—they had the necessary context to know that "Big Guy Jacket Man Or Whatever His Name Is" referred to the same person as his slightly more official moniker "the Man In the Brown Jacket" and his later, official name, Jet Sikuliaq (and that none of these names should be confused with a different mysteriously named character from a different audio drama, the Man in the Tan Jacket from Welcome to Night Vale).

With all these tags properly wrangled, I can not only find "Big Guy Jacket Man" and "the Man in the Brown Jacket" and "Jet Sikuliaq" all in the same search results, but I can also drill down and search for crossover fic containing both the Man in the Brown Jacket and the Man in the Tan Jacket—and, one hopes, an entire world of colored-jacketed friends. Sadly, there is none, but at least I know I have a conclusive answer.

Without tag wranglers, I'd be stuck doing an ordinary search for "jacket" or "jacket man"—the first of which gives me hundreds of results about other irrelevant characters who happen to wear a jacket this one time, and the second of which misses some genuinely relevant results about our jacket men of interest.

Another of the Tag Wrangling Chairs, Qem, also thinks that machine tag wrangling is unlikely, pointing to machine translation as a cautionary tale. “There are terms in fandom which, while commonly understood in context among fans, would not be when you take it out of the fandom context," Qem says. For example, seemingly innocuous words like "slash" and "lemon" do not refer to a punctuation mark or a citrus fruit in fannish contexts, and tag wranglers are already well aware that machine translation can only manage the literal, not the subcultural meanings. Qem's co-chair, briar_pipe, is slightly more sanguine: "I personally think it might be interesting to have AI/human partnerships for this type of data work, but you have to have humans who are aware of AI limitations and willing to call AIs on mistakes, or else that partnership is useless."

AI certainly does have limitations. There always seems to be a new report of products that claim to be AI—Amazon's Mechanical Turk, Facebook's M, Google Duplex, the Expensify receipt scanner—but in fact often involve hordes of poorly paid, undercompensated, invisibilized humans performing "ghost work" that is attributed to AI.

The tag wranglers on AO3 aren't paid at all. The archive's parent organization, the Organization for Transformative Works, is a nonprofit, and everyone involved in the project is a volunteer. But … [more]
tagging  folksonomy  fandom  taxonomy  2019  archives  archiveofourown  gretchenmcculloch  cv  internet  web  online  collaboration  ao3  tagwrangling 
27 days ago by robertogreco
The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public – @visakanv
"The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public.

I think this is civilisation-specific (ie not an issue for egalitarian hunter-gatherers who live enmeshed lives). And I think appreciating this requires appreciating that civilisation is hierarchical, stratified. The reality of status hierarchies is starker than we articulate.

Nobody introduces you to sexism 101, racism 101 or status hierarchies 101 when you’re a child. This is something you have to learn through fumbling experience and unverified hearsay, the way most people learn about sex.

Circling back. The public isn’t educated to be a good public because it isn’t in the interest(s) of the ruling class, not really. The public is educated to obey, to regulate & be regulated, to work. There are lots of shitty smartbro takes on this, but underlying truth remains

Many (most?) people fantasize about being a king, queen, prince, princess. Many (most?) people secretly know that the public commons is a dumpster fire, and aspire to have enough power to avoid being trampled by the great herd of humanity.

In the short run, for the quarterly report, the public yields the most profits when it is most anxious, fearful, outraged, disgusted. If you advocate for fewer ads, less hyperbole, a better user experience, you’ll probably get replaced by someone else who doesn’t care.

In the earliest conceptualization of “civilised” humanity, there were the rulers and the serfs. The masters and the slaves. The bougies and the proles. The clever trick of late-stage capitalism is selling gold-plated chains as a substitute for liberty.

It’s tempting at this point to point a finger at a mysterious Man who’s Out To Get Us. And maybe some people bear more responsibility than others for kickstarting the profit-seeking hyperdrive. But correcting it will IMO require a planetary effort that has never been coordinated. (Meditations on Moloch feels relevant here.)

I changed my mind about something halfway here. I was going to say “we are all responsible, it’s our collective insecurity” I’m not so sure that’s accurate, apart from in the most superficial sense. The asshole problem is real.

Assholes are the 1% of people that cause 74% of the problems everywhere they go. The challenge is to deal with assholes without becoming an asshole yourself in the process. It’s sadly-funny and true that anti-assholes are some of the worst assholes."
visakanveerasamy  2019  hierarchy  assholes  civilization  society  racism  sexism  inequality  humanism  capitalism  humanity 
29 days ago by robertogreco
Your Work Peak Is Earlier Than You Think - The Atlantic
"What’s the difference between Bach and Darwin? Both were preternaturally gifted and widely known early in life. Both attained permanent fame posthumously. Where they differed was in their approach to the midlife fade. When Darwin fell behind as an innovator, he became despondent and depressed; his life ended in sad inactivity. When Bach fell behind, he reinvented himself as a master instructor. He died beloved, fulfilled, and—though less famous than he once had been—respected.

The lesson for you and me, especially after 50: Be Johann Sebastian Bach, not Charles Darwin."
retirement  charlesdarwin  decline  life  living  careers  2019  arthurbrooks  bach  teaching  innovation  invention  creativity  depression  via:ayjay 
29 days ago by robertogreco
Feminist cyborg scholar Donna Haraway: ‘The disorder of our era isn’t necessary’ | World news | The Guardian
"The history of philosophy is also a story about real estate.

Driving into Santa Cruz to visit Donna Haraway, I can’t help feeling that I was born too late. The metal sculpture of a donkey standing on Haraway’s front porch, the dogs that scramble to her front door barking when we ring the bell, and the big black rooster strutting in the coop out back – the entire setting evokes an era of freedom and creativity that postwar wealth made possible in northern California.

Here was a counterculture whose language and sensibility the tech industry sometimes adopts, but whose practitioners it has mostly priced out. Haraway, who came to the University of Santa Cruz in 1980 to take up the first tenured professorship in feminist theory in the US, still conveys the sense of a wide-open world.

Haraway was part of an influential cohort of feminist scholars who trained as scientists before turning to the philosophy of science in order to investigate how beliefs about gender shaped the production of knowledge about nature. Her most famous text remains The Cyborg Manifesto, published in 1985. It began with an assignment on feminist strategy for the Socialist Review after the election of Ronald Reagan and grew into an oracular meditation on how cybernetics and digitization had changed what it meant to be male or female – or, really, any kind of person. It gained such a cult following that Hari Kunzru, profiling her for Wired magazine years later, wrote: “To boho twentysomethings, her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.”

The cyborg vision of gender as changing and changeable was radically new. Her map of how information technology linked people around the world into new chains of affiliation, exploitation and solidarity feels prescient at a time when an Instagram influencer in Berlin can line the pockets of Silicon Valley executives by using a phone assembled in China that contains cobalt mined in Congo to access a platform moderated by Filipinas.

Haraway’s other most influential text may be an essay that appeared a few years later, on what she called “situated knowledges”. The idea, developed in conversation with feminist philosophers and activists such as Nancy Hartsock, concerns how truth is made. Concrete practices of particular people make truth, Haraway argued. The scientists in a laboratory don’t simply observe or conduct experiments on a cell, for instance, but co-create what a cell is by seeing, measuring, naming and manipulating it. Ideas like these have a long history in American pragmatism. But they became politically explosive during the so-called science wars of the 1990s – a series of public debates among “scientific realists” and “postmodernists” with echoes in controversies about bias and objectivity in academia today.

Haraway’s more recent work has turned to human-animal relations and the climate crisis. She is a capacious yes, and thinker, the kind of leftist feminist who believes that the best thinking is done collectively. She is constantly citing other people, including graduate students, and giving credit to them. A recent documentary about her life and work by the Italian film-maker Fabrizio Terranova, Storytelling for Earthly Survival, captures this sense of commitment, as well as her extraordinary intellectual agility and inventiveness.

At her home in Santa Cruz, we talked about her memories of the science wars and how they speak to our current “post-truth” moment, her views on contemporary climate activism and the Green New Deal, and why play is essential for politics.

We are often told we are living in a time of “post-truth”. Some critics have blamed philosophers like yourself for creating the environment of “relativism” in which “post-truth” flourishes. How do you respond to that?

Our view was never that truth is just a question of which perspective you see it from.

[The philosopher] Bruno [Latour] and I were at a conference together in Brazil once. (Which reminds me: if people want to criticize us, it ought to be for the amount of jet fuel involved in making and spreading these ideas! Not for leading the way to post-truth.)

Anyhow. We were at this conference. It was a bunch of primate field biologists, plus me and Bruno. And Stephen Glickman, a really cool biologist, took us apart privately. He said: “Now, I don’t want to embarrass you. But do you believe in reality?”

We were both kind of shocked by the question. First, we were shocked that it was a question of belief, which is a Protestant question. A confessional question. The idea that reality is a question of belief is a barely secularized legacy of the religious wars. In fact, reality is a matter of worlding and inhabiting. It is a matter of testing the holdingness of things. Do things hold or not?

Take evolution. The notion that you would or would not “believe” in evolution already gives away the game. If you say, “Of course I believe in evolution,” you have lost, because you have entered the semiotics of representationalism – and post-truth, frankly. You have entered an arena where these are all just matters of internal conviction and have nothing to do with the world. You have left the domain of worlding.

The science warriors who attacked us during the science wars were determined to paint us as social constructionists – that all truth is purely socially constructed. And I think we walked into that. We invited those misreadings in a range of ways. We could have been more careful about listening and engaging more slowly. It was all too easy to read us in the way the science warriors did. Then the rightwing took the science wars and ran with it, which eventually helped nourish the whole fake-news discourse.

Your PhD is in biology. How do your scientist colleagues feel about your approach to science?

To this day I know only one or two scientists who like talking this way. And there are good reasons why scientists remain very wary of this kind of language. I belong to the Defend Science movement and in most public circumstances I will speak softly about my own ontological and epistemological commitments. I will use representational language. I will defend less-than-strong objectivity because I think we have to, situationally.

Is that bad faith? Not exactly. It’s related to [what the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has called] “strategic essentialism”. There is a strategic use to speaking the same idiom as the people that you are sharing the room with. You craft a good-enough idiom so you can work on something together. I go with what we can make happen in the room together. And then we go further tomorrow.

In the struggles around climate change, for example, you have to join with your allies to block the cynical, well-funded, exterminationist machine that is rampant on the Earth. I think my colleagues and I are doing that. We have not shut up, or given up on the apparatus that we developed. But one can foreground and background what is most salient depending on the historical conjuncture.

What do you find most salient at the moment?

What is at the center of my attention are land and water sovereignty struggles, such as those over the Dakota Access pipeline, over coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau, over extractionism everywhere. My attention is centered on the extermination and extinction crises happening at a worldwide level, on human and non-human displacement and homelessness. That’s where my energies are. My feminism is in these other places and corridors.

What kind of political tactics do you see as being most important – for young climate activists, the Green New Deal, etc?

The degree to which people in these occupations play is a crucial part of how they generate a new political imagination, which in turn points to the kind of work that needs to be done. They open up the imagination of something that is not what [the ethnographer] Deborah Bird Rose calls “double death” – extermination, extraction, genocide.

Now, we are facing a world with all three of those things. We are facing the production of systemic homelessness. The way that flowers aren’t blooming at the right time, and so insects can’t feed their babies and can’t travel because the timing is all screwed up, is a kind of forced homelessness. It’s a kind of forced migration, in time and space.

This is also happening in the human world in spades. In regions like the Middle East and Central America, we are seeing forced displacement, some of which is climate migration. The drought in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] is driving people off their land.

So it’s not a humanist question. It’s a multi-kind and multi-species question.

What’s so important about play?

Play captures a lot of what goes on in the world. There is a kind of raw opportunism in biology and chemistry, where things work stochastically to form emergent systematicities. It’s not a matter of direct functionality. We need to develop practices for thinking about those forms of activity that are not caught by functionality, those which propose the possible-but-not-yet, or that which is not-yet but still open.

It seems to me that our politics these days require us to give each other the heart to do just that. To figure out how, with each other, we can open up possibilities for what can still be. And we can’t do that in a negative mood. We can’t do that if we do nothing but critique. We need critique; we absolutely need it. But it’s not going to open up the sense of what might yet be. It’s not going to open up the sense of that which is not yet possible but profoundly needed.

The established disorder of our present era is not necessary. It exists. But it’s not necessary."
donnaharaway  2019  anthropocene  climatechange  science  scientism  disorder  greennewdeal  politics  interdependence  families  critique  humanism  multispecies  morethanhuman  displacement  globalwarming  extermination  extinction  extraction  capitalism  genocide  deborahbirdrose  doubledeath  feminism  postmodernism  harikunzru  cyborgmanifesto  philosophy  philosophyofscience  santacruz  technology  affiliation  exploitation  solidarity  situatedknowledge  nancyhartstock  objectivity  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships 
29 days ago by robertogreco
How Did WeWork’s Adam Neumann Build a $47 Billion Company?
“The We Company’s headquarters in Chelsea, where more than a thousand of its employees work, is something of a testing ground for how it can serve even larger organizations. (The company will eventually move into the old Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue, which it recently bought.) The sixth-floor entrance is flanked by a full-service barista and a “living room” with an array of couches and lounge chairs roughly the size and feel of a West Elm showroom. There are Foosball and bumper-pool tables, along with three video-game consoles. Beyond that is the WeMRKT, an “in-office bodega,” as a WeWork spokesperson called it, next to a kitchen with a dozen taps serving beer, cider, cold brew, Merlot, Pinot, several kombuchas, and seltzer. On one of my visits, signs advertised astrology readings for employees that afternoon.

Aside from a few offices reserved for Neumann and a handful of executives, the headquarters has almost no assigned desks, and some WeWork employees describe a near-constant mental and physical battle to find a space with enough quiet and privacy for concentration. (The private phone booths are coveted, as they are in most WeWorks.) Joel Steinhaus, a WeWork executive, told me that his previous office at Citi allocated 200-to-250 square feet per person, while WeWork has shrunk that number to around 50. (A WeWork spokesperson says the number is higher.) WeWork claims that additional common spaces and amenities make up the difference, but also that closeness has benefits. A half-dozen WeWork employees repeated the same talking point to me about the narrowness of its staircases and hallways, which are there to foster community by forcing people to physically interact with anyone they walk past. They say any cost savings from fitting in more people is merely a bonus.

Building community is what WeWork has always promised, and its pitch to large corporations is not just hip design and flexible leasing terms but what WeWork calls its “WeOS,” referring to its expertise in helping companies optimize both space and overall culture. (In 2017, McKelvey was named WeWork’s chief culture officer, and he’s fond of using one of WeWork’s many internal slogans: “Operationalize Love.”)

But in dozens of interviews, current and former WeWork employees and executives questioned whether the company’s culture is itself one worth spreading. Despite the company’s slogan “Make a Life, Not Just a Living,” employees at all levels have often reported working 60- or 70-hour weeks, and events like Thank God It’s Monday and Summer Camp were mandatory. At its annual summit, the company keeps track of employee attendance at panels and events by scanning wristbands given to each person; excessive absences are reported to managers. A number of employees describe a regular cycle at WeWork: New people would arrive, excited by the company’s mission, only to get burned out, leave, and replaced by a fresh crop. Multiple executives told me Neumann’s cheerleading was critical to the company’s success. “From a business perspective, the cult is working,” said one executive.

Employees say turnover at the company has been dizzying. Multiple people told me Neumann has expressed a desire to turn over 20 percent of WeWork’s staff every year — he denies this — whether through attrition or firings, as a means of keeping staff on its toes. There have been two publicly reported rounds of mass departures, both of which the company said involved culling unproductive workers. But employees say that restructurings, in which entire teams are suddenly disbanded, are a regular occurrence. “When you’re at WeWork, there’s a certain lack of culture, which is ironic for a company selling culture,” one former executive told me. “If there is a culture, it is that of a revolving door.” The need to hire employees at a rate to keep up with its growth has led to occasional hiccups in its hiring process: In 2015, Neumann chastised a group of employees for not Googling a job applicant after finding out that WeWork had hired the Hipster Grifter, a Brooklynite who had become briefly famous several years earlier for scamming her way into jobs and cheating people out of money.

The focus on growth often seemed to leave little room for other concerns. Two people told me that during an early town hall when WeWork had just over 100 employees, Neumann took questions alongside two other executives, Michael Gross and Noah Brodsky, and someone asked about the lack of diversity among the executive team. Neumann disputed the point by referring to himself and the other people onstage, saying, “I’m a brunette, Michael’s blond, and we have a Noah.” (Brodsky, who is gay, went bright red.)

Employees and executives say much of the culture stems from Neumann, whose rule by fiat could be frustrating. Last summer, he announced at the end of a companywide meeting that WeWork employees would no longer be permitted to expense meals that included meat. Several senior members of the company had no idea the announcement was coming or what it even meant. Hundreds of employees joined a Slack channel to debate the policy, while some found various ways around it: A person in the New York tech world said WeWork employees have asked her to expense the meat when they go out for meals.

Especially at the top, WeWork looked to some like a boys’ club. The executive ranks have been sprinkled with Neumann’s friends from Israel as well as his extended-family members. During an executive off-site meeting in Montauk, he gave a joking toast to the virtues of nepotism. In a job interview, the first question one former executive asked a young female applicant was whether she had a boyfriend (he was later fired). Last year, two female employees reported that they were having trouble getting a meeting with Adam Kimmel, the chief creative officer, to whom they reported. According to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, Kimmel later said he hadn’t met with the women because he and his wife, the actress Leelee Sobieski, had a rule against meeting alone with a member of the opposite sex. (WeWork disputes this.) In October, Ruby Anaya, the former head of culture, sued WeWork, alleging she had been groped at both the company summit and Summer Camp by colleagues (the lawsuit is pending).

