robertogreco + business   1157

The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Rise of the WeWorking Class - The New York Times
"IMAGINE YOU TRAINED an artificial intelligence on a comprehensive stock-photo set of every boutique-hotel lobby from Palm Springs to Stockholm to Milan, then connected it to a five-story 3-D printer fully furnished with pendant-dome lamps, waxy leaves and old-school hip-hop lyrics. The output would be a WeWork. So much serene, lavish and mechanical attention is allocated to every detail: the neon and the daybeds and the fiddle-leaf figs, the wallpaper and the playlists and the typefaces. The newest iteration of its ever-emergent design concept may be indebted to Luis Barragán and Carlo Scarpa, but the degree of thought and investment that goes into its terrarium construction is something its busy occupants are expected to register only as background noise. WeWorks feel voguish but never threatening; comfortable but never shabby; rousing but never intemperate; detailed but never ostentatious.

There’s also free top-shelf coffee, the sort of minor frill most office workers might take for granted in a way the self-employed never would. One premise of the company’s existence is that it’s good business to provide such minor luxuries to the otherwise unfrilled. The coffee — and the draft kombucha, which has come to supplement beer as WeWork distances itself from the frattier aspects of entrepreneurship — is, at any rate, only part of an environment engineered for felicitous exchange. This strategy is supported by narrow hallways, boxy plate-glass enclosures, distant bathrooms and centralized fruit-water dispensers, but the company’s architects never indulged the belief that if they built it, people would come. The spaces themselves are the staging ground for yoga classes, wine tastings, make-your-own-trail-mix bars and vendor workshops about how to cut cloud costs. For what remains of life outside the workplace, there are cross-promotional discounts on 1-800-Flowers.com and Crunch gym memberships.

Most of us have serious reasons to worry about the future of work, and it’s easy to object to WeWork’s thin consolations on the basis of aesthetic or moral principle. Once you get accustomed to the basic product, however, it’s hard not to find it ... pretty nice. Over the course of about a year, I stopped into locations in six or seven cities, and in each of them I sat in front of my computer alongside other people in front of their computers and felt at once marginally more productive and slightly less unmoored."



"The relentless sociability inspired by WeWork was always one of the founders’ aims, even as the composition of its membership has changed. When the company first opened in 2010, its spaces catered to entrepreneurs. The founders soon understood that the increasingly fluid and anxious labor market — its conditions exacerbated by the downturn but likely to exist in perpetuity — presented them with a much larger potential customer base. Uber and TaskRabbit and other labor-platform intermediaries positioned themselves to match those who needed something done with those who needed something to do, but they based their recruitment drives on a cynical reading of the economic mood. The subway I took to WeWork was plastered with tough-love ads from services like Fiverr, which made naked appeals to stoic virtues. (“Actually, it hasn’t all been done before”; “In doers we trust”; “Reading about starting your own business is like reading about having sex.”)

That sort of campaign felt manipulative: The platforms’ emphasis on self-reliance for the economically precarious merely disguised their rent-seeking. WeWork, by contrast, just charged rent. The company was perceptive enough to realize that disaggregated workers (or at least those of a certain class) did not want to hear that they should just kill it on their own, bro. They wanted to hear that nobody ever can. What WeWork offered was not just rhetoric — a more sympathetic description of the restless, fretful life of the deinstitutionalized worker — but true shelter from a pervasive sense of alienation. Where Fiverr issued an invitation to gladiatorial combat, WeWork promised a work environment remodeled for solace and dignity.

Thus is the business model of WeWork, recently valued at $47 billion, now only facially about commercial subletting. All its accessories serve to buttress its real product: “office culture” as a service. When people at the company try to explain that culture, they invariably resort to talk of positive energy sources and the obligation to heal the social fabric — a vocabulary traditionally associated with utopian architecture, 1980s academic communitarianism or ayahuasca experimentation. They affirm that all the ostensibly small incremental niceties add up to more than the sum of their parts, and on some level I couldn’t help agreeing. The market certainly seems to. As of this January, WeWork has 400,000 members in 425 locations in 27 countries, at least 30 percent of whom are employees of large existing businesses. This latter category has helped double that membership in only a year. Some of these enterprise customers are merely outsourcing their facilities management the way they outsource manufacturing or payroll; others anticipate the revitalization — or even wholesale procurement — of their corporate culture. The conviction behind the rapid growth of WeWork is that the office culture of the future is likely to be the culture of the future, full stop, and that it is WeWork’s special vocation to bring it to market.

THE IDEA OF “CORPORATE CULTURE,” long before it was identified and cultivated as such, emerged as a solution to the problems of the large, distributed mass-industrial firm. Ransom Olds is credited with inventing the concept of the assembly line in 1901, and it was over the following decades that businesses began to feel an imperative to address the question of what work was supposed to “mean.” This was both an internal bottom-line matter — employees who toiled in exchange for only a paycheck were difficult to retain and unlikely to prioritize efficiency or innovation — and a social one. By midcentury, large companies like the car manufacturers had come to represent the predominant institutional affiliation for legions of American men. Even if these firms had no explicit philanthropic interest in civic cohesion, they certainly had a stake in the preservation of the social order. If they could invest piecemeal labor with something like dignity, they could neutralize the political and economic threats posed by union solidarity.

What they arrived at was a generic set of strategies, applicable at any industrial organization, designed to help workers recognize the value of their personal contributions to the final product. The classic formulation of this approach was Peter Drucker’s “Concept of the Corporation”; though it’s now seen — if not much read — as a foundational text in the study of management, it reads like a sober contribution to midcentury sociology. The simplest form of recognition is advancement. Workers, Drucker believed, ought to be viewed not as exploitable resources but as human capital to be fostered, and thus provided with the training necessary to secure a path upward. Programs like project rotations — which exposed otherwise specialized employees to the breadth of company operations — should be put in place even if they seemed, in the short term, economically irrational; in the long term, they represented an investment in worker potential. Employees unlikely to advance might more gladly accept their place in the corporate scheme when given a holistic perspective on production: The maker of a car’s door hinge, for example, might be shown where his discrete, repetitive effort fits into the fully realized car.

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined culture as a collective act of interpretation, the stories we tell one another about ourselves in an attempt to make ongoing sense of why we do what we do. A car manufacturer could just point to a sensible Oldsmobile, something the world self-evidently needed. Because cars were public goods, corporate culture could easily borrow its energy from civic culture.

It could also borrow civic culture’s prevailing norms — and, in turn, reinforce them. The management classic “Built to Last” describes how Walt Disney, for example, did not manage a corporation so much as lord over an extended brood of subordinates, each of them expected not only to abide by the letter of company decorum but also to embody its founder’s spirit. Hourly theme-park workers were held to an imperious standard of personal upkeep: for men, no facial hair; for women, no dangly earrings or excessive makeup. As one biographer described it, “When someone did, on occasion, slip in Walt’s presence and use a four-letter word in mixed company, the result was always immediate dismissal, no matter what type of professional inconvenience the firing caused.” The people making the country’s cars could be forgiven a coarse exclamation; the people making the country’s cartoons were held to a loftier code.

As the economy shifted from industrial manufacturing to the service and knowledge sectors, it became increasingly necessary for businesses to articulate their “core purpose” as an organizational and motivational principle — and a way to differentiate “their” ethereal knowledge work from whatever it was other companies’ employees did. The separation of corporate culture in particular from general civic culture was also encouraged by the ascendancy of free-market economics; Milton Friedman told executives that their sole remit was to tend to their own shareholder garden. Shared goals, while important, ought to be strictly values-agnostic."



"Over the past year, as WeWork has been folded into what is now called the We Company — which encompasses WeGrow, its school, and WeLive, its communal housing projects — its Powered by We product has been refined and … [more]
wework  work  labor  workplace  2019  culture  gideonlewis-kraus  cliffordgeertz  economics  organization  peterdrucker  solidarity  unions  facilities  fiverr  uber  taskrabbit  business 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Patagonia's new company mission is to save the planet
"In an exclusive interview, founder Yvon Chouinard talks about how the new mission will reshape how the company does business."



"For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

In just the last few years alone, the company has expanded its used clothing program, amped up its investment in sustainable startups, launched an activist hub to connect its customer base directly with grassroots environmental organizations, and taken the Trump administration to court over its public lands policy. And just last month, CEO Rose Marcario announced it was giving back $10 million in tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations.

But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

In an exclusive interview with Fast Company, Chouinard says the shift in mission may sound trivial–obviously those ubiquitous fleeces aren’t going anywhere–but it’s actually fundamental to almost every aspect of the company. The key is in its expression of urgency, to signal to everyone inside the company and out, that this isn’t just about climate change, it’s a climate crisis.

“We’re losing the planet because of climate change, that’s the elephant in the room. Society is basically working on symptoms. Save the polar bear? If you want to save the polar bear, you got to save the planet,” Chouinard says. “Forget about the polar bear, they’re toast anyway. So I decided to make a very simple statement, because in reality, if we want to save the planet, every single company in the world has to do the same thing. And I thought, well, let’s be the first.”
While months in the works, Patagonia’s announcement comes as major scientific reports have detailed the consequences of unchecked climate change. The Fourth National Climate Assessment by the White House released just a few weeks ago outlined the potential societal and economic impact, which includes annual losses in some economic sectors projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.

Chouinard is blunt in his own assessment of the level of urgency. “This is Pearl Harbor. The whole country, and whole world, has to mobilize to do this,” he says. “It’s triage. I remember when I was a kid during World War II, we didn’t have any meat to eat. There was no beef, there was no sugar, people had to grow their own gardens. The whole country mobilized. That’s what has to happen now. So I didn’t think we were taking climate change seriously enough. We were supporting too many causes that were working on symptoms and not actual causes and solutions.”

The new mission statement impacts every single job in the company. About six months ago, Chouinard gave the HR department some new marching orders. “Whenever we have a job opening, all things being equal, hire the person who’s committed to saving the planet no matter what the job is,” he says. “And that’s made a huge difference in the people coming into the company.”

It’s also influencing who Patagonia works with as brand ambassadors–being a great surfer is cool, for example, but they also have to be committed to being strong and vocal environmental advocates–and the grassroots activist organizations it funds. “We give out about 900 grants a year to different activist organizations,” says Chouinard. “We’ve given money to an organization that repairs people’s bicycles. Well, they’re not going to get any money any more.”

To figure out the best way the company could have the most effective impact, Chouinard and Marcario had to ask themselves questions like, what are Patagonia’s resources? Where does the company have influence? And what should it be putting money into? They came up with three key answers: agriculture, politics, and protected lands.

Regenerative agriculture has long been a company priority, both in its R&D for clothing and apparel materials and its line of food products, Patagonia Provisions. Before it was a nice-to-have, now it’s a need-to-have. “We’re not going to get rid of our cars; we can’t even get carbon taxes going,” says Chouinard. “But with regenerative agriculture, there’s been studies that have shown that if we did our agriculture the right way, we could capture more carbon than we’re emitting. Period.”
Right now the company is working with about 100 small farmers who grow cotton regeneratively in India, which is being expanded to 450 next year. They control the pests with traps, they weed and gather the cotton by hand. “That’s what you have to do, replace all the chemicals with knowledge and labor,” says Chouinard.

