robertogreco + ability   21

openings and closures | sara hendren
"One of the themes of my book is about how all states of the body and its gear make for what I’m calling openings and closures in a life—openings and closures that are co-created with hardware and software. Look and listen closely to what people with disabilities are saying about their own lives: It will never suffice to describe someone as “bound” to a wheelchair or “suffering from” autism, and it will never be really truthful to say that a technology “gave someone her life back.” Any real story, closely attended, will show itself to be far, far more interesting. Every body is a patchwork, which means that all states of being come with possibilities and impossibilities, gradations of change, capacities that diminish while others open up, all in a close orchestration that plays out with and without design or technology. Some conditions, as in the case of true disease, we may well wish away. But others make us who we are, and the line is blurrier than the common narratives would have us believe. It’s a state of dynamism for everyone, full stop. Once you see that to be true among people with disabilities, you may feel invited yourself to recognize that same dimensionality, to recognize you share it.

Sharing openings and closures doesn’t mean “we’re all disabled” in a glib way. It means that there’s more that is true about being disabled than the available narratives make known. More that is true and more to be known that is not only experience, but also cultural knowledge. It’s what the scholar Susan Wendell means when she says in this passage from The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability:
Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, “normal,” and sane…If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.
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susanwendell  sarahendren  disabilities  disability  technology  bodies  2018  time  change  dynamism  openings  closures  life  assistivetechnology  ability  possibility  impossibility  body 
april 2018 by robertogreco
9 tools to navigate an 'uncertain future,' from new book, Whiplash - TechRepublic
[See also:

"Joi Ito’s 9 Principles of the Media Lab"
https://vimeo.com/99160925

"Joi Ito Co-Author of Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future"
https://archive.org/details/Joi_Ito_Co-Author_of_Whiplash_-_How_To_Survive_Our_Faster_Future ]

""Humans are perpetually failing to grasp the significance of their own creations," write Joi Ito and Jeff Howe in Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. In the new title, released today, Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and Wired contributor, make the case that technology moves faster than our ability to understand it.

As technology quickly advances, it's important to separate inventions from use: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, but it was Eldridge Reeves Johnson who brought it into homes and laid the groundwork for the modern recording industry. In the same way, we often don't know how modern technology—from the iPhone to the Oculus Rift—will truly be used after it is created. "What technology actually does, the real impact it will have on society, is often that which we least expect," write the authors.

Drawing from a series of case studies and research, the authors offer nine guidelines for living in our new, fast-paced world. The principles, writes Joi Ito, are often displayed on a screen at the MIT Media Lab's main meeting room.

1. Emergence over authority
According to the authors, the Internet is transforming our "basic attitude toward information," moving away from the opinions of the few and instead giving voice to the many. Emergence, they argue, is a principle that captures the power of a collective intelligence. Another piece here, the authors say, is reflected in the availability of free online education, with platforms such as edX, and communities like hackerspace that pave the way for skill-building and innovation.

2. Pull over push
Safecast, an open environmental data platform which emerged from Kickstarter funding, a strong network of donors, and citizen scientists, was an important public project that helped residents of Fukushima learn how radiation was spreading. The collaborative effort here, known as a "pull strategy," the authors argue, shows a new way of compiling resources for real-time events. "'Pull' draws resources from participants' networks as they need them, rather than stockpiling materials and information," write the authors. In terms of management, it can be a way to reduce spending and increase flexibility, they write. For the entrepreneur, it is "the difference between success and failure. As with emergence over authority, pull strategies exploit the reduced cost of innovation that new methods of communication, prototyping, fundraising and learning have made available."

3. Compasses over maps
This principle has "the greatest potential for misunderstanding," the authors write. But here's the idea: "A map implies detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path." This approach, the authors say, can offer a mental framework that allows for new discoveries. It's a bit like the "accidental invention" method Pagan Kennedy noticed when researching for her New York Times magazine column, "Who Made This?"

4. Risk over safety
As traditional means of manufacturing and communicating have slowed due to tech like 3D printing and the internet, "enabling more people to take risks on creating new products and businesses, the center of innovation shifts to the edges," write the authors. They spent time trying to find the reasons for the success of the Chinese city Shenzhen, one of the world's major manufacturing hubs for electronics. Its power, they found, lies in its "ecosystem," the authors write, which includes "experimentation, and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch."

5. Disobedience over compliance
Disobedience is, in part, woven into the DNA of the MIT Media Lab. Great inventions, the authors write, don't often happen when people are following the rules. Instead of thinking about breaking laws, the authors challenge us to think about "whether we should question them." Last July, to put this principle to the test, the MIT Media Lab hosted a conference called "Forbidden Research," which explored everything from robot sex to genetically modified organisms. It was a chance to move past the "acceptable" parameters of academic dialogue and bring rigorous dialogue to issues that will surely have an impact on humanity.

6. Practice over theory
"In a faster future, in which change has become a new constant, there is often a higher cost to waiting and planning than there is to doing and improvising," write the authors. We live in a world in which failure is an important, and sometimes essential, part of growth—but that can only happen when we get out there and start putting our ideas into action. The approach, the authors write, can apply to anything from software to manufacturing to synthetic biology.

7. Diversity over ability
Research shows that diverse groups, working together, are more successful than homogenous ones. And diversity has become a central piece in the philosophy of many schools, workplaces, and other institutions. "In an era in which your challenges are likely to feature maximum complexity...it's simply good management, which marks a striking departure from an age when diversity was presumed to come at the expense of ability," write the authors.

8. Resilience over strength
Large companies, the authors write, have, in the past, "hardened themselves against failure." But this approach is misguided. "Organizations resilient enough to successfully recover from failures also benefit from an immune-system effect," they write. The mistakes actually help systems build a way to prevent future damage. "There is no Fort Knox in a digital age," the authors write. "Everything that can be hacked will, at some point, be hacked."