Several people told me they worried about what the company’s younger employees might absorb from their experience. A former WeWorker who now runs a company told me, “I spend a lot of my time on culture and HR, and it fucking slows you down worrying about how people feel.” But one employee told me his WeWork experience had made him think about what he would do differently if he were ever to run his own start-up. “You can move fast and break things,” he said, citing Facebook’s widely adopted empire-building ethos. “But you can’t move fast and break people.””



“Will WeWork work? The company has existed entirely in an expanding economy, and its business has never been tested by a downturn. WeWork argues that in a recession, larger companies will downsize into its spaces while laid-off workers will need them to start their solo careers. But it’s also very possible that large companies who currently have ancillary spaces in WeWork will identify those as easy costs to cut, and entrepreneurs will revert to coffee shops. A third argument goes that WeWork occupies so much space that many landlords will have no choice but to renegotiate its leases.

During the dot-com boom, a company called Regus became a stock-market darling by offering similar but much blander flexible offices. In 2000, Fast Company published a story about Regus titled “Office of the Future,” highlighting its efforts to bring “community” to the workplace. But the bubble burst and Regus went bankrupt. The company recovered and rebranded as IWG, but its existence presents another conundrum for WeWork. IWG currently has roughly 3,000 locations and 2.5 million customers worldwide, numbers that dwarf WeWork’s. IWG is profitable and now has a hipper, WeWork-ish offering. It is publicly traded and worth around $3 billion.

Everyone in real estate expects the kind of flexible office space WeWork offers to become an increasingly large part of their world, and many of the company’s rivals are grateful to Neumann for preaching the gospel of co-working and shorter-term leases. Even people critical of WeWork’s culture, or skeptical of its focus on hypergrowth, say it will likely remain a force in commercial real estate. But many, too, have begun to wonder what can explain the $44 billion in valuation difference between WeWork and IWG. In a financial disclosure last year, when it was in the process of losing $1.9 billion to fund its growth, WeWork acknowledged, “We have a history of losses, and we may be unable to achieve profitability at a company level.” It also published a financial metric it called “community-adjusted EBITDA” — earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization, which is an accountant-approved way of measuring a company’s performance — that excluded many costs, like marketing, construction, and design, that WeWork claimed would disappear once it reached maturity, in an attempt to show it could make a healthy profit; the Financial Times dubbed WeWork’s doctored version “perhaps the most infamous financial metric of a generation.” WeWork employees told me they would be happy if the company were worth half of what SoftBank said it was going to be. “Even if it goes down to $5 billion, Adam’s still worth a billion dollars,” one rival said, expressing concern about the perverse incentives of the modern economy. “So from an objective perspective, was it a mistake to take this hemorrhage-inducing risk? You could argue that was the rational mode.”

Back in his office, Neumann remained upbeat. “Before you ask, let’s set an intention,” Neumann told me, after a WeWork spokesperson said I had time for … [more]
hucksters  cults  adamneumann  wework  2019  scams  realestate  bubbles  openfloorplans  fraternities  hiring  turnover  myths  diversity  privilege 
29 days ago by robertogreco
No Dare Call It Austerity
"Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition. However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the turn of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

A seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973, i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM). And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice is public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:
+ US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.

+ Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.

+ US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries

+ In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.

+ The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.


For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet."
austerity  2019  us  policy  ajamubaraka  military  militaryindustrialcomplex  class  government  poverty  inequality  race  racism  neoliberalism  war  health  humanrights  imperialism  privatization 
29 days ago by robertogreco
Should California Get Rid of Single-Family Zoning? - The New York Times
“When I recently asked Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles about his stance on S.B. 50, the legislation that would have allowed more apartment construction near transit, he said it wouldn’t be a good fit for the city.

S.B. 50, he told me, would threaten the character of existing neighborhoods. And L.A., the state’s largest city, already builds more than its fair share of new housing compared with other cities in the county, he said.

This week, though, Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, my colleagues at The Upshot, reported that apartments and townhomes — anything other than detached, single-family houses — are banned from 75 percent of L.A.’s residential land.

All of which raises the question: When you’re dealing with a housing crisis, should a city even have single-family zoning? As Emily and Quoctrung reported, that’s a question cities across the nation are grappling with.

I asked Emily to dive a little deeper into what they learned about California. In L.A., at least, things weren’t always this way, she wrote:

In 1960, about 2.5 million people lived in the city of Los Angeles, but 10 million theoretically could. The city had the zoning capacity for that many residents — developers could legally build enough apartments to house them, neighborhoods were planned to accommodate that much growth.

Then L.A. began to reimagine itself in ways that constrain the city today.

L.A. and many California communities began the steady process of “downzoning”: converting land that allowed courtyard apartments to just fourplexes, fourplexes to duplexes, large-lot single-family homes to even-larger-lot single-family homes.

“It was death by a thousand cuts,” said Greg Morrow, executive director of the Real Estate Development and Design program at Berkeley, who has studied the development history of Los Angeles. “You’re just taking a little bit out each time.”

Within 20 years, according to Mr. Morrow’s research, the city’s zoning capacity had been cut to just under 4 million people. And that number has barely kept pace since with actual population growth.

Today, many families are doubling up or paying far more than they can afford for a place to live.

This history — and the current zoning map that The Times has reproduced — portrays a clearer picture of the housing shortage in California. It’s not just that the state hasn’t built enough housing over the years; California communities have made it illegal to build much of the housing that was once possible.

S.B. 50 would have significantly changed that. But the proposal, from State Senator Scott Wiener, is just one of several from officials across the country who are starting to rethink single-family zoning entirely.

“If you look back at early attempts to downzone,” Mr. Morrow said, “they really were almost driven by this naïve belief that if you just downzoned, you could stop population growth.”

In L.A., that clearly did not happen.”
california  zoning  losangeles  housing  2019  cities  urban  urbanism  policy  sb50  scottwiener  ericgarcetti  emilybadger  quoctrungbui  jillcowan  downzoning 
29 days ago by robertogreco
The internet is too big
"Scale produces a vicious cycle wherein size facilitates both the problems and the "solutions."

Similarly, Twitter's userbase of hundreds of millions is what allows for the targeted, radically asymmetrical nature of harassment, where one user can be barraged by thousands of replies. The very interconnection that enables the best of the internet also helps foster its worst.

What are we to do if we want to reclaim the best of the internet while combatting its worst? While the tech giants have work to do, it seems that one way to think about this is to distinguish between the usefulness of infrastructure at scale versus the usefulness of certain networks. On one hand, it's beneficial for everyone to be potentially connected by a neutral set of wires and hardware. On the other hand, enormous, multi-billion user networks like Facebook aren't the only way we can connect.

Now that the internet is normal and accessible for billions, perhaps we need to think about the tech giants as necessary evils that kickstarted the early internet but have outlived their usefulness. In their place, imagine a set of standards — say, a calendar that anyone can access and that is interoperable with others' but doesn't require you to be on Facebook. It's an ideal of digital technology that rests on the concept that the internet is a way of connecting people but companies shouldn't entirely own the networks on which we connect.

Earlier this year, writer Max Read suggested that the best of the internet was now to be found in the group text chat. He argued that they feel so intimate and because their dynamic "occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends … rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms." It's about finding the best of the internet without the worst — connection enabled by how large and ubiquitous the internet is, but without the internet's scale infecting how we use it on a daily basis.

It's not clear how such a change would come about. The tech giants not only wield enormous political and economic power, they have also deeply and perhaps even irrevocably integrated themselves into our lives. But as ideals go, a return to a smaller internet is one worth fighting for."
scale  navneetalang  2019  internet  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  youtube  interoperability  chat  maxread  size  networks  networkeffect  calendars  communication  dicsovery  intimacy  groupchat  messaging  email  online  timcarmody  robinsloan  nostalgia  humanscale  humanism  humanity 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Beyond the Tablet: Seven Years of iPad as My Main Computer – MacStories
"For the past seven years, I've considered the iPad my main computer. Not my only one, and not the most powerful one I own, but the computer which I use and enjoy using the most."
ipad  ipadpro  ios  ipados  federicoviticci  2019 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Apple just told us they think the iPad is the future of computing
[See also:

"WWDC seemed to me to be further confirmation that beneath all the Mac Pro bluster, Apple still sees the iPad as the future of "real" computing."
https://twitter.com/navalang/status/1135757110187134978

"Something I didn't get to in this but that I think is an implicit (or perhaps explicit) part of Apple's strategy is that an iPad is a more pleasurable computer to use. (What better characterizes Apple than the linkage of work and pleasure?)"
https://twitter.com/navalang/status/1135757541592354817
ipados  ipad  ipadpro  2019  navneetalang  ios 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Misplaced Pride: Most of the "Middle Class" Is Actually Working Class
"If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described below.

The conventional definition of working class is based on income and education:the working class household earns between $30,000 and $69,000 annually, and the highest education credential in the household is a two-year community college degree or trade certification.

The definition of the middle class is also based on on income and education, but adds financial security as a metric: the middle class household earns $80,000 or more, holds 4-year college diplomas or graduate degrees, owns a home, has a 401K retirement account and so on.

(My own definition is much more rigorous, as I reckon "middle class" today should have the same basic assets as the "middle class" held 40 years ago: What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013.)

But in some key ways, income and education are misleading metrics: the key attributes that actually define the working class are:

1. Stagnant incomes: incomes that over time barely keep up with real-world inflation or even lose purchasing power.

2. Income insecurity: wages, benefits and pensions are not as guaranteed as advertised.

3. Not enough ownership of financial capital to be meaningful. Financial capital excludes household items, vehicles, etc. Financial capital includes stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, ownership of a profitable business, equity in real estate, precious metals, bitcoin, etc.

By meaningful I mean enough to:

-- augment Social Security benefits in a way that greatly improves the household's lifestyle and retirement options

-- equity that is significant enough to fund college educations so one's children do not have to become debt-serfs to attend college

-- enough capital to fund (or help with) a down payment for a house, i.e. inheritable wealth that transforms the children's lives while the parents are still alive

-- income from capital, i.e. income isn't dependent on a government agency or government transfer.

How many U.S. households qualify to be middle class if that means:

-- the household income has outpaced real-world inflation over the past 20 years

-- the household's financial capital/assets have grown to become meaningful (as defined above) in the past 20 years

-- the household doesn't depend on government transfers for much of its income / spending

-- the household income and wealth are not dependent on financial bubbles, corporate guarantees, local government pensions on the verge of insolvency, etc.

While tens of millions of households qualify as "middle class" based on college diplomas and income, far fewer qualify when wealth and financial security are the key metrics. Plenty of households earn well in excess of $100,000 annually, but their financial status is as precarious and threadbare as any working class household.

They don't own enough assets or capital to move the needle, and what they do own is generally dependent on financial bubbles or speculative gambles.

Feeling like we belong to the "middle class" because we have a college diploma and make a good income offers up a false sense of pride and progress.If we're realistic about the financial wealth and security of "middle class" households, most qualify as working class: stagnant incomes, precarious financial circumstances, very little meaningful wealth and even less meaningful wealth that isn't dependent on the bubble du jour or promises that might not be kept.

If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described above.

What sort of society do we have if the bottom 20% of households are poor, the next 60% are working class/precariat and only the top 20% (at best) have any of the core attributes of "middle class" financial security and wealth?

[charts]

If we take off our rose-colored glasses, we have a much more stratified economy and society than we might like to believe: there's the top 1%, the next 4% "upper middle class," the next 10% "middle class," the next 65% working class, and the bottom 20% poor, those largely dependent on government transfers.

The "middle" has eroded away, leaving the top 15% who are doing very well in the status quo and the bottom 85% who are struggling to maintain a meaningful sense of prosperity and progress.

Personally, I'm proud to be working class in terms of my skillsets and values. Labels mean nothing. What counts is having skills, drive, agency, curiosity, frugality, integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Those forms of wealth cannot be taken from you when the bubble du jour pops and all the phantom "wealth" vanishes like mist in Death Valley."
charleshighsmith  middleclass  inequality  us  workingclass  education  class  2019  wealth  precarity 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ayn Rand Is a Dick – Mike Monteiro – Medium
"Silicon Valley has exhibited total comfort with destroying the social fabric of humanity to make a profit.

I got mine. Fuck you."
venturecapital  siliconvalley  aynrand  technology  mikemonteiro  uber  2019  libertarianism  californianideology  economics  politics  policy  via:lukeneff  objectivism 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Better Public Schools Won’t Fix Income Inequality - The Atlantic
"Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."

...


"Long ago, i was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem."

...

"However justifiable their focus on curricula and innovation and institutional reform, people who see education as a cure-all have largely ignored the metric most predictive of a child’s educational success: household income.

The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools. For many children, though—especially those raised in the racially segregated poverty endemic to much of the United States—the opportunity to attend a good public school isn’t nearly enough to overcome the effects of limited family income.

As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”

Indeed, multiple studies have found that only about 20 percent of student outcomes can be attributed to schooling, whereas about 60 percent are explained by family circumstances—most significantly, income. Now consider that, nationwide, just over half of today’s public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, up from 38 percent in 2000. Surely if American students are lagging in the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills our modern economy demands, household income deserves most of the blame—not teachers or their unions.

If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed, we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.

Today, after wealthy elites gobble up our outsize share of national income, the median American family is left with $76,000 a year. Had hourly compensation grown with productivity since 1973—as it did over the preceding quarter century, according to the Economic Policy Institute—that family would now be earning more than $105,000 a year. Just imagine, education reforms aside, how much larger and stronger and better educated our middle class would be if the median American family enjoyed a $29,000-a-year raise.

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime exemption; by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less."
economics  education  inequality  2019  labor  work  policy  poverty  history  nickhanauer  educationism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  trickledowneconomics  ronaldreagan  billclinton  canon  edusolutionism  us  unemployment  billgates  gatesfoundation  democracy  wages  alicewalton  paulallen  anandgiridharadas  middleclass  class  housing  healthcare  publicschools  publiceducation  schools  learning  howwelearn  opportunity  lawrencemishel  curriculum  innovation 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Uber’s Path of Destruction - American Affairs Journal
"ince it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality.

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Uber’s investors, however, never expected that their returns would come from superior efficiency in competitive markets. Uber pursued a “growth at all costs” strategy financed by a staggering $20 billion in investor funding. This funding subsidized fares and service levels that could not be matched by incumbents who had to cover costs out of actual passenger fares. Uber’s massive subsidies were explicitly anticompetitive—and are ultimately unsustainable—but they made the company enormously popular with passengers who enjoyed not having to pay the full cost of their service.

The resulting rapid growth was also intended to make Uber highly attractive to those segments of the investment world that believed explosive top-line growth was the only important determinant of how start-up companies should be valued. Investors focused narrow­ly on Uber’s revenue growth and only rarely considered whether the company could ever produce the profits that might someday repay the multibillion dollar subsidies.

Most public criticisms of Uber have focused on narrow behavioral and cultural issues, including deceptive advertising and pricing, algorithmic manipulation, driver exploitation, deep-seated misogyny among executives, and disregard of laws and business norms. Such criticisms are valid, but these problems are not fixable aberrations. They were the inevitable result of pursuing “growth at all costs” without having any ability to fund that growth out of positive cash flow. And while Uber has taken steps to reduce negative publicity, it has not done—and cannot do—anything that could suddenly pro­duce a sustainable, profitable business model.

Uber’s longer-term goal was to eliminate all meaningful competition and then profit from this quasi-monopoly power. While it has already begun using some of this artificial power to suppress driver wages, it has not achieved the Facebook- or Amazon-type “plat­form” power it hoped to exploit. Given that both sustainable profits and true industry dominance seemed unachievable, Uber’s investors de­cided to take the company public, based on the hope that enough gullible investors still believe that the compa­ny’s rapid growth and popularity are the result of powerfully effi­cient inno­vations and do not care about its inability to generate profits.

These beliefs about Uber’s corporate value were created entirely out of thin air. This is not a case of a company with a reasonably sound operating business that has managed to inflate stock market expectations a bit. This is a case of a massive valuation that has no relationship to any economic fundamentals. Uber has no competitive efficiency advantages, operates in an industry with few barriers to entry, and has lost more than $14 billion in the previous four years. But its narratives convinced most people in the media, invest­ment, and tech worlds that it is the most valuable transportation company on the planet and the second most valuable start-up IPO in U.S. history (after Facebook).

Uber is the breakthrough case where the public perception of a large new company was entirely created using the types of manufactured narratives typically employed in partisan political campaigns. Narrative construction is perhaps Uber’s greatest competitive strength. The company used these techniques to completely divert attention away from the massive subsidies that were the actual drivers of its popularity and growth. It successfully framed the entire public discussion around an emotive, “us-versus-them” battle between heroic innovators and corrupt regulators who were falsely blamed for all of the industry’s historic service problems. Uber’s desired framing—that it was fighting a moral battle on behalf of technological progress and economic freedom—was uncritically ac­cepted by the mainstream business and tech industry press, who then never bothered to analyze the firm’s actual economics or its anticompetitive behavior.

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else."
huberthoran  uber  carsharing  taxis  transportation  2019  economics  technology  technosolutionism  huxterism  propaganda  regulation  disruption  innovation  scale  networkeffects  amazon  facebook  venturecapital  siliconvalley  latecapitalism  capitalism  exploitation  labor  growth  lyft  china  startups  cities  urban  urbanism  productivity  traviskalanick 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Sum of All Beards | The New Republic
"How did facial hair win American men’s hearts and minds? Thank the war on terror."