And they can also sell the cover crops planted to help protect the cotton, “So they get another 10% from us for growing regeneratively, they can sell their cover crops, and they’re happy,” Chouinard says. “We’re going to be making regeneratively grown cotton stand-up shorts, not only employing people, but from a crop that actually captures carbon. That’s a win-win for everybody.”

In politics, ahead of the 2018 midterm election, Patagonia became one of the first consumer brands ever to make the endorsement of specific candidates part of its brand marketing. It posted endorsements of Nevada Democratic candidate Jacky Rosen in Nevada and incumbent Montana Senator Jon Tester on its website, across its social channels, and in customer emails. Chouinard says to expect the company to speak up more loudly and often.

“Jon Tester barely won in Montana. I’ve had people in Montana tell me he probably wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t helped,” he says. “That makes me feel pretty good! We have this political power, a few million customers who are really behind what we’re doing. So why not use it to do some good?”

For protected lands, it goes beyond advocating and fighting for public lands, as the company has been doing for Bears Ears in Utah. Smaller, more strategic investments of money and time have the potential for significant impact. Last May, Chouinard talked to Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation, about an idea for creating a new park at the very tip of South America. “I’ve been there and it’s a wild, wild place,” Chouinard says. “There’s no roads, no trails, just a lot of swampland that captures a tremendous amount of carbon. So I thought it’d be a perfect place for a protected parkland.”

Patagonia gave Tompkins Conservation $185,000 to get on it. And they are, working with the governments of Chile and Argentina on the establishment of new protected lands. “It’s not like we had to buy up a ton of land and force our way in. It’s strategic investment that has really paid off,” says Chouinard. “This whole thing could be done by Christmas. Can you believe it?”"
patagonia  branding  business  climatechange  sustainability  yvonchouinard  2018  earth  anthropocene  globalwarming  extinction 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
A Business With No End - The New York Times
"Where does this strange empire start or stop?"



"Trying to map the connections between all these entities opens a gaping wormhole. I couldn’t get over the idea that a church might be behind a network of used business books, hair straighteners, and suspiciously priced compression stockings — sold on Amazon storefronts with names like GiGling EyE, ShopperDooperEU and DAMP store — all while running a once-venerable American news publication into the ground.

While I searched for consistencies among disparate connections, the one thing I encountered again and again on websites affiliated with those in the Community was the word “dream.” “Find the wooden furniture of your dreams” (Hunt Country Furniture). “Read your dreams” (Stevens Books). “Our company is still evolving every year, but our dream never changed” (Everymarket). “The future belongs to the one who has dreams; a company with dreams achieves the same” (Verecom).

Indeed, at some point I began to feel like I was in a dream. Or that I was half-awake, unable to distinguish the virtual from the real, the local from the global, a product from a Photoshop image, the sincere from the insincere.

Still harder for me to grasp was the total interpenetration of e-commerce and physical space. Standing inside Stevens Books was like being on a stage set for Stevens Books, Stevens Book, Stevens Book Shop, and Stevensbook — all at the same time. It wasn’t that the bookstore wasn’t real, but rather that it felt reverse-engineered by an online business, or a series of them. Being a human who resides in physical space, my perceptual abilities were overwhelmed. But in some way, even if it was impossible to articulate, I knew that some kind of intersection of Olivet University, Gratia Community Church, IBPort, the Newsweek Media Group, and someone named Stevens was right there with me, among the fidget spinners, in an otherwise unremarkable store in San Francisco."
jennyodell  2018  internet  olivetuniversity  amazon  business  scams  fraud  storytelling  gifs  animatedgifs  sanfrancisco  newjersey  nyc 
november 2018 by robertogreco
“When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit”: The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg | Vanity Fair
"Harvard Business School invented the “leadership” industry—and produced a generation of corporate monsters. No wonder Sandberg, one of the school’s most prominent graduates, lacks a functioning moral compass."



"The truth is, Harvard Business School, like much of the M.B.A. universe in which Sandberg was reared, has always cared less about moral leadership than career advancement and financial performance. The roots of the problem can be found in the School’s vaunted “Case Method,” a discussion-based pedagogy that asks students to put themselves in the role of corporate Übermensch. At the start of each class, one unlucky soul is put in the hot seat, presented with a “what would you do” scenario, and then subjected to the ruthless interrogation of their peers. Graded on a curve, the intramural competition can be intense—M.B.A.s are super-competitive, after all.

Let’s be clear about this: in business, as in life, there isn’t always one correct answer. So the teaching of a decision-making philosophy that is deliberate and systematic, but still open-minded, is hardly controversial on its face. But to help students overcome the fear of sounding stupid and being remorselessly critiqued, they are reminded, in case after case—and with emphasis—that there are no right answers. And that has had the unfortunate effect of opening up a chasm of moral equivalence in too many of their graduates.

And yet, there are obviously many situations where some answers are more right than others. Especially when it comes to moral issues like privacy, around which both Sandberg and Facebook have a history of demonstrating poor judgment. While H.B.S. is correct in its assertion that it produces people who can make decisions, the fact of the matter is that they have never emphasized how to make the right ones.

Consider investment banker Bowen McCoy’s “The Parable of the Sadhu,” published in Harvard Business Review in 1977, and again 20 years later. It addressed what seemed, at least to the H.B.S. crowd, to be an ethical dilemma. McCoy was on a trip to the Himalayas when his expedition encountered a sadhu, or holy man, near death from hypothermia and exposure. Their compassion extended only to clothing the man and leaving him in the sun, before continuing on to the summit. One of McCoy’s group saw a “breakdown between the individual ethic and the group ethic,” and was gripped by guilt that the climbers had not made absolutely sure that the sadhu made it down the mountain alive. McCoy’s response: “Here we are . . . at the apex of one of the most powerful experiences of our lives. . . . What right does an almost naked pilgrim who chooses the wrong trail have to disrupt our lives?”

McCoy later felt guilt over the incident, but his parable nevertheless illustrated the extent to which aspiring managers might justify putting personal accomplishment ahead of collateral damage—including the life of a dying man. The fact that H.B.S. enthusiastically incorporated said parable into its curriculum says far more about the fundamental mindset of the school than almost anything else that has come out of it. The “dilemma” was perfectly in line with the thinking at H.B.S. that an inability to clearly delineate the right choice in business isn’t the fault of the chooser but rather a fundamental characteristic of business, itself.

Here’s a slightly more recent example: remember Jeff Skilling? Like Sandberg, he graduated from H.B.S. and went to work at McKinsey. And like Sandberg, he left McKinsey for a C-suite gig—in his case, Enron—that took him to the stratosphere. Again like Sandberg, he basked in adulation over his ability to deliver shareholder returns. Skilling had done so, of course, by turning Enron into one of the greatest frauds the world has ever seen.

One of Skilling’s H.B.S. classmates, John LeBoutillier, who went on to be a U.S. congressman, later recalled a case discussion in which the students were debating what the C.E.O. should do if he discovered that his company was producing a product that could be potentially fatal to consumers. “I’d keep making and selling the product,” he recalled Skilling saying. “My job as a businessman is to be a profit center and to maximize return to the shareholders. It’s the government’s job to step in if a product is dangerous.” Several students nodded in agreement, recalled LeBoutillier. “Neither Jeff nor the others seemed to care about the potential effects of their cavalier attitude. . . . At H.B.S. . . . you were then, and still are, considered soft or a wuss if you dwell on morality or scruples.”

Why do so many M.B.A.s struggle to make the ethical decisions that seem so clear to the rest of us? Is it right to employ a scummy P.R. firm to deflect attention from our failures? Is it O.K. if we bury questions about user privacy and consent under a mountain of legalese? Can we get away with repeatedly choosing profits over principles and then promising that we will do better in the future?

If you think this kind of thing isn’t still going on at Harvard Business School—or wasn’t going on when Sandberg graduated in 1995—I refer you to Michel Anteby, who joined the faculty 10 years later, in 2005. At first enthusiastic, Anteby was soon flummoxed by the complete absence of normative viewpoints in classroom discussion. “I grew up in France where there were very articulated norms,” he told the BBC in 2015. “Higher norms and lower norms. Basically, you have convictions of what was right or wrong, and when I tried to articulate this in the classroom, I encountered . . . silence on the part of students. Because they weren’t used to these value judgments in the classroom.”

Eight years after his arrival, Anteby published Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in Business School Education. The book was not published by Harvard but the University of Chicago Press. Calling the case system an “unscripted journey” for students, it was one of the first times an insider had joined the chorus of outsiders who have long criticized the case method as one that glamorizes the C.E.O.-as-hero, as well as the overuse of martial terminology in business curricula. (The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mark Zuckerberg currently considers Facebook “at war.”)

“H.B.S. studies everybody under the sun,” Anteby told me in early 2015. “There is no reason we should be off limits.” Alas, they were. Not long after his book was published, Anteby came to believe that H.B.S. would not grant him tenure, and left the school soon after. “He is an unbelievably productive and smart guy,” one of his supporters, the University of Michigan’s Jerry Davis, told me later that year. “And they fired him. Probably because H.B.S. wasn’t the right place to have a conversation about itself. It would be like being at Versailles in 1789, offering up leadership secrets of Louis XIV. The really unfortunate part is that he wasn’t as harsh as he should have been, because he was up for tenure.”

The absence of voices like Anteby’s are evident to this day, and an ongoing indictment of the culture that turned Facebook from a Harvard sophomore’s dorm-room project into what passes for a Harvard Business School success story. Return one last time to the H.B.R. Web site, and you will find a case study that was published just a few months ago entitled “Facebook—Can Ethics Scale in the Digital Age?” Set aside the abuse of the English language in the question—M.B.A.s specialize in that kind of thing. The mere fact that it’s being asked serves as resounding proof that the moral equivalence problem is still with us today. The question is not whether or not a company of Facebook’s size and reach can stay ethical. The question is whether it will even try."
harvard  harvardbusinessschool  ethics  sherylsandberg  facebook  2018  business  careerism  morality  hbs  via:nicoleslaw  leadership  billclinton  mba  mbas  harvardbusinessrevie  hbr  duffmcdonald  competition  competitiveness  winning  decisionmaking  billgeorge  larrysummers  abrahamzaleznik  johnleboutillier  jeffskilling  bowenmccoy  michelanteby  norms  values  capitalism  neoliberalism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
How the Sears Catalog Undermined White Supremacy in the Jim Crow South
[See also:
https://twitter.com/louishyman/status/1051872178415828993
Every time a black southerner went to the local store they were confronted with forced deference to white customers who would be served first. The stores were not self-service, so the black customers would have to wait. And then would have to ask the proprietor to give them goods (often on credit because…sharecropping). The landlord often owned the store. In every way shopping reinforced hierarchy. Until Sears.

The catalog undid the power of the storekeeper, and by extension the landlord. Black families could buy without asking permission. Without waiting. Without being watched. With national (cheap) prices!