9. Systems over objects
How can we build accurate weather forecasts in an age of climate change? Or trustworthy financial predictions amid political changes? These types of issues illustrate why it may be worth "reconstructing the sciences entirely," according to neuroscientist Ed Boyden, quoted in the book, who proposes we move from "interdisciplinary" to "omnidisciplinary" in solving complex problems. Boyden went on to win the Breakthrough Prize, awarded by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech giants, for his novel development of optogenetics, in which neurons can be controlled by shining a light."
joiito  future  emergence  authority  safecast  systems  systemsthinking  small  agility  agile  donellameadows  jayforrester  influence  risk  safety  disobedience  compliance  autonomy  reslilience  decentralization  openstudioproject  lcproject  sfsh  self-organization  practice  theory  arabspring  ruleoflaw  jeffhowe  networks  mitmedialab  collectivism  collectiveintelligence  compasses  institutions  invention  innovation  failure  scale  diversity  ability  heterogeneity  homogeneity  management  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  omnidisciplinary  complexity  internet  web  attention  edboyden  climatechange  medialab 
july 2017 by robertogreco
How To Transform a Traditional Class Into an Engaged One #fight4edu #engagedScholar | HASTAC
"You cannot counter structural inequality with good will.  You must design a new structure with equality at its core.

The banner for our new Group, "The Engaged Scholar," symbolizes our method: learning together, not top down, not with a pre-designed outcome, engaging all of the participants in the responsibilities, design, and direction of the learning in order that we can all have something better--ideally, a more just society--at the end of the process. Engaged, activist, student-centered learning reverses the production model of the Industrial Age university where the professor is essentially in the role of middle-management and the student is the passive consumer. Instead, all participants are actively understanding environment, impediments, desires, outcomes, and designing the best way to achieve those goals together, within the limits that exist, with the resources that exist--and always with an intention to be liberatory beyond prescribed limits and imagined possibilities currently available to the participants.

All of these ideals are embodied by this banner. It's a podium. Its design was led by artist-engineering professor-visionary Sara Hendren (abler.com) who teaches at Olin College, a liberal arts college for engineers, and it was designed and fabricated by students Morgan Bassford, Adriana Garties, Kate Maschan, and Mary Morse. And none of it would have happened without the co-design and inspiration, the desires and demands and wishes and ideas of curator and scholar Amanda Cachia.

The "Alterpodium"--and the people who built it in a visionary new kind of institution of higher education--is a perfect symbol of The Engaged Scholar.

****

Here's the backstory: I met Sara Hendren for the first time on December 1, 2015, at a conference on "Digging Deep: Ecosystems, Institutions, and Processes for Critical Making" on the materiality of culture, the cultural of materials, designed to take us (theoretically and practically) beyond "digital humanities" to really re-imagine a new pedagogy and a new world where we all were, together, creating better theories and practices. Professor Patrick Svensson of Umea University, brought us together at the Graduate Center, CUNY, for this excellent event.

I had the honor of helping to plan and brainstorm Olin College in around 2000 as a new kind of engineering school that is not just about building things but asking, always, the deep questions of why and for whom and for what purpose? One of Olin's mottos: "It's not just what students know. It's what they do with that knowledge." By its charter, Olin College takes as many female as male engineers. It emphasizes collaboration and project-based learning at its finest.

Prof Hendren's role is to teach engineers to rethink disability along with differently-abled people, many of whom have extraordinary abilities that far exceed those possessed by the so-called "able bodied." Her beautiful and smart keynote address at EYEO 2015 makes an excellent introduction to the basic principles of engaged scholarship in any field. The image in our banner symbolizes engagement: behind this object is a theory of learning, a theory of making, a theory of interdisciplinary collaboration, and a theory of expertise and, just as important, a theory of the kind of informed, critical thinking non-experts need to develop to ensure that expertise is deployed wisely. Expertise is not sufficient. The image is one of the objects that Prof Hendren and her students have designed together with its user: it is a lightweight, portable, foldable podium--of the kind that professors stand behind all the time.

This one is unique. It was designed by Olin College students with and for curator and scholar Amanda Cachia who is constantly on the road giving talks and who is constantly confronted with podiums, microphones, and other stage set ups designed for people far taller than her 4' 3" body. The new "Alterpodium" is made of the same high tech carbon fiber used in racing motorcycles and spacecraft. Ms. Cachia unfolds her Alterpodium, slides it behind the dysfunctional (for her) existing podium, and ascends to the right place on the stage.

Alterpodium is an apt metaphor for what teaching and learning should be: it should not be one-size-fits-all. And certainly it should not be one-size-fits-nobody. It should be a way of rethinking the conditions and obstacles that prevent us from doing what we need to do and offering us the means and possibilities to accomplish something more, better, higher.

That is what student-centered, progressive, constructivist, connected learning is. It only happens when learning is not one-direction but multi-directional, a collaboration of teacher and students, with exploration and learning and assessment of what one needs to know paired with the tools, methods, and partners that can help one to know it.

Prof Sara Hendren does this every day with her engineering students at Olin College who are rethinking everything about disability and ability--prostheses, handicap devices, handicap ramps (and skateboard ramps and the Venn diagram of the two), and even handicap signage--an activist project to remind us that disability does not mean we are not mobile, active, and interactive.

She and her students are asking why we start by thinking of "ability" as a norm and standardized and typically make devices that are mechanical substitutes and imitations of those standards? Why is the goal of the prosthetic some million dollar contraption that mimics the look and the movements of a biological part that may be missing or non-functioning rather than asking what a person really wants or needs to function better in whatever way "better" means for that person?

