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Poem: Small Kindnesses - The New York Times
"By Danusha Laméris
Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
Sept. 19, 2019

Sometimes a poem just strikes a precise moment. “Small Kindnesses,” by Danusha Laméris, feels utterly necessary for our time — a poem celebrating minor, automatic graciousness within a community, which can shine a penetrating light. It’s a catalog of small encouragements, unfolding as might a child’s palm filled with shiny stones. It almost feels like another hope we remember having. Acknowledging the modern plight of autonomy and so many separations, the poem then easily passes through them, breezing compliments and simple care. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

Small Kindnesses
By Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”"
danushalaméris  naomishihabnye  small  poems  poetry  kindness  2019  community  graciousness  grace  care  caring  noticing  attention  connections  connectedness 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic. - The New York Times
"Today’s call-out culture is so seductive, I often have to resist the overwhelming temptation to clap back at people on social media who get on my nerves. Call-outs happen when people publicly shame each other online, at the office, in classrooms or anywhere humans have beef with one another. But I believe there are better ways of doing social justice work.

Recently, someone lied about me on social media and I decided not to reply. “Never wrestle with a pig,” as George Bernard Shaw said. “You both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” And one of the best ways to make a point is to ignore someone begging for attention. Thanks, Michelle Obama, for this timely lesson; most people who read her book “Becoming” probably missed that she subtly threw shade this way.

Call-outs are often louder and more vicious on the internet, amplified by the “clicktivist” culture that provides anonymity for awful behavior. Even incidents that occur in real life, like Barbeque Becky or Permit Patty, can end up as an admonitory meme on social media. Social media offers new ways to be the same old humans by virally exposing what has always been in our hearts, good or bad.

My experiences with call-outs began in the 1970s as a young black feminist activist. I sharply criticized white women for not understanding women of color. I called them out while trying to explain intersectionality and white supremacy. I rarely questioned whether the way I addressed their white privilege was actually counterproductive. They barely understood what it meant to be white women in the system of white supremacy. Was it realistic to expect them to comprehend the experiences of black women?

Fifty years ago, black activists didn’t have the internet, but rather gossip, stubbornness and youthful hubris. We believed we could change the world and that the most powerful people were afraid of us. Efforts like the F.B.I.’s COINTELPRO projects created a lot of discord. Often, the most effective activists were killed or imprisoned, but it nearly always started with discrediting them through a call-out attack.

I, too, have been called out, usually for a prejudice I had against someone, or for using insensitive language that didn’t keep up with rapidly changing conventions. That’s part of everyone’s learning curve but I still felt hurt, embarrassed and defensive. Fortunately, patient elders helped me grow through my discomfort and appreciate that context, intentions and nuances matter. Colleagues helped me understand that I experienced things through my trauma. There was a difference between what I felt was true and what were facts. This ain’t easy and it ain’t over — even as an elder now myself.

But I wonder if contemporary social movements have absorbed the most useful lessons from the past about how to hold each other accountable while doing extremely difficult and risky social justice work. Can we avoid individualizing oppression and not use the movement as our personal therapy space? Thus, even as an incest and hate crime survivor, I have to recognize that not every flirtatious man is a potential rapist, nor every racially challenged white person is a Trump supporter.

We’re a polarized country, divided by white supremacy, patriarchy, racism against immigrants and increasingly vitriolic ways to disrespect one another. Are we evolving or devolving in our ability to handle conflicts? Frankly, I expect people of all political persuasions to call me out — productively and unproductively — for my critique of this culture. It’s not a partisan issue.

The heart of the matter is, there is a much more effective way to build social justice movements. They happen in person, in real life. Of course so many brilliant and effective social justice activists know this already. “People don’t understand that organizing isn’t going online and cussing people out or going to a protest and calling something out,” Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in “How We Fight White Supremacy,”

For example, when I worked to deprogram incarcerated rapists in the 1970s, I told the story of my own sexual assaults. It opened the floodgates for theirs. They were candid about having raped women, admitted having done it to men or revealed being raped themselves. As part of our work together, they formed Prisoners Against Rape, the country’s first anti-sexual assault program led by men.

I believe #MeToo survivors can more effectively address sexual abuse without resorting to the punishment and exile that mirror the prison industrial complex. Nor should we use social media to rush to judgment in a courtroom composed of clicks. If we do, we run into the paradox Audre Lorde warned us about when she said that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

We can build restorative justice processes to hold the stories of the accusers and the accused, and work together to ascertain harm and achieve justice without seeing anyone as disposable people and violating their human rights or right to due process. And if feminists were able to listen to convicted rapists in the 1970s, we can seek innovative and restorative methods for accused people today. That also applies to people fighting white supremacy.

On a mountaintop in rural Tennessee in 1992, a group of women whose partners were in the Ku Klux Klan asked me to provide anti-racist training to help keep their children out of the group. All day they called me a “well-spoken colored girl” and inappropriately asked that I sing Negro spirituals. I naïvely thought at the time that all white people were way beyond those types of insulting anachronisms.

Instead of reacting, I responded. I couldn’t let my hurt feelings sabotage my agenda. I listened to how they joined the white supremacist movement. I told them how I felt when I was 8 and my best friend called me “nigger,” the first time I had heard that word. The women and I made progress. I did not receive reports about further outbreaks of racist violence from that area for my remaining years monitoring hate groups.

These types of experiences cause me to wonder whether today’s call-out culture unifies or splinters social justice work, because it’s not advancing us, either with allies or opponents. Similarly problematic is the “cancel culture,” where people attempt to expunge anyone with whom they do not perfectly agree, rather than remain focused on those who profit from discrimination and injustice.

Call-outs are justified to challenge provocateurs who deliberately hurt others, or for powerful people beyond our reach. Effectively criticizing such people is an important tactic for achieving justice. But most public shaming is horizontal and done by those who believe they have greater integrity or more sophisticated analyses. They become the self-appointed guardians of political purity.

Call-outs make people fearful of being targeted. People avoid meaningful conversations when hypervigilant perfectionists point out apparent mistakes, feeding the cannibalistic maw of the cancel culture. Shaming people for when they “woke up” presupposes rigid political standards for acceptable discourse and enlists others to pile on. Sometimes it’s just ruthless hazing.

We can change this culture. Calling-in is simply a call-out done with love. Some corrections can be made privately. Others will necessarily be public, but done with respect. It is not tone policing, protecting white fragility or covering up abuse. It helps avoid the weaponization of suffering that prevents constructive healing.

Calling-in engages in debates with words and actions of healing and restoration, and without the self-indulgence of drama. And we can make productive choices about the terms of the debate: Conflicts about coalition-building, supporting candidates or policies are a routine and desirable feature of a pluralistic democracy.

You may never meet a member of the Klan or actively teach incarcerated people, but everyone can sit down with people they don’t agree with to work toward solutions to common problems.

In 2017, as a college professor in Massachusetts, I accidentally misgendered a student of mine during a lecture. I froze in shame, expecting to be blasted. Instead, my student said, “That’s all right; I misgender myself sometimes.” We need more of this kind of grace."
call-outculture  shame  lorettaross  politics  society  grace  healing  attention  socialmedia  online  conversation  michelleobama  georgebernardshaw  clicktivism  activism  race  gender  feminism  cointelpro  history  prejudice  kkk  accountability  oppression  whitesupremacy  patriarchy  dialogue  culture  socialjustice  violence  restorativejustice  transformativejustice  organizing  punishment  disposability  cancelculture  2019  discrimination  injustice  publicshaming  purity  hazing  policing  tonepolicing  whitefragility  democracy  pluralism 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Jia Tolentino Wants You to Read Children’s Books - The New York Times
““A really good middle-grade novel,” says the New Yorker essayist, whose debut collection is “Trick Mirror,” “will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.”

What books are on your nightstand?

When I like a book, I carry it around everywhere until I finish it, like a subway rat dragging a slice of pizza down the stairs. So usually if a book is living on my nightstand, it’s not my thing. Right now, though, I’ve got a galley of Anna Wiener’s “Uncanny Valley” keeping me company — it’s so deft and stunning that I started rereading chunks of it as soon as I was done.

What’s the last book that really excited you?

“Death’s End,” the final installment of Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy, in which the narrative and conceptual momentum of the series takes off at a scale and velocity I couldn’t possibly have imagined before reading. The Three-Body trilogy makes insignificance and unknowability and futility seem so spiritually exciting that I felt breathless. I’d join a book club that just discusses it every month for a year.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Rebecca Stead’s “When You Reach Me” won the Newbery Medal, so it’s certainly not unheralded, but everyone tunes me out when I recommend it, since it was written for kids. Their mistake! A really good middle-grade novel — and this book, a “Wrinkle in Time”-esque mystery set on the Upper West Side in the late 1970s, is a phenomenal one — will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“Random Family,” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. It’s so spicy, so riveting, so empathetic and devoted, so alive in the world as it actually is. No shots to Chaucer and “A Separate Peace” and all that, but I think a lot of people might be far more interested in reading (and possibly more interested in other lives in general) if they got to read books like this in high school.

What book would you recommend to people over 40?

“Kids These Days,” by Malcolm Harris. Most writing about millennials has tended to focus on effects rather than causes: After all, it’s easier to make a spectacle of the ways instability manifests itself in young people than it is to really reckon with the fact that capitalism has reached a stage of inexorable acceleration that has broken our country’s institutions and (arguably) my generation’s soul. “Kids These Days,” thankfully, goes straight for the point.

[ Tolentino’s new book, “Trick Mirror,” was one of our most anticipated titles of August. See the full list. ]

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Ocean Vuong, Jenny Odell, Doreen St. Félix, Vinson Cunningham, Bryan Washington, Tommy Orange, Jenny Zhang, Ross Gay, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, Emily Nussbaum, Rebecca Traister, Brit Bennett, Caity Weaver, Rachel Aviv, Kathryn Schulz, Pamela Colloff, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Patrick Radden Keefe, Patricia Lockwood, Samantha Irby, Leslie Jamison, Lauren Groff, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Wesley Morris, Meg Wolitzer, Marlon James, Ted Chiang, Eula Biss.

You once described yourself as “an obsessive and catholic reader.” What moves you most in a work of literature?

Bravery and surrender, which can manifest in so many forms.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a purely emotional or purely intellectual reaction to anything, let alone to anything I was reading. Systems and concepts are always inextricable from the way they shape our hearts, and I love books that demonstrate this, like Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted,” or George Saunders’s “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.”

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

From Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours,” that Harper Lee was once neighbors with Daryl Hall and John Oates. What?!

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I’ll read almost anything, though I don’t love reading about history and science as much as I love whatever I learn. The only books I actively avoid are the “how X explains all of human civilization” books — the type seemingly written for men who love a counterintuitive idea but find complex thought disturbing — as well as those “how to be a perfectly imperfect goddess who doesn’t give a f**k” books. I don’t like anything with a sales pitch that’s like, “Hey, you’re a woman!” These books feel like dolls of Frida Kahlo dressed as Rosie the Riveter or something, like display objects that chirp the word “badass” when you press their hand.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

My boyfriend got me a first edition of Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” — one of my favorite books of all time — about seven years ago, and this past year, he gave me a copy of “Eve’s Hollywood” with a note in it for me from Eve Babitz herself. I almost keeled over on the spot.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Turtle Wexler from “The Westing Game” and Undine Spragg from “The Custom of the Country.”

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I would read while Rollerblading around my neighborhood, read while eating, read in the car, read in the bathtub — my books were stained, swollen, ripped to shreds. I was always just desperate to be constantly reading. I’d memorize the copy on the Herbal Essences bottle in the shower; I read “Gone With the Wind” about 20 times in fourth grade. I remember things from kids’ books much more clearly than I remember anything about my life even a few years ago. I’ve got a mental encyclopedia of useless sensory details: the lavender-and-black bathroom in “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself,” the tin peddler’s wares in “Farmer Boy,” the meals that Francie Nolan helped her mother make from stale bread.

You’re a digital native, and your publisher describes you as “what Susan Sontag would have been like if she had brain damage from the internet.” Do you find it difficult to tune out distractions and sink into a book?

In part because I am very aware of what the internet is doing to my sense of scale and reason, I spend a good amount of my life seeking out states of being — like reading — that are so consuming and pleasurable that I won’t grab my phone and interrupt. It also helps that for most of my life I’ve read a paper book for an hour or two every night before falling asleep: It was always a way of managing my insomnia, which I’ve had since I was little, and is now a regular reminder of how much more like myself I feel when I’m not shattering my attention to bits.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

There are plenty of beloved books I don’t like at all — the most demographically fine-tuned version of this for me is probably Chris Kraus’s “I Love Dick.” But I have a hard time accessing a sense of “supposed to” with pop culture. I read whatever I feel like reading, and if neither the book nor my reaction to it interests me, I put it down without another thought. I’m a big believer, anyway, that reading is like eating: The most fun lies in finding a match for your mood. If I read 20 pages of something people love and I can’t get into it, then I welcome the possibility that a few years from now it could be the perfect thing.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Nearly everything about being alive feels embarrassing, but the enormous gap between what I’d like to have read and what I have actually read does not. As it is, I read a hundred books a year and it doesn’t seem to matter — there will always be so many books I haven’t read yet, and I will always be kind of stupid no matter how much I read. For example, I only recently realized that when people turn 30 they are completing their 30th year of life rather than beginning it. It’s possible that I’d have grasped that basic fact and many others much earlier if my head weren’t so stuffed with so much minutiae about the Shackleton expedition, so many descriptions of light from James Salter short stories, all these invisible psychosocial landscapes from all these books.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ve got to read the Lydia Davis translation of “Madame Bovary.” I’m having physical cravings for it. If I could stop time right now I’d lie down in the grass somewhere and go straight through from beginning to end.”
jiatolentino  howweread  reading  books  2019  internet  susansontag  web  online  digitalnatives  attention  yafiction  genre  malcolmharris  adriannicoleleblanc  tebeccastead  liucixin  oceanvuong  jennyodell  doreenstfélix  vinsoncunningham  bryanwashington  tommyorange  jennyzhang  rossgay  zadiesmith  rebeccasolnit  emilynussbaum  rebeccatraister  britbennett  caityweaver  rachelaviv  kathrynschulz  pamelacolloff  gideonlewis-kraus  patrickraddenkeefe  patricialockwood  smanthairby  lesliejamison  laurengoff  johnjeremiahsullivan  wesleymorris  megwolitzer  marlonjames  tedchiang  eulabiss  bythebook  georgesaunders  matthewdesmond  caseycep  sherwoodanderson  thewestinggame  chriskraus  lydiadavis  madamebovary 
12 weeks 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 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Patricio Guzmán - Capturing Reality
“Our Own Take on Reality

The Great Archive of Humanity

The Battle of Chile: Continuing the Debate

Reality is Chaos

The Battle of Chile: Bringing Order to Chaos

The Music of Everyday Life

The Battle of Chile: Chris Marker to the Rescue”
patricioguzmán  chile  film  filmmaking  documentary  thebattleofchile  reality  humanity  everyday  chrismarker  storytelling  noticing  seeing  attention 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Why Your Brain Needs Idle Time – Elemental
"Mental idle time, meanwhile, seems to facilitate creativity and problem-solving. “Our research has found that mind-wandering may foster a particular kind of productivity,” says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied mind-wandering extensively. He says overcoming impasses — including what he calls “a-ha!” moments — often happen when people’s minds are free to roam.

Schooler mentions the common experience of not being able to recall a word that’s on the tip of your tongue — no matter how hard you try to think of it. But as soon as you move onto another mental task, the word pops into your head. “I think it’s very possible that some unconscious processes are going on during mind-wandering, and the insights these processes produce then bubble up to the surface,” he says.

It’s also possible that depriving the brain of free time stifles its ability to complete this unconscious work. “I think we need to recognize that the brain’s internal train of thought can be of value in itself,” Schooler says. “In the same way we can experience a sleep deficit, I think we can experience a mind-wandering deficit.”

“Many people find it difficult or stressful to do absolutely nothing,” he adds. Instead, Schooler says “non-demanding” tasks that don’t require much mental engagement seem to be best at fostering “productive” mind-wandering. He mentions activities like going for a walk in a quiet place, doing the dishes, or folding laundry — chores that may occupy your hands or body but that don’t require much from your brain.

While a wandering mind can slip into some unhelpful and unhealthy states of rumination, that doesn’t mean blocking these thoughts with constant distraction is the way to go. “I think it’s about finding balance between being occupied and in the present and letting your mind wander — [and] about thinking positive thoughts and thinking about obstacles that may stand in your way,” says Schooler.

There may be no optimal amount of time you can commit to mental freedom to strike that balance. But if you feel like it takes “remarkable effort” for you to disengage from all your favorite sources of mental stimulation, that’s probably a good sign you need to give your brain more free time, Immordino-Yang says. “To just sit and think is not pleasant when your brain is trained out of practicing that, but that’s really important for well-being,” she adds.

Frank recommends starting small — maybe take a 15-minute, distraction-free walk in the middle of your day. “You might find your world changes,” he says."
brain  jonathnschooler  idleness  2019  cognition  psychology  neuroscience  downtime  daydreaming  mindwandering  walking  quiet  chores  mentalload  cognitiveload  thinking  howwethink  epiphanies  creativity  problemsolving  mentalhealth  attention  distraction  doingnothing 
may 2019 by robertogreco
"The Ideal Education" - Sir Ken Robinson with Sadhguru - YouTube
"Someone said that education is a necessary evil. It is a necessary evil because there is a resident evil in the world. We have very convoluted aspirations. In the sense, largely, most part of the education is trying to manufacture cogs for the larger machine that we have built. Our children are the fuel unfortunately. We have to put them into some slot where they'll function well. And when we say the work, the world is no more about people. The world is about the economic engine that we are driving. It's become bigger than us. We have to keep the engine going. We are scared to stop it for a moment. We have to keep going. Now the problem is this that we have created a world if our economies fail we will be depressed. If our economies succeed we will be damned for good. I feel it's better to be depressed.

Now talking about the school as a way of manufacturing cogs for the machine, there are many ways to do it. Every nation has its own system. If I have to shape you into a particular shape that you must fit into a particular machine, it's a cruel process. But now we can't let the machine fail, it needs spare parts. Constantly it has to absorb and humanity is the spare parts. So our children are the fuel and the machine parts which go into this to run the larger machine. That's one aspect.

So this is why I have addressed education in three different dimensions, which people around me are still trying to grasp why these three different things? There is one form of education which is called Isha Vidhya, I think they might have showed something about that. This is for the rural masses in India where the problem is they are in a economic and social pit which they cannot get out by themselves. The only ladder for them is education. Employment generating education. But there are reasonably well-to-do people where they might have gone through that in the previous generation, but this generation need not think about how to earn my living. They have to look at how to expand who they are. So we have Isha Home School which caters to that. Because this kind of education costs money. So only people who can afford it can do that. Costs money means not like how it costs here, by Indian standards it costs money. And there is another form of education, where people are not interested in serving this machine or that machine, they want individuals to blossom, so we have Isha Samskriti where there is no academic education of any kind. They only learn music, dance, art, Sanskrit language, Kalari, which is a very .. the mother of all martial arts and classical dance, classical music, yoga, English language as a passport of the world.

So these children are a treat to watch. This is how children should have been. Just to give you a glimpse of what it is, at the age of fifteen, for three years, they go into monastic life. Compulsorily they must go and compulsorily they must come out at eighteen. They cannot continue. They'll take monastic life for three years, but after three years, they cannot continue, they have to discontinue that and get back to normal life. This is for discipline and focus. So I was to initiate this fifteen year olds and you know these sixty days, they are going through, from morning 3:30 to 9:00 in the evening, they are going through almost eight hours of meditation, varieties of Sadhana completely silent for sixty days, fifteen year old kids, totally silent. So I want to .. just another five days left for the initiation, I want to see how they are and I go there at 3:30 in the morning to see them. All these kids are just sitting like this unmoving. I just looked at them and they were literally glowing. I sat there and wept because I have never seen children like this in my life. Definitely I was not like this when I was fifteen. I was nowhere near what they are today but you can't make the entire world like that.

This is an ideal to work towards. The idea of this kind of schooling is just to develop human body and human brain without any intention. Without any intention as to what they should become. They can become whatever they want. Only thing is human body and human mind should grow to its fullest capability and attention is the main thing. An indiscriminate and unprejudiced attention is what we're trying to evolve in the children, that they learn to pay attention to everything the same way. That you don't divide the world as something as good and something as bad, something high, something low, something divine, something devil, something filthy, something sacred. No, you learn to pay the same attention to everything. This is the fundamental of this form of education. What will they do, what will they do is the aspiration, so I guaranteed them one thing. Twelve years, if you enter the school, the commitment is for twelve years. You have to.. six if you come, eighteen you can leave. So they asked me what will the children do. I said one thing I'll assure you, we will not give you a certificate at the end.

They said 'Sadhguru, what?' I said, 'Did anybody ask me what is my certification?' Only in the American embassy they asked me, you know when I almost .. about.. twenty years ago, or eighteen years ago when I went to apply for the visa to come to United States, the counsel general wanted to meet me. She was a lady. I went to meet her and she said, "Yes I know what you have done and all this but do you have a yoga certification because in America, you will need this." I said, "If I had asked for a certification from my guru, he would have killed me, so I don't have." So I said no certification because doors in the world may open little slowly for you, but when they open, they stay open. Because not because of qualification, but by competence you open doors."
unschooling  education  society  sadhguru  kenrobinson  2017  learning  children  schooling  schooliness  unlearning  certification  economics  politics  life  living  perfectionism  death  schools  purpose  depression  attention 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Laurel Schwulst, "Blogging in Motion" - YouTube
"This video was originally published as part of peer-to-peer-web.com's NYC lecture series on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the at the School for Poetic Computation.

It has been posted here for ease of access.

You can find many other great talks on the site:
https://peer-to-peer-web.com

And specifically more from the NYC series:
https://peer-to-peer-web.com/nyc "

[See also:
https://www.are.na/laurel-schwulst/blogging-in-motion ]
laurelschwulst  2019  decentralization  p2p  web  webdesign  blogging  movement  travel  listening  attention  self-reflection  howwewrite  writing  walking  nyc  beakerbrowser  creativity  pokemon  pokemonmoon  online  offline  internet  decentralizedweb  dat  p2ppublishing  p2pweb  distributed  webdev  stillness  infooverload  ubiquitous  computing  internetofthings  casygollan  calm  calmtechnology  zoominginandout  electricity  technology  copying  slow  small  johnseelybrown  markweiser  xeroxparc  sharing  oulipo  constraints  reflection  play  ritual  artleisure  leisurearts  leisure  blogs  trains  kylemock  correspondence  caseygollan  apatternlanguage  intimacy  dweb 
may 2019 by robertogreco
#ShunTheTake – Snakes and Ladders
"Last week I walked into one of my classes to discover fourteen students sitting in complete silence. Each one of them — I believe; there may have been a single exception — was reading or typing on a phone. I said, “Hey everybody!” No one looked up or spoke. I suppose I should be grateful that when I pulled out the day’s reading quiz they put their phones away.

If I wanted to produce a #HotTake, boy, did I have a prompt for one.

But: two hours earlier I had walked into another classroom to find the students already in animated conversation about the reading for the day. I sat and listened for several minutes, gradually realizing that I could ignore my plan for the class session because the students had, without my assistance, set the agenda for the discussion.

I’d advise all of you who read this post to remember those two moments the next time someone tries to tell you what an entire generation is like. Those two classes were occupied not only by people of the same generation, but by people who are studying in the same program (the Honors Program) in the same university. And yet, for complicated reasons, their behavior in my classes was very different.

Most things that happen happen for complicated reasons. Don’t stop looking and enquiring the moment you find an anecdote that confirms your priors.

#ShunTheTake"
alanjacobs  2019  generations  genz  generationz  smarthphones  attention  hottakes  bias  youth  complexity  inquiry 
may 2019 by robertogreco
What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away | The New Yorker
"During the first few days of my Internet decluttering, I found myself compulsively checking my unchanged in-box and already-read text messages, and scanning the same headlines over and over—attempting, as if bewitched, to see new information there. I took my dog out for longer walks, initially trying to use them for some productive purpose: spying on neighbors, planning my week. Soon I acquiesced to a dull, pleasant blankness. One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky.

“Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” (Melville House). Odell, a multidisciplinary artist who teaches at Stanford, is perhaps best known for a pamphlet called “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch,” which she put together while in residence at the Museum of Capitalism, in Oakland. Odell investigated the origins of a blandly stylish watch that was being offered for free (plus shipping) on Instagram, and found a mirrored fun house of digital storefronts that looked as though they had been generated by algorithm. The retailers advertised themselves as brands that had physical origins in glitzy Miami Beach or hip San Francisco but were, in fact, placeless nodes in a vast web of scammy global wholesalers, behind which a human presence could hardly be discerned.

Like Newport, Odell thinks that we should spend less time on the Internet. Unlike him, she wants readers to question the very idea of productivity. Life is “more than an instrument and therefore something that cannot be optimized,” she writes. To find the physical world sufficiently absorbing, to conceive of the self as something that “exceeds algorithmic description”—these are not only “ends in and of themselves, but inalienable rights belonging to anyone lucky enough to be alive.” Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” She also developed a fascination, via Google Maps, with the creek behind her old kindergarten, and she went to see it with a friend. She followed the creek bed, which, she learned, runs beneath Cupertino’s shopping centers and Apple’s headquarters. The creek became a reminder that under the “streamlined world of products, results, experiences, reviews” there is a “giant rock whose other lifeforms operate according to an ancient, oozing, almost chthonic logic.”

Odell elegantly aligns the crisis in our natural world and the crisis in our minds: what has happened to the natural world is happening to us, she contends, and it’s happening on the same soon-to-be-irreparable scale. She sees “little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habitats for human thought”; both are endangered by “the logic of capitalist productivity.” She believes that, by constantly disclosing our needs and desires to tech companies that sift through our selfhood in search of profit opportunities, we are neglecting, even losing, our mysterious, murky depths—the parts of us that don’t serve an ulterior purpose but exist merely to exist. The “best, most alive parts” of ourselves are being “paved over by a ruthless logic of use.”