"You could consume more than half a century of American popular culture, from World War II to Korea to Vietnam to September 11, without encountering many bearded manly heroes; facial hair was generally reserved for wild enemies foreign and domestic, swarthy terrorists and libertine hippies. Even American westerns posited a surprising number of neatly trimmed frontier protagonists, reserving scruff for their foes. Italian-produced spaghetti westerns, which introduced Clint Eastwood’s perpetually unshaven man with no name, seem the exception that proves the rule, deploying beards as to emphasize that their protagonists are deeply flawed antiheroes, operating outside mainstream norms."
beards  masculinity  culture  us  2019  waronterror  via:lukeneff 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home? - The New York Times
"In the age of global warming, traveling — by plane, boat or car — is a fraught choice. And yet the world beckons."



"The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going under.

Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them before they disappear! You are evil, says another voice. For you are hastening their destruction.

To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption. Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

And yet we fly more and more.

The number of airline passengers worldwide has more than doubled since 2003, and unlike with some other pollution sources, there’s not a ton that can be done right now to make flying significantly greener — electrified jets are not coming to an airport near you anytime soon.

Still, we wonder: How much is that one vacation really hurting anyone, or anything?

It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behavior. We are small, our effects are microscopically incremental and we mean no harm. The effects of climate change are inconceivably enormous and awful — and for the most part still unrealized. You can’t see the face of the unnamed future person whose coastal village you will have helped submerge.

But it turns out there are ways to quantify your impact on the planet, at least roughly. In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice.

32 = The square feet of Arctic summer sea ice cover that one passenger’s share of emissions melts on a 2,500-mile flight.

Each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet, the authors, Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, found.

In February, my family of three flew from New York to Miami for what seemed like a pretty modest winter vacation. An online carbon calculator tells me that our seats generated the equivalent of 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Throw in another quarter-ton for the 600 miles of driving we squeezed in and a bit for the snorkeling trip and the heated pool at the funky trailer-park Airbnb, and the bill comes to about 90 square feet of Arctic ice, an area about the size of a pickup truck.

When I did that calculation, I pictured myself standing on a pickup-truck-sized sheet of ice as it broke apart and plunged me into frigid waters. A polar bear glared hungrily at me.

Calculating the harm

And what of my vacation’s impact on my fellow man? Actually, academics have attempted to calculate that, too. Philosophers, not climatologists. But still.

In 2005, a Dartmouth professor, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, wrote in a journal article provocatively titled “It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations” that he was under no moral obligation to refrain from taking a gas-guzzling S.U.V. for a Sunday afternoon joy ride if he felt like doing so.

“No storms or floods or droughts or heat waves can be traced to my individual act of driving,” he wrote. Conversely, “If I refrain from driving for fun on this one Sunday, there is no individual who will be helped in the least.”

Other philosophers questioned his reasoning.

Professor John Nolt of the University of Tennessee took a stab at measuring the damage done by one average American’s lifetime emissions. (The average American generates about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, more than triple the global average.)

Noting that carbon stays in the atmosphere for centuries, at least, and that a United Nations panel found in 2007 that climate change is “likely to adversely affect hundreds of millions of people through increased coastal flooding, reductions in water supplies, increased malnutrition and increased health impacts” in the next 100 years, Professor Nolt did a lot of division and multiplication and arrived at a stark conclusion:

“The average American causes through his/her greenhouse gas emissions the serious suffering and/or deaths of two future people.”

Then Avram Hiller of Portland State University used Professor Nolt’s approach to derive the impact of Professor Sinnott-Armstrong’s hypothetical 25-mile ride.

“At a ratio of one life’s causal activities per one life’s detrimental effects, it causes the equivalent of a quarter of a day’s severe harm,” he wrote.

“In other words, going for a Sunday drive has the expected effect of ruining someone’s afternoon.”

Multiply that joy ride by a three-person Florida vacation and you’ve ruined someone’s month. Something to ponder while soaking up UV-drenched rays on a tropical beach.

Ships? Even worse

There are alternatives to flying, of course. Perhaps a cruise? After all, there’s more ocean than there’s been in thousands of years. With the Northwest Passage now mostly ice-free in the summer, new vistas have opened. One cruise company runs polar bear tours to check out “the Arctic’s ‘poster boy.’”

Perhaps not. Bryan Comer, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research group, told me that even the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet.

And that’s just greenhouse gas. Last year, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the air onboard cruise ships was many times dirtier than the air nearby onshore.

3x to 4x = The amount of carbon dioxide the most efficient cruise ship emits per passenger mile when compared with a jet.

“Some of the particulate counts were comparable to or worse than a bad day in some of the world’s most polluted cities like Beijing and Santiago,” said Kendra Ulrich of Stand.earth, the advocacy group that commissioned the study.

While most cruise ships run on highly polluting heavy fuel oil, many have begun using “scrubbers” to remove toxic sulfur oxides from their exhaust. But the scrubbers discharge these and other pollutants into the ocean instead, and they’ve been banned by seven countries and several U.S. states.

A spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said that the scrubbers comply with the new 2020 standards for air and water quality set by the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency. The spokeswoman, Megan King, added that it was not fair to compare emissions from ships and jets because a jet is just a transportation vehicle while a cruise ship is a floating resort and amusement park.

There’s always driving, which is less carbon intensive than flying, especially if there are multiple passengers. But “less” is relative, and most long trips are out of practical driving range anyway.

Considering carbon offsets

Maybe there is a justification out there somewhere: Personal decisions alone won’t stop global warming — that will take policy changes by governments on a worldwide scale. Tourism creates millions of jobs in places starved for economic development. Carbon offsets can effectively cancel out our footprint, can’t they?

Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins. You give a broker some money (not a lot of money either — carbon offsets can be bought for $10 per metric ton). They give it to someone to plant trees, or capture the methane from a landfill or a cattle operation, or help build a wind farm, or subsidize clean cookstoves for people in the developing world who cook on open fires. All these things help cut greenhouse gas.

But nothing is that simple in practice. Carbon-offset people talk about concerns with things called additionality, leakage and permanence.

Additionality: How do you know the utility would not have built the wind farm but for the money you gave them?

Permanence: How do you know the timber company that planted those trees won’t just cut them down in a few years?

Leakage: How do you know the landowner you just paid not to cut down an acre of rain forest won’t use the money to buy a different acre and clear that?

While certifying organizations go to great lengths to verify carbon offset projects, verification has limits.

“Whether someone would have planted trees anyway, or taken some other action like building a housing development, is ultimately unknowable and something you have to construct,” said Peter Miller, a policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and a board member of the Climate Action Reserve, the country’s biggest carbon offset registry. “It’s an endless debate.”

Some carbon offsets are surer bets than others. “With methane capture,” Mr. Miller said, “once you capture that methane and you burn it — you’re done. It’s not in the atmosphere, it’s not going in the atmosphere. You’ve got a credit that’s achieved and you’ve avoided those emissions forever.”

Not flying at all would be better, Mr. Miller said, “but the reality is that there’s lots of folks that are going to do what they’re going to do.” For them, offsets are a lot better than nothing.

But some climate experts call offsets a cop-out.

“It’s like paying someone else to diet for you,” said Alice Larkin of the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who has not flown since 2008.

She said that while governments do need to take tough action, they derive their courage to do so from the … [more]
flight  flights  travel  climatechange  globalwarming  2019  andynewman  emissions  carbonemissions  offets  carbonoffsets  flying  leakage  permanence  additionality  ayramhiller  johnnolt  waltersinnott-armstrong  dirknotz  juliennestroeve 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Will the Renovated MoMA Let Folk Art Back In? - The New York Times
"Architectural historians argued against destruction, but protest was not universal. The Williams-Tsien building had problems. Conceived on the scale of a compact townhouse, it was only 40 feet wide. Its narrowness created a cramped interior, with corridor-like galleries inhospitable to art viewing. In addition, some people found its façade — composed of more than 60 plates of a copper-bronze alloy textured to look handworked — uninviting, even forbidding. It was hard to tell at a glance what was housed behind them, what the building was about.

At the same time, nobody denied that the design was distinctive, an interruption in a sea of midtown blandness to which MoMA’s facade contributes. Indeed, the Folk Art Museum looked about as un-MoMA as could be imagined: a small, dark, recessive sculpture set against the mega-museum’s stretch of glass and steel. Anyway, it went. A shame. If a work of architecture, loved or hated, has the weight and personality of an aesthetic object, which the Williams-Tsien building did, it should be considered “museum-worthy” and preserved.

There was another factor that made its loss regrettable. The work it housed — by folk artists, self-taught artists, and so-called outsider artists — was not only deeply charismatic, but filled out the story of Modernism in a way that MoMA itself, in recent years, has largely neglected to do.

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This wasn’t always true at MoMA, whose early leaders regarded folk or self-taught artists as foundational figures in Modern art. In 1938, when the museum was operating out of temporary quarters on West 49th Street, it organized a large exhibition called “Masters of Popular Painting,” described as a survey of “Modern Primitives of Europe and America.” Among its 22 artists were Henri Rousseau and Séraphine Louis, known simply as Séraphine, from France, and the Americans John Kane and Horace Pippin. Pictures by all four soon entered the permanent collection, as would work by the Pennsylvania landscapist Joseph Pickett and the Polish-born New Yorker Morris Hirshfield."



"The presence of the Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street picked up the slack. I even tended to think of the smaller museum as a kind of antechamber to the larger one — an entry point, the place you go to first for historical grounding. The museum still offers this, in its 2 Lincoln Square location on the Upper West Side and its “Self-Taught Genius Gallery” in Long Island City, Queens. But in midtown, MoMA is now again on its own with the tradition of self-taught art. And what, if anything, will it do with it?

The full answer remains, of course, to be seen in October and beyond. All we can do at this point is hope for the best, and give some advice. When, in 2014, the fate of the 53rd Street building was announced, MoMA’s director, Glenn D. Lowry, framed the decision in terms of the larger museum’s need for more space, which, he said, would permit the presentation of “transformative” acquisitions “by such artists as Marcel Broodthaers, Lygia Clark, Steve McQueen, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Mira Schendel, Richard Serra, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Cy Twombly, among many others.”

I would suggest that we, and MoMA, don’t need any more Rauschenbergs, or Richters, or Serras, or Twomblys. What we do need is “many others.” And some of those Others were, for 13 years, to be found in the Folk Art Museum next door. Maybe MoMA can now be persuaded to acknowledge its spirit, and their genius, in its expanded home."
folkart  architects  design  moma  2019  art  democracy  elitism  hollandcotter  folkartmuseum  culture  museums  nyc 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
What Fleabag's 'hot priest' storyline gets so right about sex and love
"Perhaps because she's never been religious, never believed in God, and never respected the authority that he represents, Fleabag doesn't see him coming either. He's an enigma to her, as is his faith; when she begins to feel an attraction to him, she has to google basic questions like "what happens to a priest who has sex?" (and makes rookie mistakes when she crashes his Mass). But though the season begins with the declaration that "this is a love story" — and she does eventually (spoiler alert) have sex with the Hot Priest — it's his insistence that she is redeemable and his desire to help her that knocks her off her feet (and which she fights to resist).

Though her chemistry with the otherwise nameless Hot Priest, played by Andrew Scott, is heavy and smoldering, it's worth noting that her first moment of attraction is when he tells her to "f*** off"; in season one, she used sex with unavailable, desperate, or mistreated men to prove to herself that she was not yet beyond acceptance but in season two, she tries to use celibacy (her own, and that of a winsome priest) to prove to herself that she really is. What's more, a priest can offer her something that a world where everything is allowed — and where nothing can therefore be wrong — cannot. How can a person find help when therapists — as her disastrous counseling session demonstrates — can only tell you that whatever you've already decided to do is what you will do? How can they help you when that inevitability has led you to do the wrong things?

What she wants, it turns out, is not to "f*** a priest" but to be told what to do. Having lost all confidence in her own judgment, her own instincts, and her own feelings — having decided that what she needs is for someone else to take over decision-making for her life — she is increasingly fascinated by this man of the cloth who seems to be exactly what she wants to be: a funny, profane train-wreck, wearing great dresses, who lives a mortified and celibate life of subjection (and is inexplicably plagued by predatory foxes).

This instinct is wrong, it turns out, because it's still the instinct to give up on herself. Love — as she told the therapist — "didn't bring anything good," but as the Hot Priest's absurdly effective and affecting "love is awful" wedding sermon emphasizes, giving up on it was the wrong conclusion. "It's painful. It's frightening. It makes you judge yourself, doubt yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life," he says. "No wonder it's something we don't want to do on our own." Love isn't easy or something that feels right or has obvious places to go, he insists; love is, simply, hope. It's a sermon that somehow manages not to be the usual set of clichés, because we've watched these characters live it, and watched them come out of the other side: she fell for a priest because the idea of him seemed like the promise of sexual rejection and the annulment of her freedom; instead, he gave himself to her, accepted her choice, and allows her to turn his life upside down.

Except that ... he's fine. Having sex doesn't ruin his life, it turns out, just as it hasn't ruined hers. In fact, the revelation is that sex has changed nothing, which might be Waller-Bridge's most radically hopeful suggestion: after their trainwreck of a relationship, the Hot Priest goes back to the church, and she goes back to loving her family and being loved by them. No mistake you can make can change what matters; whatever you've done, it will pass.

If the first season was about honestly coming to terms with the damage sex can do, season two is about accepting what comes after confession, about the hard work of loving, even knowing the damage that love has brought and will bring again. What's difficult is not knowing what to do, but finding the strength to get on with it and do it (and the hope to try). In other words, love might not be an airport chase scene; it might be helping your sister up off her knees after she's begged her husband to leave her for good. Or your dad up off his when he's hiding from his wedding.

It's a good homily. "It's quite hard to come up with something original to say about love," as the Hot Priest puts it, but Waller-Bridges has had a good go. And then, having done it, the play is done. She waves goodbye to the camera and walks off into the night. She doesn't need us anymore; she has something better."
fleabag  aaronbady  2019  tv  television 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Fleabag Season 2 Has a Perfect, Crushing Ending
"In a later scene in Fleabag’s café, The Priest catches her dissociating once again. He can feel her leaving, and he calls her back. To Fleabag, and to us the viewers, it feels like an intrusion. We have been a couple for so long, a dysfunctional pairing of speaker and observer. But now The Priest has entered into our relationship, barged in where no one asked him to be. Our relationship with Fleabag has a third person in it now; we’re a throuple, a lopsided, poorly communicating, painfully raw triangle of shared knowledge and humor and need, and the fact that some of us are fictional and some of us aren’t doesn’t do anything to diminish how intense it all feels.

The confessional booth scene — the moment their attraction finally gallops out of control — comes later in that same episode. Prompted by The Priest’s questions, Fleabag does what he and the setting asks of her, and she confesses. It’s an overwhelming scene, a masterpiece of writing and cinematography and the combined magic of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott’s performances. But its narrative power is predicated on what came before, when The Priest saw Fleabag slip away and asked her where she went. Its intensity comes from our knowledge that when Fleabag sits in that booth and confesses to The Priest, she is actually confessing, in a way that she’s never been able to do as directly or as honestly when she’s speaking to her secret camera friends.

When Fleabag and The Priest do finally have sex, though, she is ready to shut us out. They gasp together in bed, and unlike a previous sequence where Fleabag interrupts a sex scene with some idiot to tell us how it’s going, she does not want witnesses when she has sex with The Priest. She shoves the camera away.

We viewers aren’t the only unseen, all-seeing observers of Fleabag; the season’s other looming, omnipotent figure is God. God would be an appropriate alternative for Fleabag, a way to give up her secret camera friends and turn toward Him instead. She wants to. When telling The Priest about her deepest desires in the confessional scene, Fleabag basically begs for a God-like figure who can relieve her of the burden of her own agency, and her fourth-wall-breaking habit isn’t all that different from prayer. She turns to us as a way to gain perspective and distance from her own life, and if she could feel that way about a higher power, if she could turn her conversations with us into conversations with God, maybe it would be healthier for her. But she can’t.

At the end of the series, The Priest admits that he’s chosen God over her, and his decision forces Fleabag to make a similar choice. She has mostly given up on the false intimacy she built with her viewers in favor of a real intimacy with The Priest; as they grow closer, she turns to us less and is able to be honest with him. What should she do without him? She could easily slip back into her old habits, something we the viewers might actually hope for. After all, unhappy dissociative Fleabag is also our Fleabag, the person who gives us her life wrapped up in a self-deprecating, wildly charming bow. When The Priest breaks up with Fleabag, there’s a chance that we can get our relationship with her back. Once again she’ll be intimate with us.

Fleabag makes the other choice. Rather than turning to the camera once again and cracking a joke about her devastation, she walks away. She shakes her head, telling us that we cannot follow her, and gives us a sad, resigned, hopeful little wave as she walks away. She ends the story she’s been telling us while also turning toward her own life, her own family, her own relationships with people who can speak back to her. It’s why the ending is such a perfect conclusion to the series, and why it also feels so crushing. In the end, Fleabag breaks up with us.

We viewers aren’t the only unseen, all-seeing observers of Fleabag; the season’s other looming, omnipotent figure is God. God would be an appropriate alternative for Fleabag, a way to give up her secret camera friends and turn toward Him instead. She wants to. When telling The Priest about her deepest desires in the confessional scene, Fleabag basically begs for a God-like figure who can relieve her of the burden of her own agency, and her fourth-wall-breaking habit isn’t all that different from prayer. She turns to us as a way to gain perspective and distance from her own life, and if she could feel that way about a higher power, if she could turn her conversations with us into conversations with God, maybe it would be healthier for her. But she can’t.