These are the questions that every educator, at every level, should be asking in every classroom. As Judith Butler and disability activist Sunaura Taylor ask in "Examined Life," a very beautiful video about our different abilities: don't we all need assistance of some kind or other? Aren't we all learners? Isn't that the fundamental question about life and society? Do we or do we not live in a world where we assist each other?

If we decide we do want to live in a world where we assist each other, we must get over the idea that "expertise" is a thing or a condition or an outcome and the prof has it and the student's job is to gain it through a series of trials resulting in a diploma. We need to realize, instead, that learning is lifelong. And that in every space--including in the classroom--there are different things about which different people are experts.

Prof Hendren notes that, at some point, as she is prodding her engineering students to ask harder and harder questions and produce more and more useful and sophisticated and innovative devices, they far exceed her knowledge and expertise. At that point, they have to trust her questions and she has to trust their answers--and their ability as responsible co-learners to, among themselves, apply the highest standards of excellence to their collective project. That only happens if, as students, they have taken on new responsibilities and have fully absorbed the mission of living in a world where we assist one another.

Sara Hendren calls this becoming a Public Amateur. It's something every professor should aspire to.

And it is not easy. Giving up expertise and the status of the expert is one of the most difficult things for anyone to do--especially for the successful person. And yet, once you do, you realize whole worlds open.

If you want to find out some easy ways how--we'll be working on more complicated ones next semester--join us on next week, onsite or online. The information is below. We look forward to seeing you! "
cathydavidson  sarahendren  pedagogy  engagement  2015  hastac  equality  inclusion  inclusivity  accessibility  access  alterpodium  sunaurataylor  judithbutler  astrataylor  ability  ablerism  olincollege  constructivism  learning  howweteach  amandacachia  activism  liberation 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Spinoza in a T-Shirt – The New Inquiry
"This is the social and ethical function of design standardization: to assign and put bodies in their “proper” place. Standardized design creates violent relations between bodies and environments. The intensity of violence the standard body brings to bear on an individual’s body is measured in that body’s difference and distance from the standard. A chair that is too high, a beam too low, a corridor too narrow acts on the body forcefully and with a force that is unevenly distributed. Bodies that are farther from the standard body bear the weight of these forces more heavily than those that are closer to the arbitrary standard. But to resolve this design problem does not mean that we need a more-inclusive approach to design. The very idea of inclusion, of opening up and expanding the conceptual parameters of human bodies, depends for its logic and operation on the existence of parameters in the first place. In other words, a more inclusive approach to design remains fundamentally exclusive in its logic.

If Spinoza’s critical question points us toward an understanding of what standardized design does wrong, it also indicates how to get it right. The works of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo and of the artists-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins are the result of materialist practices that reflect the Spinozist principle of not knowing what a body is. Their approach to design is based not so much on what the designers claim to know about the body, but instead on what they ignore. Their approaches refuse predetermined conceptualizations of what a body is and what a body can do. For instance, Kawakubo’s “bumpy” dresses (from the highly celebrated “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” Comme Des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997 collection) form a cloth+body assemblage that challenges preconceived ideas of the body and of beauty. At a larger scale, Arakawa and Gins’ Mitaka Lofts in Tokyo and Yoro Park in Gifu prefecture deny any predetermined category of the body in favor of a profound ignorance of what makes a body a body at all.

These designs can have profound sociopolitical effects. Momoyo Homma (the director of the architects’ Tokyo office) relates how her mother, who normally cannot walk without her cane, had no problems navigating the bumpy floor of the Mitaka Lofts. Homma’s mother’s experience does not mean that the Mitaka Lofts are a miraculous instrument that would resuscitate a septuagenarian’s ability to walk without a cane. It reveals that her body only needs a cane in environments designed for bodies that differ substantially from hers.

The cane, itself a designed object, is a clear marker of the differential (often antagonistic) relations that design produces between bodies and spaces/places, and between non-standard and standard bodies. As a prosthesis, the cane’s purpose is to “correct” the non-standard body so that its functions reflect as closely as possible a fidelity with the “normal” body. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture offers an environment where the non-standard body does not need a “corrective,” since the environment’s design is not structured around what they think a body is.

Spinoza’s question—what can a body do?—insists that we set aside preconceived and normative notions of what a body is. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture suggests a slight but significant revision: Rather than conceptualizing bodies from the position of not knowing what they are, we should begin from the position that we don’t know what bodies are not. The double-negative allows a crucial correction to the Spinozist account of the body.

Spinoza’s question delays conceptualizations of the body, but it still doesn’t do away with normative formulations of the body. Affirming an ignorance of something presupposes that what is ignored could be actually known. “We don’t know what a body is” implicitly suggests that a holistic knowledge of what a body is actually exists—we just don’t presume to know it (yet).

The position of “not presuming” is too close to the liberal stance of having tolerance for difference—a position of liberal multiculturalism we find suspicious. The problem with liberal tolerance is that it already assumes and takes up a position of power. The designer is in the privileged position of being tolerant of another, and of designating who is deserving of tolerance. Whether the presumption is to know or not know the body, it is either way an act of the designer’s agency since knowing/unknowing the body is realized exclusively in the design of the garment, room, chair, table, etc. The power of the designer remains intact either way.

Alternatively, to not know what a body isn’t does more than suspend or delay normalizing conceptualizations of the body. It refuses such total claims of body knowledge at all. Just as the double-negative construction becomes affirmative, not knowing what a body isn’t affirms all bodies by doing away with the ideal of the normative body altogether. To not know what a body isn’t means that the idea of the body is infinitely open, rather than just momentarily open. To not know what a body isn’t means that all bodies are equally valid modes and forms of embodiment. Nothing is “not a body” and so everything is a body. This is not a philosophical issue but a political problem. What is a body? What is a human body? These are philosophical treatises that do not address our concern with how built environments empower some bodies and disempower others according to a set of “universal” design presumptions and methods.