“Digital Minimalism” and “How to Do Nothing” could both be categorized as highbrow how-to—an artist and a computer scientist, both of them in their thirties, wrestling with the same timely prompt. (At one point, Odell writes, she thought of her book as activism disguised as self-help.) Rather than a philosophy of technology use, Odell offers a philosophy of modern life, which she calls “manifest dismantling,” and which she intends as the opposite of Manifest Destiny. It involves rejecting the sort of progress that centers on isolated striving, and emphasizing, instead, caregiving, maintenance, and the interdependence of things. Odell grew up in the Bay Area, and her work is full of unabashed hippie moments that might provoke cynicism. But, for me—and, I suspect, for others who have come of age alongside the Internet and have coped with the pace and the precariousness of contemporary living with a mixture of ambient fatalism and flares of impetuous tenderness—she struck a hopeful nerve of possibility that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Odell writes about the first electronic bulletin-board system, which was set up, in Berkeley, in 1972, as a “communal memory bank.” She contrasts it with Nextdoor, a notoriously paranoid neighborhood-based social platform that was recently valued at $1.5 billion, inferring that the profit motive had perverted what can be a healthy civic impulse. Newport, who does not have any social-media accounts of his own, generally treats social media’s current profit model as an unfortunate inevitability. Odell believes that there is another way. She cites, for example, the indie platform Mastodon, which is crowdfunded and decentralized. (It is made up of independently operated nodes, called “instances,” on which users can post short messages, or “toots.”) To make money from something—a forest, a sense of self—is often to destroy it. Odell brings up a famous redwood in Oakland called Old Survivor, which is estimated to be almost five hundred years old. Unlike all the other trees of its kind in the area, it was never cut down, because it was runty and twisted and situated on a rocky slope; it appeared unprofitable to loggers. The tree, she writes, is an image of “resistance-in-place,” of something that has escaped capitalist appropriation. As Odell sees it, the only way forward is to be like Old Survivor. We have to be able to do nothing—to merely bear witness, to stay in place, to create shelter for one another—to endure."



"My Newport-inspired Internet cleanse happened to coincide with a handful of other events that made me feel raw and unmanageable. It was the end of winter, with its sudden thaws and strange fluctuations—the type of weather where a day of sunshine feels like a stranger being kind to you when you cry. I had just finished writing a book that had involved going through a lot of my past. The hours per day that I had spent converting my experience into something of professional and financial value were now empty, and I was cognizant of how little time I had spent caring for the people and things around me. I began thinking about my selfhood as a meadow of wildflowers that had been paved over by the Internet. I started frantically buying houseplants.

I also found myself feeling more grateful for my phone than ever. I had become more conscious of why I use technology, and how it meets my needs, as Newport recommended. It’s not nothing that I can text my friends whenever I think about them, or get on Viber and talk to my grandmother in the Philippines, or sit on the B54 bus and distract myself from the standstill traffic by looking up the Fermi paradox and listening to any A Tribe Called Quest song that I want to hear. All these capacities still feel like the stuff of science fiction, and none of them involve Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. It occurred to me that two of the most straightforwardly beloved digital technologies—podcasts and group texts—push against the attention economy’s worst characteristics. Podcasts often demand sustained listening, across hours and weeks, to a few human voices. Group texts are effectively the last noncommercialized social spaces on many millennials’ phones.

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be."
jiatolentino  2019  internet  attention  jennyodell  capitalism  work  busyness  resistance  socialmedia  instagram  twitter  facebook  infooverload  performance  web  online  nature  nextdoor  advertising  thoreau  philosophy  care  caring  maintenance  silence  happiness  anxiety  leisurearts  artleisure  commodification  technology  selfhood  identity  sms  texting  viber  podcasts  grouptexts  digitalminimalism  refusal  calnewport  mobile  phones  smartphones  screentime  ralphwaldoemerson  separatism  interdependence 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Are.na Blog / Workshop Debrief: How to Use the Internet Mindfully
"Last weekend I got to collaborate with Willa Köerner of The Creative Independent (TCI) to facilitate a workshop at IAM Weekend, called “How to Use the Internet Mindfully.” The workshop built on an essay series TCI and Are.na published together last year, which asked a group of artists to reflect on the habits and philosophies that help them contend with the online attention economy. This time we wanted to do something similar in person, in a space where creative internet people could talk about our feelings together.

We asked participants to complete a worksheet designed to help them get a better handle on their internet and technology habits. (You can download the worksheet if you’d like to try this—it takes about 35 minutes to complete). The first step was making a mind map of one’s various screen-based activities. Using different colors, everyone then labeled those activities as either harmful or helpful on a personal level. Finally, people jotted down a few “relationship goals” between them and the Internet and brainstormed practical steps for building up their personal agency.

We spent the last part of the workshop sharing results with one another and thinking about reclaiming the web as an intimate, creative social space. Lots of interesting ideas emerged in our conversation, so I want to highlight a few things here that stood out in particular:

1. We often have mixed feelings about certain tools (and specific ways of using those tools). For example, posting to Instagram can be an exploratory and rewarding creative process. But the anxiety about “likes” that comes afterward usually feels empty and harmful. It’s hard to reconcile these opposing feelings within the realm of personal behavior. While we know that we’re ultimately in control of our own behavior, we also know that apps like Instagram are designed to promote certain patterns of use. We don’t want to quit altogether, but we’re struggling to swim against the current of “persuasive” tech.

2. We don’t have enough spaces for talking about the emotional side effects of living with the web. Before we really dug into strategies for using the Internet more mindfully, participants really wanted to share their feelings about social media, Internet burnout, and how the two are connected. We talked about mental health and how hard it is to feel in control of apps that are essentially designed for dependency. We discussed how few of us feel happy with our habits, even though everyone’s experience is different. We wondered about the stigma that surrounds any form of “addiction,” and whether it’s ok to talk about widespread Internet use in those terms. I’m really glad these questions bubbled up, since they helped build enough trust in the room to share the more personal elements of each person’s mind map.

3. We all want to feel personal autonomy, which takes many different forms. We had a lively exchange about different ways to limit the amount of digital junk food we allow ourselves to consume. Apple’s new screen-time tracker was one example that drew mixed responses. Some people felt that a subtle reminder helped, while others felt it was totally ineffective. Some preferred to impose a hard limit on themselves through a tool like Self Control, while others rejected the premise of measuring screen time in the first place. A lot of participants focused on wanting to control their own experience, whether by owning one’s own content or simply feeling enough agency to decide how to navigate the web. We talked a bit about the dilemma of feeling like our decision-making psychology has been “hacked” by addictive design, and how crappy it feels to replace our own intuition with another technical solution. We also acknowledged that setting our own boundaries means spending even more time and emotional capital than our apps have already taken from us. That additional effort is labor we consumers complete for free, even if we don’t usually see it that way.

4. The web feels too big for healthy interaction. We also talked about how using mainstream social media platforms these days can feel like shouting into a giant room with everyone else on Earth. Many of the healthy spaces where participants felt they could genuinely share ideas were ones where they put considerable time and emotional labor into building an intimate social context. People had a lot to say about the fact that users are locked in to their online personas with all kinds of personal and professional incentives. You simply can’t stop looking, or downsize your social circles, or abandon your long-term presence, without breaking an informal social contract you never realized you signed.

The context of the conference also made me think about how we frame the work we put into our relationship with technology. When we get in front of a group, what kind of “solutions” should we be advocating? At what point to individual strategies lead to politics and advocacy?

When you focus on personal habits for long enough, it’s easy to process societal issues as problems originating in your own behavior. But as with other kinds of “self-help,” this is a framing that ignores a grotesque power dynamic. Addiction and burnout are not only matters of consumer choice, but the costs of business decisions made by enormous technology companies. The tech industry – like big tobacco and big oil – has knowingly caused a set of serious social problems and then pushed the work of remediating them onto individual consumers. Now it’s up to users to defend themselves with tools like browser plug-ins and VPNs and finstas and time trackers. As we keep talking about using the internet mindfully, I hope we can connect the dots between this kind of individual action and the larger project of securing universal rights to privacy, anonymity, and personal autonomy. By asking ourselves which tools we want to use, and how we want to use them, hopefully we can open up a broader conversation about how we move beyond surveillance capitalism itself.

I’d be interested in talking more about these connections between individual and collective actions if we get to repeat the workshop. It would be great to work with a smaller group, simplify the worksheet slightly, and get really specific about what questions we’re trying to answer. I’d like to draw on a few other ways of thinking as well, like the Human Systems framework for example. If you’d be interested in collaborating, or just have thoughts on any of this, please send one of us an email: leo@are.na or willa@kickstarter.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts."
internet  mindfulness  are.na  2019  leoshaw  willaköerner  web  online  autonomy  technology  politics  advocacy  browsers  extensions  plug-ins  vpns  finstas  trackers  surveillancecapitalism  surveillance  self-help  power  socialmedia  presence  socialcontract  attention  psychology  burnout  addiction  instagram  creativity  likes  behavior 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Uncanny Power of Greta Thunberg’s Climate-Change Rhetoric | The New Yorker
"During the week of Easter, Britain enjoyed—if that is the right word—a break from the intricate torment of Brexit. The country’s politicians disappeared on vacation and, in their absence, genuine public problems, the kinds of things that should be occupying their attention, rushed into view. In Northern Ireland, where political violence is worsening sharply, a twenty-nine-year-old journalist and L.G.B.T. campaigner named Lyra McKee was shot and killed while reporting on a riot in Londonderry. In London, thousands of climate-change protesters blocked Waterloo Bridge, over the River Thames, and Oxford Circus, in the West End, affixing themselves to the undersides of trucks and to a pink boat named for Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and indigenous leader, who was murdered in Honduras. Slightly more than a thousand Extinction Rebellion activists, between the ages of nineteen and seventy-four, were arrested in eight days. On Easter Monday, a crowd performed a mass die-in at the Natural History Museum, under the skeleton of a blue whale. In a country whose politics have been entirely consumed by the maddening minutiae of leaving the European Union, it was cathartic to see citizens demanding action for a greater cause. In a video message, Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, compared the civil disobedience in London to the civil-rights movement of the sixties and the suffragettes of a century ago. “It is not the first time in history we have seen angry people take to the streets when the injustice has been great enough,” she said.

On Tuesday, as members of Parliament returned to work, Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, was in Westminster to address them. Last August, Thunberg stopped attending school in Stockholm and began a protest outside the Swedish Parliament to draw political attention to climate change. Since then, Thunberg’s tactic of going on strike from school—inspired by the response to the Parkland shooting in Florida last year—has been taken up by children in a hundred countries around the world. In deference to her international celebrity, Thunberg was given a nauseatingly polite welcome in England. John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, briefly held up proceedings to mark her arrival in the viewing gallery. Some M.P.s applauded, breaching the custom of not clapping in the chamber. When Thunberg spoke to a meeting of some hundred and fifty journalists, activists, and political staffers, in Portcullis House, where M.P.s have their offices, she was flanked by Ed Miliband, the former Labour Party leader; Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary and a prominent Brexiteer; and Caroline Lucas, Britain’s sole Green Party M.P., who had invited her.

Thunberg, who wore purple jeans, blue sneakers, and a pale plaid shirt, did not seem remotely fazed. Carefully unsmiling, she checked that her microphone was on. “Can you hear me?” she asked. “Around the year 2030, ten years, two hundred and fifty-two days, and ten hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

Thunberg—along with her younger sister—has been given a diagnosis of autism and A.D.H.D. In interviews, she sometimes ascribes her unusual focus, and her absolute intolerance of adult bullshit on the subject of climate change, to her neurological condition. “I see the world a bit different, from another perspective,” she told my colleague Masha Gessen. In 2015, the year Thunberg turned twelve, she gave up flying. She travelled to London by train, which took two days. Her voice, which is young and Scandinavian, has a discordant, analytical clarity. Since 2006, when David Cameron, as a reforming Conservative Party-leadership contender, visited the Arctic Circle, Britain’s political establishment has congratulated itself on its commitment to combatting climate change. Thunberg challenged this record, pointing out that, while the United Kingdom’s carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen by thirty-seven per cent since 1990, this figure does not include the effects of aviation, shipping, or trade. “If these numbers are included, the reduction is around ten per cent since 1990—or an average of 0.4 per cent a year,” she said. She described Britain’s eagerness to frack for shale gas, to expand its airports, and to search for dwindling oil and gas reserves in the North Sea as absurd. “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before,” she said. “Like now. And those answers don’t exist anymore. Because you did not act in time.”

The climate-change movement feels powerful today because it is politicians—not the people gluing themselves to trucks—who seem deluded about reality. Thunberg says that all she wants is for adults to behave like adults, and to act on the terrifying information that is all around us. But the impact of her message does not come only from her regard for the facts. Thunberg is an uncanny, gifted orator. Last week, the day after the fire at Notre-Dame, she told the European Parliament that “cathedral thinking” would be necessary to confront climate change.

Yesterday, Thunberg repeated the phrase. “Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking,” she said. “We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.” In Westminster, Thunberg’s words were shaming. Brexit is pretty much the opposite of cathedral thinking. It is a process in which a formerly great country is tearing itself apart over the best way to belittle itself. No one knew what to say to Thunberg, or how to respond to her exhortations. Her microphone check was another rhetorical device. “Did you hear what I just said?” she asked, in the middle of her speech. The room bellowed, “Yes!” “Is my English O.K.?” The audience laughed. Thunberg’s face flickered, but she did not smile. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”"
gretathunberg  2019  rhetoric  climatechange  sustainability  globalwarming  activism  samknight  autism  aspergers  adhd  attention  focus  emissions  action  teens  youth  brexit 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem | Literary Hub
"Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action. Among the virtues that matter are those traditionally considered feminine rather than masculine, more nerd than jock: listening, respect, patience, negotiation, strategic planning, storytelling. But we like our lone and exceptional heroes, and the drama of violence and virtue of muscle, or at least that’s what we get, over and over, and in the course of getting them we don’t get much of a picture of how change happens and what our role in it might be, or how ordinary people matter. “Unhappy the land that needs heroes” is a line of Bertold Brecht’s I’ve gone to dozens of times, but now I’m more inclined to think, pity the land that thinks it needs a hero, or doesn’t know it has lots and what they look like."



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

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

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

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

They are the hundreds who turned out in Victoria, BC, to protect a mosque there during Friday prayers the week after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. My cousin Jessica was one of them, and she wrote about how deeply moving it was for her, “At the end, when prayers were over, and the mosque was emptying onto the street, if felt like a wedding, a celebration of love and joy. We all shook hands and hugged and spoke kindly to each other—Muslim, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, atheist…” We don’t have enough art to make us see and prize these human murmurations even when they are all around us, even when they are doing the most important work on earth."
rebeccasolnit  heroes  change  democracy  collectivism  multitudes  2019  robertmueller  gretathunberg  society  movements  murmurations  relationships  connection  femininity  masculinity  leadership  patience  negotiation  listening  strategy  planning  storytelling  bertoldbrecht  violence  attention  ursulaleguin  williamjames  1906  sanfrancisco  loneliness  comfort  billdelaney  jonathanjones  art  humans  humanism  scale  activism  action 
april 2019 by robertogreco
A Book Addict's Defense of the Smartphone | Technology and Learning
"A counterargument to the emerging conventional wisdom"



"Smartphones are either like cigarettes or comic books. Either bad for humans, or good for those who make their living telling us what is bad.

The smartphone worrywarts have some evidence on their side. I’ll get to some disturbing smartphone numbers in a second, but first some smartphone love.

Smartphones are the best thing to happen to book lovers since the paperback. The iPhone is a bookstore, library, and narrator.

The biggest reason that we don’t read more books is not lack of desire, but a shortage of time.

With my iPhone, I’m able to listen to audiobooks while walking, cooking, and cleaning. The Kindle iOS app allows me to read e-books in short bursts. I’ll read a page or two while standing in line at the grocery store, or while eating my morning cereal.

Does the advantages of the iPhone for book discovery, portability and reading outweigh the costs of mobile computing for everything else?

The big worry about smartphones is that they are killing our ability to focus. Productive thinking requires our attention, and smartphones are attention magnets.

On average, smartphone users (which is everyone now) spend 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on their phones. The top 20 percent of smartphone users are on their devices for an average of 4.5 hours per day.

Smartphones have been associated with everything from rising levels of anxiety and depression among teenagers to damaging interpersonal relationships.

Professors find the use of smartphones so distracting for teaching and learning that 1 in 4 has banned them from their classes.

A recent MIT study showed that even a single day with access to their smartphone can cause college students to have elevated levels of stress and anxiety.

Some warning signs of smartphone addiction that I found online include:

• “Difficulty completing chores or work due to concentration issues.”

• "Seclusion from family and friends or using your phone when in conversation.”

• Masking of smartphone use by sneaking off to the bathroom at work.

• “Worry that you’re missing out on something when you’re not with your phone.”

• Feeling "anxious or irritable” when not with your phone

• Sleep problems.

There seems to be a growing acceptance that we can’t control our smartphone actions. A recent NYTimes article called "Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain" (2/23/19) received 495 comments.

Almost half of Americans have tried to limit their smartphone usage in the past, with only 30 percent being successful.

I could go on enumerating all the disturbing smartphone statistics.

My point is not that I don’t think that smartphones can cause problems for attention, focus, and interpersonal relationships. I’ll stipulate that we have not adjusted to the downsides of having the internet - and everything that comes along with the web - in our pockets.

What I am saying is that the advantages of being to store, listen to, and read books - wherever and whenever - outweigh all the smartphone negatives.

The audiobook and the e-book, purchased (or borrowed) and read/listened to on a smartphone, is the game changer for book lovers.

Strangely, the wonderful opportunities to spend more time reading books that smartphones have enabled has gone largely uncelebrated. Academics - we people of the book - should be overjoyed about the potential of the smartphone to increase reading time.

We should be making the argument that the problem with the smartphone is not the device, but how people use it. Delete that Facebook app. Get rid of Twitter. Take the games off the phone. Maybe even remove your e-mail accounts.

Keep the Kindle and Audible apps. (Or whatever e-book and audiobook app that you use).

Think only of the smartphone as a reading device and a bookshelf.

Do you use your phone to read books?"
smartphones  mobile  phones  howweread  reading  joshuakim  infooverload  distraction  kindle  ebooks  audiobooks  access  accessibility  attention  2019 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Trinh T. Minh-ha on Vimeo
"Trinh Minh-ha operates on the boundary of documentary, experimental and traditional film, focusing on several powerful themes. As well as the status of women in society, she examines the life of migrants, portraits of whom she depicts in the background of the dynamic relationship between traditional and modern societies. The artist calls these figures the “inappropriate/d other”, and says in one of her interviews: “We can read the term “inappropriate/d other” in both ways, as someone whom you cannot appropriate, and as someone who is inappropriate. Not quite other, not quite the same.”

However, anyone expecting objective documentaries in this exhibition will be surprised. Trinh Minh-ha draws on her own experience, transforming the personal into the public and socially engaged, and in this way her films becomes “poetic-political” works. The artist’s sensitivity and empathy is not simply a way of presenting political themes in a user-friendly way, but is also manifest in unobtrusively recurring motifs of love and friendships.

What are the most powerful impressions we receive from films by Trinh Minh-ha? Firstly, there is a balance to her treatment of themes that offers the viewer the possibility of examining things from many different perspectives. Then there is the persistence with which she attempts to offer a three-dimensional image of “those others”.

However, even upon a first viewing our attention is caught by something else. Trinh Minh-ha works with the viewer’s senses, which she attempts to provoke into total vigilance. The sounds and music she uses are not any in any sense background, but at certain moments take over the narrative role, at others withdraw discreetly in order to allow the actors themselves to speak. The combination of stylised interviewers and theatrical scenes, modified in the postproduction stage by archival materials and linear film narration, along with sounds and suggestive colours, creates an almost synaesthetic experience, in which words express the same as sounds and colours. However, concentration on the part of the viewer is essential. How, otherwise, might they perceive all these levels simultaneously with the same intensity? How can such films be shown in a gallery? How does one create an environment in which the visitor does not just gaze, but accepts the role of a genuine film audience? Walls and chairs soundproofed in soft foam and the proximity of the screen will perhaps make it easier to accept the role of attentive viewers, who will insist on following a film from beginning to end."
trinhminh-ha  2015  film  documentary  migration  othering  vigilance  sensitivity  empathy  society  others  appropriate  inappropriate  innappropriated  gaze  concentration  attention 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The UX design case of closed captions for everyone // Sebastian Greger
"Are video subtitles really chiefly for users who cannot hear or lack an audio device? A recent Twitter thread on “closed captions for the hearing” triggered a brief qualitative exploration and thought experiment – there may well be a growing group of users being forgotten in the design of closed captions.

Most commonly perceived as an auxiliary means for the hearing impaired, video subtitles, a.k.a. closed captions (CC), have only recently started to be widely considered as an affordance for users in situations with no audio available/possible (think mobile devices in public settings, libraries, shared office spaces); the latter to the extend that contemporary “social media marketing guidelines” strongly recommend subtitling video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter et al.

So: subtitles are for those who cannot hear, or with muted devices?

Who else uses closed captions?

I’m personally a great fan of closed captions, for various reasons unrelated to either of the above, and have often noticed certain limitations in their design. Hence, the user researcher inside me just did a somersault as I randomly encountered a Twitter thread [https://twitter.com/jkottke/status/1091338252475396097 ] following Jason Kottke asking his 247.000 followers:
After seeing several photos my (English-speaking, non-deaf) friends have taken of their TV screens over the past week, I’m realizing that many of you watch TV with closed captions (or subtitles) on?! Is this a thing? And if so, why?

The 150+ replies (I guess this qualifies as a reasonable sample for a qualitative analysis of sorts?) are a wonderful example of “accessibility features” benefiting everybody (I wrote about another instance recently [https://sebastiangreger.net/2018/11/twitter-alt-texts-on-db-trains/ ]). The reasons why people watch TV with closed captions on, despite having good hearing abilities and not being constrained by having to watch muted video, are manifold and go far beyond those two most commonly anticipated use cases.

[image: Close-up image of a video with subtitles (caption: "Closed captions are used by people with good hearing and audio playback turned on. An overseen use case?")]

Even applying a rather shallow, ex-tempore categorisation exercise based on the replies on Twitter, I end up with an impressive list to start with:

• Permanent difficulties with audio content
◦ audio processing disorders
◦ short attention span (incl., but not limited to clinical conditions)
◦ hard of hearing, irrespective of age
• Temporary impairments of hearing or perception
◦ watching under the influence of alcohol
◦ noise from eating chips while watching
• Environmental/contextual factors
◦ environment noise from others in the room (or a snoring dog)
◦ distractions and multitasking (working out, child care, web browsing, working, phone calls)
• Reasons related to the media itself
◦ bad audio levels of voice vs. music
• Enabler for improved understanding
◦ easier to follow dialogue
◦ annoyance with missing dialogue
◦ avoidance of misinterpretations
◦ better appreciation of dialogue
• Better access to details
◦ able to take note of titles of songs played
◦ ability to understand song lyrics
◦ re-watching to catch missed details
• Language-related reasons
◦ strong accents
◦ fast talking, mumbling
◦ unable to understand foreign language
◦ insecurity with non-native language
• Educational goals, learning and understanding
◦ language learning
◦ literacy development for children
◦ seeing the spelling of unknown words/names
◦ easier memorability of content read (retainability)
• Social reasons
◦ courtesy to others, either in need for silence or with a need/preference for subtitles
◦ presence of pets or sleeping children
◦ avoiding social conflict over sound level or distractions (“CC = family peace”)
• Media habits
◦ ability to share screen photos with text online
• Personal preferences
◦ preference for reading
◦ acquired habit
• Limitations of technology skills
◦ lack of knowledge of how to turn them off

An attempt at designerly analysis

The reasons range from common sense to surprising, such as the examples of closed captions used to avoid family conflict or the two respondents explicitly mentioning “eating chips” as a source of disturbing noise. Motivations mentioned repeatedly refer to learning and/or understanding, but also such apparently banal reasons like not knowing how to turn them off (a usability issue?). Most importantly, though, it becomes apparent that using CC is more often than not related to choice/preference, rather than to impairment or restraints from using audio.

At the same time, it becomes very clear that not everybody likes them, especially when forced to watch with subtitles by another person. The desire/need of some may negatively affect the experience of others present. A repeat complaint that, particularly with comedy, CC can kill the jokes may also hint at the fact that subtitles and their timing could perhaps be improved by considering them as more than an accessibility aid for those who would not hear the audio? (It appears as if the scenario of audio and CC consumed simultaneously is not something considered when subtitles are created and implemented; are we looking at another case for “exclusive design”?)

And while perceived as distracting when new – this was the starting point of Kottke’s Tweet – many of the comments share the view that it becomes less obtrusive over time; people from countries where TV is not dubbed in particular are so used to it they barely notice it (“becomes second nature”). Yet, there are even such interesting behaviours like people skipping back to re-read a dialogue they only listened to at first, as well as that of skipping back to be able to pay better attention to the picture at second view (e.g. details of expression) after reading the subtitles initially.

Last but not least, it is interesting how people may even feel shame over using CC. Only a conversation like the cited Twitter thread may help them realise that it is much more common than they thought. And most importantly that it has nothing to do with a perceived stigmatisation of being “hard of hearing”.

CC as part of video content design

The phenomenon is obviously not new. Some articles on the topic suggest that it is a generational habit [https://medium.com/s/the-upgrade/why-gen-z-loves-closed-captioning-ec4e44b8d02f ] of generation Z (though Kottke’s little survey proves the contrary), or even sees [https://www.wired.com/story/closed-captions-everywhere/ ] it as paranoid and obsessive-compulsive behaviour of “postmodern completists” as facilitated by new technological possibilities. Research on the benefits of CC for language learning, on the other hand, reaches back [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19388078909557984 ] several decades.