At the end of the series, The Priest admits that he’s chosen God over her, and his decision forces Fleabag to make a similar choice. She has mostly given up on the false intimacy she built with her viewers in favor of a real intimacy with The Priest; as they grow closer, she turns to us less and is able to be honest with him. What should she do without him? She could easily slip back into her old habits, something we the viewers might actually hope for. After all, unhappy dissociative Fleabag is also our Fleabag, the person who gives us her life wrapped up in a self-deprecating, wildly charming bow. When The Priest breaks up with Fleabag, there’s a chance that we can get our relationship with her back. Once again she’ll be intimate with us.

Fleabag makes the other choice. Rather than turning to the camera once again and cracking a joke about her devastation, she walks away. She shakes her head, telling us that we cannot follow her, and gives us a sad, resigned, hopeful little wave as she walks away. She ends the story she’s been telling us while also turning toward her own life, her own family, her own relationships with people who can speak back to her. It’s why the ending is such a perfect conclusion to the series, and why it also feels so crushing. In the end, Fleabag breaks up with us."
fleabag  television  tv  kathrynvanarendonk  2019 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Middle-Aged Moralists – Snakes and Ladders
"When C. S. Lewis gave the Memorial Address at King’s College, London in 1944 — the occasion being very like an American university commencement — he began by commenting, “When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it.”

It was a shrewd move. Lewis himself always loathed the pompous didacticism he had found endemic to the English educational system, and expected that his audience would too. “Everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.” But with a smile on his face, he declared that he would play to type: “I shall, in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live.”

Let’s fast-forward about sixty years, to a commencement address at Stanford University. The speaker this time is not a professor but rather a businessman named Steve Jobs, and he makes it clear from the outset that he’ll not be doing any “middle-aged moralising.” Rather, he says, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

And yet it’s not clear, when you think about it, that Jobs’s message is any less moralistic than Lewis’s. It just bears a different moral.

Lewis warns his listeners against the power of what he calls the “Inner Ring” — the desire to belong to a certain admirable group, to be allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table — because he believes that, among all our desires, that one is the most likely to make un-wicked people do wicked things.

Jobs also warns his listeners, but warns them not to allow Death, when he knocks on their door, to find them “living someone else’s life.” Lewis points to the dangers of letting the desire to belong make you a “scoundrel,” and while Jobs too thinks others can endanger us, he frames that danger very differently: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

This is the permissible moralism of 2005: College graduates can be exhorted, but not to the old-fashioned virtues that Lewis implicitly appeals to, but rather to self-fulfillment: For Jobs, what is “most important” is this: “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

This makes a neat story, once which can be read either as emancipation from constricting rules or as a decline into egotism. But the story gets slightly more complex if we look at one more middle-aged moralist: David Foster Wallace.

Wallace was, I’d say, barely middle-aged when he delivered the commencement address at Kenyon College just a few weeks before Jobs spoke at Stanford: he was 43. (Jobs was 50, and when Lewis gave his “Inner Ring” address he was 45.) If Lewis acknowledges that the genre invites moralism and cheerfully accepts the invitation, and Jobs disavows moralism but delivers it anyway, in a new form, Wallace seems almost desperate to avoid any such thing.

Having begun with a little story about fish, he continues, “If you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish.” Then: “But please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called ‘virtues.’” And: “Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you’re ‘supposed to’ think this way.” Finally: “Obviously, you can think of [this talk] whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon.” Please.

Yet for all those disavowals, Wallace’s speech may be the most passionately moralistic of them all, though in a complex way. He tells us to be suspicious of that inner inner voice that Jobs wants us to listen to, because that voice always says the same thing: “There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.” Consequently, our “natural, hard-wired default setting … is to be deeply and literally self-centred, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.”

And why should we want to think otherwise? Why should we turn outward? Not in order to avoid becoming scoundrels, Wallace says, but because such other-directedness can bring us freedom. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”

Substantively, it seems to me, Wallace’s ethic is far closer to that of Lewis than to that of Jobs, though he and Jobs were near-contemporaries and formed by much the same culture. (Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters was one of Wallace’s favorite books.) But he could not, and knew he could not, speak as Lewis spoke — even with an ironic nod towards the inevitable clichés of the commencement-speech genre.

Universities still invite middle-aged moralists (professors rarely, writers and business leaders more often) to give speeches to their graduating students, even though those students are generally inoculated against middle-aged moralism — the moralism of self-fulfillment always excepted. What’s remarkable about Wallace’s speech, which has become the great canonical example of the genre, is that he found a way to rescue the occasion; and that he rescued it by pretending to refuse it."
commencementaddresses  2019  1944  2005  alanjacobs  via:lukeneff  davidfosterwallace  cslewis  stevejobs  moralism  morality  advice  middleage  commencementspeeches 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming - Education Week
"Sometimes students with a concern simply email themselves, with the expectation that algorithms will flag the message for adults, said Jessica Mays, an instructional technology specialist for Texas’s Temple Independent School District, another Gaggle client.

One student “opened a Google Doc, wrote down concerns about a boy in class acting strange, then typed every bad word they could think of,” Mays said. At the end of the note, the student apologized for the foul language, but wrote that they wanted to make sure the message tripped alarms.

For proponents, it’s evidence that students appreciate having new ways of seeking help.

But for Levinson-Waldman, the lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice, it raises a bigger question.

“Are we training children from a young age to accept constant surveillance?” she asked."
privacy  surveillance  schools  2019  algorithms  policy  data  information  technology  edtech 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Class Day Lecture: Teju Cole - YouTube
[See also: https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/05/commencement-teju-cole ]

"The GSD has named Teju Cole as its 2019 Class Day speaker. Teju Cole is a novelist, essayist, photographer, and curator. His books include Open City, Blind Spot and, most recently, Human Archipelago. He has been honored with the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Windham Campbell Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many other prizes. His photography has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, and he was the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine from 2015 until 2019. He is the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard."
tejucole  2019  commencementaddresses  design  refugees  tonimorrison  fascism  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  oppression  complicity  power  doors  sandiego  borderfieldstatepark  friendshippark  border  borders  migration  immigration  us  mexico  tijuana  borderpatrol  humanism  grace  chivalry  hospitality  humans  kindness  commencementspeeches 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
California’s housing bills failed—and so did California’s lawmakers - Curbed LA
"Democrats hold a supermajority—but failed to exercise any of their power to fix the housing crisis"

[See also:

"“I Got Mine”" Like college debt and climate change, the housing affordability crisis is generational warfare."
https://slate.com/business/2019/05/california-housing-crisis-boomer-gerontocracy.html

"California Democrats “Dropped the Ball” on Housing Package"
https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/california-democrats-dropped-the-ball-on-housing-package/article_04dbccf2-80bd-11e9-b573-9fb7ef8d99d8.html

"America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals.: The demise of a California housing measure shows how progressives abandon progressive values in their own backyards."
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/opinion/california-housing-nimby.html

"The revenge of the suburbs: Why California’s effort to build more in single-family-home neighborhoods failed"
https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-sb50-failure-single-family-homes-suburbs-20190522-story.html ]
alissawalker  2019  california  losangeles  sanfrancisco  housing  democrats  politics  economics  fauxgressives  inequality  realestate  propoition13  gavinnewsom  farhadmanjoo  henrygrabar  nimbyism  anthonyportantino  diegoaguilar-canabal  liamdillon  sb50  nimbys  generations  boomers  babyboomers 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why books don’t work | Andy Matuschak
"Books are easy to take for granted. Not any specific book, I mean: the form of a book. Paper or pixels—it hardly matters. Words in lines on pages in chapters. And at least for non-fiction books, one implied assumption at the foundation: people absorb knowledge by reading sentences. This last idea so invisibly defines the medium that it’s hard not to take for granted, which is a shame because, as we’ll see, it’s quite mistaken.

Picture some serious non-fiction tomes. The Selfish Gene; Thinking, Fast and Slow; Guns, Germs, and Steel; etc. Have you ever had a book like this—one you’d read—come up in conversation, only to discover that you’d absorbed what amounts to a few sentences? I’ll be honest: it happens to me regularly. Often things go well at first. I’ll feel I can sketch the basic claims, paint the surface; but when someone asks a basic probing question, the edifice instantly collapses. Sometimes it’s a memory issue: I simply can’t recall the relevant details. But just as often, as I grasp about, I’ll realize I had never really understood the idea in question, though I’d certainly thought I understood when I read the book. Indeed, I’ll realize that I had barely noticed how little I’d absorbed until that very moment.

I know I’m not alone here. When I share this observation with others—even others, like myself, who take learning seriously—it seems that everyone has had a similar experience. The conversation often feels confessional: there’s some bashfulness, almost as if these lapses reveal some unusual character flaw. I don’t think it’s a character flaw, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not unusual. In fact, I suspect this is the default experience for most readers. The situation only feels embarrassing because it’s hard to see how common it is.

Now, the books I named aren’t small investments. Each takes around 6–9 hours to read. Adult American college graduates read 24 minutes a day on average, so a typical reader might spend much of a month with one of these books. Millions of people have read each of these books, so that’s tens of millions of hours spent. In exchange for all that time, how much knowledge was absorbed? How many people absorbed most of the knowledge the author intended to convey? Or even just what they intended to acquire? I suspect it’s a small minority Unfortunately, my literature reviews have turned up no formal studies of this question, so I can only appeal to your intuition..

I’m not suggesting that all those hours were wasted. Many readers enjoyed reading those books. That’s wonderful! Certainly most readers absorbed something, however ineffable: points of view, ways of thinking, norms, inspiration, and so on. Indeed, for many books (and in particular most fiction), these effects are the point.

This essay is not about that kind of book. It’s about explanatory non-fiction like the books I mentioned above, which aim to convey detailed knowledge. Some people may have read Thinking, Fast and Slow for entertainment value, but in exchange for their tens of millions of collective hours, I suspect many readers—or maybe even most readers—expected to walk away with more. Why else would we feel so startled when we notice how little we’ve absorbed from something we’ve read?

All this suggests a peculiar conclusion: as a medium, books are surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge, and readers mostly don’t realize it.

The conclusion is peculiar, in part, because books are shockingly powerful knowledge-carrying artifacts! In the Cosmos episode, “The Persistence of Memory,” Carl Sagan exalts:

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
Indeed: books are magical! Human progress in the era of mass communication makes clear that some readers really do absorb deep knowledge from books, at least some of the time. So why do books seem to work for some people sometimes? Why does the medium fail when it fails?

In these brief notes, we’ll explore why books so often don’t work, and why they succeed when they do.Let’s get it out of the way: I’m aware of the irony here, using the written medium to critique the written medium! But if the ideas I describe here prove successful, then future notes on this subject won’t have that problem. This note is mere kindling, and I’ll be very happy if it’s fully consumed by the blaze it ignites. Armed with that understanding, we’ll glimpse not only how we might improve books as a medium, but also how we might weave unfamiliar new forms—not from paper, and not from pixels, but from insights about human cognition."



"Why lectures don’t work"



"Why books don’t work"



"What about textbooks?"



"What to do about it

How might we make books actually work reliably? At this point, the slope before us might feel awfully steep. Some early footholds might be visible—a few possible improvements to books, or tools one might make to assist readers—but it’s not at all clear how to reach the summit. In the face of such a puzzle, it’s worth asking: are we climbing the right hill? Why are we climbing this particular hill at all?

I argued earlier that books, as a medium, weren’t built around any explicit model of how people learn. It’s possible that, in spite of this “original sin,” iterative improvements to the form, along with new tools to support readers, can make books much more reliable. But it’s also possible that we’ll never discover the insights we need while tethered to the patterns of thought implicit in this medium.

Instead, I propose: we don’t necessarily have to make books work. We can make new forms instead. This doesn’t have to mean abandoning narrative prose; it doesn’t even necessarily mean abandoning paper—rather, we can free our thinking by abandoning our preconceptions of what a book is. Maybe once we’ve done all this, we’ll have arrived at something which does indeed look much like a book. We’ll have found a gentle path around the back of that intimidating slope. Or maybe we’ll end up in different terrain altogether.

So let’s reframe the question. Rather than “how might we make books actually work reliably,” we can ask: How might we design mediums which do the job of a non-fiction book—but which actually work reliably?

I’m afraid that’s a research question—probably for several lifetimes of research—not something I can directly answer in these brief notes. But I believe it’s possible, and I’ll now try to share why.

To begin, it’s important to see that mediums can be designed, not just inherited. What’s more: it is possible to design new mediums which embody specific ideas. Inventors have long drawn on this unintuitive insightSee e.g. Douglas Engelbart’s 1962 “Augmenting Human Intellect” for a classic primary source or Michael Nielsen’s 2016 “Thought as a Technology” for a synthesis of much work in this space., but I’ll briefly review it in case it’s unfamiliar. Mathematical proofs are a medium; the step-by-step structure embodies powerful ideas about formal logic. Snapchat Stories are a medium; the ephemerality embodies powerful ideas about emotion and identity. The World Wide Web is a medium (or perhaps many mediums); the pervasive hyperlinks embody powerful ideas about the associative nature of knowledge.

Perhaps most remarkably, the powerful ideas are often invisible: it’s not like we generally think about cognition when we sprinkle a blog post with links. But the people who created the Web were thinking about cognition. They designed its building blocks so that the natural way of reading and writing in this medium would reflect the powerful ideas they had in mind. Shaped intentionally or not, each medium’s fundamental materials and constraints give it a “grain” which make it bend naturally in some directions and not in others.

This “grain” is what drives me when I gripe that books lack a functioning cognitive model. It’s not just that it’s possible to create a medium informed by certain ideas in cognitive science. Rather, it’s possible to weave a medium made out of those ideas, in which a reader’s thoughts and actions are inexorably—perhaps even invisibly—shaped by those ideas. Mathematical proofs, as a medium, don’t just consider ideas about logic; we don’t attach ideas about logic to proofs. The form is made out of ideas about logic.

How might we design a medium so that its “grain” bends in line with how people think and learn? So that by simply engaging with an author’s work in the medium—engaging in the obvious fashion; engaging in this medium’s equivalent of books’ “read all the words on the first page, then repeat with the next, and so on”—one would automatically do what’s necessary to understand? So that, in some deep way, the default actions and patterns of thought when engaging with this medium are the same thing as “what’s necessary to understand”?

That’s a tall order. Even on a theoretical level, it’s not clear what’s necessary for understanding. Indeed, that framing’s too narrow: there are many paths to understanding a topic. But cognitive scientists and educators have mapped some parts of this space, and they’ve distilled some powerful ideas we can use as a starting point.

For example, people struggle to absorb new material when their working memory is already overloaded. More concretely: if you’ve just been introduced to a zoo of new terms, you … [more]
books  learning  howwelearn  text  textbooks  andymatuschak  2019  canon  memory  understanding  lectures  cognition  cognitivescience  web  internet  howweread  howwewrite  reading  writing  comprehension  workingmemory  michaelnielsen  quantumcountry  education  unschooling  deschooling 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
'It’s a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness | Cities | The Guardian
"Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally"
homelessness  housing  finland  policy  2019  homeless 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
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 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Colonialism Created Navy Blue | JSTOR Daily
"The indigo dye that created the Royal Navy’s signature uniform color was only possible because of imperialism and slavery."
color  colors  blue  imperialism  colonialism  economics  2019  slavery  uniforms 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
What’s My Complicity? Talking White Fragility With Robin DiAngelo | Teaching Tolerance
"For well-intentioned white people doing anti-racist and social justice work, the first meaningful step is to recognize their fragility around racial issues—and build their emotional stamina. 'White Fragility' author Robin DiAngelo breaks it down."



"Well, when I coined that term, the fragility part was meant to capture how little it takes to upset white people racially. For a lot of white people, the mere suggestion that being white has meaning will cause great umbrage. Certainly generalizing about white people will. Right now, me saying “white people,” as if our race had meaning, and as if I could know anything about somebody just because they’re white, will cause a lot of white people to erupt in defensiveness. And I think of it as a kind of weaponized defensiveness. Weaponized tears. Weaponized hurt feelings. And in that way, I think white fragility actually functions as a kind of white racial bullying.

We white people make it so difficult for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable—but often unaware—racist patterns and assumptions that, most of the time, they don’t. People of color working and living in primarily white environments take home way more daily indignities and slights and microaggressions than they bother talking to us about because their experience consistently is that it’s not going to go well. In fact, they’re going to risk more punishment, not less. They’re going to now have to take care of the white person’s upset feelings. They’re going to be seen as a troublemaker. The white person is going to withdraw, defend, explain, insist it had to have been a misunderstanding."
race  racism  whiteness  2019  robindiangelo 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Let’s Hear It for the Average Child - The New York Times
"Parents, we ask you to hold your applause until the names of all the medal winners have been announced. When the ceremony is over and your child has not left her seat, though nearly every other kid is taking home ribbons and trophies and enough scholarship offers to make a real dent in the national debt, please take a few moments to congratulate the winners as they head off to their well-earned celebrations. Then we ask that you return to your seats. We have a few special achievements left to acknowledge.

To the student who does all the homework in his hardest subject and turns it in promptly, who studies diligently for tests and shows up at every before-school help session, who has never once read an online summary instead of the actual book and who nevertheless manages to earn no grade higher than a C: You have already aced the real tests. School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best. For the rest of your life, you will never again think of this C, but you’ll bring your character and your capacity for hard work to all your future endeavors.

To the student with friends scattered hither and yon, across grades and groups and genders: You may feel like an outsider at every insider gathering. You may wonder what it’s like to feel deeply enfolded within a group whose very membership confers identity. How easy it would be, you may think, to be told where to go and what to wear and whom to stand next to when you get there! In truth, membership in a group always feels provisional; insiders inevitably wonder if they’re the next to be cast out. But a gift for friendship that transcends circumstance, for recognizing kinship wherever it blooms? That gift will make the world your home.