"Sears’s ‘radical’ past: How mail-order catalogues subverted the racial hierarchy of Jim Crow"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/16/searss-radical-past-how-mail-order-catalogues-subverted-the-racial-hierarchy-of-jim-crow/

"Back When Sears Made Black Customers a Priority
In this week’s Race/Related, an interview about Jim Crow capitalism and Sears."
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/20/us/sears-jim-crow-racism-catalog.html

"Remembering the Rosenwald Schools
How Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington created a thriving schoolhouse construction program for African Americans in the rural South."
https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/culture/remembering-the-rosenwald-schools_o
sears  jimcrow  history  whitesupremacy  access  2018  mail  education  inequality  louishyman  antonianoorifarzan  kottke  us  south  music  tedgioia  business  jerry  hancock  race  racism 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Progressive Labels for Regressive Practices: How Key Terms in Education Have Been Co-opted - Alfie Kohn
[via: https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1052629222089359361

"So here's the cycle:

1. Educators create valid term for needed reform.
2. Corporate/political forces co-opt term to sell bullshit to schools.
3. Regressive educators equate needed reform with bullshit "reform."
4. Needed reform is defeated & forgotten.

Example:

1. Educators advocate for differentiated/personalized learning as humane, relationship-based alternative to standardization.
2. Corporations co-opt term to sell algorithm-based-ed-tech bullshit.
3. Popular bloggers equate 'personalized learning' with edtech bullshit.
4. Public impression is created that 'personalized learning' is a negative, corporate-driven, bullshit concept.
5. Standardization prevails."

[my reply]

"“a dark commentary on how capitalism absorbs its critiques”" (quoting https://twitter.com/amandahess/status/1052689514039250945 ) ]

"“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

— Lewis Caroll, Through the Looking Glass

“Whole language” (WL), a collaborative, meaning-based approach to helping children learn to read and write, emerged a few decades ago as a grassroots movement. Until it was brought down by furious attacks from social conservatives, academic behaviorists, and others, many teachers were intrigued by this alternative to the phonics fetish and basal boom that defined the field. More than just an instructional technique, WL amounted to a declaration of independence from packaged reading programs. So how did the publishers of those programs respond? Some “absorbed the surface [features] of WL and sold them back to teachers.” Others just claimed that whatever was already in their commercial materials — bite-size chunks of literature and prefabricated lesson plans — was whole language.[1]

Until you can beat them, pretend to join them: WL is literally a textbook illustration of that strategy. But it’s hardly the only one. For example, experts talk about the importance of having kids do science rather than just learning about it, so many companies now sell kits for easy experimenting. It’s branded as “discovery learning,” except that much of the discovery has been done ahead of time.

A teacher-educator friend of mine, a leading student of constructivism, was once treated to dinner by a textbook publisher who sought his counsel about how kids can play an active role in the classroom and create meaning around scientific ideas. The publisher listened avidly, taking careful notes, which my friend found enormously gratifying until he suddenly realized that the publisher’s objective was just to appropriate key phrases that could be used in the company’s marketing materials and as chapter headings in its existing textbook.

Or consider cooperative learning. Having students spend much of their classroom time in pairs or small groups is a radical notion: Learning becomes a process of exchanging and reflecting on ideas with peers and planning projects together. When we learn with and from one another, schooling is about us, not just about me. But no sooner had the idea begun to catch on (in the 1980s) than it was diluted, reduced to a gimmick for enlivening a comfortably traditional curriculum. Teachers were told, in effect, that they didn’t have to question their underlying model of learning; students would memorize facts and practice skills more efficiently if they did it in groups. Some writers even recommended using grades, certificates, and elaborate point systems to reinforce students for cooperating appropriately.[2]

In short, the practice of “co-opting” potentially transformative movements in education[3] is nothing new. Neither, however, is it just a historical artifact. A number of labels that originally signified progressive ideas continue to be (mis)appropriated, their radical potential drained away, with the result that they’re now invoked by supporters of “bunch o’ facts” teaching or a corporate-styled, standards-and-testing model of school reform.[4]

A sample:

* Engaging doesn’t denote a specific pedagogical approach; it’s used as a general honorific, signifying a curriculum that the students themselves experience as worthwhile. But these days the word is often applied to tasks that may not be particularly interesting to most kids and that they had no role in choosing. In fact, the value of the tasks may simply be ignored, so we hear about student “engagement,” which seems to mean nothing more than prompt or sustained compliance. Such children have internalized the adults’ agenda and are (extrinsically) motivated to complete the assignment, whatever it is. If the point is to get them to stay “on task,” we’re spared having to think about what the task is — or who gets to decide — even as we talk earnestly about the value of having engaged students.[5]

* Developmental originally meant taking our cue from what children of a given age are capable of doing. But for some time now, the word has come to imply something rather different: letting children move at their own pace . . . up an adult-constructed ladder. Kids may have nothing to say about what, whether, or why — only about when. (This is similar to the idea of “mastery learning” — a phrase that hasn’t really been co-opted because it was never particularly progressive to begin with. Oddly, though, it’s still brandished proudly by people who seem to think it represents a forward-thinking approach to education.[6])

* Differentiated, individualized, or personalized learning all emerge from what would seem a perfectly reasonable premise: Kids have very different needs and interests, so we should think twice about making all of them do the same thing, let alone do it in the same way. But there’s a big difference between working with each student to create projects that reflect his or her preferences and strengths, on the one hand, and merely adjusting the difficulty level of skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores, on the other. The latter version has become more popular in recent years, driven in part by troubling programs such as “mass customized learning”[7] and by technology companies that peddle “individualized digital learning” products. (I have more to say about the differences between authentic personal learning and what might be called Personalized Learning, Inc. in this blog post.)

* Formative assessment was supposed to be the good kind — gauging students’ success while they’re still learning rather than evaluating them for the purpose of rating or ranking when it’s too late to make changes. But the concept “has been taken over — hijacked — by commercial test publishers and is used instead to refer to formal testing systems,” says assessment expert Lorrie Shepard.[8] Basically, an endless succession of crappy “benchmark” standardized tests — intended to refine preparation for the high-stakes tests that follow — are euphemistically described as “formative assessment.” Too often, in other words, the goal is just to see how well students will do on another test, not to provide feedback that will help them think deeply about questions that intrigue them. (The same is true of the phrase “assessment for learning,” which sounds nice but means little until we’ve asked “Learning what?”) The odds of an intellectually valuable outcome are slim to begin with if we’re relying on a test rather than on authentic forms of assessment.[9]

* A reminder to focus on the learning, not just the teaching seems refreshing and enlightened. After all, our actions as educators don’t matter nearly as much as how kids experience those actions. The best teachers (and parents) continually try to see what they do through the eyes of those to whom it’s done. But at some point I had the queasy realization that lots of consultants and administrators who insist that learning is more important than teaching actually have adopted a behaviorist version of learning, with an emphasis on discrete skills measured by test scores.

You see the pattern here. We need to ask what kids are being given to do, and to what end, and within what broader model of learning, and as decided by whom. If we allow ourselves to be distracted from those questions, then even labels with a proud progressive history can be co-opted to the point that they no longer provide reassurance about the practice to which the label refers."
alfiekohn  2015  progressive  education  schools  schooling  schooliness  lesicarroll  humptydumpty  wholelanguage  cooption  language  words  buzzwords  pedagogy  differentiation  teaching  business  capitalism  formativeassessment  assessment  learning  howweetach  howwelearn  development  engagement  grassroots 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Why we should bulldoze the business school | News | The Guardian
"There are 13,000 business schools on Earth. That’s 13,000 too many. And I should know – I’ve taught in them for 20 years. By Martin Parker



Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.

The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has become so thoroughly institutionalised within the well-carpeted corridors that it now passes unremarked, just an everyday counterpoint to business as usual. Careers are made by wailing loudly in books and papers about the problems with business schools. The business school has been described by two insiders as “a cancerous machine spewing out sick and irrelevant detritus”. Even titles such as Against Management, Fucking Management and The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not to cause any particular difficulties for their authors. I know this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly, the idea that I was permitted to get away with this speaks volumes about the extent to which this sort of criticism means anything very much at all. In fact, it is rewarded, because the fact that I publish is more important than what I publish.

Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy away from radical restructuring, and instead tend to suggest a return to supposedly more traditional business practices, or a form of moral rearmament decorated with terms such as “responsibility” and “ethics”. All of these suggestions leave the basic problem untouched, that the business school only teaches one form of organising – market managerialism.

That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinking about management, business and markets. If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational leaders are the answer to every problem, or that the purpose of learning about taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science."



"The easiest summary of all of the above, and one that would inform most people’s understandings of what goes on in the B-school, is that they are places that teach people how to get money out of the pockets of ordinary people and keep it for themselves. In some senses, that’s a description of capitalism, but there is also a sense here that business schools actually teach that “greed is good”. As Joel M Podolny, the former dean of Yale School of Management, once opined: “The way business schools today compete leads students to ask, ‘What can I do to make the most money?’ and the manner in which faculty members teach allows students to regard the moral consequences of their actions as mere afterthoughts.”

This picture is, to some extent, backed up by research, although some of this is of dubious quality. There are various surveys of business-school students that suggest that they have an instrumental approach to education; that is to say, they want what marketing and branding tells them that they want. In terms of the classroom, they expect the teaching of uncomplicated and practical concepts and tools that they deem will be helpful to them in their future careers. Philosophy is for the birds.

As someone who has taught in business schools for decades, this sort of finding doesn’t surprise me, though others suggest rather more incendiary findings. One US survey compared MBA students to people who were imprisoned in low-security prisons and found that the latter were more ethical. Another suggested that the likelihood of committing some form of corporate crime increased if the individual concerned had experience of graduate business education, or military service. (Both careers presumably involve absolving responsibility to an organisation.) Other surveys suggest that students come in believing in employee wellbeing and customer satisfaction and leave thinking that shareholder value is the most important issue, and that business-school students are more likely to cheat than students in other subjects."



"The sorts of doors to knowledge we find in universities are based on exclusions. A subject is made up by teaching this and not that, about space (geography) and not time (history), about collectives of people (sociology) and not about individuals (psychology), and so on. Of course, there are leakages and these are often where the most interesting thinking happens, but this partitioning of the world is constitutive of any university discipline. We cannot study everything, all the time, which is why there are names of departments over the doors to buildings and corridors.

However, the B-school is an even more extreme case. It is constituted through separating commercial life from the rest of life, but then undergoes a further specialisation. The business school assumes capitalism, corporations and managers as the default form of organisation, and everything else as history, anomaly, exception, alternative. In terms of curriculum and research, everything else is peripheral.

Most business schools exist as parts of universities, and universities are generally understood as institutions with responsibilities to the societies they serve. Why then do we assume that degree courses in business should only teach one form of organisation – capitalism – as if that were the only way in which human life could be arranged?

The sort of world that is being produced by the market managerialism that the business school sells is not a pleasant one. It’s a sort of utopia for the wealthy and powerful, a group that the students are encouraged to imagine themselves joining, but such privilege is bought at a very high cost, resulting in environmental catastrophe, resource wars and forced migration, inequality within and between countries, the encouragement of hyper-consumption as well as persistently anti-democratic practices at work.