No matter what – the phenomenon in itself is interesting enough to make this a theme for deeper consideration in any design project that contains video material. Because, after all, one thing is for sure: closed captions are not for those with hearing impairments or with muted devices alone – and to deliver great UX, these users should be considered as well."

[See also: https://kottke.org/19/04/why-everyone-is-watching-tv-with-closed-captioning-on-these-days ]
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  sebastiangreger  literacy  language  languages  ux  ui  television  ocd  attention  adhd  languagelearning  learning  howwelearn  processing  hearing  sound  environment  parenting  media  multimedia  clarity  accents  memory  memorization  children  distractions  technology  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Why Gen Z Loves Closed Captioning – The Upgrade – Medium
"Old technology finds a surprising new application

“Everyone does it.”

These were the words from my college-aged daughter when I caught her lounging on our couch, streaming Friends with 24-point closed captioning on. She has no hearing impairment, and I wanted to know what she was up to.

Does “everyone” do it? My wife and I turned to Facebook and a private, nationwide group for parents with near-adult children. “Anyone else’s college student (without a hearing disability) watch TV with the closed captioning on and insist that everyone does it?” my wife posted. Seven hundred responses (and counting) later, we had our answer.

“It helps me with my ADHD: I can focus on the words, I catch things I missed, and I never have to go back.”
Many parents expressed similar confusion with the TV-watching habits of their millennial and Gen Z children, often followed with, “I thought it was just us.”

I returned to my daughter, who had now switched to the creepy Lifetime import You.

“Why do you have captions on?” I asked.

“It helps me with my ADHD: I can focus on the words, I catch things I missed, and I never have to go back,” she replied. “And I can text while I watch.”

My multitasking daughter used to watch TV while working on her laptop and texting or FaceTiming on her phone. She kept rewinding the DVR to catch the last few minutes she’d missed because she either zoned out or was distracted by another screen.

Her response turned out to be even more insightful than I realized at first. A number of mental health experts I spoke with — and even one study I found — supported the notion that watching with closed captioning serves a valuable role for those who struggle with focus and listening.

“I do see this a lot in my practice,” said Dr. Andrew Kent, an adolescent psychiatrist practicing in New York and Medical Director of New York START, Long Island. “I believe auditory processing is more easily impacted upon by distractions, and that they need to read [captions] to stay focused.”

Closed captioning is a relatively recent development in the history of broadcasting, and it was designed with the hearing impaired in mind. According to a useful history on the National Captioning Institute’s (NCI) website, the technology dates back to the early 1970s, when Julia Child’s The French Chef “made history as the first television program accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.” Real-time captioning arrived later, with stenographers typing at a blazing 250 words-per-minute to keep up with live news and sporting events.

They use captions to focus more intently on the content.
If it wasn’t for the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 and additional rules adopted by the FCC in 2012, it’s unlikely my daughter’s IP-based Netflix streaming content would even have closed captioning options today.

While the NCI doesn’t explicitly acknowledge the growing use of closed captioning by those without hearing impairments, it does note that “closed captioning has grown from an experimental service intended only for people who are deaf to a truly global communications service that touches the lives of millions of people every day in vital ways.”

It’s certainly not just a phenomenon for young people. There are many people my age who admit to using them because they have some middle-aged hearing loss or simply need help understanding what the characters on Luther or Peaky Blinders are saying. They use captions to focus more intently on the content.

The need to read captions for what you can hear might even have a biological base. According to Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a psychiatrist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, some people may have trouble processing the audio from television.

“I believe that there are a number of individuals who have ADHD who may also suffer from undiagnosed auditory processing disorder (APD), and for these individuals… this may be very helpful,” Dr. Varma told me via email. Closed captioning can provide the visual cues that APD sufferers need to overcome their issues with listening and comprehension, she added.

APD refers to how the brain processes auditory information, and though it supposedly only affects around 5 percent of school-age children, there’s reportedly been a significant uptick in overall awareness. As Dr. Varma pointed out, there may be a lot of people who don’t realize they have APD, but are aware of some of the symptoms, which include being bothered by loud noises, difficulty focusing in loud environments, and forgetfulness.

There may be applications in the classroom, too. In a 2015 study of 2,800 college-age students on the impact of closed captioning on video learning, 75 percent of respondents mentioned that they struggle with paying attention in class. “The most common reasons students used captions… was to help them focus,” Dr. Katie Linder, the research director at Oregon State University who led the study, told me.

And even four years ago, there were hints that the use of closed captioning as a focusing tool would bleed outside the classroom.

As a report on the study put it, “Several people in this study also mentioned that they use captions all the time, not just for their learning experience. Captions with Netflix was mentioned multiple times. So, we know that students are engaging with them outside of the classroom.”

When the NCI first co-developed closed captioning technology some 50 years ago, they called it “words worth watching,” and it did transform millions of lives. Today, we may be witnessing — or reading — a similar revolution."
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  lanceulnoff  television  adhd  attention  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Goodbye Big Five
"Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting my money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened."
microsoft  google  facebook  amazon  apple  kashmirhill  technology  2019  internet  web  attention  online 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 104. Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron
"Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron are two of the founders of Are.na, a knowledge sharing platform that combines the creative back-and-forth of social media with the focus of a productivity tool. Before working on Arena, Cab was a digital artist and Chris a graphic designer and in this episode, they talk about their desire for a new type of bookmarking tool and building a platform for collaborative, interdisciplinary research as well as larger questions around open source tools, research as artistic practice, and subverting the norms of social media."

[direct link to audio:
https://soundcloud.com/scratchingthesurfacefm/104-cab-broskoski-and-chris-sherron ]
jarrettfuller  are.na  cabbroskoski  chrissherron  coreyarcangel  del.icio.us  bookmarkling  pinterest  cv  tagging  flickr  michaelcina  youworkforthem  davidbohm  williamgibson  digital  damonzucconi  stanleykubrick  stephaniesnt  julianbozeman  public  performance  collections  collecting  research  2000s  interview  information  internet  web  sharing  conversation  art  design  socialmedia  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  online  onlinetoolkit  inspiration  moodboards  graphicdesign  graphics  images  web2.0  webdesign  webdev  ui  ux  scratchingthesurface  education  teaching  edtech  technology  multidisciplinary  generalists  creative  creativitysingapore  creativegeneralists  learning  howwelearn  attention  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  algorithms  canon  knowledge  transdisciplinary  tools  archives  slow  slowweb  slowinternet  instagram  facebook 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Captain Awkward on Twitter: "Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?"
"Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?

If we can crowdsource data about price, fiddliness, cult following, # of dedicated subreddits, # of naturally organized people who swore it would change our lives or said “if I can do it anyone can!”, etc, then I can get a jump start on shame spiral trajectory calculations!

My poor therapists (all): Have you tried to-do lists?

Me: Yes! I love making them, but I constantly forget to check. Also putting a task on the list can “solve” its urgency & I forget. Whereas if I DON’T write it, the terror of forgetting might keep it in focus!

Therapists: [gif]

Me: I basically exist inside a giant perpetual-motion machine of prcrastination, forgetting stuff, guilt, and anxiety and sometimes I can harness it as motivation!

Therapists: [gif]

Therapists: But you DO accomplish things?

Me: Yes?

Therapists: But...how?

Me: Oh, that’s easy, I have enough raw intelligence & ability that sometimes the crippling fear of failure makes a volcano instead of an abyss, and work erupts out of the crater instead of collapsing in.

Therapists: But...wouldn’t be easier to keep a to-do list?

Me: Obviously!

Therapists: So, what CAN we work on?

Me: Could we maybe make the creative work volcanoes a little bigger and the crushing paralysis & shame abysses a little smaller?

Therapists: [gif]

In all seriousness, the thing about getting finally getting dx’d with #ADHD that helps me most isn’t the meds, which do mitigate it a bit, but that I stopped hating myself for being this way.

My whole childhood & life before diagnosis, my intelligence and literally everything I am good at was used as proof that I must be lazy & deliberately fucking up career & academic & household stuff out of spite.

The paradox of #ADHD - being excellent at complex, high-stimulus tasks and fuck-all at routine, “easy” tasks was a weapon in the hands of parents, teachers, & employers and a constant abusive echo in my brain.

What I internalized was that accomplishments that were fun or that came easy to me had no value, only the ones that involve effort “count.” But the things that involved the most effort for me were mundane tasks that came easy to others, so they had no value, either.

“But you are so good at ______ it should be easy to _____?” became “But I am so good at ____, I should be good at ____ and since I am not actually good at ____ I must be a hopeless fuckup.”

I also internalized a fallacy that I was not “allowed” to do rewarding ambitious enjoyable things until all my “chores” were done. Meaning I set impossible traps for myself for YEARS b/c I would never get the chores done?

TBH sometimes the right thing for me to do is put the laptop down & clean the house but also one main reason I can be a prolific writer is an internal shift in permissions, like, chores CAN actually wait if I’m in the grip of an idea, & I DON’T have to read/answer every email.

My condition comes with gifts like creativity and intense bursts of focus & enthusiasm and it is ok to ride those bursts and enjoy them and give my effort & time to “fun” work. It is also ok to kinda suck at some things.

This article was a turning point for me in getting dx’d - I had raised the prospect before and been told I was “too smart” & “too high-functioning.” Therapist was using (incredibly common) idea of hyperactive boys. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/adhd-is-different-for-women/381158/ ["ADHD Is Different for Women"]

This book by Sari Solden, rec’d by a friend, was also really helpful: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/women-attention-deficit-disorder-embrace-your-differences/id548946872?mt=11 ["Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life"]

Finally, #ADHD is buds with Depression & Anxiety, and a lot of its symptoms overlap with PTSD. If you never get a clear ADHD dx it doesn’t mean you are not having real trouble with executive function. Your treatment (esp. meds) might differ, tho, so get checked out if you can.

Ok, actually finally finally finally there is tons of productivity & organizing advice from people who are naturally good at organization. You will often recognize it by the word “just” - “I just take 10 seconds to put things back where they belong!” “I just make lists!”

For us #ADHD buds this advice can be so, so, so overwhelming. It isn’t factually untrue (It does save time to put things away as you go? Or, er, I believe organized people when they say this?) but your instinct that the word “just” does not apply to you is CORRECT.

If the actual tips sound helpful and you want to try them, by all means! We can work on new habits and find better workarounds. But if it’s difficult, please know, that’s expected & you’re not imagining it. Please also don’t add it to the ways you beat yourself up.

I tweet for the kids who got their messy desks dumped out as an example to others. I tweet for the ones who never once brought a permission slip home, and got it signed, and brought that same piece of paper back in time for the field trip.

I tweet for the kids who peed their pants sometimes not b/c they weren’t potty-trained but b/c they got too absorbed in something & forgot to switch tasks.

I tweet for #ADHD couples, esp. brides, who are like “I want to marry YOU but what the hell is WEDDING PLANNING and why do people think I know how?”

I tweet for the ones who are panicking that “you have so much potential!” is turning into “you *had* so much potential.” Every day is a race against the sun and our own runaway brains.

BTW I also tweet for the parents who are like “oh crap I lost my kid’s permission slip...again...”

Also, hi to the people who really need an assistant but have no idea how to delegate things to an assistant and/or find the whole assistant thing terrifying b/c someone will know how truly, truly disorganized you are & how much you rely on adrenaline & charisma. [gif]

I see you, I am you, I have been you, and I have been your assistant. Let the nice person help you if you possibly can. They want to. They *like* it. You just have to be nice and honest & give them money.

If anyone has ever told you, patiently & kindly, that the best way to accomplish a big project is to break it down into small, digestible chunks, and you’ve nodded in agreement but internally screamed b/c you know a long list = more ways to lose focus, come here: [gif]"

[Via/see also: https://twitter.com/emilesnyder/status/1078020204016263168

This thread made me cry. I have never considered ADHD as something that might describe me. Depression, anxiety, yes. ADHD? Not so much.

But holy shit does this thread have my number re: procrastination, organization, shame spirals, etc..

https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1078060070078840833
Oh, but Emile. It's not you with the disorder, it's society. You're just made for a better, slower, simpler, more attuned, more holistic world. 90% of the shit people do when they get shit done is actually destroying the planet. If everybody just did less we could save the world.

https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1078106307536728064
Have you seen this research on the cultural dimensions of attentional stance? https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3dbc/c3420a3d1afa391fb46370cac52cf59ba98a.pdf ["Open Attention as a Cultural Tool for Observational Learning" by Suzanne Gaskins

"ABSTRACT:
Learning through observation in everyday activities is widely recognized in the ethnographic literature as a central way that children learn from others. There are two well-described
characteristics of learning through observation: participation in meaningful activities with people who are important in the children’s lives and a belief that children are active, motivated learners who take initiative to garner experiences and make meaning from them. Gaskins and Paradise (2010) have proposed that there is a third characteristic central to observational learning: open attention, defined as attention that takes in information from the full environmental context (that is, wide-angled) and is sustained over time (that is, abiding). This paper will describe open attention in some detail, giving examples of how open attention is encouraged in a variety of cultures, its value as a component of observational learning, the role of concentration, and the implications for understanding children’s learning (in and out of school) and play. The presentation will conclude that, while learning through observation is present in all cultures, in cultures where open attention is encouraged and expected, and where the responsibility for learning is given to the children, observational learning is both more powerful and more central to children’s mastery of the full range of cultural knowledge." ]]
attention  adhd  neurodiversity  2018  productivity  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  organization  anxiety  depression  context  procrastination  shame  forgetfulness  executivefunction  creativity  add  children  childhood  schools  schooling 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Stanford professor: "The workplace is killing people and nobody cares"
"From the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours, the modern workplace is taking its toll on all of us."
work  labor  health  2018  workplace  culture  capitalism  management  administration  psychology  stress  childcare  jeffreypfeffer  socialpollution  society  nuriachinchilla  isolation  fatigue  time  attention 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting - The New York Times
"Experts agree that investing in children is a positive thing — they benefit from time with their parents, stimulating activities and supportive parenting styles. As low-income parents have increased the time they spend teaching and reading to their children, the readiness gap between kindergarten students from rich and poor families has shrunk. As parental supervision has increased, most serious crimes against children have declined significantly.

But it’s also unclear how much of children’s success is actually determined by parenting.

“It’s still an open question whether it’s the parenting practices themselves that are making the difference, or is it simply growing up with college-educated parents in an environment that’s richer in many dimensions?” said Liana Sayer, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and director of the Time Use Laboratory there. “I don’t think any of these studies so far have been able to answer whether these kids would be doing well as adults regardless, simply because of resources.”

There has been a growing movement against the relentlessness of modern-day parenting. Utah passed a free-range parenting law, exempting parents from accusations of neglect if they let their children play or commute unattended.

Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. Research has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function.

Parents, particularly mothers, feel stress, exhaustion and guilt at the demands of parenting this way, especially while holding a job. American time use diaries show that the time women spend parenting comes at the expense of sleep, time alone with their partners and friends, leisure time and housework. Some pause their careers or choose not to have children. Others, like Ms. Sentilles, live in a state of anxiety. She doesn’t want to hover, she said. But trying to oversee homework, limit screen time and attend to Isaac’s needs, she feels no choice.

“At any given moment, everything could just fall apart,” she said.

“On the one hand, I love my work,” she said. “But the way it’s structured in this country, where there’s not really child care and there’s this sense that something is wrong with you if you aren’t with your children every second when you’re not at work? It isn’t what I think feminists thought they were signing up for.”"
parenting  helicopterparents  anxiety  stress  surveillance  children  inequality  2018  schools  schooliness  glvo  hovering  capitalism  economics  freedom  free-rangeparenting  unschooling  deschooling  learning  youth  psychology  society  attention  helicopterparenting 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound | Maryanne Wolf | Opinion | The Guardian
"When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age"



"Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing - a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.

As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one’s herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading.

This is not a simple, binary issue of print vs digital reading and technological innovation. As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.

We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.

Increasing reports from educators and from researchers in psychology and the humanities bear this out. English literature scholar and teacher Mark Edmundson describes how many college students actively avoid the classic literature of the 19th and 20th centuries because they no longer have the patience to read longer, denser, more difficult texts. We should be less concerned with students’ “cognitive impatience,” however, than by what may underlie it: the potential inability of large numbers of students to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts, whether in literature and science in college, or in wills, contracts and the deliberately confusing public referendum questions citizens encounter in the voting booth.

Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students. In Stavanger, Norway, psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied how high school students comprehend the same material in different mediums. Mangen’s group asked subjects questions about a short story whose plot had universal student appeal (a lust-filled, love story); half of the students read Jenny, Mon Amour on a Kindle, the other half in paperback. Results indicated that students who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.

Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

Karin Littau and Andrew Piper have noted another dimension: physicality. Piper, Littau and Anne Mangen’s group emphasize that the sense of touch in print reading adds an important redundancy to information – a kind of “geometry” to words, and a spatial “thereness” for text. As Piper notes, human beings need a knowledge of where they are in time and space that allows them to return to things and learn from re-examination – what he calls the “technology of recurrence”. The importance of recurrence for both young and older readers involves the ability to go back, to check and evaluate one’s understanding of a text. The question, then, is what happens to comprehension when our youth skim on a screen whose lack of spatial thereness discourages “looking back.”

US media researchers Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, American University’s linguist Naomi Baron, and cognitive scientist Tami Katzir from Haifa University have examined the effects of different information mediums, particularly on the young. Katzir’s research has found that the negative effects of screen reading can appear as early as fourth and fifth grade - with implications not only for comprehension, but also on the growth of empathy.

The possibility that critical analysis, empathy and other deep reading processes could become the unintended “collateral damage” of our digital culture is not a simple binary issue about print vs digital reading. It is about how we all have begun to read on any medium and how that changes not only what we read, but also the purposes for why we read. Nor is it only about the young. The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all. It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information. It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.

There’s an old rule in neuroscience that does not alter with age: use it or lose it. It is a very hopeful principle when applied to critical thought in the reading brain because it implies choice. The story of the changing reading brain is hardly finished. We possess both the science and the technology to identify and redress the changes in how we read before they become entrenched. If we work to understand exactly what we will lose, alongside the extraordinary new capacities that the digital world has brought us, there is as much reason for excitement as caution.

We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society."
reading  howweread  skimming  digital  2018  maryannewolf  literacy  truth  meaning  karinlittau  andrewpiper  annemagen  patriciagreenfield  sherryturkle  attention  technology  screens  speed  psychology  behavior 
december 2018 by robertogreco
AnjiPlay (@anjiplay) • Fotos y vídeos de Instagram
“We have discovered that some teachers, if they really want to hear what children have to say, that their whole state of being is at ease, and they listen closely and that in the process of listening they discover that children are speaking a wealth of information, and these teachers will be receptive to the information that they are hearing. And then some teachers want to hear children say what they the teachers, deep down, want the children to say, things that they want to hear, and will unconsciously overlook what children are actually saying. They can't hear clearly and are unable to truly understand the child's expression. And you can see that their physical state of being is one of anxiety.” —Wang Zhen, Vice Principal, Jiguan Kindergarten, Anji County interviewed by Dr. Chelsea Bailey on November 7, 2018.
wangzhen  children  childhood  preschool  anjiplay  listening  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  hearing  attention  presence  receptivity 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Tricia Wang en Instagram: “I felt like was in the yoga version of @getoutmovie after a week @kripalucenter surrounded by lumpy potatoes in search of nirvana. The…”
"I felt like was in the yoga version of @getoutmovie after a week @kripalucenter surrounded by lumpy potatoes in search of nirvana. The themes & branding were all about equality, kindness, & peace but it didn’t feel like that to me when i looked around. There was a clear labor divide. The cleaner on my floor said I was the first person in her 5 years of working there who had a conversation with her. I had to fight hard to keep my resting bitch face game at 💯 to protect myself from invasive lumpy potatoes asking me where I was from. It’s my hope that as the community for POC healers grow, we will see more inclusive & representative spaces that move beyond just placing a token POC in their catalog or token instructor. Aim at least for 50/50 representation in all aspects."
triciawang  2018  organizations  branding  inclusivity  inclusion  hypocrisy  kindness  peace  equality  labor  attention  posturing  representation  inclusivitywashing 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Glow - macwright.org
"Technology didn’t have to glow.

The iPod Shuffle was a music player with no display. Mostly you’d use it for its namesake: shuffling a library. It contained a set amount of music, stored on a memory chip. It didn’t connect to the internet: you plugged it into a computer using a headphone-to-USB cable.

There were also GPS watches that didn’t glow, and that didn’t require your attention. They used LCD screens, and though some had backlights, the only reason you’d use the light is if you were running at night. They also connected to computers with USB cables.

There was an entire display technology based on not glowing - e-ink - and book-like devices that used it. Some of those had backlights, too, but you’d only use them at night. They didn’t do anything other than read books. Or, well, they had other functions but they were so frustrating and slow at anything besides showing books, that you’d use them to read books.

There were devices that simply did what they were for, without demanding attention. For their makers, they had some real problems. They had moving parts, which meant that they required more factory tooling and had more warranty returns. They were terrible for displaying advertisements. Without always-on internet connections, they were really bad for buying other things with.

These were problems for the makers, not the users. But both manufacturer and consumer recognized the addictive properties of the glow, and everything became flat, glowing, and covered with sturdy glass. Even a car, the Model 3, put everything on a single glass display.

Non-glowing devices became an expensive niche. The iPod Shuffle was discontinued with no replacement. Running watches merged with smart watches and started buzzing for phone calls and messages. Everything became less physical, leaving human capabilities unused and leaving us all staring at light bulbs.

Written on a glowing screen at night."
screens  glow  tommacright  technology  ipodshuffle  watches  eink  tesla  smartphones  slow  calm  attention  simplicity  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Digital Text is Changing How Kids Read—Just Not in the Way That You Think | MindShift | KQED News
[See also: "Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years"
https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00220410510632040

"Predicting Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Contributions of Offline Reading Skills, Online Reading Skills, and Prior Knowledge"
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1086296X11421979 ]

"According to Julie Coiro, a reading researcher at the University of Rhode Island, moving from digital to paper and back again is only a piece of the attention puzzle: the larger and more pressing issue is how reading online is taxing kids’ attention. Online reading, Coiro noticed, complicates the comprehension process “a million-fold.”

As more and more of kids’ reading takes place online, especially for schoolwork, Coiro has been studying how kids’ brains have had to adjust. Her research, conducted on middle- and high school students as well as college students, shows that reading online requires more attention than reading a paper book. Every single action a student takes online offers multiple choices, requiring an astounding amount of self-regulation to both find and understand needed information.

Each time a student reads online content, Coiro said, they are faced with almost limitless input and decisions, including images, video and multiple hyperlinks that lead to even more information. As kids navigate a website, they must constantly ask themselves: is this the information I’m looking for? What if I click on one of the many links, will that get me closer or farther away from what I need? This process doesn’t happen automatically, she said, but the brain must work to make each choice a wise one.

“It used to be that there was a pre-reading, the reading itself, and the evaluation at the end of your chapter or at the end of a book,” Coiro said. “Now that process happens repeatedly in about 4 seconds: I choose a link. I decide whether I want to be here/I don’t want to be here, and then, where should I go next?”

In one of Coiro’s studies of middle schoolers, she found that good readers on paper weren’t necessarily good readers online. The ability to generate search terms, evaluate the information and integrate ideas from multiple sources and media makes online reading comprehension, she argues, a critical set of skills that builds on those required to read a physical book.

“We make the assumption that we’re going to keep them safe and protected if we have kids read mostly in the print world,” Coiro said. “And if they’re good readers in that world, they’re just going to naturally be a good reader in a complex online world. That’s so not the case.”

To navigate a new world straddled between digital and physical reading, adults are finding ways to try and balance both. Though there is plenty of distracting media out there vying for kids’ attention, digital reading companies like Epic! are trying to keep the reading experience as close to a real book as possible. Suren Markosian, Epic!’s co-founder and CEO, created the app in part for his own young children. He said they made a conscious choice to keep ads, video content and hyperlinks outside of the book-reading experience. “Once inside a book, you get a full-screen view,” he said. “You are basically committing to reading the book and nothing else.”

Some teachers have taken a more aggressive approach toward making space for reading, taking Willingham’s advice to talk to students head-on about putting down digital devices. Jarred Amato, a high school ELA teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, created a 24-hour digital cleanse for his freshman to crack the surface of what he calls their “smartphone addiction.”

“Students need to develop a reading routine, so I give my students daily time to read independently in my classroom,” he said. “Once they find a book that hooks them, they're far more likely to unplug from technology and continue reading at home.”"
reading  howweread  children  books  2018  digital  digitalreading  skimming  attention  comprehension  danielwillingham  ziminglu  screens  internet  online  web  socialmedia  research  juliecoiro  search  smartphones 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny…”
"Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny (not only them, but primarily them): what they find funny, what they find fascinating, what they think counts as a clever riposte to horror. They amplify the horror with their jokes, or with a performance of disgust at it all, but a disgust that is possible only because it is episodic, impersonal and, finally, generative of more mirth. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Everyone hopes for a viral tweet. The skill of letting foolishness pass without comment is in short supply. And how much of the commentary is clever, how much of it is mere clever chatter.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
"I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth..."
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We need a poetics of humorlessness. We need to extricate the refusal to laugh from automatic moral condemnation (“Don’t be so humorless!”) and re-recognize it as a valid and apt strategy of refusal. To opt out of the general laughter is not to be anti-social. Sometimes it's just not funny. Or what’s funny about it is darker, costlier, less obvious, more secret.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In another section of the prison camp, where the prisoners are treated more harshly, there are fewer jokes. There is less likelihood, in this part of the prison—where from time to time prisoners are taken away and killed— of confusing “coping through humor” with “garnering momentary prestige through a public performance of wit.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In this harsher section of the prison camp, the prisoners nevertheless are forced to hear at all hours, through the prison walls, the incessant laughter from the other side."
tejucole  2018  internet  online  twitter  attention  behavior  liberalism  horror  performance  humor  humorlessness  morality  jokes  laughter  condemnation 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Listening for Silence With the Headphones Off | Pitchfork
"After years of escaping into music, writer Mark Richardson finds out what it feels like to hear no sound at all."