To the student who sits in the back of the room with the chemistry textbook propped open and a library book tucked inside: You’ll have to learn chemistry, there’s no getting around it, but we revel in your love for the written word. In times of trial and worry, of disappointment and despair, a book will be your shield. Immersing yourself in a grand story will be a respite from your troubles, and a lifetime spent lingering over language will give you the right words when you need them yourself. No one writes a better love letter than a lifelong reader.

To the bench warmers and the water boys and the equipment managers who follow every play without getting a smudge on their pristine jerseys: We delight in your love for the game, and we salute your loyalty to the team. You may never score the winning goal or hit a walk-off home run or feel the exultation of your teammates as they carry you from the field, but you will know the pleasure of belonging, and you will be spared the sadness of fading glory, too. When you look back on these years, what you’ll remember is the pride of wearing that jersey, the privilege of supporting your team.

To the student who fled for the restroom on dissection day and took a zero in biology lab: It’s a great gift to love animals. When you can sit quietly in the presence of another creature, when you can earn a fearful animal’s trust, you are participating in the eons. Whatever it may seem to almost everyone else, this planet is a great breathing, vulnerable beast, and we are each of us only one of its cells. We celebrate the tender heart that has taught you this truth, so urgent and so easily overlooked.

To the student who bombed the history final because you stayed up all night talking to a friend whose heart is breaking: There is honor in your choice. You can make up the history lessons, but compassion is not a subject we offer in summer school. Today we rejoice for the A you’ve earned in Empathy, the blue ribbon you’ve won in Love.

To the daydreamer and the window-gazer, to the one who startles when called on by the teacher or nudged by a classmate, whose report card invariably praises your good mind but laments your lack of focus: We are grateful for your brown study. Here’s to the wondering reveries of the dreamers and the dawdlers, for the real aha! moments in life are those that cannot be summoned by will. They arrive by stealth during moments of idleness, creeping in while you’re staring out a window or soaking in the bathtub or just wandering aimlessly along.

Summer beckons, a great, green, gorgeous gift. We’ve already kept you far too long, so let us send you forth with just one last reminder of a truth that somehow you already understand, though school is not the place where you learned it:

Life is not a contest, and the world is not an arena. Just by being here, unique among all others, offering contributions that no one else can give, you have already won the one prize that matters most."
schools  awards  competition  children  schooling  education  learning  life  living  2019  margaretrenkl  trophies  summer  generalists  specialists  whatmatters  unschooling  deschooling  howwelearn 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Liz Crocker, Ph.D. on Twitter: "#anthrotwitter: a reminder that the anti-semitic "cultural Marxism" conspiracy is part of extremist indoctrination. It includes misunderstanding of & anger towards anthropology & Franz Boas. We have a responsibility to know
[via: https://twitter.com/allergyPhD/status/1135175321811136514

"Great thread on anthropology and the origins of "cultural Marxism", an anti-Semitic, white supremacist dog whistle"]

"#anthrotwitter: a reminder that the anti-semitic "cultural Marxism" conspiracy is part of extremist indoctrination. It includes misunderstanding of & anger towards anthropology & Franz Boas. We have a responsibility to know it & be prepared to counter it in classrooms. /1

Warning that this thread will include screenshots of these conspiracies. But no direct links. These are sites that are part of the indoctrination for many of the white supremacist hate crimes lately. Some is highly upsetting though I've tried to avoid slurs /2

What they mean by "cultural Marxism" is poorly defined & sometimes just anything they dislike. But the general idea is in the 1910s the Frankfurt School tried to infiltrate academia to threaten "traditional western values". Anthro is seen as playing a crucial role in that /3

Generally, they adore colonialist anthropology & often even cite it. As we teach the history of the field, how many of us are doing so realizing those ideas and names are highly influential for contemporary hate movements? Are you spending that classroom time wisely?

Boas is a central focus of "cultural Marxism". They claim he was "anti-darwinist" & was actively trying to "destroy" Western values & identity. Much time is spent establishing Boas is Jewish so it can connect to their anti-semitic conspiracies. /4

They argue Boas and his students "infiltrated" anthropology including AAA. Note the focus not just on more liberal perspectives (anti- racism, loosening of gender restrictions) as dangerous but also the continued connections to their anti-semitism narratives /5

Marxism, socialism & communism are conflated & anyone who argues race isn't a biological/genetic concept or for cultural inclusion is called a Marxist & threat to "Western values." All modern anthro is therefore such a threat. /6

You'll notice the "noble savage" concept gets a lot of attention & Rousseau gets mentioned, too. We debunk Rousseau in classrooms but are we doing so aware of these narratives? Are you accidentally feeding these conspiracies? /7

I want to warn you that if you go looking for the sources you should not do so from a work computer. Many are grabbed from white supremacist hate group sites. Others more neutral wikipedia-ish sites and blogs. Some are "alt light" with popular podcasts /8

"Cultural Marxism" & connections to anthropology, anti-semitism & white supremacy are common themes of the alt light speakers who give talks on campuses. Anthro professors need to address these issues & give time to discuss so students can be equipped to counter those speakers /9

As we discuss how to #DecolonizeAnthropology it is not enough to add diverse voices & critical analysis. We must tackle racist colonialist anthro & its legacies head on. It is not your fault that these conspiracies began but it is our collective responsibility /10

My public engagement on @RedditScience & anthro subs shows we need 4 fields to do that. Cultural anthros need to learn genetics & human evolution. Biological anthros need culture & history. We all need ling & arch to counter ethno-supremacism. Anthropology is stronger together/11

For anyone unfamiliar with these conspiracies, @guardian recently had a good overview introduction /12"
marxism  communism  socialism  anthropology  lizcrocker  culturalmarxism  2019  myths  antisemitism  franzboas  whitesupremacy  science  conspiracytherories  genetics  race  racism  decolonizeanthropology  history 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Culture of Professional Colleges Failed Dr Payal Tadvi – Just as It Did Me
[via: https://twitter.com/achakrava/status/1135066908737204224

"I've heard this from Dalit friends in India, from first-generation/low-income/immigrant students and students of color in the US. As a college professor nothing infuriates me quite as much as this. Education is meant to be a path to emancipation not a space for reproducing power."]

"The conversations around Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide, on May 22, 2019, have been quite unsettling. That some have attributed it to work pressure or “cowardliness”, shows a lack of understanding about how caste works or how deeply pervasive it is. I can imagine what could have driven her to end her life – I experienced unapologetic casteism at university too.

I attended one of India’s elite law schools. In these spaces – unlike in medical and engineering colleges – casteism was subtle and intellectualised (perhaps because aspiring lawyers knew how to avoid a penalty under the Prevention of Atrocities Act). I could never really tell what made me feel different, lonely and marginalised.

I sensed that I didn’t think like them, share their fascination with the same cultural icons and activities, and did not behave in a manner deemed appropriate by them. All of which, I later understood through my readings, was shaped by one’s caste background.

In my first year, a faculty member proclaimed that she was Brahmin, and went on to ask other Brahmin students to raise their hands. The same lecturer asked us to make a project on our ancestors. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my ancestry, but I had to – it was to be marked for 20 marks.

The upper caste students didn’t see it as a big deal. For many of them, it was an opportunity to boast of the achievements of their forefathers and their rich ancestries, all somehow related to their social location. Some of us, who had no such histories to tell, felt ashamed when it was our turn.

The casteism of my peers was mostly implicit. Explicit references to caste were mostly stereotypical and prejudiced. Tambrams and Kayasths were the most intelligent, apparently, Rajputs valiant and emotional; Banias shrewd and money-minded, and so on. In groups dominated by savarnas, such remarks were often made, for each other in jest. It made me wonder how they’d refer to me if they knew who I was: a former untouchable.

When I tried to point out that such statements were inherently casteist, they defended themselves, saying they had a right to feel proud of their caste and that I should be proud of mine. Be proud of the fact that people from my caste were routinely humiliated, pushed into bonded labour, and beaten up when they tried to go to school? Okay.

A savarna friend once told me that I was uncultured because I was not trained in any classical dance or music. Another told me she would never forgive people who availed of SC/ST quotas because, if it weren’t for us, she would be in a better law school. Her tone made me feel like I had committed a heinous crime.

Some even rationalised the caste system as a result of genetic differences among the varnas, with Dalits and Adivasis as the most inferior. One boy used this as the reason he was in love with a certain Kshatriya girl, because she was apparently honourable and would give birth to strong children.

One boy didn’t hesitate to let the elevator shut on a boy from the Meena community, saying ”ye Meena log ke saath aise hi hona chahiye’‘. It was that normalised. If you called them out on it, they would brilliantly justify themselves, leaving us feeling like we were just over-reacting.

Classroom discussions on the jurisprudence of reservations were one-sided, usually concluding that reservations must wither away or be provided on economic grounds. The discussions were dominated by UC students; our voices silenced by their loud, assertive ones, confident in their ignorance of the larger social context.

These were all bright, well-meaning, caste-blind students who were extremely thick to the social realities outside of life as they knew it. My confidence and self-esteem were beaten to a pulp by everyday microaggressions. Eventually, it got to me and I succumbed into believing that I deserved to feel that way.

After all, my existence in that university was an anomaly, and I had taken up their space. The assault to my dignity was the price I had to pay for the privilege of studying at such an eminent institution.

Those experiences, coupled with rampant sexism, took a toll on my mental health. I tried to talk to the few people I thought I could, including my parents. But they couldn’t understand what I was going through. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and my world is very different from theirs.

My savarna seniors told me that I was victimising myself, and that law schools are extremely competitive spaces; I had to toughen up or be left behind. I didn’t know how to explain this to my doctor either. She told me I had “low self-esteem and an inferiority complex and that I should only think positively.”

I couldn’t, so I became a recluse. I took up less space, participated less and confined myself mostly to my room, escaping into books and art. I managed to get through five miserable years. I have had enough time since then to process and understand that ordeal.

When I look back now, what bothered me most was my inability to respond in a way that made me feel empowered. Instead, I protested weakly, with the savarnas beating me with their eloquence. I was already gaslighted into believing I was a waste of space in a meritorious institution. I had so deeply internalised their narrative that I couldn’t fight the it within my own self, let alone them.

It wasn’t until I read Ambedkar (conveniently excluded from the law school’s curriculum), Yashica Dutt’s Coming out as Dalit or Christina Thomas Dhanraj’s writings that I could develop the intellectual ammunition to fight the narrative – first with myself and then others.

My colleagues from the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities went through similar experiences. When we enter these privileged spaces, we are very vulnerable and develop various coping mechanisms. Some internalise the dominant campus culture, hiding our identities and trying to emulate them. Some become depressed, even self-destructive.

At my university, we refrained from forming a homogenous group, because some of them were not comfortable with being ‘that quota group’, as one friend put it. Many of us wanted to learn from our savarna peers, even if it meant putting up with their micro-aggressions and gritting our teeth through their thoughtless remarks.

Expecting savarnas to magically unlearn their casteism and make these spaces inclusive would be foolish. It is so central to their lives that they may genuinely not see it, the way fish may be unaware of water. Those of us who were never a part of it, can’t help but see it – we are reminded of it with every interaction.

That’s where our institutions have failed us. Professional institutions – medical, engineering or law – do not encourage any form of student politics. Their students have no safe spaces in which to confidently come to terms with their identities, and assert the same when someone threatens their dignity.

Greater student representation from these communities would also help make these spaces more inclusive. Another institutional-level solution would be to establish mandatory workshops on casteism and sexism every year, so that these spaces don’t churn out even more insensitive professionals, like the ones who killed Dr Payal Tadvi, Rohit Vehmula, Bal Mukund Bharati and others."
caste  education  highered  highereducation  india  2019  emancipation  hierarchy  bias  power  privilege 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Teju Cole, "Ethics", Lecture 3 of 3, 04.22.19 - YouTube
"The 2019 Berlin Family Lectures with Teju Cole
"Coming to Our Senses"
Lecture three: "Ethics"
April 22, 2019

How do our senses foster our moral understanding and ethical obligations to others? In the third and final lecture of the 2019 Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lecture Series, acclaimed author, critic, and photographer Teju Cole thinks through how our senses can help us understand the plight of travelers and migrants. Cole implores us to recognize the mutual and unshirkable responsibilities that bind all human beings.

This is the second lecture in a three-lecture series presented in the spring of 2019 at the University of Chicago.

Named for Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin, the Berlin Family Lectures bring leading scholars, writers, and creative artists from around the world to the University of Chicago. Each visitor offers an extended series of lectures with the aim of interacting with the university community and developing a book for publication with the University of Chicago Press. Learn more at http://berlinfamilylectures.uchicago.edu.

If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to humanities@uchicago.edu."
2019  tejucole  ethics  senses  migrants  migration  travelers  responsibility  humanism  lauraletinsky  photography  location  situation  howwewrite  interconnectedness  interconnected  malta  caravaggio  art  painting  writing  reading  knowing  knowledge  seeing  annecarson  smell  death  grief  dying 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
‘San Diego 2049’ offers a glimpse of possible futures - San Diego CityBeat
"AI presidents and VR border workers are envisioned at the yearlong UC San Diego program"



"A local needs to get to their job taking care of a wealthy La Jolla socialite who plans to “go under” for a lengthy stay in virtual reality. But they can’t get to that job because the dedicated scooter lane on Interstate 5 has been compromised due to flooding. To make matters worse, the collective AI who was just elected the U.S. president hasn’t yet announced his (her? its?) infrastructure-funding plan.

Welcome to San Diego in 2049, as imagined by students and affiliates of UC San Diego. The yearlong program, known simply as “San Diego 2049,” is an exercise in “speculative design for policy making,” according to organizers. It is sponsored by the UCSD’s Center for Human Imagination and just wrapped up with its culminating event: A competition between three teams of graduate students tasked “to design a vision for the San Diego border region in 2049 and create an intervention into that future.”

If the submissions to the competition are any indication, the future of the San Diego region is inextricably linked to the future of the rest of the planet. Noted the event’s keynote speaker and best-selling science fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, “You can’t talk about the fate of San Diego 30 years from now without talking about the fate of the rest of the planet 30 years from now. It’s a global fate and there’s no such thing as a pocket utopia.”

Robinson, a UC San Diego alumnus, should know. He’s the winner of the trifecta of literary science fiction prizes (the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards) and an expert at world-building, one of the three criteria for the student competition. The other two criteria are “rhetorical strength of the intervention” and “successful realization of the intervention within its given medium” (it is academia, after all).

The results of this theoretical exercise in world-building could be summed up by what Robinson described as an “attenuated peninsula.”

“We’re going to fall one way or another,” he added. “We can either fall into a mass extinction event caused by human action, or we can rally our resources and our expertise and our community and grow together a quite prosperous and glorious future.”

Somewhere in between lies the student submission known as “Fronteras”, a choose-your-own-adventure-style game created for the online platform Twine by a team of UCSD graduate students in varying departments. The game imagines the San Diego border region as a technological playground, an amalgam of “the tourism, caregiving and transportation industries changing immigration policy driven in part by climate change,” said Literature Ph.D. student Jeanelle Horcasitas.

In the game, people called “transfronterizas” are able to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, but only if they are VR workers who take care of the bodily needs of “patrons” while they’re immersed in idyllic virtual reality worlds. Meanwhile, ContraVR radicals have begun meeting at the putrid beaches of Baja California, wearing Aztec-style masks to protect themselves from toxins. The radicals are planning to infiltrate SeAR, a virtual reality version of Sea World.

Whether there will even be beaches and sea ports in San Diego 30 years from now is still up for debate. Robinson noted that even with a five-centimeter sea-level rise, “the beaches will be in deep trouble, and with a one-meter rise, they’ll be gone.” As research for one of his novels, Robinson said he consulted with geoengineers to determine if excess water could be pumped back onto sea ice using oil industry pumping technology (an irony that tickles him, he admitted).

And it can be done, he said. There’s just one catch.

“It would take 10 million windmills and use seven percent of all electricity generated worldwide,” Robinson said.

“This is one way of saying this is a fantasy,” he added. “It’s not going to happen, and that’s true of many geoengineering ideas.”

One solution, according to Robinson’s geoengineering sources, might be to drill through the remaining ice and pump the water out until the glaciers bottom out on rock and slow down again, preventing their slide into the ocean. He proposed that the U.S. Navy (a major employer in San Diego) and all the world’s militaries should “shift their wars on nation states to helping people” instead.

But that requires leadership. Intelligent leadership. So what’s more intelligent than artificial intelligence?

That’s the conceit behind “The Intelligent Governance Network”, a second student project (and the winner of the San Diego 2049 competition). It begins from the premise that a massively crowd-sourced artificial intelligence becomes President of the United States 30 years from now. Among the website’s elements is an excerpt from a televised debate between human and AI presidential candidates in 2049.

“We are able to use the wisdom of the crowd in the best way imaginable and grow together as one,” claims the fictional IGN candidate (which looks a little like a fire hydrant with a brain). “The idea of strong leaders is an idea that has led to countless wars and an endless amount of suffering… The time has come for humans to fully trust in the altruistic infrastructure that the Intelligent Governance Network was built on.”

But will San Diegans be motivated to trust in leadership and make the changes necessary to protect the world as we know it? The students behind the third project, Goose and Gander, seem to have their doubts. Inspired by satirical and absurdist approaches to speculative design, students James Bruce and Joaquin Reyna wrote a work of short fiction that imagines a world where people are motivated to address pressing social concerns in order to protect their most cherished belonging: A goose. In their world, waterways are protected to provide habitats for geese, and transportation is improved because it’s better for the planet, and therefore better for the geese.