By shifting our focus from what a body is to what a body can do, we can begin to explore the political—sometimes violent—relations of bodies, objects, and environments that are produced and maintained through standard design practices and knowledge. How might a collaborative relation of body and environment create the potential for a more non-hierarchical architecture? How might it build one that frees all bodies from the abstract concept of a “normal” body?

As impressive and seductive as the designers named above are, they are not politically egalitarian even though their designs may be aesthetically radical. Kawakubo, Gins, and Arakawa’s built environments are among a highly rarified class of design, out of reach to all but a select few inhabitants/consumers. Although their design approaches are unconventional, they don’t disrupt the hierarchical relations that structure dominant paradigms of design. In fact, their work is greatly celebrated in establishment fashion and architecture design circles.

A design process and philosophy that doesn’t know what a body isn’t can be found in a decidedly more mundane built environment. The jersey knit cotton T-shirt—a product found across the entire price point spectrum—is accessible and inhabitable by a great number of people. Jersey knit cotton is one of the cheaper fabrics, pliable to a broad range of bodies. Jersey knit cotton T-shirts really don’t know what a body isn’t—to this T-shirt, all bodies are T-shirt-able, all bodies can inhabit the space of a T-shirt, though how they inhabit it will be largely determined by the individual body. How the t-shirt pulls or hangs loose (and by how much) will certainly vary across bodies and across time. Indeed, the T-shirt’s stretchy jersey knit cotton materializes precisely this principle of contingency.

Julie Wilkins’ designs are aimed at “extending the grammar of the T-shirt.” Stretching the T-shirt to new proportions, her Future Classics Dress collections (made entirely of jersey knit fabrics, though not necessarily knit from cotton) are even more adaptable and modifiable than the classic T-shirt, which is somewhat limited by its fundamental T shape. (“Somewhat limited,” because its T shape has not precluded the vast number and variety of bodies that do not conform to the T-shape from wearing T-shirts.) Wilkins’ design approach is unlike those that make up traditional tables, chairs, windows, and clothing that are designed and fabricated around standard body dimensions. Wilkins’ designs create built environments that are pliant, dynamic, modular, and mobile.

Wilkins’ Future Classics Dress designs are modifiable by and adaptable to an unspecified range of bodies; they are conditional architectures. As demonstrated on their website, one garment can be worn in many ways, on many bodies. How users inhabit the clothes depends on them as much as on the designer. Choosing how to wear a Future Classics garment can be an involved process. While the Future Classics Dress collections don’t give individuals total autonomy, they allow bodies more freedom than we’ve seen before."



"The idealized relationship of bodies and designed grounds is a predictive geometric one. It is widely accepted that a surface directly perpendicular to the body provides the best environment for bodies to function. As a result, the surfaces of designed grounds are overwhelmingly flat, and non-flat floors are marked as problems to be fixed. Yet even a cursory glance at any playground and its many and differently uneven grounds—“terrains” is a better word—trouble this taken-for-granted logic.

Children tend to have a particularly acute relation to their physical environment. Their small and unpracticed bodies almost never fit the overwhelmingly hard, flat surfaces of mainstream environments. In this way, all young children can be understood as having non-standard bodies. Their “unfitness” is measured in relation to normatively designed built environments. The image of any young child climbing a set of stairs illustrates the kind of unfitness we mean. By contrast, the playground’s dense rubbery foam floors, its flexible pathways (e.g, chain-linked bridges), and its integration of Parent and Virilio’s Oblique Function of various slopes and elevations, are surfaces that children’s bodies navigate capably, oftentimes with a level of ease that escapes adults… [more]
spinoza  design  arakawa  madelinegins  body  bodies  normal  normalization  standardization  variation  architecture  fashion  politics  inclusion  tolerance  inclusivity  adaptability  léopoldlambert  minh-hatpham  henrydreyfuss  reikawakubo  juliewilkins  paulvirilio  claudeparent  theobliquefunction  futureclassicsdress  modification  stretch  give  glvo  uniformproject  audiencesofone  philosophy  standards  canon  canes  ability  abilities  disability  variability  ablerism  ethics  textiles  personaluniforms  fabrics  clothing  clothes  inlcusivity  disabilities 
july 2015 by robertogreco
How do Smartphones Affect Human Thought? » Cyborgology
"Actually, they tested more than intuitiveness, but also ability, yet I digress. This hypothesis implies (though does not state) a research question: How does smartphone usage affect cognitive processes? This is an important question, but one the research was never prepared to answer thoughtfully. Rather, the authors recast this question as a prediction, embedded in a host of assumptions which privilege unmediated thought.

This approach is inherently flawed. It defines cognitive functioning (incorrectly) as a raw internal process, untouched by technology in its purest state. This approach pits the brain against the device, as though tools are foreign intruders upon the natural body. This is simply not the case. Humans defining characteristic is our need for tools. Our brains literally developed with and through technology. This continues to be true. Brains are highly plastic, and new technologies change how cognition works. Our thought processes are, and always have been, mediated.

With a changing technological landscape, this means that cognitive tests quickly become outdated and fail to make sense as ‘objective’ measures of skill and ability. In other words, definitions of high functioning cognition are always in flux. Therefore, in reading cognitive research that makes evaluative claims, we should critically examine which forms of cognition the study privileges. In turn, authors should make their assumptions clear. In this case, we can discern that the authors define high cognitive functioning as digitally unmediated.