"As I sat in the anechoic chamber, I thought about that other life that I once wanted, one in which I was able to master the numbers and bring hi-fi to the world, and I thought about everything that led me from there to here and all that had happened since. I looked around the room and counted my breaths for a moment, and then I tried to see what else I could hear. I sensed what sounded like ticking, and then I realized that it was my heart, and the sound seemed to be coming from a vein in my neck. I could only remember experiencing my heartbeat as a thud, but in here, it sounded uncannily like a faint mechanical watch.

I thought about silence as a metaphor for death, what it means to not be able to hear the voice of someone you love. I thought about Mike Watt still gleaning lessons from D. Boon, and Mother Teresa and God listening to each other. And then, being generally claustrophobic and wanting to scare myself a little, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to be in a coffin. With my eyes shut underneath the bright light, I saw red and orange instead of black—there was still blood moving through my eyelids. I sat for a few minutes like that, seeing if I could hear more if listened harder, but the tick of my heart was it. It didn’t feel like death. It was quite the opposite. I thought about writing it all down. I opened my eyes and blinked and stood up and took one last look around, then I knocked on the door."
silence  attention  audio  music  2018  markrichardson  anechoicchambers  death 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Reading right to left
After I wrote about looking at things upside down [https://austinkleon.com/2018/06/26/turn-it-upside-down/ ], a reader relayed what his daughter was learning in army cadet training: “In the field, troops are told to scan from right to left. As we generally read left to right, doing the opposite aids in detecting anomalies in the landscape and potential threats to safety.”

Here’s photographer Dale Wilson (emphasis mine):
One of the first tricks I learned many years ago had nothing to do with photography, but was drilled into me by an army sergeant. It only took a few smacks up the back of my head to learn how to look from right-to-left when scanning a landscape in an effort to see the hidden “enemy” in our mock battles. This process of reverse reading forced me to slow down and read each tree as if it were a syllable I was seeing for the first time. Even today, about thirty years after I called that sergeant every adjective not found in a descent dictionary, I still find myself scanning a landscape from right-to-left.

More on reading right-to-left here. [https://booktwo.org/notebook/reading-right-to-left/, previously posted here https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/132287071238/im-getting-more-radical-in-my-view-of-the ]"

[See also: https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/38278729921/this-is-how-i-read
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/tagged/how-we-read
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:howweread ]
howweread  seeing  austinkleon  2018  jamesbridle  dalewilson  looking  attention  process  reading  scanning  photography 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Maya Children In Guatemala Are Great At Paying Attention. What's Their Secret? : Goats and Soda : NPR
"So maybe the Maya children are more attentive in the origami/toy experiment — not because they have better attention spans — but because they are more motivated to pay attention. Their parents have somehow motivated them to pay attention even without being told.

To see this Maya parenting firsthand, I traveled down to a tiny Maya village in Yucatan, Mexico, and visited the home of Maria Tun Burgos. Researchers have been studying her family and this village for years.

On a warm April afternoon, Tun Burgos is feeding her chickens in backyard. Her three daughters are outside with her, but they doing basically whatever they want.

The oldest daughter, Angela, age 12, is chasing a baby chick that's gotten out of the pen. The middle girl, Gelmy, age 9, is running in and out of the yard with neighborhood kids. Most of the time, no one is really sure where she is. And the littlest daughter, Alexa, who is 4 years old, has just climbed up a tree.

"Alone, without mama," the little daredevil declares.

Right away, I realize what these kids have that many American kids miss out on: an enormous amount of freedom. The freedom to largely choose what they do, where they go, whom they do it with. That means, they also have the freedom to control what they pay attention to.

Even the little 4-year-old has the freedom to leave the house by herself, her mother says.

"Of course she can go shopping," Tun Burgos says. "She can buy some eggs or tomatoes for us. She knows the way and how to stay out of traffic."

Now the kids aren't just playing around in the yard. They're still getting work done. They go to school. They do several after-school activities — and many, many chores. When I was with the family, the oldest girl did the dishes even though no one asked her to, and she helped take care of her little sisters.

But the kids, to a great extent, set their schedules and agendas, says Suzanne Gaskins, a psychologist at Northeastern Illinois University, who has studied the kids in this village for decades.

"Rather than having the mom set the goal — and then having to offer enticements and rewards to reach that goal — the child is setting the goal," Gaskins says. "Then the parents support that goal however they can."

The parents intentionally give their children this autonomy and freedom because they believe it's the best way to motivate kids, Gaskins says.

"The parents feel very strongly that every child knows best what they want," she says. "And that goals can be achieved only when a child wants it."

And so they will do chores when they want to be helpful for their family.

With this strategy, Maya children also learn how to manage their own attention, instead of always depending on adults to tell them what to pay attention to, says Barbara Rogoff, who is a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.

"It may be the case that [some American] children give up control of their attention when it's always managed by an adult," she says.

Turns out these Maya moms are onto something. In fact, they are master motivators.

Motivating kids, the Maya way
Although neuroscientists are just beginning to understand what's happening in the brain while we pay attention, psychologists already have a pretty good understanding of what's needed to motivate kids.

Psychologist Edward Deci has been studying it for nearly 50 years at the University of Rochester. And what does he say is one of the most important ingredients for motivating kids?

"Autonomy," Deci says. "To do something with this full sense of willingness and choice."

Many studies have shown that when teachers foster autonomy, it stimulates kids' motivation to learn, tackle challenges and pay attention, Deci says.

But in the last few decades, some parts of our culture have turned in the other direction, he says. They've started taking autonomy away from kids — especially in some schools.

"One of the things we've been doing in the American school system is making it more and more controlling rather than supportive," Deci says.

And this lack of autonomy in school inhibits kids' ability to pay attention, he says.

"Oh without question it does," Deci says. "So all of the high stakes tests are having negative consequences on the motivation, the attention and the learning of our children."

Now, many parents in the U.S. can't go full-on Maya to motivate kids. It's often not practical — or safe — to give kids that much autonomy in many places, for instance. But there are things parents here can do, says cognitive psychologist Mike Esterman.

For starters, he says, ask your kid this question: 'What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?' "

"Then you start to see what actually motivates them and what they want to engage their cognitive resources in when no one tells them what they have to to do," Esterman says.

Then create space in their schedule for this activity, he says.

"For my daughter, I've been thinking that this activity will be like her 'passion,' and it's the activity I should be fostering," he says.

Because when a kid has a passion, Esterman says, it's golden for the child. It's something that will bring them joy ... and hone their ability to pay attention."
children  attention  education  parenting  psychology  passion  2018  maya  barbararogoff  maricelacorrea-chavez  behavior  autonomy  motivation  intrinsicmotivation 
july 2018 by robertogreco
To survive our high-speed society, cultivate 'temporal bandwidth' | Alan Jacobs | Opinion | The Guardian
"It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate; and is hard to imagine a person more exemplary of our presentism than the current president of the United States.

Donald Trump is a creature of the instant, responsive only and wholly to immediate stimulus – which is why Twitter is his exclusive medium of written communication, and why when he speaks he cannot stick to a script. In this respect he differs little from anyone who spends a lot of time on social media; the social media ecosystem is designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now.

We cannot, from within that ecosystem, restore old behavioral norms or develop new and better ones. No, to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls “temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.

In Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen explains that temporal bandwidth is “the width of your present, your now … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

If we want to extend our bandwidth, we begin with the past, because exploring the past requires only willingness. Recently, I was teaching the Epistles of the Roman poet Horace to a group of undergraduates. Though Horace comes from a world alien in so many ways to ours – and though he would surely fail any possible test of political correctness of the left or right – we found ourselves resonating powerfully with his quest for “a tranquil mind”. Indeed, Horace recommends just what I am arguing for now: “Interrogate the writings of the wise,” he counsels his friend Lollius Maximus:

“Asking them to tell you how you can

Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.

Will it be greed, that always feels poverty-stricken,

That harasses and torments you all your days?

Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,

In anxious alternation in your mind?

Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books?

Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?

What is the way to become a friend to yourself?

What brings tranquility? What makes you care less?”"



"Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential. That frame of mind is dangerously susceptible to alarmist notions, like the idea that “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die” – a claim that many Trump supporters accepted as gospel, without even inquiring what “die” might mean in that context.

Only a severe constriction of temporal bandwidth could make such a claim seem even possible. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton and cannot envision circumstances in which I would have done so, but the idea that her election would mean death (even metaphorical death) for conservatives and Christians is absurd. It would, rather, have meant the continuation of the centrist policies of her predecessor. The idea that the United States in 2016 was faced with a choice between Trump and Death, an idea driven by ignorance of even the recent past, also had the effect of disabling care for the future.

What will Trump’s policies do to international trade? What will they do to immigrant families, including those in this country legally? What will they do to the increasingly toxic state of race relations? What will they do to the health of the planet? The Trump-or-Death binary dismissed all those questions as irrelevant, and we are living with the consequences.

But these questions are essential, if we are to extend our temporal bandwidth into the future as well as the past. (And the refusal of them shows how indifference to the past makes it impossible to consider the future.) I am a Christian, and I have been dismayed at how easily many of my fellow Christians have cast aside their long-held convictions, merely to exchange their rich birthright for a cold serving of Trumpian triumphalism. As David French recently wrote in National Review, in an open letter to his fellow evangelicals: “Soon enough, the ‘need’ to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?’ The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.”

The bitter irony here is that so many American Christians, who often claim to have “an eternal perspective”, turned out, in 2016, to have no perspective beyond that of the immediate moment. They have left their own future, and that of the country they claim to love, uncared for and unreflected on. Someday, along will come some politician they despise whose personal morality will be even more contemptible than Trump’s, and they will be reduced to silence – or, if they insist on speaking out anyway, will merely testify to their own rank hypocrisy. “Was it worth it?”

Forty years ago, the German philosopher Hans Jonas, in a book that would prove a vital inspiration for the Green movement in his country, asked a potent question: “What force shall represent the future in the present?” In other words, what laws and norms will embody our care for those who come after us, including those already here and those yet to be born? But this is a question that we cannot ask if our thoughts are imprisoned by the stimulation of what rolls across our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Pynchon’s Mondaugen comments on the personal tenuousness of those who live only in the moment: “It may get to where you’re having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago.” And of course, no person so afflicted can recall, much less be accountable for, what he said yesterday, which is why those who work for Donald Trump have had to learn that yesterday’s truth is today’s lie, and today’s lie will be tomorrow’s truth.

But, again, Trump didn’t create this situation: he found in social media and soundbite TV news an environment ready-made for the instincts he already possessed, an environment in which tenuousness is less a condition to lament than the primary instrument of ultimate celebrity and ultimate power. Trump may be 71 years old, but he is the future of our collective temperament – unless we develop some temporal bandwidth. It’s best that we start now."
alanjacobs  time  attention  politics  religion  2018  donaldtrump  thomaspynchon  temporalbandwidth  horace  futue  past  vulnerability  precarity  immediacy  socialmedia  twitter  inequality  greed  longnow  hansjonas  entanglement  facebook 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Vadik Marmeladov
"I design the most beautiful products. Before scrolling down to the pictures, please read our Codes of Practice:

1. Wear the uniform
2. Think long term (like 30 years from now)
3. Build stories and languages, not things
4. Create your own universe (or join ours)
5. Collect samples
6. Be a sample for somebody else 
7. Look for loyalty, not for a skill set
8. Do not build utilitarian products. However, use them as a medium to express yourself
9. Do not exploit introverts — doesn't work long term. Learn to be an introvert yourself 
10. Travel more
11. Do not work for corporations. Old corporations were meaningful when their founders were alive, but now, they have outlived their relevancy. They exist only to keep their numbers growing
12. New corporations are no better. They have scaled up features, and today’s founders want hyper-growth for growth’s sake (it seems like every line of code, every feature deserves its own corporation — it sure doesn't)
13. So, fuck the corporations
14. Tell the truth (bullshit never works long term)
15. Study and research fashion
16. Your phone is a temporary feature — don’t spend your life on it (like you wouldn’t spend it on a fax machine)
17. Fuck likes, followers, fake lives, fake friends
18. Remake your environment. Build it for yourself, and people will come 
19. Only trust those who make things you love
20. Move to LA 
21. Don’t buy property
22. Don’t go to Mars (just yet)
23. Use only one font, just a few colors, and just a few shapes
24. Use spreadsheets, but only to map out 30 cells — one for each year of the rest of your life
25. The next three are the most important
26. The past doesn’t exist — don’t get stuck in it
27. Don’t go to Silicon Valley (it’s not for you if you’re still reading this)
28. Remind yourself daily: you and everyone you know will die
29. We must build the most beautiful things
30. We are 2046 kids"

[via Warren Ellis's Orbital Operations newsletter, 8 April 2018:

"LOT 2046 [https://www.lot2046.com/ ] continues to be magnificent. This is actually a really strong duffel bag. You just never know what you're going to get.

Incidentally, culture watchers, keep an eye on this - the LOT 2046 user-in-residence programme [https://www.lot2046.com/360/11/875c4f ]. This feels like a small start to a significant idea. Vadik thinks long-term. He once had the following Codes Of Practise list from his previous business on his personal website, preserved by the sainted Wayback Machine:"]
vadikmarmeladov  codesofpractice  uniforms  longterm  stories  language  languages  worldbuilding  loyalty  skills  samples  examples  corporations  corporatism  losangeles  property  2046  beauty  part  present  siliconvalley  fonts  mars  trust  love  environment  like  follows  followers  fakeness  relevancy  features  numbers  scale  scalability  fashion  research  attention 
april 2018 by robertogreco
stop literalizing the design process | sara hendren
"This is your semi-regular reminder that collaborative, ethical design is not synonymous with customer service, taking orders from “users,” retail-style. It’s synthesizing and recombining ideas from insights gained by deeply considered habits of attention. The implications of this claim are twofold, and people are forever forgetting either one or the other, ad infinitum.

The first implication is that—yeah, you can’t ask people a bunch of questions in survey mode, and then turn the magical crank of the design process to automatically make something good, something the world is asking for. But the second implication is that a designer’s job is not to obediently make the precise widget described by so-called end users, to check a moral box and be sure that they did the right thing. Insights and synthesis are subtler than that. A designer has to both be grounded in multiple forms of deep attention, not in simple yes-no answers, and she has to get liftoff from the mundane first ideas at hand—to take considered risks, to switch scales, to propose ideas that are bigger than the sum of parts.

And perhaps it’s surprising, but it’s actually that second implication that’s harder for people to grasp. Yes—yes of course—the world is full of solutioneering. We have to keep talking about all the ways tech and design go wrong when there’s an assumption that any given clever intervention will make the world better. But it’s also far too easy to wield a blunt moral cudgel to ethics-check people in a simplistic way. It seems to me that in 2018, folks who know something about design tend to find a voice for their skepticism about this clueless over-confidence, but those same people have too little patience for the non-linear and enigmatic way that design gets its work done. “Did-you-ask-the-user-what-she-wants” now is code for: did you get a direct order for your decisions? It’s just never that simple, never that rote, never that guaranteed. A plea for discernment and subtlety, friends."
sarahendren  2018  design  collaboration  ethics  ethicaldesign  customerservice  synthesis  recombination  surveys  attention  solutioneering  solutionism  technosolutionism  morals  morality  skepticism  discernment  subtlety 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Why I keep a diary
"Yesterday I wrote about how I keep my diaries. This morning, because commenters asked what they look like, I posted some of my diary pages on Instagram. Then a commenter asked, “But what is the point of this?”

Here’s what I wrote back, verbatim:
I keep a diary for many reasons, but the main one is: It helps me pay attention to my life. By sitting down and writing about my life, I pay attention to it, I honor it, and when I’ve written about it long enough, I have a record of my days, and I can then go back and pay attention to what I pay attention to, discover my own patterns, and know myself better. It helps me fall in love with my life.

So, primarily, keeping a diary is about paying attention to my life and then paying attention to what I pay attention to.

There are some other reasons I keep a diary.

I have a terrible memory for things that happen to me. I can remember books and quotes and movies and art and all of these inanimate things that I love, but I simply cannot seem to keep track of my own days. My experience of time is very slippery.

This quality got exacerbated when I had children. Infants destroy your memory through sleep deprivation, but toddlers and preschoolers play tricks on your sense of time and progress when you’re around them all day, because 1) having young children can be extremely monotonous, and 2) you’re seeing them morph in real time, so the change is gradual, and you don’t necessarily take notice of the leaps and bounds that can happen in even a week. (For an alternative perspective, see Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.)

Diaries are evidence of our days. When I read a diary from even just a few months ago, I am regularly shocked by how much has and hasn’t changed in our house. It helps me take notice of just how far we’ve come. It also reminds me that life is seasonal, and we are inevitably doomed to repeat ourselves, a la Groundhog Day, so we must proceed without hope and without despair.

Finally, I find that my diary is a good place to have bad ideas. I tell my diary everything I shouldn’t tell anybody else, especially everyone on social media. We are in a shitty time in which you can’t really go out on any intellectual limbs publicly, or people — even your so-called friends! — will throw rocks at you or try to saw off the branch. Harsh, but true.

So you have to have a private space to have your own thoughts. A diary does that.

I wonder how many people forget that George Orwell’s 1984 literally begins when the character Winston Smith buys a paper diary and starts writing in it. I’ve heard that part of the goal of an autocratic regime is to get you to disbelieve your own perceptions. Again, here is where your diary comes in handy. You keep track of what’s happening, write your own history book, consult it when you feel like you’re going crazy."

[See also: "Notebook Turducken"
https://austinkleon.com/2018/02/19/notebook-turducken/ ]
austinkleon  diaries  routines  2018  memory  notetaking  attention  noticing 
february 2018 by robertogreco
In Thailand, Buddhist Monks Grapple with the Meaning of Video Games - Waypoint
"Discussing games and reincarnation with Monks at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand."

[via: "Buddhist monks on the value of video games"
https://kottke.org/18/02/buddhist-monks-on-the-value-of-video-games

"In Thailand, Buddhist monks, and students studying to be monks, play video games sometimes like everyone else. But many of them are ambivalent about the games’ value.
The danger in playing a game is not the game itself, but the desire it may cause—since in Buddhist thought, desire is the cause of suffering. “If you lose or win, you want to do it again and again. You’re always thinking about the game. If you cling to that mindset, it causes mental suffering or physical suffering.”

This danger of competition and desire are why monks are generally not allowed to play sports. (Though, to be honest, I’ve seen more than a few novices playing covert soccer games.) Sports offer many benefits, both men agree, but if they become too much about winning or lead to bad feelings it can damage attempts to attain enlightenment.


Robert Rath, the author, tries to get the monks to dive deep on the connection between spawning, dying, and respawning in video games and an idea of a cycle of life and rebirth, but for the most part, the monks aren’t buying it. Games are fun, they’re challenging, they’re big distractions from study and meditation — and that’s about it. Not a lot of deeper meaning there.

Which to me, is refreshing, and very Buddhist (as I understand it). Why does everything have to mean anything? Most things are just nonsense. Let them be what they are, and be wary of the power you give them."]
games  gaming  videogames  monks  buddhism  meditation  attention  2018  thailand  desire  enlightenment  addiction  robertrath  study  meaning  reincarnation 
february 2018 by robertogreco
RIP The Broccoli Tree
"Oscar Wilde once wrote that “Each man kills the thing he loves”. I don’t know exactly what Wilde meant by that, but our collective attention and obsession, amplified by the speed and intensity of the internet & social media, tends to ruin the things we love: authors, musicians, restaurants, actors, beloved movies, vacation spots, artists, democracies, and even a tree that became too famous to live."
jasonkottke  2017  socialmedia  internet  humans  oscarwilde  attention  obsession  society 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Burnout Society | Byung-Chul Han
"Our competitive, service-oriented societies are taking a toll on the late-modern individual. Rather than improving life, multitasking, "user-friendly" technology, and the culture of convenience are producing disorders that range from depression to attention deficit disorder to borderline personality disorder. Byung-Chul Han interprets the spreading malaise as an inability to manage negative experiences in an age characterized by excessive positivity and the universal availability of people and goods. Stress and exhaustion are not just personal experiences, but social and historical phenomena as well. Denouncing a world in which every against-the-grain response can lead to further disempowerment, he draws on literature, philosophy, and the social and natural sciences to explore the stakes of sacrificing intermittent intellectual reflection for constant neural connection."
books  toread  byung-chulhan  work  labor  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  technology  multitasking  depression  attention  add  adhd  attentiondeficitdisorder  personality  psychology  philosophy  convenience  neurosis  psychosis  malaise  society  positivity  positivepsychology  capitalism  postcapitalism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
003: Craig Mod - I Want My Attention Back! • Hurry Slowly
"Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone near you is slowly draining away your cognitive energy and attention? (Even if it’s tucked away in a desk drawer or a bag.) Like it or not, the persistent use of technology is changing the quality of our attention. And not in a good way.

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

Key takeaways from the interview:

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

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

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

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

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



"Favorite Quotes

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

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

Resources

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

Craig’s piece on attention from Backchannel magazine
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/

Vipassana meditation retreat locations
https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Craig’s article on post-100 hours of meditation
https://craigmod.com/roden/013/

Film director Krzysztof Kieslowski
http://www.indiewire.com/2013/03/the-essentials-krzysztof-kieslowski-100770/

Writer and technologist Kevin Kelly
http://kk.org/thetechnium/

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/large-hadron-collider-explained "
attention  craigmod  zoominginandout  ideas  thinking  focus  meditation  technology  blackboards  messiness  presence  writing  relationships  conversation  art  creativity  digitaldetox  maps  mapping  brainstorming  socialmedia  internet  web  online  retreats  jocelynglei  howwethink  howewrite  concentration  interruption  kevinkelly  vipassana  krzysztofkieslowski  largehadroncollider  cern 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Mind of John McPhee - The New York Times
"Much of the struggle, for McPhee, has to do with structure. “Structure has preoccupied me in every project,” he writes, which is as true as saying that Ahab, on his nautical adventures, was preoccupied by a certain whale. McPhee is obsessed with structure. He sweats and frets over the arrangement of a composition before he can begin writing. He seems to pour a whole novel’s worth of creative energy just into settling which bits will follow which other bits.

The payoff of that labor is enormous. Structure, in McPhee’s writing, carries as much meaning as the words themselves. What a more ordinary writer might say directly, McPhee will express through the white space between chapters or an odd juxtaposition of sentences. It is like Morse code: a message communicated by gaps."



"“Draft No. 4” is essentially McPhee’s writing course at Princeton, which he has been teaching since 1975. This imposes a rigid structure on his life. During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.

McPhee’s students come to his office frequently, for editing sessions, and as they sit in the hallway waiting for their appointments, they have time to study a poster outside his door. McPhee refers to it as “a portrait of the writer at work.” It is a print in the style of Hieronymus Bosch of sinners, in the afterlife, being elaborately tortured in the nude — a woman with a sword in her back, a small crowd sitting in a vat of liquid pouring out of a giant nose, someone riding a platypus. The poster is so old that its color has faded.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, where McPhee has been a staff writer for more than 50 years, took McPhee’s class in 1981. “There was no fancy discussion of inspiration,” he told me. “You were in the room with a craftsman of the art, rather than a scholar or critic — to the point where I remember him passing around the weird mechanical pencils he used to use. It was all about technique. In the same spirit that a medical student, in gross anatomy, would learn what a spleen is and what it does, we would learn how stuff works in a piece of writing.”

Much of that stuff, of course, was structure. One of Remnick’s enduring memories is of watching Professor McPhee sketch out elaborate shapes on the chalkboard. One looked like a nautilus shell, with thick dots marking points along its swirl. Each of these dots was labeled: “Turtle,” “Stream Channelization,” “Weasel.” Down the side of the chart it said, simply, “ATLANTA.” An arrow next to the words “Rattlesnake, Muskrat, etc.” suggested that the swirl was meant to be read counterclockwise."



"John McPhee lives, and has almost always lived, in Princeton. I met him there in a large parking lot on the edge of campus, next to a lacrosse field, where he stood waiting next to his blue minivan. He wore an L.L. Bean button-down shirt with khaki pants and New Balance sneakers. The top half of his face held glasses, the bottom a short white beard that McPhee first grew, unintentionally, during a canoe trip in the 1970s and has not shaved off since. He is soft-spoken, easy and reserved. Although McPhee possesses intimidating stores of knowledge — he told me, as we walked around campus, the various geological formations that produced the stone used in the buildings — he seems to go out of his way to be unintimidating. Whenever we stepped outside, he put on a floppy hat.

McPhee proceeded to show me every inch of Princeton, campus and city, narrating as we went. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so thoroughly identified with a place. His memories are archaeological, many layers deep. Not 30 seconds into our orienting drive, we passed the empty lot where he used to play tackle football as a child, and where, at age 10, he first tasted alcohol. (“One thing it wasn’t was unpleasant,” he wrote recently.) The lot is no longer empty; it is occupied by a new house, boxy and modern. I asked McPhee if he felt any animosity toward the structure for stomping out his memories.

“No,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stomping grounds stomped out.”

McPhee was born in 1931. His father was the university’s sports doctor, and as a boy McPhee galloped after him to practices and games. By age 8, he was running onto the field alongside Princeton’s football team, wearing a custom-made miniature jersey. He played basketball in the old university gym, down the hall from his father’s office; when the building was locked, he knew which windows to climb in. McPhee was small and scrappy, and he played just about every sport that involved a ball. To this day, he serves as a faculty fellow of men’s lacrosse, observing Princeton’s practices and standing on the sidelines during games.