“We wanted to make a really annoying satire,” admitted student James Bruce, “and the premise is that a lot of policy is based on the stupidest reasons.” Noting the move toward wide-scale implementation of self-driving cars, for example, Bruce pointed out that among the touted benefits of a self-driving car is that it “lets you not have to worry about driving and talking to the person next to you.”

“Yeah, we have that already,” he pointed out. “It’s called a bus.”

One thing everyone at the San Diego 2049 seemed to agree on was, in Robinson’s words, “we’re in the fight of our lives” when it comes to addressing the challenges of San Diego 30 years from now.

“California is in a good position to lead the way,” he added. “It has the political will to do the right things. I see such an amazing number of skillful creative collaborative people working together, and UC San Diego is one of the greatest intellectual centers on this planet. When I come here, I see this place and I think it could happen.”

And, as Robinson pointed out, it’s important to remember that “at every moment in history what humans were facing was unprecedented.”

“Maybe that doesn’t make us particularly unusual. What I can say is what we’re facing is more unprecedented than ever before.”"
sandiego  ucsd  specialization  designfiction  speculativedesign  2049  border  borders  us  mexico  2019 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Teju Cole on the unpredictability and potential of the city: “Once you give up insisting on stereotypes, you can really start to see.” - Harvard Graduate School of Design
"The work of novelist, essayist, and photographer Teju Cole is a genre-defying exploration of race, governance, migration, justice, culture, music, and privilege. It is defined by a comfort with uncertainty and a commitment to defending the freedom and autonomy of others.

The city is the motif that recurs most frequently in Cole’s work. He is drawn to the unpredictability and potential of the urban environment and its endless narrative material. And he is intrigued by the “continuities” between cities—what makes them similar, regardless of size, median income, or hemisphere—as well what makes each one unique. He describes these peculiarities as “smaller zones of interest that, once you give up insisting on stereotypes, you can really start to see.”

“The guidebooks might say, ‘Check out fabulous Florence.’ Or, ‘Kinshasa’s a mess,’” Cole says. “The reality is that teenagers in Florence hang out at the mall, teenagers in Kinshasa hang out at the mall. People in both places who have money can go to nice restaurants. Florence has a trash problem, so does Kinshasa. It’s the same story. The task of insisting on that continuity feels to me like a writerly ethical responsibility. What makes one city different from another is the subtleties, the smaller things you notice when you relinquish the task of exaggerating.”

Cole spent nearly two decades each in Lagos and New York, and he says that they are examples of cities that serve “intellectually as a source of exploration of thinking for my work.” He explains, “If you draw a map around New York, Zurich, Lagos, and São Paulo, they represent the extremes of what cities are and what they do, and each in its own way precisely represents some interests of mine. New York, Lagos, and São Paulo are all part of what I consider the Black Atlantic, places that have been shaped by the black creative presence to a very large extent.” His 2007 debut novel, Every Day Is for the Thief, takes place in Lagos, while his second novel, Open City, and a number of essays are set in New York.

[photo with caption: "“Kitchen to living room. Bedroom to bathroom. Downstairs to get the mail. House to subway. An evening stroll. You take around 7500 steps each day. If you live to eighty, inshallah, that comes to 200 million steps over the course of your life, a hundred thousand miles. You don't consider yourself a great walker, but you will have circumnavigated the globe on foot four times over. Downstairs to get the mail. Basement for laundry. Living room to bedroom. Up in the middle of the night for a glass of water. Walking through the darkened house, you suddenly pause.” “Zürich,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Cole’s writing has been translated into more than 15 languages and has earned him numerous awards, including the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His photography has led to guest curating opportunities and solo exhibitions in seven countries on three continents. In addition to his two novels, he has published Known and Strange Things, a collection of essays on art, literature, photography, and politics; Blind Spot, a singular collection of photographs and writing; and Human Archipelago, a meditation on refugees and displaced people with photographer Fazal Sheikh. He has written for the New Yorker, Granta, and other magazines, and served as the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine from 2015 to 2019.

This afternoon, Cole, Harvard’s first Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing, will deliver the Class Day address for the Graduate School of Design. He plans to use his address to encourage graduates “to think about our life together” and to imagine how a future can be conceived and built. Cole himself is a model for a cross-disciplinary creative practice that is at once intellectually rigorous, politically and socially engaged, and unbound to any singular medium.

[photo with caption: "“A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead.” Excerpt from “Rivaz,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Cole’s fluidity between forms of expression can be credited, at least in part, to a background that has elements of multiplicity and movement, trial and error, switchbacks and reboots. Born in 1975 in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nigerian parents, his life began with two passports, cultures, and languages. At four months old, Cole moved with his family to Lagos, Nigeria, where he lived until he returned to Michigan to pursue studies in art and art history at Kalamazoo College. Later he would go on to study African art history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and art history at Columbia University in New York.

“It was an important fact mentally to know that I belong to Nigeria and the United States,” he says. With time, that comfort with the in-between of dual identities evolved into a confidence in belonging to both places. “It’s always interested me, this idea of, ‘Oh, we don’t say it that way in America.’ To which my response is, ‘Well, we do now.’ Whatever I am, whatever I do, that’s part of America now. This imagined community that we call a nation is ever-expanding and ever-complexifying, and that’s a good thing. We’ve expanded the possibilities.”

Although he first made a name for himself as a novelist, Cole has always identified equally as a writer and a photographer. “I got into both at the same time, around 2004. With whatever I had studied, with whatever my education was, there was a certain voicing that I knew I wanted to explore more in writing. At SOAS, I started what I would say were the very first glimmerings of Open City. I wrote maybe five pages, but it was Mad Libs, no sentences. It was like a fever dream,” he remembers. “But by 2005, I started to feel like, ‘No, I need to write clear sentences’ and let the clarity convey the energy, just have it be cumulative. Around the same time, I started shooting with a film camera.” In Every Day Is for the Thief, a novella that follows a young Nigerian returning to Lagos after years in the US, Cole weaves black and white photographs throughout the narrative.

[photo with caption: "“I opened my eyes. What lay before me looked like the sound of the alphorn at the beginning of the final movement of Brahm’s First Symphony. This was the sound, this was the sound I saw.” “Brienzersee,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

In Blind Spot, images and photographs also have equal footing in a series of single-spread couplets—on one page a full-color image, on the other, prose. Inspired by the six months Cole spent living in Zurich, the book is a call-and-response between a snapshot of a place and a burst of associations. His aim is to come at a subject in such a way that the audience experiences something unexpected that, as he once said, “detonates on some deeper level.”

Cole credits his time writing monthly photography criticism for the New York Times Magazine with growing his photography practice. Reading the photographs of others opened him up to taking his own. Called “On Photography,” his column also gave him an opportunity to engage in a deeper dialogue with the history of photography and to consider himself in relation to artists including Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Luigi Ghirri, and Guido Guidi. He says that contemporary Italian photographers like Ghirri have had an especially significant and validating influence on his work.

[photo with caption: "“I pray to Tarkovsky, Marker, and Hitchcock. I acknowledge the dumb skull, the verso of the face, the local globe from which all thinking originates. I pray to Ojeikere and Richter, in whose works someone is always turning away. In certain pictures, we can verify a character’s presence, but, without the clues of the confessional face, not what the character thinks. What has turned away contains itself.” Excerpt from “Chicago,” from Blind Spot, by Teju Cole."]

Yet Cole says that the most life-defining experiences behind his work have been purely interior. Becoming a born-again Christian at age 13 injected heaviness and seriousness into his life; coming out the other side as an atheist at age 28 changed his “relationship to the world and ethics.” And, at 33, he found what he calls an “even keel” spiritually, outside of religion. “Open City came out in 2011 and that was really what got the public aspect of my career going. But what was important happened eight years before [at 28]: discovering that I had a sense of how to move forward in my life. The pivotal moments have had to do with my relationship to my own being in the world. Some of the external stuff is nice, but I will never define myself around that. Ever. It could all be gone tomorrow. It doesn’t matter because that’s not the definition.”

Cole left New York to take up his teaching role at Harvard in January 2019. Being back in academia, on the other side of the lectern, is right for him, right now, he says. He clearly enjoys nudging his students toward the difficult interior places to find voice, material, and meaning.

“I’m trying to be free. I was influenced by people who are free, including Toni Morrison and John Berger, great artists…. Learning to prioritize that freedom is what led me to this work. Not in a glib ‘I could do anything’ way but in an ‘I have a responsibility to expand the field, to move the center’ way. So, what I say to students is not, ‘You can do anything,’ but ‘You can do a lot, if you’re serious about picking up the necessary skills for each of the things you want to do.’”"
tejucole  toread  2019  salaelisepatterson  cities  urban  urbanism  unpredictability  stereotypes  seeing  noticing  johnberger  tonimorrison  photography  writing 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Verso: "The Funeral of C.L.R. James"
"C. L. R. James, the pioneering Trinidadian socialist historian and writer, died on this day 30 years ago in London with his funeral held a few weeks later at Tunapuna Cemetery, Trinidad. On the arrival back in Trinidad of his body, his long-time comrade John La Rose read passages of Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal - the great Caribbean poem of exile and return. In this article, Jackqueline Frost investigates the continental connections of James and Césaire, and the politics of return."



"In James’ systematic determinism, the return to the Caribbean for political intellectuals takes on the dimensions of a prophecy. This is the logic at work in the final paragraph of “Fanon and the Caribbean,” where James considers what the Algerian revolutionary would be doing in 1978 were he still alive. Though at the end of his life Fanon no longer considered himself Caribbean, James’ goal in this short text is to show that Fanon’s upbringing in Martiniquan society inescapably made him the political actor and thinker he was. In abandoning the West Indies for Africa, as part of a generation of Caribbean militants whose major political engagement took similar forms, Fanon affirms rather than negates his Caribbean identity. James claims here that “the moment Fanon heard that in the Caribbean Cuba was free and the other countries were gaining independence, he said then he would go back to struggle there with them.” Whether Fanon’s promise to return to the Caribbean can be considered authentic or apocryphal, the tendency of return permitted these sorts of thought-experiments. The ugly outcomes of James’ own return to Trinidad and Tobago and 1958 and his mid-60s venture into electoral politics, did not dissuade him from singing the accolades of West Indians and their society in advancing world civilization through their specific “creative contributions.” As James writes in Beyond a Boundary, he had discovered that what mattered was “movement: Not where you are or what you have, but where you have come from, where you are going and the rate at which you are getting there.”[xx] These are some of the words carved into his gravestone in Tunapuna, Trinidad. While returning to the place one comes from has a specific meaning for West Indians in the second half of the 20th century, James reminds us that no cultural object is ever disconnected from the society which produced its author. On the 30th anniversary of James’ death, his epitaph and the passages read at his Ceremony of Return caution us against ignoring the social worlds that we often hold in isolation from the political and poetic acts they generate."

[See also (referenced in the essay): https://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1978/11/fanon.htm ]
2019  clrjames  caribbean  culture  franzfanon  aimécésaire  jackquelinefrost  cuba  trinidad  haiti  johnlarose  jorgelefevretavárez  decolonization  latinamerica  africa  claudiajones  jacquesstephenalexis  elsagoveia  géraldbloncourt  saragomez  jacquesroumain  nancymorejón  renédepestre  andrewsalkey  suzannecésaire  mikeysmith  walteriocarbonell  nicolásguillén  alejocarpentier  negrismomovement  negrismo  race  negritude  cam  sociology  orlandopatterson  wilsonharris  georgelamming  art  literature  politics  marxism  aubreywilliams  altheamcnish  stuarthall  1999  martinique  algeria  1978 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Landscape Circuitry – Nick Sowers Architecture
"What happens when you wire up parts of a landscape and amplify its own remixed sounds? This is the next iteration of my series with SEAP : Sonorous Environment Amplification Panel. I have set up this four channel audio installation on the edge of Seaplane Lagoon on the former Naval Air Station in Alameda to explore the sonic textures in magnified detail.

Through live amplification of sounds picked up by a variety of microphones (contact, omnidirectional, shotgun, and hydrophone) I am able to reveal elements of the landscape which may otherwise go unnoticed. The sounds of birds, waves, pebbles, electricity, and wind through a security fence travel through the wires and merge digitally before being projected through the acrylic sound panel.

Even the more visible and audible parts which pass through such as Southwest jets taking off from nearby Oakland Airport are filtered through the sound installation, mixing and resonating with bird sounds and howling wind. We can hear all of this without augmentation, yet the ability to turn the dial up or down on certain sounds gives the observer a new form of participation in the landscape.

The forms of participation enabled by SEAP can be unexpected. One thing that surprised me is how the slight delay between the sounds initially heard and the sounds played back through amplification immediately creates a new atmosphere. The delay is like what you hear in a hard concrete alley, your own footsteps bouncing back to you in a kind of pangy-hollow sound. But you wouldn’t expect to find that echo effect in an open landscape. When a security guard pulled up to ask me what I was doing, his own voice was thrown back to him. He seemed satisfied with my description “Just testing out an art installation” and drove away.

Another unexpected sound comes from this security fence blocking access to the breakwater. I wired up a contact microphone to the galvanized steel post supporting the fence. The wind which slips through the fence is not audible to the naked ear, yet the metal absorbs the sound and can be amplified and mixed in with the rest of the environment. Listen:

In the recording you’ll hear the sounds of birds picked up by this omnidirectional microphone aimed down into the rocks. Crevices contain their own little sonic worlds. The space between rocks shelters a bowl of stiller air. In this placement, the microphone avoids clipping from wind. Tinier sounds like pebbles trickling down and birds whose calls would otherwise be drowned out are easily picked up.

I found myself thinking about artist Jenny Odell‘s practice of observation at the Morcom Amphitheatre of Roses in Oakland, about how this place on the fringes of a former Navy base could be my rose garden. From the perspective of an architect, I’m not doing anything here. I’m not analyzing a site as a precursor to making a building. Yet I am doing more than bird watching or walking or fishing– all fine activities for absorbing the nuances of a place and experiencing the passage of time. SEAP is an evolution of the many years I have walked landscapes and recorded sounds. Now I have an apparatus with which to gauge the subtle textures of a soundscape and add my own interpretation back into it. I expect to return to Seaplane Lagoon with an ever evolving set of processes to fold in between the processes of erosion and construction."
nicksowers  sound  audio  landscape  listening  2019  microphones  jennyodell  oakland  morethanhuman  recording 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The College Dropout Crisis - The New York Times
"American higher education has a dropout problem. About one in three students who enroll in college never earn a degree. But a promising solution is staring us in the face: Schools with similar students often have very different graduation rates. This suggests that the problem isn’t the students — it’s the schools.

Here we looked at 368 colleges arranged by what we would expect their graduation rates to be, based on the average for colleges with similar student bodies."



"For too long, she added, university leaders have been distracted and have been chasing prestige and rankings, rather than getting better at helping students succeed."
colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  dropouts  data  2019  statistics  education  academia  prestige  rankings 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
“Design Is Not an Intellectual Exercise” | Harvard Magazine
"STANDING BEFORE a graduating class of soon-to-be architects and designers and urban planners at the Graduate School of Design’s Class Day, Teju Cole—the Vidal professor of the practice of creative writing—wanted to talk about doors. Real doors, but also symbolic ones. He began with a story from his own childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, about a door his father had brought home from a trip to Brazil, a “honey-colored, luminous, gorgeous” object that was “fit for a cathedral” but had no practical place in the family’s two-bedroom rented flat. For years, said Cole, the unused and unusable door gathered dust in the corner of their home, but his father remained committed to the idea it represented: a house and property of their own. That commitment “stayed with me, not only as an act of faith, but as an instinct for understanding a kind of power of portals.”

Cole is a novelist, essayist, photographer, and curator. His five books include Open City, Blind Spot, and most recently, Human Archipelago, a collaboration with photographer Fazal Sheikh that explores the plight of displaced persons and refugees around the world. Cole’s own photography has been the subject of solo exhibitions, and from 2015 until 2019, he was the photography critic of The New York Times.

In his speech, he wound through the etymology of the word “door”—one of the oldest in human civilization, as ancient as “hand,” or “bread,” or “home”—and its equally ancient architectural history (“a house without a door is either a dungeon or a tomb”). He spoke about doors as a rich, resonant subject for artwork, and explored the symbolic force of the word’s many meanings: passageways, openings, opportunities, the act of crossing over, of overcoming. Finally, his meditation landed on a very different kind of door. A few years ago, he traveled from Lagos across what was once called the Slave Coast of West Africa, to Ouidah, Benin, where a giant bronze and concrete arch, the Door of No Return, memorializes the enslaved who were taken from that place. Cole saw the tree to which people had been chained, the field that was once a holding pen for thousands, the pit where those who rebelled were thrown to their deaths. “This was a journey into traces of human cruelty,” he said.

He looked out at the graduating class. “Design is not an intellectual exercise,” he said. Taken altogether, their work will be influential. “But the question of what kind of influence you will have is up to you. We face challenges, and we need you to be a door for us. We’re living in a time of toxic patriarchy still. We are living in a time of white supremacy still. There are those who agree to build prisons. There are those who agree to build detention camps. Oppression has always had great use for architects and designers and urban planners. Redlining was a technical skill. And everything that betrays our collective humanity depends on people just like you, with skills just like yours.”

He wasn’t finished. “Fascism in guises large and small requires signage and advertising,” Cole said. “It requires vivid design and the architecture of enmity. History assures us that many, many people get swept up in the flood of its seduction.” He paused. “Will you be one of those who refuse to participate? Even when you know that there will be no medals for your refusal? Even when you’re assured that your refusal will only earn you mockery, poverty, or worse?”