Selling the business school works by ignoring these problems, or by mentioning them as challenges and then ignoring them in the practices of teaching and research. If we want to be able to respond to the challenges that face human life on this planet, then we need to research and teach about as many different forms of organising as we are able to collectively imagine. For us to assume that global capitalism can continue as it is means to assume a path to destruction. So if we are going to move away from business as usual, then we also need to radically reimagine the business school as usual. And this means more than pious murmurings about corporate social responsibility. It means doing away with what we have, and starting again."
mba  business  education  capitalism  businessschools  latecapitalism  2018  martinparker  highereducation  highered  corporatism  universities  colleges  society  priorities  managerialism  exclusions  privilege  environment  sustainability  markets  destruction  ethics  publicgood  neoliberalism  finance  money 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

For all its influence as a shaper of individual decisions, the greater power of convenience may arise from decisions made in aggregate, where it is doing so much to structure the modern economy. Particularly in tech-related industries, the battle for convenience is the battle for industry dominance.

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much."



"By the late 1960s, the first convenience revolution had begun to sputter. The prospect of total convenience no longer seemed like society’s greatest aspiration. Convenience meant conformity. The counterculture was about people’s need to express themselves, to fulfill their individual potential, to live in harmony with nature rather than constantly seeking to overcome its nuisances. Playing the guitar was not convenient. Neither was growing one’s own vegetables or fixing one’s own motorcycle. But such things were seen to have value nevertheless — or rather, as a result. People were looking for individuality again.

Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the second wave of convenience technologies — the period we are living in — would co-opt this ideal. It would conveniencize individuality.

You might date the beginning of this period to the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1979. With the Walkman we can see a subtle but fundamental shift in the ideology of convenience. If the first convenience revolution promised to make life and work easier for you, the second promised to make it easier to be you. The new technologies were catalysts of selfhood. They conferred efficiency on self-expression."



"I do not want to deny that making things easier can serve us in important ways, giving us many choices (of restaurants, taxi services, open-source encyclopedias) where we used to have only a few or none. But being a person is only partly about having and exercising choices. It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.

Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.

An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life.

We need to consciously embrace the inconvenient — not always, but more of the time. Nowadays individuality has come to reside in making at least some inconvenient choices. You need not churn your own butter or hunt your own meat, but if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him.

Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Taeyoon Choi on Twitter: "I'm wary of an explicative model of entrepreneurship in education (class project as a pitch & classroom as a mock business meeting). Instead… https://t.co/fI5I6OAZVh"
"I'm wary of an explicative model of entrepreneurship in education (class project as a pitch & classroom as a mock business meeting). Instead, I want my students to engage in a generative practice of systemic exchange. They create value, idea, trust, and care – not products."

[replied: "👇👉 the “unproduct” https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:unproduct "https://twitter.com/rogre/status/950556361540100096 ]
taeyoonchoi  2018  education  entrepreneurship  business  capitalism  care  trust  value  repair  unproduct  meaning  purpose  exchange  design  pitching  teaching  values  howweteach  learning 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains
"Miller never bothers to define all the modes, and we will consider them more below. But for now, we should just note that the entire model is based on design consulting: You try to understand the client’s problem, what he or she wants or needs. You sharpen that problem so it’s easier to solve. You think of ways to solve it. You try those solutions out to see if they work. And then once you’ve settled on something, you ask your client for feedback. By the end, you’ve created a “solution,” which is also apparently an “innovation.”

Miller also never bothers to define the liberal arts. The closest he comes is to say they are ways of “thinking that all students should be exposed to because it enhances their understanding of everything else.” Nor does he make clear what he means by the idea that Design Thinking is or could be the new liberal arts. Is it but one new art to be added to the traditional liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, and science? Or does Miller think, like Hennessy and Kelly, that all of education should be rebuilt around the DTs? Who knows.

Miller is most impressed with Design Thinking’s Empathize Mode. He writes lyrically, “Human-centered design redescribes the classical aim of education as the care and tending of the soul; its focus on empathy follows directly from Rousseau’s stress on compassion as a social virtue.” Beautiful. Interesting.

But what are we really talking about here? The d.school’s An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE says, “The Empathize Mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge.” We can use language like “empathy” to dress things up, but this is Business 101. Listen to your client; find out what he or she wants or needs.

Miller calls the Empathize Mode “ethnography,” which is deeply uncharitable — and probably offensive — to cultural anthropologists who spend their entire lives learning how to observe other people. Few, if any, anthropologists would sign onto the idea that some amateurs at a d.school “boot camp,” strolling around Stanford and gawking at strangers, constitutes ethnography. The Empathize Mode of Design Thinking is roughly as ethnographic as a marketing focus group or a crew of sleazoid consultants trying to feel out and up their clients’ desires.

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business."



In recent episode of the Design Observer podcast, Jen added further thoughts on Design Thinking. “The marketing of design thinking is completely bullshit. It’s even getting worse and worse now that [Stanford has] three-day boot camps that offer certified programs — as if anyone who enrolled in these programs can become a designer and think like a designer and work like a designer.” She also resists the idea that any single methodology “can deal with any kind of situation — not to mention the very complex society that we’re in today.”

In informal survey I conducted with individuals who either teach at or were trained at the top art, architecture, and design schools in the USA, most respondents said that they and their colleagues do not use the term Design Thinking. Most of the people pushing the DTs in higher education are at second- and third-tier universities and, ironically, aren’t innovating but rather emulating Stanford. In afew cases, respondents said they did know a colleague or two who was saying “Design Thinking” frequently, but in every case, the individuals were using the DTs either to increase their turf within the university or to extract resources from college administrators who are often willing to throw money at anything that smacks of “innovation.”

Moreover, individuals working in art, architecture, and design schools tend to be quite critical of existing DT programs. Reportedly, some schools are creating Design Thinking tracks for unpromising students who couldn’t hack it in traditional architecture or design programs — DT as “design lite.” The individuals I talked to also had strong reservations about the products coming out of Design Thinking classes. A traditional project in DT classes involves undergraduate students leading “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary” teams drawing on faculty expertise around campus to solve some problem of interest to the students. The students are not experts in anything, however, and the projects often take the form of, as one person put it, “kids trying to save the world.”

One architecture professor I interviewed had been asked to sit in on a Design Thinking course’s critique, a tradition at architecture and design schools where outside experts are brought in to offer (often tough) feedback on student projects. The professor watched a student explain her design: a technology that was meant to connect mothers with their premature babies who they cannot touch directly. The professor wondered, what is the message about learning that students get from such projects? “I guess the idea is that this work empowers the students to believe they are applying their design skills,” the professor told me. “But I couldn’t critique it as design because there was nothing to it as design. So what’s left? Is good will enough?

As others put it to me, Design Thinking gives students an unrealistic idea of design and the work that goes into creating positive change. Upending that old dictum “knowledge is power,” Design Thinkers giver their students power without knowledge, “creative confidence” without actual capabilities.

It’s also an elitist, Great White Hope vision of change that literally asks students to imagine themselves entering a situation to solve other people’s problems. Among other things, this situation often leads to significant mismatch between designers’ visions — even after practicing “empathy” — and users’ actual needs. Perhaps the most famous example is the PlayPump, a piece of merry-go-round equipment that would pump water when children used it. Designers envisioned that the PlayPump would provide water to thousands of African communities. Only kids didn’t show up, including because there was no local cultural tradition of playing with merry-go-rounds.

Unsurprisingly, Design Thinking-types were enthusiastic about the PlayPump. Tom Hulme, the design director at IDEO’s London office, created a webpage called OpenIDEO, where users could share “open source innovation.” Hulme explained that he found himself asking, “What would IDEO look like on steroids? [We might ask the same question about crack cocaine or PCP.] What would it look like when you invite everybody into everything? I set myself the challenge of . . . radical open-innovation collaboration.” OpenIDEO community users were enthusiastic about the PlayPump — even a year after the system had been debunked, suggesting inviting everyone to everything gets you people who don’t do research. One OpenIDEO user enthused that the PlayPump highlighted how “fun can be combined with real needs.”

Thom Moran, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, told me that Design Thinking brought “a whole set of values about what design’s supposed to look like,” including that everything is supposed to be “fun” and “play,” and that the focus is less on “what would work.” Moran went on, “The disappointing part for me is that I really do believe that architecture, art, and design should be thought of as being a part of the liberal arts. They provide a unique skill set for looking at and engaging the world, and being critical of it.” Like others I talked to, Moran doesn’t see this kind of critical thinking in the popular form of Design Thinking, which tends to ignore politics, environmental issues, and global economic problems.

Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”

“That’s what’s most annoying,” Moran went on. “I fundamentally believe in this stuff as a model of education. But it’s business consultants who give TED Talks who are out there selling it. It’s all anti-intellectual. That’s the problem. Architecture and design are profoundly intellectual. But for these people, it’s not a form of critical thought; it’s a form of salesmanship.”

Here’s my one caveat: it could be true that the DTs are a good way to teach design or business. I wouldn’t know. I am not a designer (or business school professor). I am struck, however, by how many designers, including Natasha Jen and Thom Moran, believe that the DTs are nonsense. In the end, I will leave this discussion up to designers. It’s their show. My concern is a different one — namely that… [more]
designthinking  innovation  ideas  2017  design  leevinsel  maintenance  repair  ideation  problemsolving  davidedgerton  willthomas  billburnett  daveevans  stanford  d.school  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  d.tech  education  schools  teaching  liberalarts  petermiller  esaleninstitute  newage  hassoplattner  johnhennessey  davidkelly  jimjones  empathy  ethnography  consulting  business  bullshit  marketing  snakeoil  criticism  criticalthinking  highereducation  highered  thomamoran  tedtalks  openideo  playpump  designimperialism  whitesaviors  post-its  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  art  architecture  complexity  simplicity  methodology  process  emptiness  universities  colleges  philipmirowski  entrepreneurship  lawrencebusch  elizabethpoppberman  nathanielcomfort  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  hucksterism  self-promotion  hype  georgeorwell  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  andréspicer  humanitariandesign  themaintainers  ma 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Isabel Rodríguez on Twitter: "Rather than seeking to equalize educational results, we should seek to equalize access to good food, good housing, adequate health services,… https://t.co/3Q5Ise6emh"
"The central problem in education is not about improving learning. It is about power imbalances and unacknowledged violence and abuse against children.

The accountability we need in education should not be about learning outcomes, but about making political and economic elites responsible for the abuses that are inflicted on children for the sake of economic exploitation and political control.

We could also think of the accountability we need in education in terms of how children are treated and the resources that are made available to them.

The socioeconomic gaps among children, which incidentally mirror gaps in the results of standardized tests, will not be closed with stricter schools.

Rather than seeking to equalize educational results, we should seek to equalize access to good food, good housing, adequate health services, natural spaces, playgrounds, and a wide array of educational resources for all children.

Democratizing education should not be about compulsory schools attendance, but about democratizing the access for people of all ages to educational resources and respecting the right of children to have a voice in their own education.

We could have open schools with a good library, computers, an Internet connection, all sorts of tools, musical instruments, sports' facilities, a community garden, workshops and courses in order to meet many different learning needs, etc.

What we need to understand is that we cannot have a competition and not have losers. As long as human beings are made to compete for access to a good life, we will always have exclusion and inequality.

And as a matter of justice, the well-being and safety of racial, cultural and linguistic minorities should not depend on meeting school expectations and adopting ideas and behaviors promoted by upper class white families.

As a matter of justice, children who are diverse in interests and skills should not be made to conform to a very narrow and arbitrary curriculum.

As a matter of justice, children who are diverse in characteristics should not be made to conform to prejudiced notions of normalcy.