Every summer growing up, McPhee went to a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin, where his father was the camp doctor. One of his grandsons goes there today. (“I have 200 grandchildren,” McPhee told me; the number is actually 10.) McPhee speaks of Keewaydin as paradise, and his time there established many of the preoccupations of his life and work: canoeing, fishing, hiking. “I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe 20 or 30 years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college,” he writes in “Draft No 4.” “I checked off more than 90 percent.” Keewaydin put McPhee into deep contact with the American land, and introduced him to the challenge of navigation — how the idealized abstractions of plans and maps relate to the fertile mess of the actual world. The camp’s infirmary is now officially named after McPhee’s father. McPhee’s own name still sits in the rafters, an honor for having been the second-most-accomplished camper in 1940, when he was 9."



"McPhee is a homebody who incessantly roams. He inherited Princeton and its Ivy League resources as a kind of birthright, but he comes at the place from an odd angle: He was not the son of a banker or a politician or some glamorous alumnus but of the sports doctor. His view of the university is practical, hands-on — it is, to him, like a big intellectual hardware store from which he can pull geologists and historians and aviators and basketball players, as needed, to teach him something. He is able to run off to Alaska or Maine or Switzerland or Keewaydin because he always knows where he is coming back to.

“I grew up in the middle of town,” McPhee said. “It’s all here.”

McPhee took me to his office in the geology building, in a fake medieval turret that, before he moved in, was crowded with paint cans. Now its walls are full of maps: the Pacific Ocean floor, United States drainage, all the world’s volcanoes. On the carpet in the corner of the room, a box sat stuffed with dozens more, from the center of which protruded, almost shyly, a folded map of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His enormous dictionary, open to the letter P, sat on top of a minifridge. Multiple shelves were loaded with books published by former students, above which stood framed photos of McPhee’s wife, Yolanda, and his four daughters.

McPhee sat down at his computer and clicked around. Green text appeared on a black screen. That was all: green text. No icons, rulers, or scrollbars.

McPhee began to type in command lines.

x coded.*

dir coded.*

x coded-10.tff

x coded-16.tff

Up came portions of his book “The Founding Fish.” He typed in further commands, and hunks of green text went blinking around: a complete inventory of his published articles; his 1990 book, “Looking for a Ship.”

I felt as if I were in a computer museum, watching the curator take his favorite oddity for a spin. McPhee has never used a traditional word processor in his life. He is one of the world’s few remaining users of a program called Kedit, which he writes about, at great length, in “Draft No. 4.” Kedit was created in the 1980s and then tailored, by a friendly Princeton programmer, to fit McPhee’s elaborate writing process.

The process is hellacious. McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called “Structur” arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was “a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.”)

Every writer does some version of this: gathering, assessing, sorting, writing. But McPhee takes it to an almost-superhuman extreme. “If this sounds mechanical,” McPhee writes of his method, “its effect was absolutely the reverse. If the contents of the seventh folder were before me, the contents of twenty-nine other folders were out of sight. Every organizational aspect was behind me. The procedure eliminated nearly all distraction and concentrated just the material I had to deal with in a given day or week. It painted me into a corner, yes, but in doing so it freed me to write.”"



"McPhee’s great theme has always been conservation, in the widest possible sense of the word: the endless tension between presence and absence, staying and leaving, existence … [more]
johmcphee  writing  howwewrite  structure  2017  conservation  princeton  place  humility  process  kedit  organization  belonging  local  gaps  shyness  celebration  nature  geology  time  editing  outlining  naturalhistory  history  maps  mapping  writingprocess  focus  attention  awareness  legacy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Uses This / Dorian Taylor
"I do a lot of work on ordinary photocopier paper with a BIC mechanical pencil. If I have to travel, I use a Moleskine. I have a thing I made called a "cell calendar" which is just a piece of Bristol board that represents a week's worth of cells -- four-hour contiguous units of time in which the real thinking (and subsequent entropy-schlepping) gets done. When you subtract the irreducible maintenance time of sleep, food, hygiene and chores, I find you can max out on about three of these in a day. Emphasis on max out. When you're flying solo, the thing you consider to be your "actual job" only takes up a sliver of your waking life. With everything else going on, I'm lucky to get one of these in a day, and I might do a three-cell day only a handful of times a year."



"About the only object containing a CPU I've bought new in the last eight years is the second-crappiest possible tablet I could buy, and that was only because I wanted a multi-touch control surface for a tool I was working on."



"What I mean is this: We human beings reason over conceptual entities, and the relations that bind them. When these structures get too big to hold in our heads all at once, we outsource them to a representational medium, such as paper. Then we can take our time to comprehend them. However, a two-dimensional plane such as a piece of paper is still extremely limited in its capacity for coherently representing a complex conceptual structure, unless you resort to more and more esoteric mathematical representations. Even then, you're still screwed if you have a lot of data."



"I understand that we live in an increasingly interdependent world. I'm okay with interdependence. What I'm not okay with is one-way dependence, on particular people, business entities, robots, whatever. I'm not espousing some form of digital survivalism, I just want to be able to pick who I deal with, and if it doesn't work out, I want to be able to pick somebody else - all the way up and down the stack. Proximately what that means is that I can get my data out, and if I can't find a replacement for some particular operation, I can make one. Ultimately what it means, then, is that I understand my "dream system" as well as I need to in order to be sovereign over it.

App/platform vendors don't want sovereigns, of course. Their entire business models are designed around creating dependents, and then it's wall-to-wall ads and behavioural data sold out the back alley, all day long. I don't view that as a conspiracy though, it's more like "econophysics". There just hasn't been a strong enough alternative yet."
doriantaylor  time  timemanagement  attention  2017  usesthis  tools  interdependence  technology  thesetup 
october 2017 by robertogreco
don't look | sara hendren
"While reading to my three children at night, my youngest, age 7, will often be lolling in bed while I narrate. Or maybe he’ll be fiddling with Legos or other blocks as he listens. But lately, when the action of the story gets intense, or a scene grows emotional, or somehow the suspense elongates, my son’s whole body will wind down till he’s perfectly still. He will train his eyes on my face, watching the words come out as he listens. He’s the youngest, so it’s likely that his brain is having to assimilate at least one new vocabulary word per paragraph by inference, all while he’s being carried along by what happens, and then what happens next.

This perfect quietude usually only lasts a dozen seconds or so at a time, after which he’ll go back to kneading his pillow or looking at the stickers on his bed frame while the story continues. But each time this happens, I’m aware of it. I can see him in my peripheral vision. And for many reasons, at least right now, I don’t meet his eyes. I keep reading.

Sometimes I’m so tempted! I have an instinct to share his attention. To break the spell of the narrative to say: See here, here we are, watching the same characters move their way through time. That would be the completion of one kind of circuit: you and I, caught up in this same tale together.

But I hold back. I don’t want to intrude on his experience of just the story itself, being delivered to him aurally and mostly without my mediation as to what things mean, what context we’re missing. He is having his own encounter, and that’s another kind of circuitry altogether. It’s one to which I’m sometimes best as a witness. Because this is also how a story does its work: sending a charge to its boy and back again, blooming both partial and replete in his singular comprehension.

Part of parenting is surely this—acting as nothing more and nothing less than a hedge around experiences we may watch but perhaps refrain from sharing. All I can think now is: Keep reading. Don’t look."
sarahendren  2017  restraint  parenting  observation  assessment  readalouds  intrusion  cv  canon  comprehension  constructivism  stories  literature  witness  sharing  narrative  quietude  stillness  concentration  attention 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Idle Words
"The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter’s area of expertise.

And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks. Because Google and Facebook have a duopoly on online advertising, the only measure of success in publishing is whether a story goes viral on social media. Authors are evaluated by how individual stories perform online, and face constant pressure to make them more arresting. Highly technical pieces are farmed out to junior freelancers working under strict time limits. Corrections, if they happen at all, are inserted quietly through ‘ninja edits’ after the fact.

There is no real penalty for making mistakes, but there is enormous pressure to frame stories in whatever way maximizes page views. Once those stories get picked up by rival news outlets, they become ineradicable. The sheer weight of copycat coverage creates the impression of legitimacy. As the old adage has it, a lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is pulling its boots on.

Earlier this year, when the Guardian published an equally ignorant (and far more harmful) scare piece about a popular secure messenger app, it took a group of security experts six months of cajoling and pressure to shame the site into amending its coverage. And the Guardian is a prestige publication, with an independent public editor. Not every story can get such editorial scrutiny on appeal, or attract the sympathetic attention of Teen Vogue.

The very machine learning systems that Channel 4’s article purports to expose are eroding online journalism’s ability to do its job.

Moral panics like this one are not just harmful to musket owners and model rocket builders. They distract and discredit journalists, making it harder to perform the essential function of serving as a check on the powerful.

The real story of machine learning is not how it promotes home bomb-making, but that it's being deployed at scale with minimal ethical oversight, in the service of a business model that relies entirely on psychological manipulation and mass surveillance. The capacity to manipulate people at scale is being sold to the highest bidder, and has infected every aspect of civic life, including democratic elections and journalism.

Together with climate change, this algorithmic takeover of the public sphere is the biggest news story of the early 21st century. We desperately need journalists to cover it. But as they grow more dependent on online publishing for their professional survival, their capacity to do this kind of reporting will disappear, if it has not disappeared already."
algorithms  amazon  internet  journalism  climatechange  maciejceglowski  moralpanic  us  clickbait  attention  ethics  machinelearning  maciejcegłowski 
september 2017 by robertogreco
“Students as Creators” and the Theology of the Attention Economy | Hapgood
"I was so struck this week by Benjamin Doxtdator’s latest post on showing students how to engage with social media in a way that subverts its purposes. On listening as an act of resistance. Of getting past glorifying connection as an end to that important question of purpose. I wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts it brought to mind, all of them far less organized and insightful than Benjamin’s work. It also draws on work by Chris Gilliard and Amy Collier. I hope to offer it as just a piece of what I hope is an emerging critique of how connectivism and constructivism has been practiced and sold in past years, and how we might reorient and reposition it knowing what we know now.

The particular brick I want to hammer at today is our decade-long infatuation with “students as creators”.

I have become deeply skeptical over the past four or five years about the “students as creators” rhetoric. It’s not that I don’t believe that students shouldn’t create – my best and most rewarding projects have always been about students creating public work on the web that makes the lives of others better. I’ve also seen the immense joy and motivation that a maker lab can provide students. And my new push for info-environmentalism is centered in producing things that make the web a better place. I believe in making stuff, and still align myself with constructivism as a philosophy, most days of the week.

But the rhetoric around “students as creators” is unbelievably bad. It parrots all of capitalism’s worst theology: we want to make “makers, not takers”, we value “doers, not thinkers.” As I said a few years back, the idea that universities should value “producers” and push our students towards “production” is actually the least subversive idea you could possibly have at a university. The most subversive idea you could have at a university these days is that you might think a few connected thoughts without throwing them into either publication or the attention economy. That you might think about things for the purpose of being a better human, without an aim to produce anything at all.

Likewise, I sometimes think we’ve convinced ourselves that the attention economy, when implemented on top of open source, is liberating. And so we celebrate with the class when students get comments from outsiders, or have had their posts go viral. We talk about building identity, portfolios, public persona, getting noticed. We don’t realize that we begin to sound more and more like a LinkedIn marketing drone.

And I’ve come to think that, in today’s world, one of the most valuable lessons we can give to students is not “how to build their identity on the web,” but how to selectively obscure it. How to transcend it. How to personally track it. How to make a difference in the world while not being fully public. To teach students not just to avoid Google, but to use Google safely (or as safely as possible). To have them look at their information environments not as vehicles of just self-expression, but as ways to transcend their own prejudices. To read and listen much much more than we speak. And to see what is needed through the lens of privilege – teaching the beauty of deference to the students with self-confidence and social capital, while teaching marginalized students to find communities that can provide them with the self-confidence they need.

And in different contexts, of course, the same student may need both types of instruction.

This post is a bit stream of consciousness, and so I want to pose a question here. Which experience do you think is more educational:

• A student runs a blog on open source software that expresses their opinions on selected chapters of Ready Player One – and gets a comment by author Ernest Cline!!!

• A heterosexual cis student resolves (individually) to follow 20 trans leaders on Twitter and retweet two things they say a week (with the student possibly using a pseudonymous account not tied to their identity). Other students examine their own bubbles and do similar things.

Story number one is the sort of story I used to tell ten years ago at conferences (albeit about different books). But that was before the attention economy swallowed democracy and everything else. Today I’m far more interested in story two, a story that is about not producing, and staying relatively invisible.

Attention (and knowledge of how to get that attention) is still important, of course. But attention for what? For what purpose? I’ve moved from the question of “How do we express ourselves on the internet?” to “How do we be better people on the internet?” Or maybe most importantly, “How do we use the internet to become better people?” Sometimes that involves creating, of course. But if we wish to do more than reinforce the rhetoric of the attention economy, we have to stop seeing that as some sort of peak activity. These skills aren’t a pyramid you climb, and creation is not a destination. Graduating a few more students who understand that will likely make the world a better place for everyone."
attention  productivity  socialmedia  mikecaulfield  2017  attentioneconomy  listenting  internet  web  online  benjamindoxtdator  sfsh  socialcapital  presentationofself  creativity  creation  resistance  listening  thinking  cv 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Learning how to learn again
"I continue to be fascinated by how slow, seemingly inefficient methods make my self-education more helpful and more meaningful.

Example: This week I was reading Jan Swafford’s introduction to classical music, Language of the Spirit, and I wanted to see the lives of all the composers on a timeline. Instead of googling for one, I decided to just make one for myself with a pencil in my notebook. It was kind of a pain, but I had a feeling I’d learn something. Pretty much immediately I was able to see connections that Swafford wrote about that just hadn’t sunken in yet, like how Haydn’s life overlapped both Bach’s and Beethoven’s while covering Mozart’s completely. Had I googled a pre-made timeline, I’m not completely sure I would’ve studied it closely enough to get as much out of it as the one I drew.

Another example: I copy passages of text that I like longhand in my notebook, and it not only helps me remember the texts, it makes me slow down enough so that I can actually read them and think about them, even internalize them. Something happens when I copy texts into my notebook that does not happen when I cut and paste them into Evernote or onto my blog.

A lot of this way of studying has been inspired by my son, Owen.

Even before I had kids, I wrote, “We learn by copying… Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.” Funny now that I have a four-year-old budding mechanic, who actually spends a great deal of his time copying photos and drawings of cars, taking them apart in his mind and putting them back together on the page to figure out how they work.

What I love about my son’s drawings is that he does not really care about them once he’s finished them. To him, they are dead artifacts, a scrap of by-product from his learning process. (For me, they’re tiny masterpieces to hang on the fridge.) Milton Glaser says that “drawing is thinking.” I think that drawing is learning, too, and one thing Owen has taught me is that it is more valuable as a verb than it is as a noun.

I felt sure that my children would teach me more than I taught them. I was not anticipating that they would actually teach me how to learn again…"
austinkleon  education  learning  howwelearn  reading  howweread  notetaking  2017  children  parenting  miltonglaser  howethink  memory  notebooks  janswafford  drawing  unlearning  copying  closereading  attention  writing 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting - The New York Times
"In my father’s house, my stepmother cooks dinner. First she sweats the onions, then she sears the meat. On special occasions, she mixes dough with flour ground from enset, a plant that resembles the banana tree.

Enset has roots that are white, and when they’re ground into powder, it’s packed into little baggies. When my father travels to Ethiopia, he returns with these white baggies tucked into the pockets of his suitcase, which is one reason, among many, that it is difficult for him to cross the border and come home.

A few years ago, he began to disappear. First he skipped the onions, then he skipped the meat. Eventually he skipped the special occasions, and when he arrived home, after the baptism or graduation or wedding had long since ended, he had no desire to eat. When I asked him to explain his absences, he said, ‘‘Yes.’’ When I asked him where he kept disappearing off to, he said, ‘‘O.K.’’

If it weren’t for my father’s age (he’s 63), or for his eventual return, I would be tempted to call his unexplained absences by a name popular among young people: ghosting. The millennial neologism for an age-old conundrum, ‘‘ghosting’’ describes the situation in which a person — Tinder match, roommate, friend — exits a relationship swiftly and without discernible cause. Though its iterations are diffuse and occur along varying degrees of intimacy, the word is generally used by those who are left behind: ‘‘He ghosted me,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted on.’’

Because I fear my father’s absence, I mimic his behavior and hope he might not be forgotten. I often close the channels of communication that I am expected to sustain, texting people I love only when I feel like it and answering the phone only when the caller is unknown. In November, the morning after the presidential election, a childhood friend sent me a text: ‘‘Sup?’’ I told him I was scared for my family. When he wrote back later that day to let me know that he, too, was scared — about his LSATs — I stopped responding; we haven’t spoken since. At a coffee shop, an Australian asked me what I was reading. I said, ‘‘ ‘Great Expectations,’ a terrible novel.’’ He told me he had gotten his Ph.D. studying apartheid and then wondered aloud which was more depressing: apartheid or the work of Charles Dickens. When he asked if I wanted to get a drink later that week to continue the conversation, I said, ‘‘O.K.’’ but never showed up.

According to the internet, this is very bad behavior. If you care about someone, and even if you don’t, you are meant to explain — in terms both clean and fair — why you are unable to fulfill the terms of their attachment: ‘‘I feel sick,’’ or ‘‘I have depression,’’ or ‘‘You are boring, and I am disappointed.’’ Those of us who neglect to disclose the seed of our indifference, or neglect to disclose the fact of our indifference altogether, are typically assumed to be selfish.

It’s no coincidence that ghosting arose as a collective fascination at a time of peak connectivity. When friends and acquaintances are almost always a swipe and a tap within reach, disappearing without a trace cuts especially deep. But the very function of ghosting is to halt the flow of information, and nearly every explainer written in its name — ‘‘How to Deal With Being Ghosted,’’ ‘‘How to Tell If You’re About to Be Ghosted,’’ ‘‘Why Friends Ghost on Even Their Closest Pals’’ — berates those who ghost for intentionally spinning silence into pain. Ghosters withhold information whose admission would be likely to provide relief in others, manipulating the terms of friendship, kinship and romantic love to appear in favor of a life lived in private.

If healthy relationships — especially in the digital age — are predicated on answerability, it makes sense that a lack of communication would feel like a breach of trust. But articulating negative feelings with tact is a task most often assigned to those whose feelings are assumed to be trivial. When fear for my family — black, migratory and therefore targets of the state — is equated with the mundane anxiety of a standardized test, I find it a relief to absent myself from the calculation. Saying, without anger, ‘‘This is how you hurt me’’ feels routine, like a ditty, and articulating the need for isolation — ‘‘Now I intend to disappear’’ — is always a betrayal of the need itself. Because society demands that people of color both accept offense and facilitate its reconciliation, we are rarely afforded the privacy we need. Ghosting, then, provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.

Some months after my father began to arrive at dinner on time, he drove me through the neighborhood by his office, a route we had driven many times before. I asked him, once again, where he had run off to all those nights. Pulling over to the side of the road, he said, ‘‘There is an excellent meditation studio inside that building.’’ I looked at the building, which looked like nothing. Confused, I asked him what he knew about meditation. ‘‘I know much about meditation,’’ he told me. ‘‘I came here once daily. I meditated, I ate my dinner and, when I was finished, I returned home.’’

The information, it seemed, had become necessary. My father, like the rest of us, was just trying to get better."
antiblackness  poc  blackness  ghosting  2017  meditation  self-improvement  reltionships  digitalage  connectedness  answerability  emotions  flight  freedom  provacy  solitude  inwardness  attention  communication  isolation  kinship  disappearance 
august 2017 by robertogreco
The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube Kids - The Atlantic
"Surprise eggs and slime are at the center of an online realm that’s changing the way the experts think about human development."



"And here’s where the ouroboros factor comes in: Kids watch the same kinds of videos over and over. Videomakers take notice of what’s most popular, then mimic it, hoping that kids will click on their stuff. When they do, YouTube’s algorithm takes notice, and recommends those videos to kids. Kids keep clicking on them, and keep being offered more of the same. Which means video makers keep making those kinds of videos—hoping kids will click.

This is, in essence, how all algorithms work. It’s how filter bubbles are made. A little bit of computer code tracks what you find engaging—what sorts of videos do you watch most often, and for the longest periods of time?—then sends you more of that kind of stuff. Viewed a certain way, YouTube Kids is offering programming that’s very specifically tailored to what children want to see. Kids are actually selecting it themselves, right down to the second they lose interest and choose to tap on something else. The YouTube app, in other words, is a giant reflection of what kids want. In this way, it opens a special kind of window into a child’s psyche.

But what does it reveal?

“Up until very recently, surprisingly few people were looking at this,” says Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In the last year or so, we’re actually seeing some research into apps and touchscreens. It’s just starting to come out.”

Kids’ videos are among the most watched content in YouTube history. This video, for example, has been viewed more than 2.3 billion times, according to YouTube’s count:

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYniUCGPGLs ]



"The vague weirdness of these videos aside, it’s actually easy to see why kids like them. “Who doesn’t want to get a surprise? That’s sort of how all of us operate,” says Sandra Calvert, the director of the Children’s Digital Media Center at Georgetown University. In addition to surprises being fun, many of the videos are basically toy commercials. (This video of a person pressing sparkly Play-Doh onto chintzy Disney princess figurines has been viewed 550 million times.) And they let kids tap into a whole internet’s worth of plastic eggs and perceived power. They get to choose what they watch. And kids love being in charge, even in superficial ways.

“It’s sort of like rapid-fire channel surfing,” says Michael Rich, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health. “In many ways YouTube Kids is better suited to the attention span of a young child—just by virtue of its length—than something like a half-hour or hour broadcast program can be.”

Rich and others compare the app to predecessors like Sesame Street, which introduced short segments within a longer program, in part to keep the attention of the young children watching. For decades, researchers have looked at how kids respond to television. Now they’re examining the way children use mobile apps—how many hours they’re spending, which apps they’re using, and so on."



"“You have to do what the algorithm wants for you,” says Nathalie Clark, the co-creator of a similarly popular channel, Toys Unlimited, and a former ICU nurse who quit her job to make videos full-time. “You can’t really jump back and forth between themes.”

What she means is, once YouTube’s algorithm has determined that a certain channel is a source of videos about slime, or colors, or shapes, or whatever else—and especially once a channel has had a hit video on a given topic—videomakers stray from that classification at their peril. “Honestly, YouTube picks for you,” she says. “Trending right now is Paw Patrol, so we do a lot of Paw Patrol.”

There are other key strategies for making a YouTube Kids video go viral. Make enough of these things and you start to get a sense of what children want to see, she says. “I wish I could tell you more,” she added, “But I don’t want to introduce competition. And, honestly, nobody really understands it. ”

The other thing people don’t yet understand is how growing up in the mobile internet age will change the way children think about storytelling. “There’s a rich set of literature showing kids who are reading more books are more imaginative,” says Calvert, of the Children’s Digital Media Center. “But in the age of interactivity, it’s no longer just consuming what somebody else makes. It’s also making your own thing.”

In other words, the youngest generation of app users is developing new expectations about narrative structure and informational environments. Beyond the thrill a preschooler gets from tapping a screen, or watching The Bing Bong Song video for the umpteenth time, the long-term implications for cellphone-toting toddlers are tangled up with all the other complexities of living in a highly networked on-demand world."
algorithms  adriennelafrance  youtube  2017  children  edtech  attention  nathalieclark  michaelrich  psychology  youtubekids  rachelbar  behavior  toddlers  repetition  storytelling  narrative  preschoolers 
july 2017 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
Ethnographies of Conferences and Trade Fairs - Shaping | Hege Høyer Leivestad | Springer
"This anthology is an attempt to make sense of conferences and trade fairs as phenomena in contemporary society. The authors describe how these large-scale professional gatherings have become key sites for making and negotiating both industries and individual professions. In fact, during the past few decades, conferences and trade fairs have become a significant global industry in their own right. The editors assert that large-scale professional gatherings are remarkable events that require deeper analysis and scholarly attention."

[via: https://twitter.com/AlJavieera/status/883044558099030016 ]
ethnography  conferences  tradefairs  economics  via:javierarbona  books  attention  academia  scholarship  professionalization  highered  highereducation 
july 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."



"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"



"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."



"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:

[video]

And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."



"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."



"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Second Sight - The New Yorker
"Movement in the margins is not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in order to maintain visibility."



"The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention."



"Years later, I lost faith. One form of binocular vision gave way to another. The world was now a series of interleaved apparitions. The thing was an image that could also bear an image. If one of the advantages of irreligion was an acceptance of others, that benefit was strangely echoed in the visual plane, which granted the things seen within the photographic rectangle a radical equality. This in part was why signs, pictures, ads, and murals came to mean so much: they were neither more nor less than the “real” elements by which they were framed. They were not to be excluded, nor were the spaces between things. “We see the world”: this simple statement becomes (Merleau-Ponty has also noted this) a tangled tree of meanings. Which world? See how? We who? Once absolute faith is no longer possible, perception moves forward on a case-by-case basis. The very contingency and brevity of vision become the long-sought miracle."



"The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved, and the images of things have become things themselves."



"The body has to adjust to the environment, to the challenges in the environment. The body isn’t wrong, isn’t “disabled.” The environment itself—gravity, air, solidity or the lack of it, et cetera—is what is somehow wrong: ill-matched to the body’s abilities, inimical to its verticality, stability, or mobility."



"I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake. It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. 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."
tejucole  2017  margins  edges  attention  regularity  everyday  irregularity  visibility  invisibility  acceptance  belief  vision  photography  borders  liminalspaces  perception  brevity  ephemerality  adjustment  adaptability  disability  stability  mobility  verticality  body  bodies  contingency  sign  pictures  ads  images  advertising  between  betweenness  stimuli  liminality  ephemeral  disabilities 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The subscription paradox - Six Colors
"When Todd Vaziri recently updated his chart of the length of John Gruber’s The Talk Show—which prompted me to update my chart of The Incomparable’s length—I’ve been reminded of something I learned from my days in the magazine industry. As P.T. Barnum (presumably) said, “Leave them wanting more.”

This isn’t showbiz claptrap—it’s a real effect. What makes someone a happy magazine subscriber, newsletter reader, or television viewer is the feeling that you’re consuming all of something you enjoy. You get to the end and still wish there were more, making you anticipate the next installment.