A few minutes later, he returned to an idea he’d introduced in the beginning of the speech: how people become doorways for each other, to help others get where they are going. He quoted the author Toni Morrison, who, in a 2003 interview, said, “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”

“I think about that a lot,” Cole said. He told the graduates-to-be that it is important to take their professional endeavors seriously, to work toward mastery in all their skills. “But expertise is not the destination,” he cautioned. “The destination is freedom. What can we do to free others? Sure, we are experts, but under what ethical pressures does this function? In other words, how do we become a door for others to pass through?” Later, he added a wish for the graduates’ careers. “You will do work that allows you to live with yourself. That’s the bigger dream, putting feeling into form in a way that doesn’t do violence to what is human in you.”

And what about his father’s door? Eight years later, Cole said, his parents—both of whom were in the audience—finally were able to buy a piece of land, on the outskirts of Lagos. They built a house there, and placed the door in it, “like a jewel in a velvet cushion.” Three years after that, Cole left home at 17 to go to college in the United States. And “it was through this doorway, literally, that I stepped—this beautiful, long-nurtured Brazilian door.”"
tejucole  2019  design  fascism  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  oppression  complicity  tonimorrison  power  doors 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | You Don’t Want a Child Prodigy - The New York Times
"One Thursday in January, I hit “send” on the last round of edits for a new book about how society undervalues generalists — people who cultivate broad interests, zigzag in their careers and delay picking an area of expertise. Later that night, my wife started having intermittent contractions. By Sunday, I was wheeling my son’s bassinet down a hospital hallway toward a volunteer harpist, fantasizing about a music career launched in the maternity ward.

A friend had been teasing me for months about whether, as a parent, I would be able to listen to my own advice, or whether I would be a “do as I write, not as I do” dad, telling everyone else to slow down while I hustle to mold a baby genius. That’s right, I told him, sharing all of this research is part of my plan to sabotage the competition while secretly raising the Tiger Woods of blockchain (or perhaps the harp).

I do find the Tiger Woods story incredibly compelling; there is a reason it may be the most famous tale of development ever. Even if you don’t know the details, you’ve probably absorbed the gist.

Woods was 7 months old when his father gave him a putter, which he dragged around in his circular baby-walker. At 2, he showed off his drive on national television. By 21, he was the best golfer in the world. There were, to be sure, personal and professional bumps along the way, but in April he became the second-oldest player ever to win the Masters. Woods’s tale spawned an early-specialization industry.

And yet, I knew that his path was not the only way to the top.

Consider Roger Federer. Just a year before Woods won this most recent Masters, Federer, at 36, became the oldest tennis player ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world. But as a child, Federer was not solely focused on tennis. He dabbled in skiing, wrestling, swimming, skateboarding and squash. He played basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis and soccer (and badminton over his neighbor’s fence). Federer later credited the variety of sports with developing his athleticism and coordination.

While Tiger’s story is much better known, when sports scientists study top athletes, they find that the Roger pattern is the standard. Athletes who go on to become elite usually have a “sampling period.” They try a variety of sports, gain a breadth of general skills, learn about their own abilities and proclivities, and delay specializing until later than their peers who plateau at lower levels. The way to develop the best 20-year-old athlete, it turns out, is not the same as the way to make the best 10-year-old athlete.

The same general pattern tends to hold true for music, another domain where the annals of young prodigies are filled with tales of eight hours of violin, and only violin, a day. In online forums, well-meaning parents agonize over what instrument to pick for a child, because she is too young to pick for herself and will fall irredeemably behind if she waits. But studies on the development of musicians have found that, like athletes, the most promising often have a period of sampling and lightly structured play before finding the instrument and genre that suits them.

In fact, a cast of little-known generalists helped create some of the most famous music in history. The 18th-century orchestra that powered Vivaldi’s groundbreaking use of virtuoso soloists was composed largely of the orphaned daughters of Venice’s sex industry. The “figlie del coro,” as the musicians were known, became some of the best performers in the world. The most striking aspect of their development was that they learned an extraordinary number of different instruments.

This pattern extends beyond music and sports. Students who have to specialize earlier in their education — picking a pre-med or law track while still in high school — have higher earnings than their generalist peers at first, according to one economist’s research in several countries. But the later-specializing peers soon caught up. In sowing their wild intellectual oats, they got a better idea of what they could do and what they wanted to do. The early specializers, meanwhile, more often quit their career tracks.

I found the Roger pattern — not the Tiger (or Tiger Mother) pattern — in most domains I examined. Professional breadth paid off, from the creation of comic books (a creator’s years of experience did not predict performance, but the number of different genres the creator had worked in did) to technological innovation (the most successful inventors were those who had worked in a large number of the federal Patent and Trademark Office’s different technological classifications).

A study of scientists found that those who were nationally recognized were more likely to have avocations — playing music, woodworking, writing — than typical scientists, and that Nobel laureates were more likely still.

My favorite example of a generalist inventor is Gunpei Yokoi, who designed the Game Boy. Yokoi didn’t do as well on electronics exams as his friends, so he joined Nintendo as a machine maintenance worker when it was still a playing card company before going on to lead the creation of a toy and game operation. His philosophy, “lateral thinking with withered technology,” was predicated on dabbling in many different types of older, well-understood (or “withered”) technology, and combining them in new ways, hence the Game Boy’s thoroughly dated tech specs.

Roger stories abound. And yet, we (and I include myself) have a collective complex about sampling, zigzagging and swerving from (or simply not having) ironclad long-term plans. We are obsessed with narrow focus, head starts and precocity.

A few years ago, I was invited to speak to a small group of military veterans who had been given scholarships by the Pat Tillman Foundation to aid with new careers. I talked a bit about research on late specializers and was struck by the reception, as if the session had been cathartic.

One attendee emailed me afterward: “We are all transitioning from one career to another. Several of us got together after you had left and discussed how relieved we were to have heard you speak.” He was a former member of the Navy SEALs with an undergrad degree in history and geophysics and was pursuing grad degrees in business and public administration from Dartmouth and Harvard. I couldn’t help but chuckle that he had been made to feel behind.

Oliver Smithies would have made that veteran feel better too, I think. Smithies was a Nobel laureate scientist whom I interviewed in 2016, shortly before he died at 91. Smithies could not resist “picking up anything” to experiment with, a habit his colleagues noticed. Rather than throw out old or damaged equipment, they would leave it for him, with the label “Nbgbokfo”: “No bloody good but O.K. for Oliver.”

He veered across scientific disciplines — in his 50s, he took a sabbatical two floors away from his lab to learn a new discipline, in which he then did his Nobel work; he told me he published his most important paper when he was 60. His breakthroughs, he said, always came during what he called “Saturday morning experiments.” Nobody was around, and he could just play. “On Saturday,” he said, “you don’t have to be completely rational.”

I did have fleeting thoughts of a 1-day-old harp prodigy. I’ll admit it. But I know that what I really want to do is give my son a “Saturday experiment” kind of childhood: opportunities to try many things and help figuring out what he actually likes and is good at. For now, I’m content to help him learn that neither musical instruments nor sports equipment are for eating.

That said, just as I don’t plan to push specialization on him, I also don’t mean to suggest that parents should flip to the other extreme and start force-feeding diversification.

If of his own accord our son chooses to specialize early, fine. Both Mozart and Woods’s fathers began coaching their sons in response to the child’s display of interest and prowess, not the reverse. As Tiger Woods noted in 2000: “To this day, my dad has never asked me to go play golf. I ask him. It’s the child’s desire to play that matters, not the parent’s desire to have the child play.”

On the strength of what I’ve learned, I think I’ll find it easy to stick to my guns as a Roger father."
davidepstein  children  parenting  ports  talent  2019  burnout  generalists  specialization  specialists  prodigies  rogerfederer  tigerwoods  music  performance  gunpeiyokoi  gameboy  nintendo  oliversmithies  genius  science  learning  mozart  sampling  quitting  precocity  headstarts  education  focus 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Can Californians Still Find a Path to Mobility at the State’s Universities? - The New York Times
"As a counter to staggering inequality, the system needs to be more open to the people who actually live in the Golden State."



"Joan Didion described her alma mater, the University of California, as “California’s highest, most articulate idea of itself, the most coherent — perhaps the only coherent — expression of the California possibility.”

That ethos has endured. The University of California has prevailed as both symbol and engine of opportunity, true to the spirit of the state’s founding constitution, which endorsed an accessible, independent institution of higher learning. From admitting women in 1870 to establishing the nation’s first multi-campus research university, and from its string of world-changing scientific breakthroughs to its embrace of undocumented immigrants, the University of California has reflected and nurtured the state’s core values.

The university plays a critical role at a time when the top 1 percent in California draw almost a quarter of the total income while six in 10 children are covered by Medi-Cal. But to be most effective as a force to counter the staggering inequality, the university needs to reshape campuses so they not only look more like California but also again offer what Carol T. Christ, the chancellor of Berkeley, calls “equity of experience” — equal access to science and technology majors, research opportunities, campus life and study abroad.

Berkeley is one of the university’s nine undergraduate campuses, the top tier of a remarkable tripartite public system that educates a majority of California students. The undergraduate universities consistently rank as the most effective schools in the country as drivers of upward economic mobility. More than 40 percent of their undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college. More than half come from families with annual incomes of less than $80,000 and pay no tuition. Berkeley, which enrolls a smaller share of lower-income Pell grant recipients than any other campus, still educates the lower-income students at almost twice the rate of Ivy League schools — and Pell grant recipients graduate at roughly the same high rates as their wealthier classmates.

What has fractured since Ms. Didion graduated in 1956 is the cohesive community, the assumption of shared experience that bound so many generations of alumni, particularly at Berkeley, the university’s flagship and still its best-known brand. Today, Berkeley has cleaved into disparate worlds divided by class, race and major. In its stratification and struggles, it mirrors a complex nation-state with deep divisions and extremes.

The symbiotic relationship between school and state means that Ms. Christ and her counterparts grapple with the consequences of some of California’s most intractable conditions: a housing crisis that forces many students to commute for hours because they cannot afford to live anywhere near the Bay Area; a poverty rate that means some students skip meals and others send financial aid money home; a volatile state budget dependent on the superwealthy and prone to boom-and-bust cycles; and decades of underfunded primary and secondary public schools that strain to educate a diverse student body.

Although Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the state and a majority of the school-age children, they remain underrepresented across the university system, most of all at Berkeley. Only 5 percent of the Berkeley faculty members are Latino. Latino student enrollment has increased to about 14 percent, still far short of reflecting California over all.

Berkeley, the original campus (hence its nickname, Cal), was central to the agreement that shaped California’s system of higher education. The 1960 master plan established jurisdictions for the University of California (which retained its exclusive right to offer graduate programs), California State University and the community colleges. The master plan guaranteed admission to the four-year schools for top high school seniors and envisioned community colleges as feeders for other students. An era of expansion ensued to meet record demand as California passed New York to become the most populous state.

Then came more complicated decades: the Free Speech Movement, which helped propel Ronald Reagan to the governorship; Proposition 13, which slashed state revenues; Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action; and multiple recessions. During the worst years of the Great Recession, the University of California lost a third of its state support, and tuition, once free, rose to $12,000 from about $8,000 per year, for the first time surpassing state aid in total revenue.

For first-generation students, financial obstacles are only the start, especially at Berkeley, where faculty members have long valued research above teaching and the school has reveled in its sink-or-swim culture. Alejandra Tapia, who graduated in the class of 2019 with a major in molecular and cell biology, is both a success story and a cautionary tale. Raised by a single mother who worked in the fields, Ms. Tapia decided to become a doctor after her mother suffered a stroke. She attended four high schools, all in farmworker communities.

Through grit and intelligence, she won a full scholarship to Berkeley. Many days, she wondered if she had made the right choice. She had expected the intellectual challenges; she did not expect to navigate alien academic and social worlds with no support. Often the only Latina in her labs, she juggled pre-med classes, 15 hours a week of work and worries about her family. She came close to leaving. “It has made me better and stronger than what I thought I could ever be,” she said, triumphant that she had persevered. Thinking about the hardships, she began to cry.

The culture of intellectual Darwinism undermines the goal of equity in an era when so many students arrive without the cultural or financial resources once taken for granted. What is needed is more than just an update to the master plan, still the governing covenant. California needs a master plan for equity, a goal that would take a combination of vision, political will and acumen.

“The Master Plan was designed to provide a broadly traditional education to a broadly traditional student body,” the chancellors of the university and the community college system wrote last year in an agreement to formalize paths among the systems. “What is missing is a systemic reimagination of the ends of education in light of 21st-century conditions.”

The unbridled optimism and growth of the 1950s and early ’60s had downsides but nurtured a system that grew based on ideas, with confidence that resources would follow. Decisions now are too often made the other way around. Out-of-state students pay three times as much in tuition as residents; since the financial crises, their numbers soared to 18 percent of the enrollment.

There are signs of progress. One of every three new students at Berkeley is a junior transfer from a community college. They are more likely to be Latino, first generation, from lower-income families and more likely to concentrate in humanities because they lack the prerequisites for science and technology majors. Transfer students will be key for Chancellor Christ to fulfill her goal to make Berkeley a “Hispanic-Serving Institution,” a designation already achieved by six of the university campuses, which requires that a quarter of the students be Latino.

“The University and the State of California are inseparable,” Ansel Adams wrote in the late 1960s, after he had photographed every aspect of the university for its centennial celebration. “The challenge to the University of California today is nothing less than to help bring forth the civilization of the future.” Fifty years later, the future looks very different, but the challenge of its mission remains."
miriampawel  2019  universityofcalifornia  california  communitycolleges  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  socialmobility  joandidion  access  inequality  funding  tuition  anseladams  society  masterplan  uc 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Abraham Verghese and Denise Pope — How Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? - The On Being Project
"Ms. Tippett: So I always worry about when any conversation veers into the “kids these days” mode. But that’s not what we’re doing here. We are talking about how this matter of success and what it means has shifted in our lifetimes. Those of us who’ve been around for a little while perceive that, and Denise, you have actually studied that. You have put research to that. You started to see, when you started to look at this, that there’s a lot of hyperactive attention to success in terms of academic achievement, study habits, classroom discipline, peer culture — dropout rates would be the opposite, and, as you said, just about no serious attention to classroom experiences and the character of their intellectual engagement.

Ms. Pope: Yeah. I always start my talks out with “How do you define success?” And if I say it to students in a student assembly, without fail, usually, the top couple of answers are money, grades, test scores, where you go to college, something like that. And that’s been consistent, now, for 15 years.

And when I ask the same question to the parents — and usually, it is the parents of those kids, who are coming at the same school that night — it’s never that. Now, they could be lying; they don’t want to say “money,” when — but usually —

Ms. Tippett: “I want my kid to make a lot of money.” [laughs] Right.

Ms. Pope: No one’s going to stand up and say that out loud. But they say happiness, well-being, give back to society, love and be loved — really different from what we’re hearing from the kids.

Ms. Tippett: That’s interesting, isn’t it, because I would presume, and I think you would too, that they mean that. But what it points at, to me, is that we know how to teach these other things, and we invest in them — that, it’s what I perceive, that we have lost our sophistication about investing in those things, even if we believe them.

Ms. Pope: And I think it’s in the everyday little messages that schools send and that parents send. When you walk into schools, you see awards. One of the first things, when you walk into a school, is usually the trophy case. Sometimes you see pictures of kids with 4.0s on the wall. We publish honor students in the newspaper. The first thing a parent says when the kid walks in the door is, “How’d you do on the history test?” You’re sending those messages that external, extrinsic — grades, test scores — that’s what matters more. They’re posting their report cards on the fridge. They’re not posting their public service activities on the fridge. They’re not raving to grandma about that when they talk about SAT scores. So it’s happening — we’re sending the messages to these kids to produce that result."



"Ms. Pope: There’s definitely a corollary in education around relationships, because we know that when you feel that there’s someone who has your back, when there’s an adult you can go to if you have a problem, if your teacher truly cares about you, knows your name, knows who you are, knows how you learn, kids are more engaged. They do better. And that’s where we say, it isn’t rocket science. We know how to get kids to learn. We know that if you feel safe, and you feel like you belong, and you’re excited and engaged, you’re more likely going to learn than if you’re not. And it’s just, the whole system is getting in the way of those relationships and that learning being able to happen. So we work very concretely with schools: Can you change your bell schedule so that not everyone’s running around eight times a day? Can you have a later start so that kids can get more sleep, because they need it? Can you build time in for teachers and students to work together and meet and talk and have advisory? We know how to do this; it’s just really hard to break what — everybody in their life has been through 14, 12, 16 years of school that all look the same, and we’re talking about something that’s pretty different and scary, particularly for those schools that have those high-achieving kids, because if it ain’t broke, and we’re saying, no, no, no, it’s broke …

[laughter]

… it’s broke — it looks different. You might be getting good grades and getting them into college …"



"Dr. Verghese: I think that the real education of my life was all the failures. That is, really, what shaped me. So I began medical school in Ethiopia, actually, and a very nice school run by the British consul for East Africa. And then civil war broke out. So, suddenly, in the middle of my third year of medical school, I was adrift. And it was the worst thing that could’ve ever happened to me, I thought.

My parents had come here a little before that, reading the writing on the wall, and I joined them in New Jersey. And I could not get back into medical school, because I didn’t have an undergraduate degree. In most parts of the world, you go straight from high school to premed to medical school. And I began to work as an orderly. And I think it was the hardest part of my life. At the time, I thought this was really the pits. And I was working night shifts and sharing a car with my parents.