When education is thought as a path out of poverty and towards social justice, we are only leaving off the hook those who create poverty, exclusion and violence in the first place.

The problem of social and economic inequality is not educational, it is political. It is about institutional arrangements that create exclusion and force people to submit and compete.

And schools can never be a substitute for what must be solved through laws granting access to nature, good housing, good food, health services, etc., etc., etc.

At the end of the day, it is always about elites not willing to give up power and privilege, and choosing instead to make the poor accept blame for their own poverty and oppression for their own "good".

It's not that schools can do nothing. Raising free and peaceful individuals, people literate in the ways of those in power, people not willing to submit as easily, should help.

But if we accept that the central problem in regard to inequality is about power, an education meant for liberation requires a radical departure from the adultism, standardization and control exercised in conventional schools.

An education meant for liberation requires an alignment between the overt and the hidden curriculum.

It requires that we stop confusing being good with being obedient, being responsible and professional with being cruel and alienated from our humanity, being hardworking with not playing and doing busy work, and being educated with having a diploma.

It requires understanding that values such as freedom, equality and respect are not just things we teach, but things we live and do.

Above all, it requires giving up pretensions and simulations in regard to learning that are only about exploiting children for the benefit of others.

I don't agree with everything said in this documentary, but the segment in min.18:21 illustrates what I want to say. There's a difference between making killer whales perform tricks for an audience and seeing them playing freely and for their own benefit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WImKDJuaCmU

The problem is: Freeing killer whales and treating them with respect would kill the business."
isabelrodríguez  schools  schooling  education  inequality  compulsory  unschooling  deschooling  curriculum  standardization  policy  learning  lcproject  openstudioproject  libraries  justice  race  socialjustice  racism  colonization  decolonization  obedience  class  freedom  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  diversity  exploitation  children  adultism  ageism  control  power  submission  economics  capitalism  society  privilege  health  healthcare  food  hunger  equality  poverty  conformity  2017  business  businessinterest  corporatism  humanity  humanism 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Why capitalism can’t survive without socialism - Vox
"Sean Illing

This raises a thorny question: The kinds of skills this technological economy rewards are not skills that a majority of the population possesses. Perhaps a significant number of people simply can’t thrive in this space, no matter how much training or education we provide.

Eric Weinstein

I think that's an interesting question, and it depends a lot on your view of education. Buckminster Fuller (a prominent American author and architect who died in 1983) said something to the effect of, "We're all born geniuses, but something in the process of living de-geniuses us." I think with several years more hindsight, we can see that the thing that de-geniuses us is actually our education.

The problem is that we have an educational system that's based on taking our natural penchant for exploration and fashioning it into a willingness to take on mind-numbing routine. This is because our educational system was designed to produce employable products suitable for jobs, but it is jobs that are precisely going to give way to an economy increasingly based on one-off opportunities.

Sean Illing

That’s a problem with a definable but immensely complicated solution.

Eric Weinstein

Part of the question is, how do we disable an educational system that is uniformizing people across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to remind ourselves that the hotel maid who makes up our bed may in fact be an amateur painter? The accountant who does our taxes may well have a screenplay that he works on after the midnight hour? I think what is less clear to many of our bureaucrats in Washington is just how much talent and creativity exists through all walks of life.

What we don't know yet is how to pay people for those behaviors, because many of those screenplays and books and inventions will not be able to command a sufficiently high market price, but this is where the issue of some kind of hybridization of hypercapitalism and hypersocialism must enter the discussion.

“We will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this continuing insensitivity”
Sean Illing

Let's talk about that. What does a hybrid of capitalism and socialism look like?

Eric Weinstein

I don't think we know what it looks like. I believe capitalism will need to be much more unfettered. Certain fields will need to undergo a process of radical deregulation in order to give the minority of minds that are capable of our greatest feats of creation the leeway to experiment and to play, as they deliver us the wonders on which our future economy will be based.

By the same token, we have to understand that our population is not a collection of workers to be input to the machine of capitalism, but rather a nation of souls whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered on independent, humanitarian terms. Now, that does not mean we can afford to indulge in national welfare of a kind that would rob our most vulnerable of a dignity that has previously been supplied by the workplace.

People will have to be engaged in socially positive activities, but not all of those socially positive activities may be able to command a sufficient share of the market to consume at an appropriate level, and so I think we're going to have to augment the hypercapitalism which will provide the growth of the hypersocialism based on both dignity and need.

Sean Illing

I agree with most of that, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to adapt to these new circumstances quickly enough to matter. What you’re describing is a near-revolutionary shift in politics and culture, and that’s not something we can do on command.

Eric Weinstein

I believe that once our top creative class is unshackled from those impediments which are socially negative, they will be able to choose whether capitalism proceeds by evolution or revolution, and I am hopeful that the enlightened self-interest of the billionaire class will cause them to take the enlightened path toward finding a rethinking of work that honors the vast majority of fellow citizens and humans on which their country depends.

Sean Illing

Are you confident that the billionaire class is so enlightened? Because I'm not. All of these changes were perceptible years ago, and yet the billionaire class failed to take any of this seriously enough. The impulse to innovate and profit subsumes all other concerns as far as I can tell."



"Sean Illing

I suppose that’s my point. If the people with the power to change things are sufficiently cocooned that they fail to realize the emergency while there’s still time to act, where does that leave us?

Eric Weinstein

Well, the claim there is that there will be no warning shots across the bow. I guarantee you that when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators left the confines of Zuccotti Park and came to visit the Upper East Side homes of Manhattan, it had an immediate focusing on the mind of those who could deploy a great deal of capital. Thankfully, those protesters were smart enough to realize that a peaceful demonstration is the best way to advertise the potential for instability to those who have yet to do the computation.

“We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars”
Sean Illing

But if you're one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters who fired off that peaceful warning shot across the bow six years ago, and you reflect on what’s happened since, do have any reason to think the message was received? Do you not look around and say, “Nothing much has changed”? The casino economy on Wall Street is still humming along. What lesson is to be drawn in that case?

Eric Weinstein

Well, that's putting too much blame on the bankers. I mean, the problem is that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the bankers share a common delusion. Both of them believe the bankers are more powerful in the story than they actually are. The real problem, which our society has yet to face up to, is that sometime around 1970, we ended several periods of legitimate exponential growth in science, technology, and economics. Since that time, we have struggled with the fact that almost all of our institutions that thrived during the post-World War II period of growth have embedded growth hypotheses into their very foundation.

Sean Illing

What does that mean, exactly?

Eric Weinstein

That means that all of those institutions, whether they're law firms or universities or the military, have to reckon with steady state [meaning an economy with mild fluctuations in growth and productivity] by admitting that growth cannot be sustained, by running a Ponzi scheme, or by attempting to cannibalize others to achieve a kind of fake growth to keep those particular institutions running. This is the big story that nobody reports. We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars."



"Sean Illing

So our entire economy is essentially a house of cards, built on outdated assumptions and pushed along with gimmicks like quantitative easing. It seems we’ve gotten quite good at avoiding facing up to the contradictions of our civilization.

Eric Weinstein

Well, this is the problem. I sometimes call this the Wile E. Coyote effect because as long as Wile E. Coyote doesn't look down, he's suspended in air, even if he has just run off a cliff. But the great danger is understanding that everything is flipped. During the 2008 crisis, many commentators said the markets have suddenly gone crazy, and it was exactly the reverse. The so-called great moderation that was pushed by Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others was in fact a kind of madness, and the 2008 crisis represented a rare break in the insanity, where the market suddenly woke up to see what was actually going on. So the acute danger is not madness but sanity.

The problem is that prolonged madness simply compounds the disaster to come when sanity finally sets in."
2017  capitalism  socialism  business  dystopia  history  seanilling  ericweinstein  economics  politics  policy  productivity  technology  inequality  revolution  dignity  creativeclass  creativity  repetition  ows  occupywallstreet  banks  banking  finance  ponzischemes  alangreenspan  timothygeitner  civilization  systems  systemsthinking  growth  society  science  automation 
august 2017 by robertogreco
David Byrne | Journal | ELIMINATING THE HUMAN
"My dad was an electrical engineer—I love the engineer's’ way of looking at the world. I myself applied to both art school AND to engineering school (my frustration was that there was little or no cross-pollination. I was told at the time that taking classes in both disciplines would be VERY difficult). I am familiar with and enjoy both the engineer's mindset and the arty mindset (and I’ve heard that now mixing one’s studies is not as hard as it used to be).

The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive."
davidbyrne  2017  automation  ai  business  culture  technology  dehumanization  humanism  humanity  gigeconomy  labor  work  robots  moocs  socialmedia  google  facebook  amazon  yuvalharari  social  productivity  economics  society  vr  ebay  retail  virtualreality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
manifesting roads
"The pace of change throughout this transformation - on educators and on parents has been nothing if not accelerated.

You could measure that in the amount being spent on professional development, for teachers, or by the hours spent on learning how to use any multitude of systems that are meant to make things “better”. Parents are asked to log in to a multitude of sites, to unpack learning, to share learning, to see in real-time what we’re doing inside our educational centres.

And the question I ask is - is it any better?

Do our educators feel more confident?
Do students feel more cared for or understood?
Are parents any closer to really understanding what it is their children are doing or learning when they come to school?
Do our communities have any better understandings of what it is we educators talk about - such that they feel they can trust us?

Is our understanding of the purpose of education and learning any more advanced or nuanced than say it was in 2000?

Or 1989?

Because if it’s not, then has all this “transformation” and expense been for naught? If we accelerate this change any more, will we do so while paying any attention to what’s being left behind.

Wouldn’t the only people that really, truly benefit from the rush to be transformational and significantly accelerated - be those who are self-promoting “transformation” and “acceleration” - not the ones who deal with the consequences and debris left behind."



"Promoting and ‘encouraging’ from the sidelines makes for a wonderful warm fuzzy for the tech sector, like they are "giving back" to the children - but while that's great and all - the public education sector in New Zealand has an annual budget of $14.4 billion dollars.

It’s a serious business.
And the tech sector knows this.

Schools aren’t charities, and they shouldn’t act as charities. But they also aren’t startups. Nor are they needing to change or save the world, like many in Silicon Valley and their ilk believe is their privilege.

The tech sector is aware of the wonderfully captive market that the education sector is - for their products, for their services, for their software and hardware.

Education on the whole has lapped those services and products up. Remember interactive whiteboards, 3D printers and Google cardboard VR sets?

The tech sector is also aware of the fact that schools in part, serve to produce competent workers that can fill the roles that the thriving tech sector needs and demands.

That’s fine also - and a perfectly valid role for public education to fill.

But let’s not insult each other by assuming the tech industry is mildly cheering from the sidelines of public education, for the perceived greater good of the fine citizens of New Zealand, while demanding that education shift itself to be something that serves the tech sector.

The tech sector is utterly invested in getting what’s best for itself and its shareholders..

To me it is manifestly evident, that what this document lays out is an ability to disengage from what we must strive to constantly do and be in education.

Namely - human and caring.

This manifesto removes any shred of humanity or care or concern for what it is to be an actual living human.

It talks of students and results and outcomes in such horribly abstract ways that it strips the very essence and soul out of our role as educators.

It knows nothing of humans who can’t for the life of themselves figure out why no-one likes them.