There are two danger zones. The first is if people just don’t like what you’re making. That’s an obvious one. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, you’ll lose them as a customer, and rightly so.

But then there’s another, less obvious danger zone: People who like your stuff but just can’t finish it all. You’d think that this shouldn’t matter, that if you only ever consume half of everything but enjoy it all, that should be good enough. But it’s not. Most people hate feeling that they’re not using everything they’re paying for. (I know the feeling, at least when it comes to Dropbox storage.)

I’ve had this described to me as “The New Yorker Problem.” People who enjoy reading The New Yorker still cancel their subscriptions, because they’ve got a few issues piled up. When we were designing the digital edition of PCWorld magazine after the print edition shut down, we spent a lot of time debating what the ideal magazine length should be. We could’ve put all the stuff we were generating on the web in there, making it seem like a great value… but it would’ve resulted in enormous issues that few, if any, readers could get through.

I’ve had the same experience with newsletters I’ve subscribed to on the Internet. I get a few daily newsletters, and I like them, but the fact that I just can’t find the time to read every one of them makes me frustrated. Yes, it would literally make me a happier subscriber if they gave me less of what I’m paying for. Any more and it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This may not be entirely logical, but I believe it’s true. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to bend the average run time of The Incomparable, which was at one point threatening to break 90 minutes, back toward an hour. Of course, some people would love it if we’d do two hours every week—but I feel like we’d be risking overstaying our welcome if we did that. I don’t want episodes to pile up. If you get many episodes behind on a podcast, unsubscribing starts to seem like a logical next step.

It’s something for all of us who create things on the Internet to keep in mind: People have a near-infinite supply of content at their disposal now. We should be respectful of their time and always leave them wanting more. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”"
subscriptions  2017  brevity  attention  newsletters  jasonsnell  thenewyorker  longform  podcasts  time  completion  finishing  guilt 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Eight Theses Regarding Social Media | L.M. Sacasas
"1. Social media are the fidget spinners of the soul.

2. Each social media platform is a drug we self-prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life, and we are constantly experimenting with the cocktail.

3. Law of Digital Relativity: Perception of space and time is relative to the digital density of the observer’s experience.

4. Affect overload is a more serious problem than information overload. The product of both is moral apathy and mental exhaustion.

5. While text and image flourish online, the psycho-dynamics of digital culture are most akin to those of oral cultures (per Walter Ong).

6. Just as the consumer economy was boundless in its power to commodify, so the attention economy is boundless in its power to render reality standing reserve for the project of identity construction/performance. The two processes, of course, are not unrelated.

7. In the attention economy, strategic silence is power. But, because of the above, it is also a deeply demanding practice of self-denial.

8. Virtue is self-forgetting. The structures of social media make it impossible to forget yourself."
michaelsacasas  2017  lmsacasas  socialmedia  virtue  forgetting  attention  attentioneconomy  economics  power  silence  self-denial  walterong  figeting  addiction  emotions  digitalrelativity  relativity  space  time  perception  experience  online  internet  affectoverload  apathy  exhaustion  infooverload  secondaryorality  oralcultures  images  text  commodification  identity  performance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
An ethics of attention in the classroom - Long View on Education
"I take critical pedagogy as my starting point and not so-called constructivism, which leaves out what Paulo Freire calls “revolutionary futurity” in Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire wrote that “a deepened consciousness of their situation leads people to apprehend that situation as an historical reality susceptible of transformation.” Nothing is inevitable, and for revolutionary action, people “must perceive their state not as fated and unalterable, but merely as limiting — and therefore challenging.”

Agency is about recognizing and building our principled interdependence with people and things. Keri Facer writes, “Principled interdependence implies a recognition of the extent to which we are dependent upon other people, wider institutions, environment and tools to be able to act in the world; and of the extent to which our own actions therefore also have implications for other people and for their agency in turn.” (55)

Making teachers completely responsible for student engagement doesn’t build agency in kids; it builds consumers and manufactures audience for Fox New.

Students will need to learn how to resist spectacle and read deeply and critically, to seek out the quiet and silenced voices. They will need to learn to actively engage themselves and lift-up others.

Learning is difficult work and we are surrounded by targets that have been engineered to grab our attention. Most of these targets such as Snapchat serve a profit model."



"I let kids make all kinds of choices about their behavior – where to sit, whether to listen to music, to use their phones, to use a fidget – with the goal that they reflect and learn about what they bring to the dynamic and interaction. We need to create room for them to reflect and say, “I ought to have paid more attention and tried harder.” Reflexively and immediately blaming the teacher and the lesson doesn’t leave room for this dialog. Nor does enacting blanket bans.

We need to know and care about our students, adjusting our instruction to what they need. That also means talking with them about whether or not their behaviors are helping them learn.

Yes, engagement is a problem, but it’s a political problem and not merely a problem about lesson design. Studying powerful topics and using critical lenses can help engage students, as does offering them choice in their work.

Many people are vulnerable, lack power and voice, and we need to give them attention. Teachers have power over students, but are also targets of discrimination and bias. Look at course evaluations for female professors.

What if students play with their fidgets instead of listening to a fellow student who is brave enough to speak about racism or sexism, their experience not conforming to their perceived gender, or why they hate the R-word. Sometimes, people just need to listen."
education  technology  agency  edutainment  benjamindoxtdator  2017  snapchat  socialmedia  sfsh  interdependence  attention  progressive  teaching  howweteach  paulofreire  kerifacer  billferriter  sethgodin  consumerism  neoliberalism  michaelapple  gender  criticalpdagogy  pedagogy  choice  fidgetspinners  engagement  care  caring  bias  discrimination  behavior 
may 2017 by robertogreco
We need a "slow food" movement for higher education — Quartz
"The academy has moved to the fast lane. Corporatization has sped up the clock, compromising teaching, scholarship, and collegiality. The “slow movement”—originating in slow food—challenges the frantic pace and homogenization of contemporary culture. We believe that adopting the principles of “slow” into the professional practice of academia is an effective way to alleviate time poverty, preserve humanistic education, and resist the destructive effects of the corporate university.

“Slow,” Carlo Petrini makes clear in Slow Food Nation (2007), is not really about speed. It’s about the difference “between attention and distraction; slowness, in fact, is not so much a question of duration as of an ability to distinguish and evaluate, with the propensity to cultivate pleasure, knowledge, and quality.”

Being a professor is a privilege. We are not advocating slacking off, letting junior faculty do the heavy lifting, taking the summers off, missing deadlines, or doing less in class. Our view, advocated in our book The Slow Professor (2016), is rather about protecting the work that matters. Due to expanding workloads, the casualization of labor, the rise of technology, the consumer model of education, and increasing managerialism, the nature of the academy has changed dramatically in the past generation. Universities are now businesses. Teaching and learning are increasingly standardized, emphasizing the transfer of skills and time to completion. Both are now assessed in quantitative rather than qualitative terms. Research now is about winning grants and generating output—all as quickly as possible. Collegiality now is about useful networking.

Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary life. In order to protect the intellectual and pedagogic life of the university, we need to create opportunities to think and to shift our sense of time. This might mean getting away from having everything scheduled down to the minute. We can’t do our best work if we are frantic.

It is also crucial to be aware of the structural changes in the university so we don’t blame ourselves for not keeping up. And we should not forget the joy that is possible in teaching and scholarship. We are drawn to the slow movement because its critique of contemporary culture insists on the importance of pleasure and conviviality. Talking about individual stress and trying to find ways to foster wellbeing have political implications. If we are stressed, we feel powerless to change the larger context. In the corporate university, aggressive individualism and the familiar bottom line dominate at the expense of community and social critique.

Slow teaching is not about lowering standards. Rather, it is about reducing our distractedness so that we can focus on our students and our subjects. We need to be able to concentrate on creating a convivial classroom in which our students can meet the challenges—and we can foster the joys—of learning a discipline.

Slow scholarship is about resisting the pressure to reduce thinking to the imperative of immediate usefulness, marketability, and grant generation. It’s about preserving the idea of scholarship as open-ended enquiry. It will improve the quality of teaching and learning.

In the current climate, most of us simply don’t have time for genuine collegiality. As academics become more isolated from each other, we are also becoming more compliant—more likely to see structural problems, including those of general working conditions, as individual failings. When that happens, resistance to corporatization seems futile. Collegiality, properly understood as a community practice, is about mutual support rather than works-in-progress, about sharing our failures as well as our successes, and about collaboration as well as competition. It offers solidarity.

We acknowledge the systemic inequities in the university, but we believe that a slow approach is potentially relevant across the spectrum of academic positions. Slow time is inimical to the corporate university. Scholars in tenured positions, given the protection that we enjoy, have an obligation to try to improve in the working climate for all of us. We are concerned that the bar is being continually raised for faculty and for graduate students. We need to reflect on what we are modeling for each other and the next generation of academics."
slow  sloweducation  highered  highereducation  barbaraseeber  maggieberg  2017  collegiality  time  carlopetrini  slowness  pleasure  knowledge  quality  attention  distraction 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. - The New York Times
"The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning."



"In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.

It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.

Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.

But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”

Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”

This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.

Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.

We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.

What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?

And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.

But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear."
susancain  leadership  leaders  sfsh  followers  community  courage  honesty  purpose  2017  colleges  universities  admissions  canon  small  slow  helenvendler  arts  art  artists  followership  soccer  football  us  values  credibility  military  authority  power  dominance  ivyleague  admission  capitalism  politics  elitism  adamgrant  introverts  extroverts  allsorts  attention  edg  srg  care  caring  maintenance  futbol  sports 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Zines - The New York Times
"As a lonely teenager growing up in Virginia, I fed off any pop culture that could show me different ways of being from what I saw on “The Cosby Show” reruns or read about in an Ann M. Martin book. This was the early 2000s, before social platforms had taken off: LiveJournal was still in its infancy; Tumblr had not yet been created. Friendster and Myspace, the most popular of the networks that did exist, were more about sharing perfectly angled photos than having conversations or bouncing ideas off someone. When, in college, a spirited English teaching assistant (who once canceled class for the week to attend a riot-grrrl punk reunion show in Washington) introduced me to zines and the early feminist publishing movement of the 1990s, I felt as if I had been given a lifeline to the outside world. Those self-published, unofficial magazines offered tangible glimpses of radical feminism, social-justice movements, queer history and subcultures that I always knew existed but had little access to. The world seemed to open up for me.

In theory, the maturation of the internet should have killed off the desire for zines entirely. The web is a Gutenberg press on steroids, predicated on free software platforms created by companies that invest considerable sums to lure people to their sites and make exactly the kind of content I craved growing up. Millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of posts are published to social-media sites each day. And yet somehow, it can feel impossible to engage with new ideas, even as our compulsive inability to stop scrolling exposes us to an unending stream of new content. Yes, you can catch tweetstorms on Twitter, watch someone’s life unfold on Instagram, do deep dives into hashtags on Tumblr or watch video diaries on YouTube that explore diverse perspectives, but the clutter of everything else happening at the same time online can make it difficult to really digest and absorb the perspective being offered.

Which might be part of the reason zines never disappeared — and are even available in abundance in 2017. A few months ago, I walked into a Laundromat in Brooklyn where a former cellphone kiosk had been transformed into a feminist queer shop called the Troll Hole. I was thrilled to find it stocked with the same kinds of small booklets I consumed in college, though much better designed and produced. They contained nonbinary coming-of-age stories, photo essays featuring gender nonconforming people of Latin-American descent, trans Muslim narratives, first-generation essays, fat-positive imagery. I scooped up as many as I could rationally read in one sitting.

Many of the offline zine projects I came across have some online presence, too. Sula Collective, for example, which describes itself as a journal by and for people of color, actually started out on the web as an art magazine for people growing up “in the suburbs and Deep South,” as one of its founders, Kassandra Piñero, put it to me. It was meant for anyone who “didn’t have access to galleries and events.” Piñero is 21, and the only world she has ever known is one that is also lived partly online. But she found that publishing on the internet often had the unintended and unconscious effect of causing her to cater to the aesthetics of those platforms. “The internet should be a place with no rules, and freedom, but it’s not,” Piñero said. “There is a certain pressure to conform to certain aesthetics.” It was something I had noticed myself. Each social-media platform tends to reward certain behaviors and styles of posting, all in the interest of building fans and followers who are invested in the performance of a persona (maybe even more so than the Geppetto-like person orchestrating it all). Instagram is a place for intimate-seeming photos, Twitter for clever quips and collaborative memes. Facebook demands an unmitigated rawness that can be terrifying at times. With all, the works are often made to fit the platform, not the other way around.

Producing zines can offer an unexpected respite from the scrutiny on the internet, which can be as oppressive as it is liberating. Shakar Mujukian, publisher of The Hye-Phen — a zine by and about queer and trans Armenians who, as he puts it, often “feel as ignored and invisible as their motherland” — told me via email that just because technology can fully replace something doesn’t mean it should. He described zines as the precursor to personal blogs, but personal blogs have been on the decline over the last decade. And zines can’t get replies or hateful remarks in a comments section. Publishing ideas outside the mainstream can make an author incredibly vulnerable; the web is polluted with a culture of toxicity that invites attacks. Zines, in Mujukian’s vision, “are essentially about reclamation. You get to make your own media and define your own narrative in the way you want to and can.”

Karen Gisonny is the periodicals librarian at the New York Public Library and specializes in alternative publications and zines. We’ve spoken over the years about alternative media and the role that it plays among the people who make it and consume it. She noted that zines allow for an “element of freedom that’s not beholden to anyone.” We think of the web as a place for freedom, but with zines, authors control every aspect, from the design to the distribution. When I visited her at the library, she showed me some of her newest acquisitions, which included the first issue of Dr. RAD’s Queer Health Show, a guide for self-exams and checkups for all gendered bodies, and Blue Collar Review, a journal of progressive working-class literature that is made in Virginia. She explained that zines could be seen as a historical record of the current moment. To their creators, zines can feel like necessary means of defiance, even resistance to cultural norms that rarely acknowledge them.

Devin N. Morris, who edits and publishes 3 Dot Zine, told me that he sees self-publishing as a political and radical act. He’s a young queer artist from Baltimore, and the zines he creates reflect that experience and create a historical narrative that otherwise would be ignored. For him, the act of creating a zine is more about defining his reality on his terms and legitimizing it than it is about the novelty of making indie media and distributing it. It was a sentiment I heard from almost every zine creator I spoke to. Morris, who recently hosted an indie-press fair at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, said that zines have a way of encouraging people to have “inspiring interactions in real life.” He described a hunger to physically interact beyond simple likes or direct messages. Social apps weren’t made to inspire that desire; they were created so that there would be no need.

And it perhaps reflects why zines can feel so much more intimate than a Facebook post. The deliberation and care that goes into making them is important. The internet is especially adept at compressing humanity and making it easy to forget there are people behind tweets, posts and memes."
jennawortham  zines  2017  publishing  internet  web  online  livejournal  tumblr  myspace  friendster  twitter  tweetstorms  youtube  attention  clutter  karengisonny  alternative  classideas  devinmorris  3dotzine  thehye-phen  shakarmujukian  kassandrapiñero  sulacollective  care  craft  deliberation  politics  radicalism  artapp 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Remembering Seymour Papert « LRB blog
"We learn by making, doing, constructing. It’s great to think with objects we find in the world. But when we get to build, the great becomes awesome. And these two children, with a computer, were building something of their own in a whole new way. Seymour saw that the computer would make it easier for thinking itself to become an object of thought. When I began to interview children learning to program, I could hear how right he was. It was dramatic. One 13-year-old told me: ‘When you program a computer, you put a little piece of your mind into the computer’s mind and you come to see yourself differently.’ That is heady stuff.

Seymour called the identification of mind and object, mind and machine, the ‘ego-syntonic’ quality of programming. He used the language of syntonicity deliberately, to create a resonance between the language of computation and the language of psychoanalysis. And then he heightened the resonance by talking about body syntonicity as well. Which brings me to the boy draped around the Turtle. Seymour loved to get children to figure out how to program by ‘playing Turtle’. He loved that children could experience their ideas through the Turtle’s physical actions. That they could connect body-to-body with something that came from their mind.

We love the objects we think with; we think with the objects we love. So teach people with the objects they are in love with. And if you are a teacher, measure your success by whether your students are falling in love with their objects. Because if they are, the way they think about themselves will also be changing."



"In his explorations of the ways objects carry identity as well as ideas, you can see Seymour’s desire to take the cool studies of learning that were his Piagetian heritage and infuse them not only with ideas about making things, about action and construction, but also with ideas about feeling things, about love and connection.

At the time of the juggling lesson, Seymour was deep in his experiments into what he called ‘loud thinking’. It was what he was asking my grandfather to do. What are you trying? What are you feeling? What does it remind you of? If you want to think about thinking and the real process of learning, try to catch yourself in the act of learning. Say what comes to mind. And don’t censor yourself. If this sounds like free association in psychoanalysis, it is. (When I met Seymour, he was in analysis with Greta Bibring.) And if it sounds like it could you get you into personal, uncharted, maybe scary terrain, it could. But anxiety and ambivalence are part of learning as well. If not voiced, they block learning.

I studied psychology in the 1970s at Harvard, in William James Hall. The psychologists who studied thinking were on one floor. The psychologists who studied feeling were on another. Metaphorically, for the world of learning, Seymour asked the elevator to stop between the floors so that there could be a new conversation.

He knew that one way to start that conversation was by considering something concrete. An evocative object. He bridged the thinking/feeling divide by writing about the way his love for the gears on a toy car ignited his love of mathematics as a child. From the beginning of my time at MIT, I have asked students to write about an object they loved that became central to their thinking.

A love for science can start with love for a microscope, a modem, a mud pie, a pair of dice, a fishing rod. Plastic eggs in a twirled Easter basket reveal the power of centripetal force; experiments with baking illuminate the geology of planets. Everybody has their own version of the gears. These stories about objects bring to light something central to Seymour’s legacy. For his legacy was not only in how children learn in classrooms and out of them. It’s in using objects to help people think about how they know what they know. A focus on objects brings philosophy into everyday life.

Seymour’s ideas about the power of objects have moved from the worlds of media and education (where he nurtured them) out into larger disciplinary spaces in social science, anthropology, social theory and history. People are studying objects of clothing, objects of kitchenware, objects of science, objects of medical practice and objects of revolutionary culture, in ways that bear the trace of Seymour’s wisdom.

One of the great virtues of putting object studies at the center of learning is that nothing of great value is simple. Take Seymour’s story of the gears that brought him to mathematics. Simple? Not really. Behind those gears was Seymour’s father who gave him the toy car that held the gears. The father he loved, whom he wanted to please, but who didn’t want him to be a mathematician. He wanted him to take over the family pest-control company, so Seymour was all set to study chemical engineering. But then, he was persuaded, though not by his dad, to try a liberal arts course for a year.

Seymour interpreted this as a chance to take a year off to study mathematics and psychology – and well, from there, he became Seymour. But his father didn’t like it. Those gears were emotionally charged with conflict, ambivalence and competition. Seymour had a complex learning story. I think it contributed to his ability to nurture contradiction, innovation, originality, idiosyncracy, creativity. It contributed to the intimate, non-judgmental attention that made him a great teacher and that deep learning in digital culture requires – more and more, of all of us, in order to make more of what he began."
seymourpapert  sherrytutkle  2017  psychology  thinking  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  education  piaget  objects  constructionism  attention  syntonicity  creativity  contradiction  ambivalence  idiosyncrasy  originality  innovation  judgement  jeanpiaget 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Science and the Senses: Perturbation — Cultural Anthropology
"I vividly remember how, on certain nights in my childhood, my brother and I would be herded toward the entrance hall of my parents’ house, where the Carl Zeiss Ultraphot II microscope still stands. This was a huge machine from the 1960s, one of the relics that my father would rescue from the constant upgrading of his lab required by so-called scientific progress. To me, as a child, it was some sort of abstruse, mysterious device. Taking up a large portion of the hall, it was a massive object, coming with its own table, which was usually covered with a thick gray drape to protect it from dust. Above the oculars, there was a giant, round screen typical of the 1960s design, all curves and matte metal. On those nights, my parents—both freshwater microbial ecologists—would take off the drape, turn all of the lights off, and turn on the screen to show my brother and me the wonders of microscopic worlds.

Growing up with experiences like this, the notion that science forgets the sensory never made much sense to me. Perception was present and was much more than just that: it entailed the full spectrum of emotions, passions, senses, and the kind of fascination and wonder that only the natural world can inspire. Still now, when I converse with scientists in the course of my fieldwork, I see that wonder and I find the senses present in all kinds of ways. Yet the role of the sensory is shifting. I hear it whenever my mother discusses her work with me: so many of the younger scientists with whom she works are oblivious, she tells me, to the sensorial engagements that she grew up with. “They don’t even count them!” she exclaims, referring to the microorganisms in their samples. “How can you know what you have if you don’t even look in the microscope?” The sensory dimensions of molecular biology are replacing the time consuming, eye-wrenching work of counting by microscope. More advanced techniques allow the scientist to determine what is in a sample without ever putting it in a slide under a microscope. Or so their proponents claim.

The problem with these changes is not so much the depersonalization of sensorial experience. Rather, it is the increasing confidence in new methods and the assumption that these are unproblematic and fully objective. The story goes that 16S rRNA analysis tells you what organisms you are dealing with with the certainty of a fact. Of course, most people working with these techniques know better. But as students have less time to get their degrees and are pushed forward faster, they have less time to doubt and to fully grasp the limits of their newly acquired sensorium. Often these techniques rely on advanced knowledge in other fields, far from the expertise of those who use them, thus hiding their limitations by design. Those who depend on these prosthetics are easily alienated from the nitty-gritty details of the materialities in play, and have little sense of what the limits and constraints of those prosthetics might be."



"This re-scription is useful when considering the scale of the microbial and the scientific sensorial apparatuses proper to it. But it is equally useful for thinking and doing on another scale, which is central to my current work: that of the planetary. Having been sucked into the maelstrom of the Anthropocene, my research tries to resist the traction of this notion and its mainstream political currents. To do so, I attend to the figure of the planet. The planetary scale is the motor force of the Anthropocene, on which the gears of the vast machine of sustainability rely. The way in which the Anthropocene frames global environmental change depends on the same sensorial apparatuses that make the planet. But in the process of making environmental emergency, the Anthropocene also risks remaking the planet Earth in its own image, perpetuating dangerous elisions and tensions and forgetting the limits of its own planetary sensorium. In resisting the notion of the planetary, then, I attend to it historically and praxiographically—but also, one might say, scientifically. My aim is to flesh out not only the continuities in the histories of this notion and its object, but also the gaps, interruptions, and diversions that characterize it. In doing so, I aim to offer inspiration for unfolding alternative constellations of the planetary. Here, the planet emerges not only as an object; it complicates the clear distinction between subjects and objects that informs the official epistemology of modern science. Rethinking the sensory in terms of modes of attention (and distraction) can, I think, play a crucial role in this rearticulation of the planetary away from received theories of knowledge, toward a world in which knowing is just one among a multiplicity of practices and doings/undoings that make worlds in which living together, willy-nilly, is done.



Attending to the sensorium of the planetary highlights the technosocial apparatuses that are at work in making planetary vision possible. It imagines as nature not only the planet, but also satellites, spaceflight, remote sensing, radioisotope tracers, global circulation models; the vast machine of climate-change science policy; social phenomena like the green economy and austerity; and the discourses of extinction, loss, adaptation, and proliferation that characterize the Anthropocene. Considering these sensory mediations as relational and historical modes of attention and distraction inflected across heterogeneous materials and sites allows us to attend to how knowing, doing, and living with the planet are enacted in the same gesture. This move can restore the sense of wonder that I saw in the screen of my childhood to the sciences."
science  senses  wonder  method  sfsh  expeuence  2017  donnaharaway  anthropology  anthropocene  perception  doubt  prosthetics  technology  time  technoscience  attention  maríacarozzi  williamjames  vincianedespret  knowing  distraction 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Reviewers & Critics: Laura Miller of Slate | Poets & Writers
"In an interview with the National Book Critics Circle, you said, “I’m under the impression that most literary critics are primarily interested in writing, and while I find that subject fascinating, I am probably more interested in reading.” I find this rather intriguing, and think it’s a chief reason your writing on literary culture is so distinctive. Can you elaborate on your statement here?
We live in a time when everyone wants to write and seemingly no one “has time” to read. Everyone wants to speak and increasingly few people want to listen. People sometimes scoff when I make this observation and claim that aspiring writers read more than anyone else, but that is not my experience. I’m constantly meeting people who, when they learn what I do, always want to talk about the book they plan to write despite the fact that they seem to find no books worth reading. We fetishize the idea of being a writer in a variety of ways, most of them narcissistic. So when I meet a big reader who professes no desire to write, I think of them as a beautiful, almost mythical creature, like a unicorn, to be celebrated.

I also believe that reading is a profoundly creative act, that every act of reading is a collaboration between author and reader. I don’t understand why more people aren’t interested in this alchemy. It’s such an act of grace to give someone else ten or fifteen hours out of your own irreplaceable life, and allow their voice, thoughts, and imaginings into your head. I can’t respect any writer who isn’t abjectly grateful for the faith, generosity, and trust in that. I think there’s an unspoken, maybe even unconscious contempt for reading as merely “passive” in many people who obsess about writers and writing. Discussion of writers and writing generally bores me. But I’m always interested in why people read and why they like what they like. That’s far more likely to surprise and enlighten me than someone fretting about daily word counts and agonizing over their process."
via:austinkleon  writing  reading  howwewrite  howweread  lauramiller  2017  generosity  grace  attention  whyweread 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Get out now
“GET OUT NOW. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people…. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run…. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore…. Abandon, even momentarily, the sleek modern technology that consumes so much time and money now…. Go outside and walk a bit, long enough to forget programming, long enough to take in and record new surroundings…. Flex the mind, a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around—the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic…all of it is free for the taking, for the taking in. Take it. take it in, take in more every weekend, every day, and quickly it becomes the theater that intrigues, relaxes, fascinates, seduces, and above all expands any mind focused on it. Outside lies utterly ordinary space open to any casual explorer willing to find the extraordinary. Outside lies unprogrammed awareness that at times becomes directed serendipity. Outside lies magic.”