Certainly, it is useful to understand how cognition is changing, and traditional measures are good baselines to track that change. But change does not indicate laziness, stupidity, or, as the authors claim, no thinking at all. It indicates, instead, the need for new measures.

A more interesting question, for me, is how are intelligence and thoughtfulness changing? Rather than understand the brain and the device as separate sources of thought, could we instead render them connected nodes within a thought ecology? Such a rendering first, recognizes the increasing presence of digital devices in everyday life, and second, explicitly accounts for the relationship between structural inequalities and definitions of intelligence.

Definitions of intelligence have a long history of privileging the skills and logics of dominant groups. If cognitive function is tied to digital devices, then digital inequality—rather than human deficiency—becomes a key variable in understanding variations. At some level, I think people already understand this. After all, is it not the underlying driver of digital literacy movements?

This was not the study I wanted it to be. It does, however, tell us something interesting. People are changing. Our thought processes are changing. This is a moment of cognitive flux, and mobile digital technologies are key players in the future of thinking."
technology  2015  humans  research  cognition  cognitivescience  tools  jannydavis  change  flux  cognitiveflux  mobile  phones  smartphones  intuitiveness  thinking  howwethink  brain  skill  ability  laziness  stupidity  measurement  behavior  humancognition 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Standardizing Human Ability | DMLcentral
"Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s try to imagine a society (there were lots of them before modernity) where there is no interest in measuring educational success. Let’s imagine a society where the only goal of teaching (it’s a high bar) is to help every child master what they need in order to lead the most fulfilling life they are capable of leading—productive, creative, responsible, contributing to their own well-being and that of their society. No grades. No tests. Just an educational system based on helping each child to find her or his potential for leading the best (Socrates would call it “happiest”) life possible. In such a world, do learning disabilities exist?"



"Here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the changes in U.S. education, from kindergarten to professional school, either invented or finalized in the Taylorist era (the same era that produced the assembly line, statistics, standard deviation, spreadsheets, blueprints, punch clocks):  mandatory public secondary schooling, research universities, majors, minors, divisions, certification, graduate school, collegiate law school, nursing school, graduate school of education, collegiate business school, degree requirements, grades, required courses, electives, distribution requirements, IQ tests, multiple choice tests, item response college entrance exams (SAT), school rankings, class rankings. And learning disabilities.

There are some great things in that list. My point in this open-ended meditation, though, is that these are invented things.  Like all inventions, they are historically situated, created for a specific time and place, to solve problems of an era and address the possibilities afforded by the society, institutions, wealth, ambitions, and technologies of that time and place.  Like statistics and the assembly line, the system of education we have inherited is not “timeless.”  It is an industrial age invention.  So is the practice of ranking students from best to worst (“one best way”), using standardized forms of testing (extending Galton’s questionnaire form to the one-best-answer or item-response test).

We invented these standardized, regulatory, categorizing, statistical, practices for determining educational success or failure for the Fordist era of the assembly line. We can invent better ones for our own era."
cathdavidson  2014  taylorism  assessment  standardization  ability  accessibilities  ableism  testing  standardizedtesting  standards  success  disability  rankings  highered  highereducation  education  learning  teaching  howweteach  schools  schooliness  schooling  certification  disabilities 
december 2014 by robertogreco
An Alphabet of Accessibility Issues – The Pastry Box Project
"This alphabet soup of accessibility is not a collection of personas. These are friends and family I love. Sometimes I’m describing a group. (One can only describe chemo brain so many times.) Some people are more than one letter. (Yay genetic lottery.) Some represent stages people were in 10 years ago and some stages we know they will hit — we just don’t know when.

Robin Christopherson (@usa2day) points out that many of us are only temporarily able-bodied. I’ve seen this to be true. At any given moment, we could be juggling multiple tasks that take an eye or an ear or a finger away. We could be exhausted or sick or stressed. Our need for an accessible web might last a minute, an hour, a day, or the rest of our lives. We never know.

We never know who. We never know when.

We just know that when it’s our turn to be one of the twenty-six, we will want the web to work. So today, we need to make simple, readable, effective content. Today, we make sure all our auditory content has a transcript, or makes sense without one. Today, we need to make our shopping carts and logins and checkouts friendly to everyone. Today, we need to design with one thought to the color blind, one thought to the photosensitive epileptic, and one thought to those who will magnify our screens. Today we need to write semantic HTML and make pages that can be navigated by voice, touch, mouse, keyboard, and stylus.

Tomorrow, it’s a new alphabet."
accessibility  ux  webdesign  webdev  2014  annegibson  abilities  ability  disability  technology  assistivetechnology  disabilities 
september 2014 by robertogreco
studio : lab : workshop | Abler.
"I’ve been saying for some years now that my wish is to be as close to science-making as possible: that is, not merely teaching complementary art and design practices for young scientists in training, but to be in the formative stages of research and development much further upstream in the process. Asking collaboratively: What research questions are worthy questions? What populations and individuals hold stakes in these questions? Are there important queries that are forgotten? Could parallel questions be pursued in tandem—some quantitative, others qualitative? And how do we engage multiple publics in high-stakes research?"

To put it another way: What happens when extra-disciplinary inquiry lives alongside traditional forms of research—especially when those traditional forms occupy the disciplinarily privileged status of the STEM fields? Inviting both generalist and specialist approaches starts to hint at what a “both-and” disposition could look like. As here in David Gray’s formulation of specialists and generalists:

[image]

Breadth, he says, is the characteristic of the generalist, and depth the characteristic of the specialist. A thriving academic research program surely needs both: but not just in the forms of symposia, scholarly ethics, or data visualization to (once more) “complement” or even complicate the science. It’s the last note of Gray’s that I’m particularly paying attention to, because it’s what good critical design and hybrid arts practices often do best: They act as boundary objects.