Humans who are angry and want to be liked, and for whom the digital space is just another way by which they’re excluded or made to feel small.

It knows nothing of humans who are dealing with so much other real life, off-line broken-ness, that a constant scroll through Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook is the only connection they have with any positive emotion.

It knows nothing of the realities that reading, writing, numeracy, art, dance and science bring to a child. Of course, all of these can be delivered via a small glass screen, an SSID and a series of interconnected IP addresses, but none of these subjects matter if the person viewing the screen doesn't care.

Education matters. Learning matters.

But only if we care enough as humans to be the connection."
timkong  education  edtech  2017  schools  teaching  howeteach  professionaldevelopment  pupose  transformation  change  manifestos  newzealand  humanism  humans  howwteach  influence  siliconvalley  caring  sfsh  biases  business 
may 2017 by robertogreco
the three hot trends in Silicon Valley horseshit – Freddie deBoer – Medium
"For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.

It seems, though, that SnapChat will be the last big new player in “social” for awhile, at least until the kids get their dander up for something new. What’s the new hotness in an industry that exemplifies 21st American capitalism, in that it’s a cannibalistic hustle where only the most shameless hucksters survive? As someone who rides the New York subway every day and is forced to look at its ads, let me take you on a journey.

[1] Give Away the Razors, Make Your Money on DRM-Infected Blades

Juicero deserved all of the attention it got and more — it was so pure, so impossibly telling about the pre-apocalyptic American wasteland. It was also just one of a whole constellation of companies that now operate under an ingenious model: take some banal product that has been sold forever at low margins, attach the disposable part to a proprietary system that pretends to improve it but really just locks pepole into a particular vendor, add a touch screen manufactured by Chinese tweens, call it “Smart,” and sell it to schlubby dads too indebted to buy a midlife crisis car and too unattractive to have an affair. As the Juicero saga shows us, you don’t even really have to honor the whole “make the initial purchase cheap” stage. Just ensure that you market your boondoggle to the kind of person who stood in line to buy an $800 “smartwatch” that poorly duplicates a tenth of the functions already present in the phone in their pocket. (You know, those dead inside.) Then get them “locked into your ecosystem,” which means “get their credit card number and automatically charge them every month for your version of a product that can be purchased at the supermarket for a third of the price.” Profit, baby, profit.

Are you the kind of person who is so worn down by the numbing drudgery of late capitalism that you can’t summon the energy to drag a 2 ounce toothbrush across your gums for 90 seconds a day? Well, the electric toothbrush has been a thing for a long time. And that means that it’s not good enough. After years of deadening your limbic system through psychotropic medication, video games, and increasingly-extreme internet pornography, you need something new. Enter Quip, the company disrupting the toothbrush. Quip wants you to know that its product is inexpensive, despite the fact that it will charge you $40/year for for its “refill plan” and I just bought 5 perfectly functional regular toothbrushes for $1 in the most expensive city in the country. Of course, you’re also buying the convenience of automation — who wants to run down stairs to the bodega for a toothbrush when you can hand over your banking info to a toothbrush company? Bonus points to Quip for emphasizing simplicity while hawking a product that employs an engineering team to innovate the concept of a brush.

[2] I’ve got one word for you, Benjamin, just one word: rents.

It’s one thing to take a product that is already cheap and just fine and replace it with a vastly more expensive version that locks people into exploitative proprietary systems for years in exchange for giving them a 15 second hit of dopamine derived from Going Digital. I mean, Quip and Juicero and whatever Silicon Valley dildo company is selling dongs with DRM-equipped replaceable heads are actually fundamentally selling you a product. It’s a horribly, uselessly expensive product that could only be embraced by chumps, but it’s a tangible thing. The real next level is just inserting yourself into someone else’s transaction and collecting a % while offering nothing. (When this is a job, we call it “consulting.”) Why charge a lot for the blades when you can charge a lot for literally nothing?

RentBerry is useful here because the word “rent” is literally in the name. Here’s the value proposition that RentBerry offers. For landlords who are already raking in record profits, RentBerry provides a chance at making even more, as potential tenants must set upon each other in a dystopian nightmare auction system that compels them to ask, how much am I willing to pay to avoid sleeping in the park, really? For tenants, RentBerry offers… well, the opportunity to pay more in a pre-existing housing crisis, the chance to make the process of finding an apartment an even more horrific exercise in stress and disappointment, a reason to hate faceless strangers with even more intensity, and more reason to view city life as a ceaseless Nietzschean struggle from which they will never escape. What RentBerry gets in return is, eventually, a % of your already hideously overpriced rent, for the duration of the lease. I bet you can’t wait to know a portion of your rent check is going not just to the landlord you hate but also to a company that did nothing beyond giving him the ability to take more of your money! Of course, if you live in New York, your “landlord” might very well be a hedge fund that also funded RentBerry! Sweet, right?

RentBerry will tell you that tenants might get a deal thanks to the auction system. Of course, it’s landlords who chose to use RentBerry, not tenants, and if landlords thought they were losing money on the deal they’d never use it, meaning the service’s very reason for being necessarily entails grabbing more and more tenant money. Details!

Why is everything so expensive? Because Silicon Valley and Wall Street are taking huge percentages out of transactions they once didn’t. That’s why. The Juiceros make inexpensive and functional products far more expensive and often less functional; the RentBerrys cut out the middleman by just becoming middlemen. Dare to dream.

[3] We Love Doers So Much We Want to Give Them a Hellish Existence of Endless Precarity

This is the type of company that has become inescapable in NYC subway advertising. Not coincidentally the time I spend contemplating stepping in front of the train to enjoy the sweet oblivion of death is also up dramatically. There’s legit dozens of these companies out there.

The basic idea here is that 40 years of stagnant wages, the decline of unions, the death of middle class blue collar jobs, the demise of pensions, and a general slide of the American working world into a PTSD-inducing horror show of limitless vulnerability has been too easy on workers. I’m sorry, Doers, or whatever the fuck. The true beauty of these ads is that they are all predicated on mythologizing the very workers who their service is intended to immisserate. Sorry about your medical debt; here’s a photo of a model who we paid in “exposure” over ad copy written by an intern who we paid in college credit that cost $3,000 a credit hour. Enjoy.

The purpose of these companies is to take whatever tiny sense of social responsibility businesses might still feel to give people stable jobs and destroy it, replacing whatever remains of the permanent, salaried, benefit-enjoying workforce with an army of desperate freelancers who will never go to bed feeling secure in their financial future for their entire lives. These companies are for people who think temp agencies are too coddling and well remunerative. The only service they sell is making it easier to kill minimally stable, well-compensated jobs. That’s it. They have no other function. They valorize Doers while killing workers. They siphon money from the desperate throngs back to the employers who will use them up and throw them aside like a discarded Juicero bag and, of course, to themselves and their shareholders. That’s it. That’s all they are. That’s all they do. They are the final logic of late capitalism, the engine of human creativity applied to the essential work of making life worse for regular people.

Our society is a hellish wasteland and I am dying inside.
freddiedeboer  siliconvalley  business  internet  society  technology  capitalism  middlemen  technosolutionism  precarity  finance  2017  juicero  subscriptions  drm  rent  rentseeking  latecapitalism  inequality  realestate  housing  socialresponsibility  stability  instability  economics 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Uber’s ghost map and the meaning of greyballing | ROUGH TYPE
"The Uber map is a media production. It presents a little, animated entertainment in which you, the user, play the starring role. You are placed at the very center of things, wherever you happen to be, and you are surrounded by a pantomime of oversized automobiles poised to fulfill your desires, to respond immediately to your beckoning. It’s hard not to feel flattered by the illusion of power that the Uber map grants you. Every time you open the app, you become a miniature superhero on a city street. You send out a bat signal, and the batmobile speeds your way. By comparison, taking a bus or a subway, or just hoofing it, feels almost insulting.

In a similar way, a Google map also sets you in a fictionalized story about a place, whether you use the map for navigation or for searching. You are given a prominent position on the map, usually, again, at its very center, and around you a city personalized to your desires takes shape. Certain business establishments and landmarks are highlighted, while other ones are not. Certain blocks are highlighted as “areas of interest“; others are not. Sometimes the highlights are paid for, as advertising; other times they reflect Google’s assessment of you and your preferences. You’re not allowed to know precisely why your map looks the way it does. The script is written in secret.

It’s not only maps. The news and message feeds presented to you by Facebook, or Apple or Google or Twitter, are also stories about the world, fictional representations manufactured both to appeal to your desires and biases and to provide a compelling context for advertising. Mark Zuckerberg may wring his hands over “fake news,” but fake news is to the usual Facebook feed what the Greyball map is to the usual Uber map: an extreme example of the norm.

When I talk about “you,” I don’t really mean you. The “you” around which the map or the news feed or any other digitized representation of the world coalesces is itself a representation. As John Cheney-Lippold explains in his forthcoming book We Are Data, companies like Facebook and Google create digital versions of their users derived through an algorithmic analysis of the data they collect about their users. The companies rely on these necessarily fictionalized representations for both technical reasons (human beings can’t be computed; to be rendered computable, you have to be turned into a digital representation) and commercial reasons (a digital representation of a person can be bought and sold). The “you” on the Uber map or in the Facebook feed is a fake — a character in a story — but it’s a useful and a flattering fake, so you accept it as an accurate portrayal of yourself: an “I” for an I.

Greyballing is not an aberration of the virtual world. Greyballing is the essence of virtuality."

[via: https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-204 ]
mapping  maps  technology  self  simulacra  nicholascarr  via:audreywatters  greyballing  uber  ideology  fictions  data  algorithms  representation  news  facebooks  fakenews  cartography  business  capitalism  place  google 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Genius and the Sharing Economy — Medium
"At this point, I became probably overly obsessed with the fact that Jeremy and Rap Genius were featured front and center in that Times article about the declining interested in the Humanities, and then with the use of that Times piece as a “hiring” strategy of sorts. Whatever their deal was, it seemed clear that The Times gave Genius the credibility to claim that [1] the humanities needing saving and [2] that increased traffic and content on their site was the way to do it. I’m not sure what Genius gave The Times in return, but I’ll just add here that the Genius guy giving the talk said the New York Times wasn’t going to be around in 5 years anyway.

In a room full of bright-eyed future businesspeople, I felt like a alien interloper and began to fashion my own tinfoil hat theories even though I suppose this sort of deal is how the marriage of journalism and commerce always works. More selfishly, I began to suspect that the job ad I had read was not actually a real job ad. (I know, kind of rich given my last post here [https://medium.com/@exhaust_fumes/the-inside-can-didate-f8d0c2312be8 ]).

I suppose anything I say from here on out could easily be dismissed as elitist or turf warring, or maybe just naive and overly-sensitive; it’s quite possibly true that my reaction to the Stern talk was rooted in my own vested interest in universities keeping Humanities programs funded. I generally have a very weak stomach for any kind of pro-capitalist language in academic and educational contexts, and in the winter of 2013, I was emotionally drained from trying to finish a book and find another job, and spiritually-speaking, I was running on fumes."