But I look back now, and if I have any sort of reputation in America, I think it’s come from the fact that I got to see what happens to the patient in the 23 hours and 57 minutes that the doctors are not in the room. I feel a great solidarity with my colleagues in nursing, nursing assistants. And I think that that “failure,” so to speak, turned out to be the biggest success. And I don’t want to go on, but I would say that almost everything I learned — and I hope undergraduates really listen to this; in fact, I know, Dr. Costanzo and others have a whole project around resilience and failures — that is really where your education comes. The rest of it is fluff.

Ms. Tippett: I’ll just say here that every time I get introduced like I did tonight, which was so gracious and beautiful, but it’s like, we live in this presentational culture. And every time, I cringe a little bit because I know the real story.

[laughter]

And it’s not that all of those credentials don’t matter, but the real story, it’s just full of more — most of the time, for many years, even the things that look like a success, eventually, often feel like failure so much of the time — or just very uncertain. And if I look at my résumé now, of my 20s, I walked into all of these adventures. And it looks so impressive, and I know that every single minute of every single day of all of those years, I was constantly second-guessing myself and wondering what I should be doing that would be better.

And I actually think this is one reason that friendship across generations is really important. I think it’s really a calling for this century because the wisdom of young adulthood, I think, is actually an urgency and an impatience and this longing and this aspiration to see the world whole and make it better. We want that. But there’s something so relaxing about living for a while and knowing in your body that life is long and knowing that there will be another side to whatever is happening. And so that’s really the experience you have of failure.

But I will say, the wisest people I’ve interviewed — and the most successful, I would say, in human terms — are not successful in spite of what’s gone wrong for them but because of how — not just how they have walked through that, but how they integrated it into their wholeness on the other side.

Mr. Feineh: Switching to the perspective of an employer or a mentor or a professor, what can each of those roles and people do to encourage alternate ways of thinking about success, more from the extrinsic to the intrinsic mode of viewing success?

Dr. Verghese: Well, maybe I’ll start and say that I actually think that my mentees are teaching me what success means because I think the millennials, they really have a much better sense of what’s important. And sometimes our generation complains about that, that this is just a job for them, not a calling. But, on the other hand, they are much more ready to put their family and their children first in a way that I regret that I didn’t do. And so I’ve learned from them to be flexible, to be much more concerned about their personal health than I think we were. So, I’m not sure that I impart as much to them as they impart to me.

But that said, I think a lot of — when I do impart things that are not strictly medical and career, it’s mostly about just relaxing and making sure that they’re enjoying the journey.
I have a very simple definition of success, which is, any day above ground is a good day …

[laughter]

… given the alternative, and I see plenty of that. So if you start with that premise, and it’s not hard to do in medicine, then literally every day is a good day. How can you not bring your best to it?

Mr. Feineh: And the last question I have here is from a young person who went to a competitive school in Palo Alto …

[laughter]

… and finds him or herself struggling to question what success looks like. “I feel like I have few role models. Even the three of you have successful careers that were explored in your introductions.” And this person is curious to hear your thoughts about career, mentorship-building, how to create some of these pipelines, and a final direct action to help students expand some of their opportunities.

Ms. Pope: We hear this question a lot from kids. There’s a couple of different answers. One is that people assume that there’s a straight and narrow path, that I knew when I was 18 that I was going to be sitting up here today. And I can tell you, absolutely not. I didn’t even think I should be up here with this guy, anyway, now. So I think that idea of a straight and narrow path is really outdated, and as a young person — so part of this is, your prefrontal cortex — getting into the medical side of things — is not fully developed. And the … [more]
kristatippett  denisepope  abrahamverghese  2019  education  unschooling  success  youth  colleges  universities  life  living  highered  highereducation  schooliness  schooling  school  resilience  presence  markrothko  parenting  motivation  extrinsicmotivation  workllifebalance  generations  agesegregation  careers 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Spadework | Issue 34 | n+1
"By the time I started organizing so much that it felt like a full-time job, it was the spring of 2016, and I had plenty of company. Around the country there were high-profile efforts to organize magazines, fast-food places, and nursing homes. Erstwhile Occupiers became involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined the exploding Democratic Socialists of America, whose members receive shabby business cards proclaiming them an “official socialist organizer.” Today’s organizers — not activists, thank you — make clear that they are not black bloc participants brawling with police or hippies plotting a love-in. They are inspired by a tradition of professional revolutionaries, by Lenin’s exhortation that “unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.” Organizing, in other words, is unembarrassed about power. It recognizes that to wield it you need to persuade untold numbers of people to join a cause, and to begin organizing themselves. Organizing means being in it to win.

But how do you win? Historical materialism holds that crises of capitalism spark revolts, perhaps even revolutions, as witnessed in the eruption of Occupy and Black Lives Matter; uprisings in Spain, Greece, and Egypt; and the British student movement against tuition fees. But there’s no guide for what happens in the long aftermath, as the left has often learned the hard way.

In previous moments of upheaval and promise the left has often turned to Antonio Gramsci, who sought to understand why working-class revolts in Europe following the Russian Revolution had led to fascism. Gramsci concluded that on some level people consent to subservience, even take it for granted, when the order in which they live comes to seem like common sense. Hegemony was subtler than outright coercion, more pervasive, permeating the tempos of daily life.

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”"



"The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay."



"Realizing that it was not enough for people to like me was revelatory. I had to learn to be more comfortable with antagonism and disagreement, with putting a choice in front of people and letting them make it instead of smiling away tension and doing the work myself. I had to expect more from other people. With other organizers, I role-played the conversations I feared most before having them; afterward, I replayed them over and over in my head. I struggled to be different: the version of myself I wanted to be, someone who could move people and bend at least some tiny corner of the universe.

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one."



"The relationality of organizing is maybe the hardest thing to understand before you’ve done it. But it is the most important. This is not because people are governed by emotions instead of reason, though they sometimes are. It’s because the entire problem of collective action is that it’s rational to act collectively where it’s not to act alone. And you build the collective piece by piece.

Organizing relationships can be utopian: at their best, they offer the feminist dream of intimacy outside of romance or family. In the union, I loved people I did not know very well. In meetings I was often overcome with awe and affection at the courage and wisdom of the people there with me. I came to count many of the people I organized with as my dearest friends. When I needed help, there were always people I could call, people who would always pick up the phone, people I could and did talk to about anything. These relationships often served as a source of care and support in a world with too little of those things. But they were not only friendships, and not only emotional ballast. The people I looked to for support would also push me when it was called for, as I would them; that, I knew, was the deal.

Our relationships forged the practical commitments to one another that held the union together. They made us accountable to each other. They were difficult and multifaceted, often frustrating, intensely vulnerable, and potentially transformative but no less prone than any other relationship to carelessness, hurt, and betrayal, and always a lot of work. We were constantly building them and testing their limits, pushing each other harder the closer we got. They had to bear a lot of weight. In more abject moments, I wondered whether they were anything more than instrumental. More often, though, I wondered what was so menacing about usefulness that it threatened to contaminate all else.

The word comrade, Jodi Dean argues, names a political relationship, not a personal one: you are someone’s comrade not because you like them but because you are on the same side of a struggle. Comrades are not neighbors, citizens, or friends; nor are they any kind of family, though you might call them brother or sister. The comrade has no race, gender, or nation. (As one meme goes: “My favorite gender-neutral pronoun is comrade.”) Comrades are not even unique individuals; they are “multiple, replaceable, fungible.” You can be comrades with millions of people you have never met and never will. Your relationship is ultimately with the political project you have in common. To many noncommunists, Dean readily admits, this instrumentalism is “horrifying”: a confirmation that communism means submitting to the Borg. But the sameness of the comrade is a kind of genuine equality.

Being an organizer is like being a comrade in some ways but different in others. The people you organize alongside may be comrades, but the people you are organizing often aren’t; the point of organizing, after all, is to reach beyond the people who are already on your side and win over as many others as you can. So you can’t assume the people you organize share your values; in fact, you should usually assume they don’t. This means that unlike comrades, organizers aren’t interchangeable. It matters who you are. McAlevey’s theory of the organic leader is that people have to be organized by people they know and trust, not by strangers who claim to have the right ideas. The SNCC looked for “strong people” — not necessarily traditional leaders, but people who were respected and trusted among their peers, on the logic that people would only take risky political action alongside people they trusted. When organizers reflect the people they organize, they win: when women of color organize other women of color, a 2007 paper by Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren shows, they win almost 90 percent of elections. This cuts both ways: when women and people of color led the organizing in my department, we often struggled to get white men to take us seriously.

Yet the comradely element of organizing can also open up space for building relationships with people beyond those boundaries. It’s not that class and race and gender disappear, transcended by the cause — … [more]
alyssabattistoni  organizing  academia  academics  highereducation  highered  2019  labor  work  unions  thatcherism  reaganism  margartthatcher  communism  ronaldreagan  capitalism  meritocracy  hegemony  stuarthall  busyness  antoniogramsci  comrades  relationships  relationality  utopia  hierarchy  instrumentalism  equality  leadership  politics  class  race  gender  school  schooliness  schooling  transcontextualism 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Dig: Un laboratorio del socialismo en Chile. Entrevista con Daniel Jadue.
"*This episode of The Dig is a special Dig in Spanish. Visit Jacobin for a transcript in English. Este episodio de The Dig es un Dig especial en español. Entra a Jacobin para una transcripción en inglés.* [https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/communist-party-chile-left-governance-recoleta ]

Cuando se piensa en Chile desde el extranjero, generalmente surge la imagen de su pasado reciente marcado por la dictadura cívico–militar. Y esto con toda razón. El legado del régimen genocida de Pinochet todavía está presente en todas partes—en la memoria personal y colectiva, en las leyes y en una constitución profundamente neoliberal que sigue condenando al sistema político a un bipartidismo e impide las transformaciones deseadas por la soberanía popular. Daniel Jadue, el alcalde de la comuna de Recoleta, ubicada en la Región Metropolitana del Gran Santiago, se ha entregado a la empresa de construir en su territorio un laboratorio del comunismo del presente y del futuro. Junto a su equipo ha abierto una farmacia popular, una óptica popular y una linda librería popular. Todos estos servicios de primera necesidad venden sus productos a precios bajos y justos desafiando con ello a un mercado supuestamente autoregulado que en Chile sólo ha demostrado funcionar más bien estimulando prácticas de monopolio—un capitalismo salvaje."
chile  recoleta  communism  politics  2019  sanieljadue  policy  economics  socialism  capitalism  cities 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Dig: Real Estate Capitalism And Gentrification With Samuel Stein Jacobin Radio podcast
"What is gentrification? It isn't just about what was once known as the hipster and is still known as the artist, the telltale warning signs of impending demographic change. It's part of an entire political-economic order that has made real estate global capitalism's most prized asset for storing wealth—one that has helped bend place-based urban governments to the will of mobile, and thus more powerful, capital. Dan interviews Samuel Stein on his book, Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State."
realestate  samuelstein  2019  gentrification  capitalism  neoliberalism  finance  realestatefinancialcomplex  money  wealth  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  inequality  shelter  labor  policy  newdeal  urbanrenewal 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Charles Louis Richter on Twitter: "The Keanu Reeves Three-fold Path: Bill & Ted: Be excellent to one another. The Matrix: Step out of your worldview and listen to those doing the work toward revolution. John Wick: Destroy those who delight in cruelty."
"The Keanu Reeves Three-fold Path:

Bill & Ted: Be excellent to one another.

The Matrix: Step out of your worldview and listen to those doing the work toward revolution.

John Wick: Destroy those who delight in cruelty.

Can't argue with this fourth aspect of the Path:
https://twitter.com/DrewGROF/status/1129416727987728384

"Speed: do not engage bad faith actors on their terms.""

[Also:
https://twitter.com/misslaneym/status/1127281519951863809

"Keanu Reeves gives the right answer to an impossible question."

video:

Stephen Colbert: "What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves."

Keanu Reeves: "I know that the ones who love us will miss us."]
keanureeves  2019  life  living  wisdom  listening  cruelty  death  dying  stephencolbert  kindness  revolution  mindchanging  change  systemschange 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Data for Social Good: Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin | Commonwealth Club
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRlCX597JhA ]

"Suicide and mental health are hard subjects—so Crisis Text Line leveraged the power of the data it collects to help their counselors determine the best way to talk about the topics with those in need. The nonprofit, founded in 2013 by CEO Nancy Lublin, has provided a free text-based and human-driven service to support those experiencing mental health stress, gathering data points from more than 75 million text messages sent and maximizing the impact of their information to better train counselors and support their community. Its innovative and data-driven methodology for tackling hard conversations can also be applied to more than the mental health space, including to Lublin’s latest venture: Loris.ai. 

Lublin’s entire career has focused on initiatives addressing social issues, and she founded Dress for Success and Do Something prior to Crisis Text Line. With her technology lens on big challenges, she continues to iterate on innovative mechanisms and creative solutions to sticky problems. At INFORUM, she’ll be joined in conversation by DJ Patil, head of technology at Devoted Health and former U.S. chief data scientist in the Obama administration, to dig into the power of data to effect change. Come curious!"
data  mentalhealth  socialgood  crisistext  nancylubin  djpatil  2019  nonprofit  nonprofits  911  socialmedia  suicide  society  government  crisiscounseling  emoji  language  communication  responsiveness  texting  sms  stress  funding  fundraising  storytelling  technology  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  startups  capitalism  importance  charitableindustrialcomplex  canon  noblesseoblige  humanism  relationship  courage  racism  connection  humanconnection  loneliness  pain 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Oceans of Noise: Episode One – Science Weekly podcast | Science | The Guardian
"Contrary to popular belief, and the writings of Jacques Cousteau, life beneath the ocean surface is not a silent world but a dense and rich sonic environment where sound plays a fundamental role in life.

In episode one of this three-part series, pioneering nature sound recordist Chris Watson begins a journey driven by his fascination with recording the songs and signals of life under the ocean surface. He will meet scientists examining the possible impacts of noise pollution, from the likes of shipping noise and seismic explosions used in the search for oil and gas. He will also talk to sound artists trying to raise awareness of the issue through their art.

Watson talks to Dr Lucille Chapuis, a marine biologist from the University of Exeter, who explains why water is such an effective medium for sonic communication, and how different types of marine life take advantage of this. Marine biologist Asha de Vos is an ocean educator, senior TED fellow and pioneer of blue whale research in the northern Indian Ocean. De Vos talks about how the mystery of life under the sea lured her towards an incredible career in conservation. She believes that just as sound is crucial to these majestic creatures, their survival is crucial to us.

Much of what we know about the significance of sound to the marine environment began with the research of Prof Christopher Clark from Cornell University. He takes Watson back to where it all began as he relives the moment where he realised just how important sound is to all life in the sea. But Clark also reveals the gradual realisation of the extent of the threat of sound pollution to marine life."

[Episode 2
"In episode two, the pioneering nature sound recordist Chris Watson and sound artist Jana Winderen meet a team from Norway’s Institute of Marine Research and climb aboard a research vessel setting sail around the Austevoll islands.

Like many countries, Norway benefits economically from oil and gas exploration and shipping. However, the threat of ocean noise pollution and its potential to harm fish stocks has instigated trailblazing research into the impact of sound pollution, in this case on spawning cod. On choppy North Sea waters Watson and Winderen meet scientists Nils Olav Handegard and Karen de Jong who, along with a team of international scientists, are using complex underwater recording techniques to try to capture the sound of reproducing cod.

As the sun sets, Watson and Winderen reflect on the relationship between scientists and sound artists, and ponder the role they can have in helping people understand and appreciate the underwater acoustic environment."

Episode 3
https://www.theguardian.com/science/audio/2019/may/03/oceans-of-noise-episode-three-science-weekly-podcast

"As wildlife recordist Chris Watson looks for solutions to ocean noise pollution, he hears from Tim Gordon, whose long-awaited trip to the Great Barrier Reef became a devastating experience when he heard the eerie silence of a dying coral reef, caused in part by global warming.

But despite the pessimistic tone evident in many environment debates, reduction in ocean noise pollution is one area that could spark optimism. Action is being taken across the world – from policymakers to private companies – to address some of the causes of sonic assaults on the underwater acoustic environment. While more action is needed, the future of marine soundscapes is still very much in play.

Watson calls in Markus Reymann, whose organisation TBA21–Academy uses a state-of-the-art sound recording sea vessel to connect scientists and policymakers with the ocean. Watson also talks to Nicolas Entrup of Oceancare, an organisation attempting to build international consensus on how to address oceanic noise pollution.

Watson also calls again on scientists and ocean conservation advocates, including Asha de Vos and Prof Christopher Clark.

We would like to thank all of our contributors for the series, as well as: Carlos Duarte, Jana Winderen, Knut Korsbrekke at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, Steve Simpson at the University of Exeter, Marianne Helene, Roger Payne, Michel Andre, Bob Dziak, Ray Fischer and Christ de Jong."]
sound  oceans  audio  chriswatson  ashadevos  animals  nature  2019  janawinderen  markusreymann  multispecies  morethanhuman  noisepollution  hydrophones 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The SOUND of Millions of Monarch Butterflies! - YouTube
"How many butterflies does it take to make a noise in the woods? A few million. Watch (and listen!) as these monarchs put on a show at their overwintering site in Mexico.

This was filmed while leading a trip to visit the monarch migration with Atlas Obscura."
sound  multispecies  morethanhuman  butterflies  monarchbutterflies  2019  audio  mexico  nature  insects 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Samin Nosrat’s 10 Essential Persian Recipes - The New York Times
"The author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat” and star of the related Netflix show chooses the dishes that define the cuisine for her."
food  recipes  saminnosrat  2019  persian 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
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