—John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic
johnstilgoe  austinkleon  walking  noticing  looking  observing  seeing  exploration  landscape  attention  serendipity  outside  outdoors 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Seattle Review of Books - Here is a movie to remind you why you love reading and writing
"A lot of great movies adapted from written works have been released over the last month or so. Silence is a complex and challenging and ultimately rewarding adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about the demands and responsibilities of faith. Fences is one of the most harrowing family dramas I’ve seen in years, with career-best performances from Denzel Washington and, especially, Viola Davis.

But one original movie in theaters right now, not adapted from a book or play, is a surprising tribute to the importance of the written word. I’m talking about Jim Jarmusch’s new film Paterson, and I’m telling you: if you love books and poetry and writing, you have to see this movie as soon as possible.

Paterson’s premise sounds like the setup for a limerick: Adam Driver stars as Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The film follows a week in his life, and not a whole lot, really, happens. Paterson is a man who likes his rituals: he walks the dog to the bar every night, and he writes a few lines of poetry into his notebook in the morning, and he likes to sit in the same spot and watch the water go over Paterson Falls. He and his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) live a quiet life that is mostly content. They could use a little more money, sure, but who couldn’t?

Paterson is a film of echoes. Certain themes repeat themselves over and over: fire, twins, rain. Paterson admires the poetry of William Carlos Williams, the city of Paterson’s most famous literary resident, and Williams’ work reverberates through the film as well. (Williams wrote an epic poem about the city also titled Paterson.) These little instances accrue into a fuller portrait, a pointillist masterpiece.

Paterson doesn’t write his poetry for the sake of immortality. He writes poetry because it’s how he processes the world. Driver reads the lines over and over in a halting voice as Paterson writes in his notebook and the handwritten words appear on screen. We see him sitting in his small office, lined with books by Williams and David Foster Wallace and Frank O’Hara, as he struggles to get the words just so. He seems to meet poets around every street corner: everyone is recording the universe in careful handwriting on lined paper in secret notebooks.

Paterson made me happier than any movie I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s a movie about art for the sake of art, a movie about writing and reading for no reason but for the pleasure of writing and reading. Paterson’s life inspires his art, which in turn inspires his life. There’s probably no big break around the corner for him. He’s probably not going to get a big thick hardcover anthology of his work. But he does it anyway, because he has to, and because it makes him better.

Trust me: you don’t want to half-watch Paterson on your couch while idly flicking through your phone. This is a movie to watch in the theater. Afterward, take public transit home. Bring a book of poetry to read on the bus or the train. Eavesdrop on some conversations. There’s art everywhere — you just have to be ready to receive it."
paterson  jimjarmusch  fil  towatch  poetry  everyday  notebooks  attention  mundane  paulconstant  2017  williamcarloswilliams  understanding  thinking  whywewrite  happiness  howwewrite  writing  words  notetaking  observation  listening  art  life  living  reading  artleisure  leisurearts 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Letter: John Berger’s European haunts | Books | The Guardian
"In 1974, at the start of his marriage to Beverly Bancroft, he moved to Quincy, the agricultural village in the Alps that was to remain their family home. I first met John in the same year, as one of the four founders of the Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative. John was one of several established writers who decided that small publishing, with decision-making in the hands of those who actually made what the industry sold, was a good thing.

He enjoyed collaboration. While he did not put money into the group, he made its financial existence easier by not taking advances when books were published, and was there to advise, finding pleasure in going to meetings when he was in London. I imagine it was a similar pleasure to that he took in being part of the community in Quincy, where everyone participated in haymaking, and John’s table was ever busy with neighbours deliberating on problems or engaging in that gossip which is also storytelling.

Writers and Readers started an art list, republishing Berger’s backlist, including A Painter of Our Time. There was also the brilliant A Fortunate Man – standard reading for all GPs – and his new books. In the way of 1970s collectives, the organisation fell apart in the early 80s. But John and I remained fast friends. We didn’t always agree on politics, but his sense of justice was ever an inspiration and his volcanic laugh a joy. We even went on to win the Scott Moncrieff prize for literary translation together, for Nella Bielski’s The Year Is ’42 (2004).

When I published Losing the Dead (2014), a memoir about my parents’ war and its aftermath, he gave me a drawing he had made inspired by Rembrandt’s The Polish Rider. He was extraordinarily generous, and paid singular attention to young writers and artists, let alone to people needing a hand or a lift. A true listener, he said it was what his storytelling was all about. He listened with an ear for everything, not only what was spoken. And he managed in his encounters and in his stories, as well as his essays, somehow to confront despair and turn it into hope."
johnberger  generosity  publishing  2017  mentorship  attention  listening  lisaappignanesi  collaboration  friendship  europe  politics  hope  despair 
january 2017 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » Hacking the Attention Economy
"The democratization of manipulation

In the early days of blogging, many of my fellow bloggers imagined that our practice could disrupt mainstream media. For many progressive activists, social media could be a tool that could circumvent institutionalized censorship and enable a plethora of diverse voices to speak out and have their say. Civic minded scholars were excited by “smart mobs” who leveraged new communications platforms to coordinate in a decentralized way to speak truth to power. Arab Spring. Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter. These energized progressives as “proof” that social technologies could make a new form of civil life possible.

I spent 15 years watching teenagers play games with powerful media outlets and attempt to achieve control over their own ecosystem. They messed with algorithms, coordinated information campaigns, and resisted attempts to curtail their speech. Like Chinese activists, they learned to hide their traces when it was to their advantage to do so. They encoded their ideas such that access to content didn’t mean access to meaning.

Of course, it wasn’t just progressive activists and teenagers who were learning how to mess with the media ecosystem that has emerged since social media unfolded. We’ve also seen the political establishment, law enforcement, marketers, and hate groups build capacity at manipulating the media landscape. Very little of what’s happening is truly illegal, but there’s no widespread agreement about which of these practices are socially and morally acceptable or not.

The techniques that are unfolding are hard to manage and combat. Some of them look like harassment, prompting people to self-censor out of fear. Others look like “fake news”, highlighting the messiness surrounding bias, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. There is hate speech that is explicit, but there’s also suggestive content that prompts people to frame the world in particular ways. Dog whistle politics have emerged in a new form of encoded content, where you have to be in the know to understand what’s happening. Companies who built tools to help people communicate are finding it hard to combat the ways their tools are being used by networks looking to skirt the edges of the law and content policies. Institutions and legal instruments designed to stop abuse are finding themselves ill-equipped to function in light of networked dynamics.

The Internet has long been used for gaslighting, and trolls have long targeted adversaries. What has shifted recently is the scale of the operation, the coordination of the attacks, and the strategic agenda of some of the players.
For many who are learning these techniques, it’s no longer simply about fun, nor is it even about the lulz. It has now become about acquiring power.

A new form of information manipulation is unfolding in front of our eyes. It is political. It is global. And it is populist in nature. The news media is being played like a fiddle, while decentralized networks of people are leveraging the ever-evolving networked tools around them to hack the attention economy.

I only wish I knew what happens next."
danahboyd  communication  attention  propaganda  gaslighting  2017  fakenews  proaganda  manipulation  media  medialiteracy  politics  information  gamergate  memes  lolcats  gabriellacoleman 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger remembered – by Geoff Dyer, Olivia Laing, Ali Smith and Simon McBurney | Books | The Guardian
"Ali Smith

I heard John Berger speaking at the end of 2015 in London at the British Library. Someone in the audience talked about A Seventh Man, his 1975 book about mass migrancy in which he says: “To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it and to reassemble it as seen from his.”

The questioner asked what Berger thought about the huge movement of people across the world. He put his head in his hands and sat and thought; he didn’t say anything at all for what felt like a long time, a thinking space that cancelled any notion of soundbite. When he answered, what he spoke about ostensibly seemed off on a tangent. He said: “I have been thinking about the storyteller’s responsibility to be hospitable.”

As he went on, it became clear how revolutionary, hopeful and astute his thinking was. The act of hospitality, he suggested, is ancient and contemporary and at the core of every story we’ve ever told or listened to about ourselves – deny it, and you deny all human worth. He talked about the art act’s deep relationship with this, and with inclusion. Then he gave us a definition of fascism: one set of human beings believing it has the right to cordon off and decide about another set of human beings.

A few minutes with Berger and a better world, a better outcome, wasn’t fantasy or imaginary, it was impetus – possible, feasible, urgent and clear. It wasn’t that another world was possible; it was that this world, if we looked differently, and responded differently, was differently possible.

His readers are the inheritors, across all the decades of his work, of a legacy that will always reapprehend the possibilities. We inherit his routing of the “power-shit” of everyday corporate hierarchy and consumerism, his determined communality, his ethos of unselfishness in a solipsistic world, his procreative questioning of the given shape of things, his articulate compassion, the relief of that articulacy. We inherit writing that won’t ever stop giving. A reader coming anywhere near his work encounters life-force, thought-force – and the force, too, of the love all through it.

It’s not just hard, it’s impossible, to think about what he’s given us over the years in any past tense. Everything about this great thinker, one of the great art writers, the greatest responders, is vital – and response and responsibility in Berger’s work always make for a fusion of thought and art as a force for the understanding, the seeing more clearly and the making better of the world we’re all citizens of. But John Berger gone? In the dark times, what’ll we do without him? Try to live up to him, to pay what Simone Weil called (as he notes in his essay about her) “creative attention”. The full Weil quote goes: “Love for our neighbour, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.”

Berger’s genius is its own fertile continuum – radical, brilliant, gentle, uncompromising – in the paying of an attention that shines with the fierce intelligence, the loving clarity of the visionary he was, is, and always will be.

***

Geoff Dyer

There is a long and distinguished tradition of aspiring writers meeting the writer they most revere only to discover that he or she has feet of clay. Sometimes it doesn’t stop at the feet – it can be legs, chest and head too – so that the disillusionment taints one’s feelings about the work, even about the trade itself. I count it one of my life’s blessings that the first great writer I ever met – the writer I admired above all others – turned out to be an exemplary human being. Nothing that has happened in the 30-odd years since then has diminished my love of the books or of the man who wrote them.

It was 1984. John Berger, who had radically altered and enlarged my ideas of what a book could be, was in London for the publication of And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos. I interviewed him for Marxism Today. He was 58, the age I am now. The interview went well but he seemed relieved when it was over – because, he said, now we could go to a pub and talk properly.

It was the highpoint of my life. My contemporaries had jobs, careers – some even owned houses – but I was in a pub with John Berger. He urged me to send him things I’d written – not the interview, he didn’t care about that, he wanted to read my own stuff. He wrote back enthusiastically. He was always encouraging. A relationship cannot be sustained on the basis of reverence and we soon settled into being friends.

The success and acclaim he enjoyed as a writer allowed him to be free of petty vanities, to concentrate on what he was always so impatient to achieve: relationships of equality. That’s why he was such a willing collaborator – and such a good friend to so many people, from all walks of life, from all over the world. There was no limit to his generosity, to his capacity to give. This did more than keep him young; it combined with a kind of negative pessimism to enable him to withstand the setbacks dished out by history. In an essay on Leopardi he proposed “that we are not living in a world in which it is possible to construct something approaching heaven-on-earth, but, on the contrary, are living in a world whose nature is far closer to that of hell; what difference would this make to any single one of our political or moral choices? We would be obliged to accept the same obligations and participate in the same struggle as we are already engaged in; perhaps even our sense of solidarity with the exploited and suffering would be more single-minded. All that would have changed would be the enormity of our hopes and finally the bitterness of our disappointments.”

While his work was influential and admired, its range – in both subject matter and form – makes it difficult to assess adequately. Ways of Seeing is his equivalent of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert: a bravura performance that sometimes ends up as a substitute for or distraction from the larger body of work to which it serves as an introduction. In 1969 he put forward Art and Revolution “as the best example I have achieved of what I consider to be the critical method”, but it is in the numerous shorter pieces that he was at his best as a writer on art. (These diverse pieces have been assembled by Tom Overton in Portraits to form a chronological history of art.)

No one has ever matched Berger’s ability to help us look at paintings or photographs “more seeingly”, as Rilke put it in a letter about Cézanne. Think of the essay “Turner and the Barber’s Shop” in which he invites us to consider some of the late paintings in light of things the young boy saw in his dad’s barber shop: “water, froth, steam, gleaming metal, clouded mirrors, white bowls or basins in which soapy liquid is agitated by the barber’s brush and detritus deposited”.

Berger brought immense erudition to his writing but, as with DH Lawrence, everything had to be verified by appeal to his senses. He did not need a university education – he once spoke scathingly of a thinker who, when he wanted to find something out, took down a book from a shelf – but he was reliant, to the end, on his art school discipline of drawing. If he looked long and hard enough at anything it would either yield its secrets or, failing that, enable him to articulate why the withheld mystery constituted its essence. This holds true not just for the writings on art but also the documentary studies (of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man and of migrant labour in A Seventh Man), the novels, the peasant trilogy Into Their Labours, and the numerous books that refuse categorisation. Whatever their form or subject the books are jam-packed with observations so precise and delicate that they double as ideas – and vice versa. “The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue to the nature of all art,” he writes in “The Moment of Cubism”. In Here Is Where We Meet he imagines “travelling alone between Kalisz and Kielce a hundred and fifty years ago. Between the two names there would always have been a third – the name of your horse.”

The last time we met was a few days before Christmas 2015, in London. There were five of us: my wife and I, John (then 89), the writer Nella Bielski (in her late 70s) and the painter Yvonne Barlow (91), who had been his girlfriend when they were still teenagers. Jokingly, I asked, “So, what was John like when he was 17?” “He was exactly like he is now,” she replied, as though it were yesterday. “He was always so kind.” All that interested him about his own life, he once wrote, were the things he had in common with other people. He was a brilliant writer and thinker; but it was his lifelong kindness that she emphasised.

The film Walk Me Home which he co- wrote and acted in was, in his opinion, “a balls-up” but in it Berger utters a line that I think of constantly – and quote from memory – now: “When I die I want to be buried in land that no one owns.” In land, that is, that belongs to us all.

***

Olivia Laing

The only time I saw John Berger speak was at the 2015 British Library event. He clambered on to the stage, short, stocky, shy, his extraordinary hewn face topped with snowy curls. After each question he paused for a long time, tugging on his hair and writhing in his seat, physically wrestling with the demands of speech. It struck me then how rare it is to see a writer on stage actually thinking, and how glib and polished most speakers are. For Berger, thought was work, as taxing and rewarding as physical labour, a bringing of something real into the world. You have to strive and sweat; the act is urgent but might also fail.

He talked that evening about the need for hospitality. It was such a Bergerish notion. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, a word that … [more]
johnberger  2017  geoffdyer  olivialaing  alismith  simonmcburney  marxism  capitalism  migration  soundbites  hospitality  storytelling  hope  hopefulness  utopia  hierarchy  consumerism  compassion  unselfishness  questioning  skepticism  simoneweil  creativeattention  attention  goldenrule  humanism  encouragement  relationships  friendship  equality  giving  generosity  solidarity  suffering  seeing  noticing  looking  observation  senses  kindness  commonality  belonging  ownership  thinking  howwethink  care  caring  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  clarity  money  communalism  narrowness  alls  difference  openness  crosspollination  hosting  hosts  guests  strangers  enemies  listening  canon  payingattention  audience  audiencesofone  laughter  resistance  existence  howtolive  living  life  howwelive  refuge  writing  certainty  tenderness 
january 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Will Self: Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories? | Books | The Guardian
"Neuroscientists who insist technology is changing our brains may have it wrong. What if we are switching from books to digital entertainment because of a change in our need to communicate?"



"A few years ago I gave a lecture in Oxford that was reprinted in the Guardian under the heading: “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)”. In it I argued that the novel was losing its cultural centrality due to the digitisation of print: we are entering a new era, one with a radically different form of knowledge technology, and while those of us who have what Marshal McLuhan termed “Gutenberg minds” may find it hard to comprehend – such was our sense of the solidity of the literary world – without the necessity for the physical book itself, there’s no clear requirement for the art forms it gave rise to. I never actually argued that the novel was dead, nor that narrative itself was imperilled, yet whenever I discuss these matters with bookish folk they all exclaim: “But we need stories – people will always need stories.” As if that were an end to the matter.

Non-coincidentally, in line with this shift from print to digital there’s been an increase in the number of scientific studies of narrative forms and our cognitive responses to them. There’s a nice symmetry here: just as the technology arrives to convert the actual into the virtual, so other technologies arise, making it possible for us to look inside the brain and see its actual response to the virtual worlds we fabulate and confabulate. In truth, I find much of this research – which marries arty anxiety with techno-assuredness – to be self-serving, reflecting an ability to win the grants available for modish interdisciplinary studies, rather than some new physical paradigm with which to explain highly complex mental phenomena. Really, neuroscience has taken on the sexy mantle once draped round the shoulders of genetics. A few years ago, each day seemed to bring forth a new gene for this or that. Such “discoveries” rested on a very simplistic view of how the DNA of the human genotype is expressed in us poor, individual phenotypes – and I suspect many of the current discoveries, which link alterations in our highly plastic brains to cognitive functions we can observe using sophisticated equipment, will prove to be equally ill-founded.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has been prominent in arguing that our new digital lives are profoundly altering the structure of our brains. This is undoubtedly the case – but then all human activities impact upon the individual brain as they’re happening; this by no means implies a permanent alteration, let alone a heritable one. After all, so far as we can tell the gross neural anatomy of the human has remained unchanged for hundreds of millennia, while the age of bi-directional digital media only properly dates – in my view – from the inception of wireless broadband in the early 2000s, hardly enough time for natural selection to get to work on the adaptive advantages of … tweeting. Nevertheless, pioneering studies have long since shown that licensed London cab drivers, who’ve completed the exhaustive “Knowledge” (which consists of memorising every street and notable building within a six mile radius of Charing Cross), have considerably enlarged posterior hippocampi.

This is the part of brain concerned with way-finding, but it’s also strongly implicated in memory formation; neuroscientists are now discovering that at the cognitive level all three abilities – memory, location, and narration – are intimately bound up. This, too, is hardly surprising: key for humans, throughout their long pre-history as hunter-gatherers, has been the ability to find food, remember where food is and tell the others about it. It’s strange, of course, to think of Pride and Prejudice or Ulysses as simply elaborations upon our biologically determined inclination to give people directions – but then it’s perhaps stranger still to realise that sustained use of satellite navigation, combined with absorbing all our narrative requirements in pictorial rather written form, may transform us into miserable and disoriented amnesiacs.

When he lectured on literature in the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov would draw a map on the blackboard at the beginning of each session, depicting, for example, the floor plan of Austen’s Mansfield Park, or the “two ways” of Proust’s Combray. What Nabokov seems to have understood intuitively is what neuroscience is now proving: reading fiction enables a deeply memorable engagement with our sense of space and place. What the master was perhaps less aware of – because, as yet, this phenomenon was inchoate – was that throughout the 20th century the editing techniques employed in Hollywood films were being increasingly refined. This is the so-called “tyranny of film”: editing methods that compel our attention, rather than leaving us free to absorb the narrative in our own way. Anyone now in middle age will have an intuitive understanding of this: shots are shorter nowadays, and almost all transitions are effected by crosscutting, whereby two ongoing scenes are intercut in order to force upon the viewer the idea of their synchrony. It’s in large part this tyranny that makes contemporary films something of a headache for older viewers, to whom they can seem like a hypnotic swirl of action.

It will come as no surprise to Gutenberg minds to learn that reading is a better means of forming memory than watching films, as is listening to afternoon drama on Radio 4. This is the so-called “visualisation hypothesis” that proposes that people – and children in particular – find it harder not only to remember film as against spoken or written narratives, but also to come up with novel responses to them, because the amount of information they’re given, together with its determinate nature, forecloses imaginative response.

Almost all contemporary parents – and especially those of us who class themselves as “readers” – have engaged in the Great Battle of Screen: attempting to limit our children’s consumption of films, videos, computer games and phone-based social media. We feel intuitively that it can’t be doing our kids any good – they seem mentally distracted as well as physically fidgety: unable to concentrate as they often look from one handheld screen to a second freestanding one, alternating between tweezering some images on a touchscreen and manipulating others using a remote control. Far from admonishing my younger children to “read the classics” – an utterly forlorn hope – I often find myself simply wishing they’d put their phones down long enough to have their attention compelled by the film we’re watching.

If we take seriously the conclusions of these recent neuroscientific studies, one fact is indisputable: whatever the figures for books sales (either in print or digital form), reading for pleasure has been in serious decline for over a decade. That this form of narrative absorption (if you’ll forgive the coinage) is closely correlated with high attainment and wellbeing may tell us nothing about the underlying causation, but the studies do demonstrate that the suite of cognitive aptitudes needed to decipher text and turn it into living, breathing, visible and tangible worlds seem to wither away once we stop turning the pages and start goggling at virtual tales.

Of course, the sidelining of reading narrative (and along with it the semi-retirement of all those narrative forms we love) is small potatoes compared with the loss of our capacity for episodic memory: would we be quite so quick to post those fantastic holiday photographs on Facebook if we knew that in so doing we’d imperil our ability to recall unaided our walk along the perfect crescent of sand, and our first ecstatic kiss? You might’ve thought that as a novelist who depends on fully attuned Gutenberg minds to read his increasingly complex and confusing texts I’d be dismayed by this craven new couch-based world; and, as a novelist, I am.

I began writing my books on a manual typewriter at around the same time wireless broadband became ubiquitous, sensing it was inimical not only to the act of writing, but that of reading as well: a novel should be a self-contained and self-explanatory world (at least, that’s how the form has evolved), and it needs to be created in the same cognitive mode as it’s consumed: the writer hunkering down into his own episodic memories, and using his own canonical knowledge, while imagining all the things he’s describing, rather than Googling them to see what someone else thinks they look like. I also sense the decline in committed reading among the young that these studies claim: true, the number of those who’ve ever been inclined “to get up in the morning in the fullness of youth”, as Nietzsche so eloquently put it, “and open a book” has always been small; but then it’s worth recalling the sting in the tail of his remark: “now that’s what I call vicious”.

And there is something vicious about all that book learning, especially when it had to be done by rote. There’s something vicious as well about the baby boomer generation, which, not content to dominate the cultural landscape, also demands that everyone younger than us survey it in the same way. For the past five years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels that aim to map the connections between technological change, warfare and human psychopathology, so obviously I’m attempting to respond to the zeitgeist using this increasingly obsolete art form. My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at … [more]
willself  communication  digital  writing  howwewrite  entertainment  books  socialmedia  neuroscience  2016  marshallmcluhan  gutenbergminds  print  change  singularity  videogames  gaming  games  poetry  novels  susangreenfield  rote  rotelearning  twitter  knowledge  education  brain  wayfinding  memory  location  narration  navigation  vladimirnabokov  proust  janeausten  film  video  attention  editing  reading  howweread  visualizationhypothesis  visualization  text  imagery  images  cognition  literacy  multiliteracies  memories  nietzsche  booklearning  technology  mobile  phones  mentalillness  ptsd  humans  humanity  digitalmedia  richardbrautigan  narrative  storytelling 
november 2016 by robertogreco
My Son, The Prince Of Fashion | GQ
"You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you and if you are lucky they even, on occasion, manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough. Abe had not been dressing up, styling himself, for all these years because he was trying to prove how different he was from everyone else. He did it in the hope of attracting the attention of somebody else—somewhere, someday—who was the same. He was not flying his freak flag; he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.

“You were with your people. You found them,” I said.

He nodded.

“That's good,” I said. “You're early.”"
michaelchabon  identity  parenting  fashion  children  2016  passion  tribes  attention  signaling  presentationofself 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Working with adults will make me more patient with children – Making Good Humans
"As PYP Coordinator, I have worked with adult learners for two years and I have loved every minute of it. The amazing conversations we’ve had about teaching and learning have blown my educational-mind and have played a huge part in my decision to go back into the classroom.

I have to admit though, when I took the job as PYP Coordinator I had no idea what to expect! (To be honest I was a little intimidated to work with adults!) Now, after two years of working with adults I look back and value the strong relationships I’ve built and the great learning experience I have had!

However, there were some things that surprised me about adult learners – the very same things that used to frustrate me as a classroom teacher. I have started to wonder if these similarities might have more to do with being a human, than being a child.

So here is my list of 10 things that I’ve noticed we do as adult-learners that will hopefully make me more patient when working with child-learners:

1. We talk while someone is talking – I can’t recall one staff meeting or professional development session where side conversations weren’t going on while someone else was speaking.

2. We forget to clean up after ourselves – After most 45-minute collaboration sessions or 3-hour unit planning sessions I find myself throwing out wrappers, left over food, empty water bottles, used tissues – not to mention putting communal pencils back in their cups and clearing away scrap papers.

3. We opt to not participate – A few months ago we did a “Sentence, Phrase, Word” Visible Thinking Routine to help our staff unpack the IB’s expectations for Three-Way Conferences. We made a chart paper for each grade and subject team where each staff member could place their post-its with their sentence, phrase and word. It was interesting that many of posters had significantly fewer sentences, phrases and words than members of their team who were present.

4. We forget to bring things – Sometimes a request is made to bring something specific to a staff meeting or collaborative planning session, for example a device, a PYP binder, day plans etc.. And sometimes people have shown up without them.

5. We need more time – Many times tasks are planned to take one hour… one session… one afternoon to complete, but often certain teams and individuals need more time.

6. We take a long time to wrap up a conversation – With our large staff of 125 adult-learners we raise our hand to re-collect everyone’s attention after a group discussion. Most times this takes at least 2 minutes of holding up my hand. It makes me think of all the times as a classroom teacher I counted down from 5 (from 5!) and expected my students to have wrapped up their conversation and re-focused their attention!