Gray says those objects can be “documents, models, maps, vocabulary, or even physical environments” that mark these intersections of broad and deep ideas. Well, I’d say: especially physical environments and phenomena. At the scale of products or screens or architectural spaces, these objects can act as powerful mediators and conduits for ideas. They can become modes of discourse, opportunities for public debate, sites of disciplinary flows.

It’s these kinds of objects that I’d like to be a feature of the studio/lab/workshop I’ll bring to Olin: An ongoing pursuit of ideas-in-things that live at all the various points along a continuum between practical use, on the one hand, and symbolic or expressive power on the other. Two poles in the manner still most accessibly captured by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby—both of which I’d like to be present.

And what does this mean for the habits of mind we cultivate? I return often to the ideas of Jack Miles in this essay—also about generalists and specialists, with a key useful heuristic: that specialists tend to embody the disposition of farmers, while generalists tend to embody the virtues of hunters. Both are necessary, and both need each other. The careful tending to a field whose needs are more or less known, protected, and nurtured further, on the one hand. And the more landscape-crossing, round-the-next-bend pursuit of the not yet known and its promised nourishment, on the other.

I want students to try out and value both operative modes, no matter where their own career paths take them. Knowing that others are also asking valuable questions in different disciplinary ways ideally breeds humility: a sense that what one has to offer could be enriched when conjoined in conversation with others whose expertise may not be immediately legible from within a silo.

And not just humility: I want students in engineering to know that their practices can be both private and public, that their status as citizens can be catalyzed through making things. Things that may be practical, performative, or both.

In practical terms, we’ll be looking at labs like Tom Bieling’s Design Abilities group in Berlin, Ryerson’s EDGE Lab, the Age and Ability Lab at RCA, and the newly-formed Ability Lab at NYU Poly. But we’ll also be looking methodologically at Kate Hartman’s Social Body Lab at OCAD, at the CREATE group at Carnegie Mellon, and of course Natalie Jeremijenko’s Environmental Health Clinic.

Possible paths to pursue: A “design for one” stream of prosthetic devices made for one user’s self-identified wish or need. An ongoing partnership with any of a number of schools or clinics in the Boston area where provisional and low-tech assistive devices could make education more responsive to children’s up-to-the-minute developmental needs. Short-term residencies and workshops with critical engineers and artists working with technology and public life. Public, investigative performances and installations that address issues of ability, dependence, and the body in the built environment.

These things will take time! I can’t wait to begin."
sarahendren  2014  olincollege  design  specialization  specialists  generalists  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  engineering  stem  davidgray  research  academia  extra-disciplinary  ability  dependence  audiencesofone  jackmiles  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  ablerism  events  nataliejeremijenko  tombieling  kateharman  prosthetics  abilities  disability  designcriticism  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  humility  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  accessibility  assistivetechnology  discourse  conversation  openstudioproject  lcproject  howwelearn  howweteach  disabilities 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Computers are for people
"Markets are gonna market, and specs are gonna spec, but it often feels like companies are forgetting that computers are for people, first. And people have bodies, those bodies have limitations, and all of us have limitations in specific situations.

We're all disabled sometimes. If I turn off the lights in your room, you can't see. If I fill the room with enough noise, you can't hear. If your hands are full, you can't use them to do anything else.

But as Sara Hendren writes, "all technology is assistive technology." When it's working right, technology helps people of every ability overcome these limitations. It doesn't throw us back into the world of assumptions that expects us all to be fully capable all of the time.

That's not what good technology does. That's not what good design does. That's what assholes do.

I think often about Jason's post on one-handed computing because I'm in the story. He wrote it for his wife, and he wrote it for me. I'd badly broken my right arm in an accident, snapping my radius in half and shooting it out of my body."



"The thing that tech companies forget -- that journalists forget, that Wall Street never knew, that commenters who root for tech companies like sports fans for their teams could never formulate -- that technology is for people -- is obvious to Jason. Technology is for us. All of us. People who carry things.

People. Us. These stupid, stubborn, spectacular machines made of meat and electricity, friends and laughter, genes and dreams."

[Update: see also (via @ablerism):
"It’s a Man’s Phone: My female hands meant I couldn’t use my Google Nexus to document tear gas misuse"
https://medium.com/technology-and-society/its-a-mans-phone-a26c6bee1b69 ]
technology  timcarmody  2013  assistivetechnology  sarahendren  humans  vulnerability  ability  disability  iphone  limitations  computing  computers  accessibility  computersareforpeople  disabilities  zeyneptufekci 
october 2013 by robertogreco
All Technology Is Assistive Technology — Medium
[Another "read the whole thing" post from Sara]

"1. Question invisibility as the assumed goal. …

2. Rethink the default bodily experience. …

3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change. …

4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts. …

5. Design for one. …

6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems."

[Dead link, try here: https://medium.com/backchannel/all-technology-is-assistive-ac9f7183c8cd ]
sarahendren  technology  ability  disability  design  assistivetechnology  canon  ablerism  askingquestions  bodies  humanbody  disabilities  questionasking  body 
september 2013 by robertogreco
All Technology Is Assistive Technology — Thoughtful Design — Medium
"First, it’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden—or gradual—change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users—weakness and strength, agency and passivity—are important ones. And they’re not just questions for scientists and policy-makers; they’re aesthetic questions too.

Second, in many cultures—and certainly in the US—a pervasive, near-obsession with averages and statistical norms about bodies and capacities has become a naturalized form of describing both individuals and populations. But this way of measuring people and populations is historically very recent, and worth reconsidering."



"So how might designers and artists engage these myths about what’s normal, and make more visible, critical, and expansive technologies that keep these questions alive? …

Undoing the distinctions between design for disability and design in general yields a couple of goods: It brings new attention to technologies that are profound in their use and impact on physical and political accessibility. The advanced replacement limbs, all-terrain wheelchairs, and exoskeletons you can find now are evidence of this new attention.