7. We take a long time to transition – We try to have a lot of movement in our professional development sessions, where staff move from place to place and activity to activity. Even if the transition is something small like go post your post-it on the chart, we are often looking at transitions of 5 minutes plus and lots of invitations (and reminders) to head back to our seats.

8. We don’t follow instructions – At the beginning of the year we did a Chalk Talk as a staff where we explained that during a Chalk Talk you communicate with others through your marker, not by using your voice… we lasted 45 seconds without talking to each other.

9. We get “off task” – I’m not sure there has been one grade or subject collaborative planning session when teams are working on their PYP planners, where random tangents of conversations have not erupted – …. travel stories, new restaurant discoveries, tales of weird childhood injuries etc.

10. We choose to work with our friends – As much as possible we try to mix and mingle our very large staff in a variety of ways – instructions to sit with people you don’t know, turn and share with someone who is not on your team, name cards on tables – and yet somehow, the majority of the time, friends end up sitting with and working with friends.

I’m not saying as adult learners we are bad or misbehaving. Quite the opposite! I’m saying that if we as grown-up, responsible, mature, professionals do all of these things… how can we possibly get upset at children for doing them? As I head back into the classroom next year, I hope that when I am faced with children who take a long time to wrap up their conversation, forget to bring their device, talk while someone is talking or don’t follow instructions that I treat them with the same level of patience, respect and dignity that I would treat a group of adults in that same situation.

Ask yourself…

Have you ever whispered to a friend during a staff meeting?

Have you ever left behind a pencil, water bottle, coffee mug?

Have you ever showed up to PD without a device or writing utensil?

Have you ever had a quick conversation with a friend on the way back to your seat?

Have you ever sat beside or worked with one of your friends?

I know I have…"
children  adults  behavior  sfsh  education  schools  schooling  preparedness  attention  participation  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  learning  instructions 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: FABLE
"FABLE

It was true that the Adversary had brought other monsters into being. Each had been wicked in its own way, each had been an embodiment of one or other of the seven vices, and each had been strong and difficult to vanquish. Some of those monsters still roamed the land. But what made this new monster remarkable, indeed uniquely devious, was that it wasn’t strong at all. In fact, it was weak. The weaknesses through which the other monsters had been vanquished, this monster had tenfold. The new monster was not moral, but it is not in the nature of monsters to be moral. But the monster was also not beautiful, or intelligent, or brave, or well-dressed, or charming, or gifted in oratory, though usually monsters had at least some of those qualities. The Adversary had sent this new monster out, designing it to derive its strength from one source and one source alone, as in olden days was said of Samson and his locks, so that if that source were cut off, the monster would wilt like a severed flower stalk in the noonday heat. The source of the new monster’s strength was noise. If it heard a bit of noise pertaining to it, it grew stronger. If it heard a lot of noise, whether the noise was adulation or imprecation, it was full of joy, and grew even stronger. Only collective quietness could vanquish it, quietness and the actions that came from contemplation.

Having thus designed it, the Adversary sent the monster out to Noiseville. “A new monster!” the cry went up, and the monster grew a little stronger. “It grows stronger!” went the chorus, and the monster grew stronger still. And thus it was in Noiseville that the new monster, weaker than all the other monsters ever sent by the Adversary, was the only thing the people of Noiseville spoke about. The sound had reached a deafening roar. In every newspaper across Noiseville, the most read articles were about the monster. On television, the reporters spent most of their time making noise about the monster. On little devices the people carried around with them, it was all monster all the time. If the monster smiled, there was noise in reaction. If the monster scowled, there was noise. If it coughed, there was an uproar of coughing and commentary on the manner of the monster's coughing. The Adversary was astonished by how well his little stratagem had worked. The monster smiled and scowled and coughed, and learned to say the things that generated more noise. And on and on it grew.

“But it is so weak!” the people shouted. “It is not beautiful, or intelligent, or brave, or well-dressed, or charming, or gifted in oratory. How can it grow in strength and influence so?” And if the noise went down even one decibel, the monster did something again, anything at all, and the noise went up. And the people talked of nothing but the monster when they were awake, and dreamed of nothing but the monster when they were asleep. And from time to time, they turned on each other, and were distraught if they saw their fellows failing to join in the noise, for any quiet form of contemplation was thought of as acquiescence to the monster. Other monsters in the past had been drowned out by sufficient loudness. Besides, this was Noiseville, and there was no question of not making noise, there in the home of the loudest and best noise in the world, the most beautiful noise, it was often said, the greatest noise in the history of the world. And so the noise swelled to the very limits of Noiseville, and the new monster grew to gargantuan size as had Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians, and their ropes were powerless against it, and there seemed no limit to its growth, though it was but the eighth month of that year."
tejucole  2016  monsters  fiction  donaldtrump  fables  electronics  attention  noise  media  power 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The Bliss Station
"It’s felt impossible lately not to be distracted and despondent. I’m trying to spend as much time at my bliss station as I can.

What’s a bliss station? Here’s Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

My wife pointed out to me that Campbell says you must have a room OR a certain hour — whether Campbell really meant this or not, she suggested that maybe it’s possible that a bliss station can be not just a where, but a when. Not just a sacred space, but also a sacred time.

The deluxe package would be having both a special room and a special hour that you go to it, but we started wondering whether one would make up for not having the other.

For example, say you have a tiny apartment that you share with small children. There’s no room for your bliss station, there’s only time: When the kids are asleep or at school or day care, even a kitchen table can be turned into a bliss station.

Or, say your schedule is totally unpredictable, and a certain time of day can’t be relied upon — that’s when a dedicated space that’s ready for you at any time will come in handy.

What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.

“Choose the time that’s good for you,” says Francis Ford Coppola. “For me, it’s early morning because I wake up, and I’m fresh, and I sit in my place. I look out the window, and I have coffee, and no one’s gotten up yet or called me or hurt my feelings.”

The easiest way I get my feelings hurt by turning on my phone first thing in the morning. And even on the rare occasion I don’t get my feelings hurt, my time is gone and my brains are scrambled.

“Do not start your day with addictive time vampires such as The New York Times, email, Twitter,” says Edward Tufte. “All scatter eye and mind, produce diverting vague anxiety, clutter short term memory.”

Every morning I try to fight the urge, but every morning my addiction compels me.

“The new heroin addiction is connectivity,” says V. Vale. “The only solution is not one that most people want to face, which is to become lovers of solitude and silence… I love to spend time alone in my room, and in my ideal world the first hour of every day would be in bed, writing down thoughts, harvesting dreams, before anyone phones or you have any internet access.”

Kids, jobs, sleep, and a thousand other things will get in the way, but we have to find our own sacred space, our own sacred time.

“Where is your bliss station?” Campbell asked. “You have to try to find it.”"
2016  austinkleon  josephcampbell  time  space  solitude  aloneness  francisfordcoppola  vvale  attention  socialmedia  howweowork  connectivity  internet  web  online  addiction  silence  mobile  phones  focus  workspaces  distraction 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Color Gradient Reader BeeLine Shows Promise for Speed and Attention in Reading - The Atlantic
"In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white."



"The colors in this text are rendered in a precise and strategic way, designed to help people read quickly and accurately.

The most important feature is that each line begins with a different color than the line above or below. As Matthew Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explained it to me, the color gradients also pull our eyes long from one character to the next—and then from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, minimizing any chance of skipping lines or making anything less than an optimally efficient word-to-word or line-to-line transition.

Improving the ease and accuracy of the return sweep is a promising idea for readers of all skill levels. And yet it’s one that’s gone largely ignored in the milieu of media technologies. Today many of us read primarily on screens–and we have for years–yet most platforms have focused on using technology to attempt to recreate text as it appears in books (or in newspapers or magazines), instead of trying to create an optimal reading experience.

The format—black text on white lines of 12 to 15 words of equal size—is a relic of the way that books were most easily printed on early printing presses. It persists today out of tradition, not because of some innate tendency of the human brain to process information in this way.

Meanwhile, people who aren’t especially skilled at intake of text in the traditional format are systematically penalized. People who don’t read well in this one particular way tend to fall behind scholastically early in life. They might be told they’re not as bright as other people, or at least come to assume it. They might even be diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, or a learning disability, or overlooked as academically mediocre.

“The book format was effective, but not for everyone,” said Schneps. “This is not just technology that could help people who are struggling with reading; this is technology that could help a lot of people.”

* * *

Our minds are not as uniform as our text. We all take in information in different ways. Some people read more quickly and retain more information when lines are shorter, or when fonts are bolder, or in different colors. The color-gradient pattern above is rendered by a product called BeeLine, developed by armchair linguist Nick Lum. He got the idea after learning about the Stroop Effect, the famous phenomenon where it becomes difficult to read words like “yellow” and “red” when they are written in different colors. Lum thought, “What if instead of screwing people up, we tried to use color in a way that helps people?”

After he won the Stanford Social Entrepreneurship and Dell Education startup competitions with the idea in 2014, Lum took to developing the technology full time. So far, the response from people tends to be binary: for some it’s a shrug, but for others, particularly people with dyslexias, it’s like turning on a light bulb. As Lum describes it, people tell him “Holy cow, this is how everybody else reads.”

The idea has been well received by reading experts, too.

“Most of the academic research is figuring out entirely what your eyes are going to do on one line,” said psychologist and Microsoft researcher Kevin Larson. “That has been such a challenge that it's rare for anyone to pay much attention to what happens during that line return movement.”

At the University of Texas at Austin, Randolph Bias has studied the optimal length of lines of text for reading comprehension and speed. The two are generally at odds: Short lines make for a quick and accurate return (the movement is easier because it allows our eyes to take a greater downward angle than if the line were longer.) The downside is that because our brains process information during return sweeps, shorter lines don't afford us that time. We also don’t get to take full advantage of peripheral vision – which is key. (He cites this as the problem with Spritz, the reading technology where single words rapidly flash before a reader.)"



"The other big opportunity for the technology is in educational settings. Later this year, BeeLine will be rolling out in libraries across California, as part of a licensing partnership. This is how Lum sees the company growing. The basic Google Chrome extension and iPhone app are free. But large-scale licensing deals with platforms and institutions like school systems could be more lucrative—and make the option accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise think to try reading in color.

In early experiments, some students do seem to benefit from the color gradients. Last year, first-grade students in two general-education classrooms in San Bernardino, California, tried out Beeline, and many did better with comprehension tests afterword. “Because of my background in visual processing, I immediately wanted to check it out,” said Michael Dominguez, an applied behavioral analyst who directs the San Bernardino school district’s special education program. “Based on everything I know, it should work great.”"

[See also (referenced in the article):
http://www.beelinereader.com/
https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/ie/2014/03/04/introducing-reading-view-in-ie-11/ ]
howweread  reading  dyslexia  education  cyborgs  adhd  color  text  jameshamblin  kevinlarson  via:ayjay  michaeldominguez  beeline  chrome  browser  browsers  extensions  accessibility  assistivetechnology  microsoft  attention  technology  edtech  nicklum  linguistics  randolphbias  spritz  ereading  kindle  pdfs  epub  pdf 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: Against boredom
"There is a meme routinely shared on social media of passengers aboard a train, each absorbed in their own personal information and entertainment device. The caption reads ‘All this technology is making us antisocial’. The joke is that it is a very old photograph; what the passengers are holding are newspapers. It is generally posted without comment, as an ironic reminder of the cyclical nature of debates about dominant forms of communication, and about our social and personal habits.

Here is a typical, timeless complaint: nowadays we have lost the capacity to enjoy moments of calm or to engage in quiet contemplation. Bertrand Russell once wrote that children should be spared excessive trips to the theatre. Later it became comic books or pulp fiction. Then cinema and television. Then the internet. Now it is smartphones and the iPad. Every epoch has its technologies of distraction, and each time a new one comes around, we are told that younger generations are losing what the parents once enjoyed in abundance: boredom. Cue a steady, incessant stream of think pieces of varying length in defence or praise of this maligned emotion.

As in the case of the picture of the train passengers, it is not very clear what the ideal baseline level of societal boredom should be. The pattern of the complaint is that the each new technology shifts the boundary. Thus television – the passive diversion that once banished useful boredom from our lives – is said to have been usurped by newer technologies. But added on is a layer of nostalgia: commentators will recall with fondness the time they spent watching bad television in their childhood.

Evil nowadays resides in portable networked devices, which in the current crop of think pieces are often granted worrying levels of agency. ‘Our phones hurt us by killing our ability to listen to boredom,’ writes Mónica Guzmán in GeekWire. ‘The iPhone killed my creativity,’ intones Brian Hall in another defence of boredom for ReadWrite. This alarmist language masks an impoverished notion of what boredom is and how it affects different people.

The idea that creative thinking requires letting one’s mind wonder in repose has deep roots in the literature and may deserve some credit – all the more since the study of neuroscience is beginning to validate the philosophers’ theories. But what is being systematically elided here – in the process of granting supernatural levels of agency to our screens – are the material and historical dimensions of the question.

The closest common ancestor to most of these think pieces is Joseph Brodsky’s 1989 commencement address at Dartmouth College, entitled ‘Listening to Boredom’. It’s a worthy if maddening read, culminating in the Kierkegaardian insight that boredom is ‘a window on time’s infinity’ that ‘teaches you the most valuable lesson of your life: the lesson of your utter insignificance.’ And a lesson worth heeding it may be. However, consider how this message might sound if it had been delivered to an audience of fast-food workers or office clerks, rather than to the assembled freshmen of an Ivy League university.

The pursuit of creativity, with the attendant need to cultivate spaces for contemplation and reflection, is not available to everyone equally. And for the vast majority of people, boredom has a very different inflection.

I grew up between two worlds: the big city where my parents lived and where I went to school, and the rural village where my grandparents lived and where I spent every second weekend and part of the summer holidays. It is to the latter that I owe my strongest recollections of childhood boredom: interminable days spent idling or searching vainly for something – anything – to do.

Having grown into a literate adult, I may be tempted to romanticise this experience, and credit it with granting me a heightened sensibility for the quotidian and for what the French master Georges Perec called ‘the infra-ordinary’. But in that village without libraries or theatres, without social or cultural clubs, in that stolidly anti-intellectual place, I saw boredom turn directly into violence. I remember how a friend with whom I had laboured to while away those summer afternoons drove a motorcycle at speed into an iron gate as soon as he was old enough to do so.

My mother escaped the village and its lethal boredom through books: the fiction and school texts she consumed as a child gave her a literal way out – first to a neighbouring town with a high school, then to a city with a university and a different kind of life. She never romanticised those beginnings, and loathed any talk of the ‘good old days’. She became an intermediate school teacher and always blamed misbehaviour among her students as her own failure to awaken their interest.

If we must talk about boredom, we should start by talking about the cultural and social opportunities that might enable us to view it as a positive value worthy of recapturing, and – if we want to bring technology into it – of its role in foreclosing or opening up such opportunities. This would be a conversation worth having."
giovannitiso  2016  boredom  technology  creativity  culture  attention  history  georgesperec  violence 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
In Praise of Walks and Wilderness | Alpine Modern Editorial
"More full of wonder than your deepest dreams, indeed. I kept looking over to my friend, continually proclaiming: “I can’t believe how happy I am here.” I understood Abbey’s fierce ecological devotion to the place. Preservation begins with appreciation; it begins with experiential love. “Earn your turns,” a friend always calls out, strapping his skins to his skis and hoisting his body up the incline. Another pal takes off to the mountains when big life decisions loom in front of him: “It’s the only place quiet and still enough to think.” One hikes fourteeners to prove to himself that his body is capable of more than he believes and that what others say about him is not the whole story. One of my best friends may have hated the peak I dragged her up during our climb, but afterward she turned to me and sighed, “I’ve never felt more alive or more in love with my body.” Once, on a backpacking trip with high school senior girls, one turned excitedly to me and said, “I haven’t thought badly about my body this whole trip!” I think of my skis hanging over the ledge of Blue Sky Basin, my toes hurting like hell, my legs are tingling and frozen, and my flight-or-fight mode tells me that the drop in isn’t worth the potential outcome of pain. But when I look up at the snow-crested ridges against the deepest blue backdrop I’ve ever seen, I push on and fire up my legs, reminding myself that this view is worth the discomfort it takes to reach it."



"Ecologists speak now of a need for “deep ecology,” not just an understanding of ecological issues and piecemeal scientific responses, but an overhaul of our philosophical understanding of nature. Instead of viewing mankind as the overlord of nature, it’s about revisiting the idea that a give-and-take relationship exists between the human and the nonhuman, a relationship that thrives on mutual respect and appreciation. To develop this sort of appreciation for nature and the nonhuman, it matters that we actually experience it. For many ecological thinkers, walking among mountains can be the first step in healing a false split between body and mind. The grief at the destruction of a beautiful building, the ecstatic joy of a sunrise in the mountains—these moments stem from this unification of the two.

Fragile moments of being that exist in nature

It’s a question of place versus nonplace. In The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities, Richard Sennett points to the peculiarity of the American sense of place: “that you are nowhere when you are alone with yourself.” Sennett speaks of cities as nonplaces, in which the person among the crowd slips into oblivion, only existing inside him- or herself. Other nonplaces look like the drudgery of terminals or waiting lines or places where all eyes are glued to phones. The buildings are uniform, and the faces blur together to create a boring conglomerate of civilization. If to be alone in a city is to be nowhere, the antithesis must be that to be alone in nature is to be everywhere. Nature is a place characterized by its “thisness,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins describes it—a place to enter into that is palpable with its own essence and feeling.

But as we lose our connection to place, as virtual reality turns here into nowhere, we lose our ability to narrate our experiences of nature. Recently, nature writer Robert Macfarlane pointed out that in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, the virtual and indoor are replacing the outdoor and natural, making them blasé. When we lose the language to describe our connection to landscape and place, we lose the actual connection to these things and the value decreases, separating us from the natural. According to Macfarlane, we have always been “name-callers, christeners,” always seeking language that registers the dramas of landscape, and the environmental movement must begin with a reawakening of natural wonder–inspired language.

Perhaps the point of all of this is to work to develop more refined attention, an ability to seek out and perceive fragile moments of being that exist in nature. We must pay attention to our breath and our bodies. Wendell Berry, a prophet of the natural, writes that to pay attention is to “stretch toward” a subject in aspiration, to come into its presence. To pay attention to mountains, we must come beneath them and reach out toward them.

To walk is to perceive

How do we begin? By wandering within the wilderness. Rebecca Solnit’s book on walking comes to mind: “Walking is one way of maintaining a bulwark against this erosion of the mind, the body, the landscape, and the city, and every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.” While people today live in disconnected interiors, on foot in wilderness the whole world is connected to the individual. This form of investing in a place gives back; memories become seeded into places, giving them meaning and associations both in the body and the mind. Walking may take much longer, but this slowing down opens one up to new details, new possibilities.

Brian Teare is one of my favorite modern poets because his poetry is centered upon Charles Olson’s projective verse and on walking. All his works contain physical coordinates, anchoring each work of art to the place that inspired it. The land becomes the location, subject, and meaning to the thoughts and feelings that Teare wants to convey. As we enter into a field or crest the ridge of a mountain, we perceive the sight of the landscape and experience our bodies within it. We feel the wind and touch the dirt; we see the edges and diversity of the landscape. Perhaps we have hiked a far distance to reach this place and feel the journey within the body. Teare says in one of my favorite poems, “Atlas Peak”:

we have to hold it instead

in our heads & hands

which would seem impossible

except for how we remember

the trail in our feet, calves,

& thighs, our lungs’ thrust

upward; our eyes, which scan

trailside bracken for flowers;

& our minds, which recall

their names as best they can

Sitting on the side of Mount Massive, on the verge of tears, I felt utterly defeated. Our group took the shorter route, which had resulted in thousands of feet of incline in just a few miles, and my lungs, riddled with occasional asthma, were rejecting the task before them. It felt as if all the rocks in the boulder field had been placed upon my chest. My mind went to the thought of wilderness: Was it freedom or a curse? What would happen to me if something went wrong up here? Risk and freedom hold hands with each other in the mountains. After a long break, a few puffs of albuterol, water, and grit, I pulled myself up the final ascent and false summits along the ridge. I have been most thankful for my body when I have realized how beautifully fragile and simultaneously capable it is. On the summit, as we watched thin wispy waves of clouds weave into each other and rise around us, the mountain gently reminded me that I am not in control. I am not all-powerful, and nature’s lesson to me that morning was to respect its wildness.

As in all things, essentialism should be avoided. We live in a world that tends toward black-and-white perspectives, and when one praises the wilderness, those remarks can devolve into Luddite sentiments that are antipeople, antitechnological, and antihistorical. This solves nothing. Advancements in civilization are welcome and beautiful; technology has connected us in unprecedented ways. But as with anything, balance is key. We need the possibility of escape from civilization, even if we never indulge it. We need it to exist as an antithesis to the stresses of modern society. We need wilderness to serve as a place to realize that we exist in a tenuous balance with the world around us. All the political and societal struggles matter little if we have no environment to live in. In a world of utilitarian decision-making, a walk in the woods may be considered frivolous and useless, but it is necessary. The choice to preserve or to dominate is ours. But before deciding, perhaps one should first wander among the mountains."
nature  walking  wilderness  body  fragility  power  control  memory  luddism  decisionmaking  risk  freedom  technology  attention  brianteare  thinking  2016  hiking  robertmacfarlane  essence  feeling  feelings  vulnerability  gerardmanleyhopkins  nonplaces  urban  urbanism  escape  richardsennett  mind  spirit  life  living  mindbodyspirit  haleylittleton  andygoldsworthy  place  rebeccasolnit  wendellberry  walterbenjamin  outdoors  edwardabbey  ecology  environment  bodies 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Solution to Technology Overload Is So Incredibly Simple | Big Think
"University of Illinois researchers have found that getting outside with family members can help prevent family dysfunction. Previous research had been done on the benefits of walking unto itself, but combining the social element as well brings past studies into a new light.

To clarify, walking itself, even for just 20 minutes, can help you restore your attention. And attention helps you pick up social cues, not feel as irritable, and maintain more self-control than you otherwise would have. All of these factors can lead to functioning more in harmony with those around you.

Attention is a scarce resource in the age of the Internet and constant screen exposure. It’s hard for our brains to have the chance to sit back and have restorative time when there are so many tools, entertainment and advertising devices clamoring for our focus. Taking kids to the park helps parents feel like they can relax a little, they are “on-duty” in a different way. And the ritual itself of going outside with family can have benefits for family functioning.

The question of how to increase our attention spans is a big one, with implications far outside that of this study. It turns out that the human attention span these days has actually decreased to be shorter than that of a goldfish. Back in 2000 (before smartphones became a big thing), the average human attention span was 12 seconds. Now, it is only eight seconds, while the attention span of a goldfish is about nine seconds.

Activities such as “dual screening,” using a smartphone while watching TV is an example, are suspected of contributing to this mass attention deficit. But even for those who aren’t switching back and forth between devices, heavy usage of a smartphone can lead to episodes called “cognitive failures.” Cognitive failures can include forgetting appointments, frequent forgetfulness about what they were planning to do next, and having a hard time concentrating on a conversation.

Getting out for a walk might be even more beneficial for you if you walk in an area with some amount of trees. Even when viewing a street at just two percent tree density, participants in a study noted feeling more relaxed than they did when viewing a street without any trees. Seeing more trees led to further participants reporting stress reduction."
outdoors  trees  health  psychology  technology  2016  families  parenting  screentime  walking  attention  sfsh  social 
june 2016 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Your GPS Is Making You Dumber, and What That Means for Teaching
"Ann Shannon asks teachers to avoid “GPS-ing” their students:
When I talk about GPSing students in a mathematics class I am describing our tendency to tell students—step-by-step—how to arrive at the answer to a mathematics problem, just as a GPS device in a car tells us – step-by-step – how to arrive at some destination.

Shannon writes that when she used her GPS, “I usually arrived at my destination having learned little about my journey and with no overview of my entire route.”

True to the contested nature of education, we will now turn to someone who advocates exactly the opposite. Greg Ashman recommends novices learn new ideas and skills through explicit instruction, one facet of which is step-by-step worked examples. Ashman took up the GPS metaphor recently. He used his satellite navigation system in new environs and found himself able to re-create his route later without difficulty.

What can we do here? Shannon argues from intuition. Ashman’s study lacks a certain rigor. Luckily, researchers have actually studied what people learn and don’t learn when they use their GPS!

In a 2006 study, researchers compared two kinds of navigation. One set of participants used traditional, step-by-step GPS navigation to travel between two points in a zoo. Another group had to construct their route between those points using a map and then travel segments of that route from memory.

Afterwards, the researchers assessed the route knowledge and survey knowledge of their participants. Route knowledge helps people navigate between landmarks directly. Survey knowledge helps people understand spatial relationships between those landmarks and plan new routes. At the end of the study, the researchers found that map users had better survey knowledge than GPS users, which you might have expected, but map users outperformed the GPS users on measures of route knowledge as well.

So your GPS does an excellent job transporting you efficiently from one point to another, but a poor job helping you acquire the survey knowledge to understand the terrain and adapt to changes.

Similarly, our step-by-step instructions do an excellent job transporting students efficiently from a question to its answer, but a poor job helping them acquire the domain knowledge to understand the deep structure in a problem set and adapt old methods to new questions.

I’ll take that trade with my GPS, especially on a dull route that I travel infrequently, but that isn’t a good trade in the classroom.

The researchers explain their results from the perspective of active learning, arguing that travelers need to do something effortful and difficult while they learn in order to remember both route and survey knowledge. Designing learning for the right kind of effort and difficulty is one of the most interesting tasks in curriculum design. Too much effort and difficulty and you’ll see our travelers try to navigate a route without a GPS or a map. While blindfolded. But the GPS offers too little difficulty, with negative consequences for drivers and even worse ones for students."
education  teaching  gps  belesshelpful  instruction  math  mathematics  2016  annshannon  learning  howwelearn  navigation  attention  knowledge  curriculum  domainknowledge  problemsolving 
june 2016 by robertogreco
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