It also brings a productive uncertainty and a powerful friction to the task of designing technologies of all kinds. Whether you’re designing for an established need or seeking an application for a technical novelty, you might take more time before confidently assigning it to a user, or to over-determining its modes of deployment—it might be for practical ends, or for play, or for something else you’ve not yet imagined.

Instead of labeling some technologies and not others as assistive, let’s start like this: We’re all getting all kinds of help from the things we make. All kinds of help, all the time, for our many material and social and educational and political needs. Private needs and public ones. No one is exempt. Then the questions get really interesting: What can a body do? What needs are you interested in? Who might use which thing for what? Where might the surprises be? How might a familiar thing morph into something else altogether?



In the name of good friction, then, I want to suggest some possible dispositions for designers and artists taking a look at ability and disability.

1. Question invisibility as the assumed goal. …

In other words, one strand of design might be devoted to making hearing aids as discreet as possible—to hide its function from view. But another round of questions becomes more interesting altogether: What might a hearing aid also do—or do instead—that’s never even been considered? …

2. Rethink the default bodily experience. …

Instead of approximating a hand movement with joystick directionality, this system exploits a built-in sensitivity goldmine, protected from outside elements. Sometimes heightened functionality is about reconsidering typical adaptations entirely, inverting the expected sensory mechanism.

3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change. …

So many medical technologies for treatment are just that: medicalized. They operate with the assumption that a change in ability is primarily a biological condition, without thought for the broader ways the built environment can expand and shift to welcome multiple kinds of bodies and experiences.

4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts. …

What happens when a tool used for therapeutic reasons also points outward from a diagnostic mode toward something more ambiguous, entering the realm of the poetic? Why shouldn’t a critical object like this one possess more affect, be more responsive? When an object’s uses and users get less clearly marked, new stories about that object and its users can suddenly emerge.

5. Design for one. …

6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems. …

Yes—of course—some users want discreet tools! But others roundly reject the notion that all bodies should conform to some standardized or performative ideal.This kind of variability and disagreement should also be a generative friction for the designer. Designed artifacts that reveal psycho-social or cultural dynamics not typically housed in an ability/disability framework can destabilize easy notions of dependence and autonomy, passivity and agency."

[Dead link, try here: https://medium.com/backchannel/all-technology-is-assistive-ac9f7183c8cd ]
sarahendren  2013  assitivetechnology  technology  canon  design  disability  ability  ablerism  disabilities 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Dis/Ability: Moving Beyond Access in the Academy | HASTAC
"Converging at the intersections of disability theory, pedagogy, and media studies, this forum intends to harness both theoretical and praxical discussions. We are interested in sharing ideas about how disability theory can positively intersect with our larger understandings of accessibility and the potentiality of technologies and multimodality. We are interested in classroom practices—the practical strategies folks have developed for increasing accessibility and centralizing issues of dis/ability as both material condition and social construct. We are interested in the everyday ways that we—as scholars and researchers and teachers—take up (or don’t, for various personal or institutional reasons) the challenge of creating more accessible physical and digital spaces for learning, teaching, and researching.

• What strategies do you use in your classrooms to increase accessibility or even to cater to or accommodate particular disabilities? What challenges have you faced making your classroom more accessible? Have some strategies backfired? Are there particular issues that have prevented you from making accessibility-related changes?

• What technologies are people using (whether assistive technologies or broader tech like YouTube & Twitter) to meet the needs of students? What technologies are used to create and/or support online disability identities?

• How can our own scholarly research be more accessible? I mean this both in terms of wider availability (open access publishing, perhaps) and in terms of ensuring that a range of people with various physical differences can access our new media projects. How might accessibility enhance a digital or multimodal project?

• How does disability theory intersect with technology, particularly in relation to race & resistance studies; “assistive” technologies; innovation, hacking & appropriation; and gender & queer studies?"

[From Sara Hendren's comment: http://hastac.org/forums/disability-moving-beyond-access-academy#comment-21573 ]

"I think some of the strongest art/design-and-technology practices result in objects or interactions or performances where “use” isn’t the mandate at all—and therefore, leaving aside the creation of resonances for use, at least as a goal. Usefulness or functionality may result, but it’s not the destination, if you will, of the work. And indeed true “interrogative” works, in my estimation, are best when they suspend questions indefinitely. They press and hold two or more opposing functions or symbolic/expressive gestures together at once, without resolve.

I think that strong interrogative objects, when engaging ideas in disability studies/politics, help skirt the artificial denoument of erasing difference, a la Jay’s “whack-a-mole” analogy. That is, resisting the seduction of “solutions” in design where “problems” become invisible."
via:ablerism  ability  disability  academia  marylalper  melissahelquist  stephanierosen  jaydolmage  alanfoley  maramills  cyndirowland  questions  questioning  unfinished  solutions  solutionism  transparaency  visibility  problems  problemsolving  design  art  technology  interactions  interrogativeworks  resolution  laurenmccarthy  matthiasgommel  jennifercrupi  accessibility  assistivetechnology  hacking  appropriation  innovation  resistance  unresolved  seams  seamlessness  canon  sarahendren  allisonhitt  disabilities 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Dangerous Effects of Reading | Certain Extent
"If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like & cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?
From where I sit creating things does the following:

Let’s you filter to something you like…Frees you…Makes you happy…Plays to strengths not weaknesses…

I can’t say it better than _why [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_the_lucky_stiff ]: "when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create."



If you quiet your mind & allow yourself to stop judging everything you will find that you have more potential for innovation (at work, in the kitchen…with your hobbies…your thoughts) than you thought before. You were using the same brutal quality filter on yourself that you used on viral videos, talk radio, and blog posts. You deserve better."
davidtate  cv  judgemental  stockandflow  reading  quiet  thedarkholeoftheinternet  taste  ability  leisurearts  production  consumption  filters  filtering  happiness  philosophy  self-improvement  creation  creativity  doing  making  glvo  judjemental  judgement  artleisure 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Would you like to try something different? « Re-educate Seattle
“Americans all think this way, they all think in disability…Native Americans have no term for disability, there is only a term for ability. It’s such an odd culture to be in where we spend so much time & resources talking about disability. It’s a negative focus. How about if we look at this differently: what if dyslexia is an advanced form of evolution?”"

"Harford: “I’m not saying we can’t solve complicated problems in a complicated world. We clearly can. But the way we solve them is with humility. To abandon the God complex & actually use a problem solving technique that works. We have a problem solving technique that works. . . . trial and error.”"

What’s the best way to educate kids? The search for the answer to this question only leads to more questions: Who are the kids? Where are they from? How old are they? What do they love to do? What is their home situation?…Human beings are complicated. There is no one mass answer to this question. There is only a mass of answers."
stevemiranda  education  learning  problemsolving  schools  schooldesign  dyslexia  unschooling  deschooling  whatwedon'tknow  humility  cv  godcomplex  fernetteeide  brockeide  dyslexicadvantage  2011  timharford  economics  onesizefitsall  tcsnmy  ability  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
School colour-codes pupils by ability | Education | The Guardian
"A secondary school has divided its students by ability, complete with different uniforms. Innovative way to lure the middle classes, or worrying segregation?"

[Sneeches and "A Class Divided" come to mind.]
education  grouping  tracking  labeling  labels  uk  class  sorting  2011  segregation  ability  economics  ranking  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Transactional Disability and the Classroom
"Somewhere between "the medical model" - difference described as a medical illness the way North Americans do - "a person with cancer" "a person with a reading disability" - and the "social model" - difference described as only a problem created by societal norms, lies what I have begun calling "the transactional model." Yes, we are all different in various ways, including our set of capabilities. But these differences only become "impairments" when we - the differently capable - find that we cannot negotiate the world, or a specific corner of the world, the way others have set it up."
disability  disabilities  irasocol  physicaldisability  learningdisabilities  2010  transactionaldisability  teaching  learning  society  ability  foucault  adhd  ieps  michelfoucault  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
Meritocrats by Tony Judt | The New York Review of Books
"Universities are elitist: they are about selecting the most able cohort of a generation and educating them to their ability—breaking open the elite and making it consistently anew. Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are not the same thing. A society divided by wealth and inheritance cannot redress this injustice by camouflaging it in educational institutions—by denying distinctions of ability or by restricting selective opportunity—while favoring a steadily widening income gap in the name of the free market. This is mere cant and hypocrisy."

[via: http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2011/05/03/easter-reading.php ]
education  culture  uk  politics  cambridge  equality  opportunity  highereducation  highered  injustice  hypocrisy  wealth  inheritance  society  2010  ability  meritocracy  freemarkets  incomegap  economics  capitalism  elitism  tonyjudt  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
Giving Students Room to Run | Teaching Tolerance
"In 3rd grade, near end of WWII, I learned why I wanted to be a teacher…Mrs. Wright…taught me what every child needs to know…

…She was a gentle, supportive & knowledgeable person who was obviously born to be a teacher…voice never rose in anger or frustration…pleasant, plain face…never displayed anger or disappointment.

& in back of room…sat Joel, active 7-year-old w/ dark unruly hair, lopsided glasses & fidgeting hands…decided lisp…did not speak to rest of us often…math genius…exceptional intellectual ability…taking math classes through local HS & college-level classes…Today…would be identified as ADHD, or perhaps even as autistic…spent most…time running around classroom…

Joel was different in how he worked, but we respected his differences because Mrs. Wright respected them.

…if I could make 1 child feel as comfortable w/ “specialness” as Joel was made to feel…help 1 child accept another who was “different”…I would do something really wonderful.

&…that is why I teach."
lornagreene  teaching  tolerance  differentiation  differences  specialed  patience  howto  ability  adhd  autism  communities  modeling  appreciation  tcsnmy  specialness  respect  understanding  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
You have no talent: An introduction – Research, reflection, and rethinking
[See also: http://drtimony.com/?p=95 AND http://drtimony.com/?p=96 ]

"Talent is a label given by people who do not know the amount of practice that has been performed in order to develop observed skills. It is a microinequity. It is an insult. It says, “You have skills that in my judgment, you did not earn.” Isn’t it a much greater ‘gift’ to have worked hard at developing a demonstrable skill? The owners of these skills are, as are most, unreliable in reporting their own levels of interest and effort. When asked if they practice, they under-report. When inquired about their interest, they are blasé. Isaac Stern, when interviewed by Ellen Langer about his practice habits says that he practices sometimes while ‘watching television programs’ and laughs. Musicians are notorious for under- and over-reporting their practice (depending on who they are trying to impress)."
talent  ability  cognition  work  effort  dedication  practice  skill 
july 2010 by robertogreco
First Man of Letters
“It is certain that success naturally confirms us in a favorable opinion of our own abilities. Scarce any man is willing to allot to accident, friendship, and a thousand causes which concur in every event without human contrivance or interposition, the part which they may justly claim in his advancement. We rate ourselves by our fortune rather than our virtues, and exorbitant claims are quickly produced by imaginary merit.”
samueljohnson  humans  opinion  selfimage  ability  assessment  ego  success  fortune  virtue  merit  friendship  chance  luck 
february 2009 by robertogreco

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