"The opportunity to go to Brooklyn is indeed a good thing; I live in Queens, but I know how good it is across the bridge where many of my friends live. Really, I shouldn’t be so glib: it’s cool to be part of something devoted to teaching and a bonus to have your travel expenses paid. I think it is also, as I was saying at the beginning of this long-ass post, a great example of the fucking sharing economy and what’s wrong with it. Be grateful to people who use a small fraction of their VC money to fly you somewhere — but also think about the value of what you give them in return.

I’m using swears there in the hopes that I sound like a Genius when I say things I’m not totally sure about; I’m a bit out of my comfort zone talking about how a start-up makes and uses money. I’m really good with my own financial affairs and budget, but my academic expertise is in 16th and 17th century drama and history so I worry I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But perhaps you are somebody who knows a lot more about these things and perhaps you know where to look to answer some of the questions I’ve tried to raise here.

I have no doubt that Genius has content and a viable business model without content from educators. But I still want to know more about the role and real worth of our labor in an economy that asks the precariously employed to share while its founders and investors make money. Humanities scholars can see all the tensions of our professional choices in this economy: the fact that we do our work for pleasure, that others find pleasure in our work, and that the work we love is only lucrative for some."
vimalapasupathi  genius.com  annotation  hypothes.is  labor  sharingeconomy  work  2016  technology  humanities  scholarship  gigeconomy  mahbodmoghadam  precarity  unemployment  rapgenius  business  adjuncts  hiring  2015  jeremydean  stanfordlitlab  evankindley  disclosure  tamarlewin  nytimes 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A theory of nonscalability | A Working Library
"Tsing on scalability:
Progress itself has often been defined by its ability to make projects expand without changing their framing assumptions. This quality is “scalability.” The term is a bit confusing, because it could be interpreted to mean “able to be discussed in terms of scale.” Both scalable and nonscalable projects, however, can be discussed in relation to scale. When Ferdand Braudel explained history’s “long durée” or Niels Bohr showed us the quantum atom, these were not projects of scalability, although they each revolutionized thinking about scale. Scalability, in contrast, is the ability of a project to change scales smoothly without any change in project frames. A scalable business, for example, does not change its organization as it expands. This is possible only if business relations are not transformative, changing the business as new relations are added. Similarly, a scalable research project admits only data that already fit the research frame. Scalability requires that project elements be oblivious to indeterminacies of encounter; that’s how they allow smooth expansion. Thus, too, scalability banishes meaningful diversity, that is, diversity that might change things.

(Emphasis mine.) I think about scalability and diversity in my work-life quite a bit: the tech and media industries have explicitly acknowledged the need for diversity (while so far only making token steps towards achieving it). But there’s often a notion that diversifying an organization will not require changes to that organization’s culture: the concept of “culture fit” presumes someone can neatly fit into the existing culture, as opposed to challenging it or expanding it—or even razing it. That tech (and, increasingly, media—and oh, that boundary is nothing if not fluid) also speaks of scalability in religious terms puts Tsing’s contention here in an even more interesting light. Scalability is expressed not only in the external artifacts of an organization—the software, the servers, the business model—but also the people who work for it and the people who interact with it as customers, clients, and, increasingly, inconstant laborers. That latter category—the Uber drivers, TaskRabbits, and Postmates—seems especially relevant to notions of scalability. Uber can scale, but the single parent who works as a driver and can’t predict what they’ll make from week to week cannot.

Tsing continues:
Scalability is not an ordinary feature of nature. Making projects scalable takes a lot of work. Even after that work, there will still be interactions between scalable and nonscalable project elements. Yet, despite the contributions of thinkers like Braudel and Bohr, the connection between scaling up and the advancement of humanity has been so strong that scalable elements receive the lion’s share of attention. The nonscalable becomes an impediment. It’s time to turn attention to the nonscalable, not only as objects for description but also as incitements to theory.

A theory of nonscalability might begin in the work it takes to create scalability—and the messes it makes. One vantage point might be that early and influential icon for this work: the European colonial plantation. In their sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sugarcane plantations in Brazil, for example, Portuguese planters stumbled on a formula for smooth expansion. They crafted self-contained, interchangeable project elements, as follows: exterminate local people and plants; prepare now-empty, unclaimed land; and bring in exotic and isolated labor and crops for production. This landscape model of scalability became an inspiration for later industrialization and modernization.

There’s the savage bit again: scalability often swamps all other considerations. If you define scalability as the solitary success metric, then you are bound to ignore—or violently overcome—all other measures. So another place to begin to build a theory of nonscalability might be to ask by what other metrics we should measure progress. Scalability cannot be our only aim."
mandybrown  leadership  management  scalability  hiring  scale  2016  annalowenhaupttsing  nonscalability  diversity  small  business  annatsing 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Parachutes | Instructions for landing in the 21st century
"
“‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice . . . ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’” — Lewis Carroll

Unlike a book, cards are unbound, unnumbered, and give no indication of any order. Free of the constraints of linearity, cards move in many directions. They rub up against one another and generate unforeseen connections. And as the reader moves through them, they begin to work a simultaneous effect. A pack of cards doesn’t mount an argument or tell a story, but uncovers a terrain.
“The same or almost the same points were always being approached afresh from different directions, and new sketches made . . . if you looked at them you could get a picture of the landscape. Thus this book is really only an album.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Our approach, however, is nothing new. Parachutes follows a long tradition of fragmentary thinking, from the heady and enigmatic (McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning and Eno’s Oblique Strategies) to the methodical and encyclopedic (IDEO’s Method Cards and W.I.R.E.’s Mind the Future). Placing ourselves in their midst, Parachutes was born from the need to think in both parts and wholes.
“No one fragment carries the totality of the message, but each text (which is in itself a whole) has a particular urgency, an individual force, a necessity, and yet each text also has a force which comes to it from all the other texts.” — Hélène Cixous

Though diverse in their topics and far-reaching in their speculations, these cards have a definite subject matter. Without speaking too much for the text itself—a sin every introduction is fated to commit—we try to make sense of a world in which hyperconnectivity has flattened space and collapsed time, untethered us from our bodies and fractured our identities; where static objects have given way to fluid experiences and organizations call forth communities of interaction rather than make products for individual consumption.

Despite the supremacy of technology—and yet, somehow, because of it—people have never been in a better position to understand what it means to be human. In this tightly knit latticework of activity and feeling and thought, our connection with others can be felt as subtly and yet as directly as if we were swimming in a school of fish. Our study, now as ever, is the human being.

Above all, our aim has been to dismantle clichéd forms of thinking—the maps that lead us astray—in order to view the territory with fresh eyes. As we parachute into the reality of the 21st century, we survey the land from a variety of elevations and scales, vistas and vantage points. Only in that way could we observe the land’s depth as well as its extent. Only when we consider both dimensions do essential patterns emerge.
“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with landsurveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.” — Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

In the end, however, there can be no grand conclusion. One must always move forward, chart new territories, assimilate new findings. No all-seeing summit could be reached that would not be blind to itself. Alas, and yet thankfully, we are forever amid the trees."
classideas  books  cards  publishing  linear  lewiscarroll  wittgenstein  obliquestrategies  srg  methodcards  marshalmcluhan  fragmentarythinking  hyperconnectivity  gilleseleuze  félixguattari  thinking  order  disorder  juxtaposition  howwered  deleuze&guattari  cartography  linearity  organization  hélènecixous  hypertext  connections  media  technology  business 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more | Aeon Essays
"Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more"



"At the turn of the millennium, in the world of business and technology, innovation had transformed into an erotic fetish. Armies of young tech wizards aspired to become disrupters. The ambition to disrupt in pursuit of innovation transcended politics, enlisting liberals and conservatives alike. Conservative politicians could gut government and cut taxes in the name of spurring entrepreneurship, while liberals could create new programmes aimed at fostering research. The idea was vague enough to do nearly anything in its name without feeling the slightest conflict, just as long as you repeated the mantra: INNOVATION!! ENTREPRENEURSHIP!!

A few years later, however, one could detect tremors of dissent. In a biting essay titled ‘Innovation is the New Black’, Michael Bierut, writing in Design Observer in 2005, lamented the ‘mania for innovation, or at least for endlessly repeating the word “innovation”’. Soon, even business publications began to raise the question of inherent worth. In 2006, The Economist noted that Chinese officials had made innovation into a ‘national buzzword’, even as it smugly reported that China’s educational system ‘stresses conformity and does little to foster independent thinking’, and that the Communist Party’s new catchphrases ‘mostly end up fizzling out in puddles of rhetoric’. Later that year, Businessweek warned: ‘Innovation is in grave danger of becoming the latest overused buzzword. We’re doing our part at Businessweek.’ Again in Businessweek, on the last day of 2008, the design critic Bruce Nussbaum returned to the theme, declaring that innovation ‘died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve… In the end, “Innovation” proved to be weak as both a tactic and strategy in the face of economic and social turmoil.’

In 2012, even the Wall Street Journal got into innovation-bashing act, noting ‘the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning’. At the time, it counted ‘more than 250 books with “innovation” in the title… published in the last three months’. A professional innovation consultant it interviewed advised his clients to ban the word at their companies. He said it was just a ‘word to hide the lack of substance’."



"Nixon, wrong about so many things, also was wrong to point to household appliances as self-evident indicators of American progress. Ironically, Cowan’s work first met with scepticism among male scholars working in the history of technology, whose focus was a male pantheon of inventors: Bell, Morse, Edison, Tesla, Diesel, Shockley, and so on. A renewed focus on maintenance and repair also has implications beyond the gender politics that More Work for Mother brought to light. When they set innovation-obsession to the side, scholars can confront various kinds of low-wage labour performed by many African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities. From this perspective, recent struggles over increasing the minimum wage, including for fast food workers, can be seen as arguments for the dignity of being a maintainer.

We organised a conference to bring the work of the maintainers into clearer focus. More than 40 scholars answered a call for papers asking, ‘What is at stake if we move scholarship away from innovation and toward maintenance?’ Historians, social scientists, economists, business scholars, artists, and activists responded. They all want to talk about technology outside of innovation’s shadow.

One important topic of conversation is the danger of moving too triumphantly from innovation to maintenance. There is no point in keeping the practice of hero-worship that merely changes the cast of heroes without confronting some of the deeper problems underlying the innovation obsession. One of the most significant problems is the male-dominated culture of technology, manifest in recent embarrassments such as the flagrant misogyny in the ‘#GamerGate’ row a couple of years ago, as well as the persistent pay gap between men and women doing the same work.

There is an urgent need to reckon more squarely and honestly with our machines and ourselves. Ultimately, emphasising maintenance involves moving from buzzwords to values, and from means to ends. In formal economic terms, ‘innovation’ involves the diffusion of new things and practices. The term is completely agnostic about whether these things and practices are good. Crack cocaine, for example, was a highly innovative product in the 1980s, which involved a great deal of entrepreneurship (called ‘dealing’) and generated lots of revenue. Innovation! Entrepreneurship! Perhaps this point is cynical, but it draws our attention to a perverse reality: contemporary discourse treats innovation as a positive value in itself, when it is not.

Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about? What kind of society do we want to live in? Will this help get us there? We must shift from means, including the technologies that underpin our everyday actions, to ends, including the many kinds of social beneficence and improvement that technology can offer. Our increasingly unequal and fearful world would be grateful."
leevinsel  andrewrussell  maintenance  infrastructure  innovation  technology  2016  capitalism  repair  growth  robertgordon  siliconvalley  creativeclass  economics  claytonchristensen  entrepreneurship  business  michaelbierut  inequality  love  fraternity  courage  beauty  dignity  responsibility  change  society  maintainers  labor  care  repairing  themaintainers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Joe Cool – The New Inquiry
"Unlike with other American big-box grocery stores (and Trader Joe’s parent company, the German supermarket chain Aldi), where store brands tend to connote “no frills” cheapness and inferiority, Trader Joe’s generic goods have succeeded in conveying quality, familiarity, and originality all through the brand itself. Rather than ask the consumer to choose among different brands, the Trader Joe’s consumer just has to pick which products they like most. This strategy appears to work. In a recent survey, TJ’s customers were the most satisfied of any grocery stores, despite the crowds of harried customers, crowded parking lots, and long checkout lines one often encounters there.

But the lines and packed lots themselves can be reassuring, that you have come to the right place, that you are adapting to what “everyone else” is doing. It seems like the only option, just like its limited product choices. Trader Joe’s overall in-store aesthetic tries to consolidate these genteel inconveniences into a nostalgic evocation of old-time neighborhood mom ‘n pop stores: the mini-coffee bar with its free samples, the pseudo-cultured feel provided by the “ethnic” and very not-PC types of not-white Joe’s on store-brand packaging, like Trader Giotto (Italian foods) and Trader Ming (Chinese food) and Trader Jose’s (Mexican-ish) — note there is no African-American Joe. Everything at TJ’s is suggestive of a time when life was supposedly simpler, more traditional (e.g. homogeneous) — long before the big-box superstore, parking lots the size of football fields, and the proliferation of brands in the aisles and on social media.

As part of this strategy, the company is reticent about advertising: It restricts its marketing mainly to its almanac-like “Fearless Flyer” circular that conjures quaint images of old letterpresses and coupon-clipping grandmas. No social media, no email marketing, few radio ads, no television or newspaper ads. Part of Trader Joe’s appeal is that customers always already seem to know they are supposed to shop there, that they belong.

This runs counter to current brand-management strategy. Whereas other brands are joining platforms like WhatsApp or sliding into consumers’ DMs to try to maximize engagement, Trader Joe’s privileges the IRL, restricting its brand to in-store experiences and refusing to participate in social media.



Though Trader Joe’s lack of social-media presence can be disconcerting to some of the store’s most fervent fans, it retains its particular appeal by playing hard to get. Social-media messaging would only muddle the company’s effort to sell its massively popular corporate brand as a neighborhood secret.

From the start, in 1967, “Trader Joe” Coulombe devised his “low-priced gourmet-cum-health-food store” with an “unemployed PhD student” in mind as the ideal customer. As he explained in 1985 to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, he foresaw that this would be a “growing category.” Coulombe anticipated that these savvy, well-educated types would be alienated by mainstream advertising techniques, particularly ones that targeted an ignorance or lack in the consumer with products that were supposed to somehow fix it. Trader Joe’s customers would be presumed to already fully know who they are and what they want — imported cheeses, organic foods, relatively healthy prepared meals, international delicacies, microbrews, California wines — they only lacked means. Selling two-buck chuck to the broke graduate student became emblematic of Trader Joe’s philosophy: good-enough wine at a bargain price for those wise enough to be in the know. If Trader Joe’s started advertising, seeming to put everyone in the know, the wine might not seem so drinkable all of a sudden.

Trader Joe’s rejection of social media extends this approach. If Trader Joe’s were to join social media and chat with consumers, would that not just create the feeling of a fake, forced relationship? The right sort of customer craving the right sort of authenticity doesn’t need to vicariously latch on to brands on social media to feel complete. They aren’t slaves to Facebook or Twitter either. They have a “real” relationship with Trader Joe’s, grounded in going to the store, being there, being present. Trader Joe’s will not tweet at you. The only way to be recognized by Trader Joe’s is to have the cheery cashiers remember your name, to riff on Seinfeld-isms with some bearded guy serving samples of kung pao chicken with a side of brown rice. At Trader Joe’s, it’s IRL or nothing.

This standoffishness from social media purports to be a matter of Trader Joe’s refusing to make clumsy efforts at branding itself, but it is really a masterstroke of brand consistency. We buy the brand, we eat the brand, we return for more — but we never truly know the brand as a personality. But this absence is the brand’s essence. It is the aloof, invulnerable person that doesn’t want to “connect,” a celebrity who doesn’t need Twitter. Its Instagram is private, for friends-only.

It would seem like this strategy could backfire with millennials, who are less likely to privilege IRL over online, if they even bother to distinguish them. But Joe doesn’t need to be your “friend” online. He doesn’t want a Tinderized relationship. Trader Joe’s is counting on capturing successive generations of its target consumers by being the choice for no-choices, the place where generic brands can feel exclusive. You’ll know without having to be told. You’ll buy without ever wondering if you’ve made the wrong choice."
aliciaeler  branding  business  marketing  traderjoes  supermarkets  socialmedia  aldi  aesthetics  1967  2016 
march 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism - Salon.com
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Popular versus Brilliant | Designers + Geeks
"Jim Bull is worried about the future of design and thinks you should be too. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Moving Brands, Jim dissects an industry where design is judged by the number of its likes and shares, where the focus is on efficiency rather than brilliance, and where one or two companies set the design standard for the globe."

[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/155640569 ]

[Tagged “web rococo” because this is the opposite.]

[Not sure why there is no mention of Tibor Kalman and Oliviero Toscani in the Benetton discussion. And there seems to be some tunnel vision here. Sure, the big SV VC backed companies are all looking the same, but they're not the only ones making things on the web. You know, there are many other countries and languages to look to for something other than California Design. Uh, maybe that's more the issue: SV only sees itself and it's not diverse.]

[via: https://twitter.com/soopa/status/700559147247357952 ]
jimbbull  californiadesign  siliconvalley  2016  branding  reverence  generic  popularity  brilliance  apple  uber  medium  california  graphicdesign  webdesign  movingbrands  productdesign  sameness  webrococo  benetton  olivierotoscani  tiborkalman  design  business  california-zation  homogenization  designeducation  art  differentiation  ui  ux  screens  magicleap  ar  augmentedreality  virtualreality  packaging  vr  webdev 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Against School | New Republic
"In this previously unpublished essay, Aaron Swartz sought an explanation for the persistent—and possible deliberate—failures in our school system."



"Linda Perlstein spent a year at one school struggling to survive No Child Left Behind. Everything that wasn’t tested had to get cut—not just art and gym, but recess, science, and social studies (yep, no science on the tests). What remains is converted entirely over to test prep—the only writing students ever do is short answer sections (“What text feature could have been added to help a reader better understand the information?”) and the stories in class are analyzed only in terms of what questions might be asked about them.

Large sections of the class have nothing to do with learning at all. Students are instead drilled on test-taking procedure: take deep breaths, work until time is called, eliminate obviously wrong answers. Every day students are taught special vocab words that will earn them extra points and reminded about how to properly phrase their answers to get the maximum score. Instead of covering the walls with students’ art, they’re covered with test-taking advice (“BATS: Borrow from the question, Answer the question, use Text supports, Stretch the formula”).

The single-minded goal of maximizing test scores has been a blessing for the textbook market, which forces schools to buy expensive “evidence-based curricula” which has been “proven” to maximize test scores. The packages include not only textbooks and workbooks but also scripts for the teachers to read verbatim—deviating from them hasn’t been proven to raise test scores, and is thus prohibited. The package also comes with trained supervisors who drop in on teachers to make sure they’re actually sticking to the script.

The effect on the students is almost heartbreaking. Taught that reading is simply about searching contrived stories for particular “text features,” they learn to hate reading. Taught that answering questions is simply about cycling through the multiple choice answers to find the most plausible ones, they begin to stop thinking altogether and just spout random combinations of test buzzwords whenever they’re asked a question. “The joy of finding things out” is banished from the classroom. Testing is in session.

Such drills don’t teach children anything about the world, but it does teach them “skills”—skills like how to follow senseless orders and sit at your desk for hours at a time. Critics of high-stakes testing say that it isn’t working as planned: teachers are teaching to the test instead of making sure kids actually learn. But maybe that is actually the plan. After all, employers seem to like it just fine."
schools  schooling  education  capitalism  2015  aaronswartz  business  influence  money  testing  learning  nclb 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Who owns our cities – and why this urban takeover should concern us all | Cities | The Guardian
"The huge post-credit crunch buying up of urban buildings by corporations has significant implications for equity, democracy and rights"



"De-urbanisation

Global geographies of extraction have long been key to the western world’s economic development. And now these have moved on to urban land, going well beyond the traditional association with plantations and mines, even as these have been extended and made more brutally efficient.

The corporatising of access and control over urban land has extended not only to high-end urban sites, but also to the land beneath the homes of modest households and government offices. We are witnessing an unusually large scale of corporate buying of whole pieces of cities in the last few years. The mechanisms for these extractions are often far more complex than the outcomes, which can be quite elementary in their brutality.

One key transformation is a shift from mostly small private to large corporate modes of ownership, and from public to private. This is a process that takes place in bits and pieces, some big and some small, and to some extent these practices have long been part of the urban land market and urban development. But today’s scale-up takes it all to a whole new dimension, one that alters the historic meaning of the city.

This is particularly so because what was small and/or public is becoming large and private. The trend is to move from small properties embedded in city areas that are crisscrossed by streets and small public squares, to projects that erase much of this public tissue of streets and squares via mega-projects with large, sometimes huge, footprints. This privatises and de-urbanises city space no matter the added density.

Large cities have long been complex and incomplete. This has enabled the incorporation of diverse people, logics, politics. A large, mixed city is a frontier zone where actors from different worlds can have an encounter for which there are no established rules of engagement, and where the powerless and the powerful can actually meet.

This also makes cities spaces of innovations, small and large. And this includes innovations by those without power: even if they do not necessarily become powerful in the process, they produce components of a city, thus leaving a legacy that adds to its cosmopolitanism – something that few other places enable.

Such a mix of complexity and incompleteness ensures a capacity to shape an urban subject and an urban subjectivity. It can partly override the religious subject, the ethnic subject, the racialised subject and, in certain settings, also the differences of class. There are moments in the routines of a city when we all become urban subjects – rush hour is one such mix of time and space.

But today, rather than a space for including people from many diverse backgrounds and cultures, our global cities are expelling people and diversity. Their new owners, often part-time inhabitants, are very international – but that does not mean they represent many diverse cultures and traditions. Instead, they represent the new global culture of the successful – and they are astoundingly homogeneous, no matter how diverse their countries of birth and languages. This is not the urban subject that our large, mixed cities have historically produced. This is, above all, a global “corporate” subject.

Much of urban change is inevitably predicated on expelling what used to be. Since their beginnings, whether 3,000 years old or 100, cities have kept reinventing themselves, which means there are always winners and losers. Urban histories are replete with accounts of those who were once poor and quasi-outsiders, or modest middle classes, that gained ground – because cities have long accommodated extraordinary variety.

But today’s large-scale corporate buying of urban space in its diverse instantiations introduces a de-urbanising dynamic. It is not adding to mixity and diversity. Instead it implants a whole new formation in our cities – in the shape of a tedious multiplication of high-rise luxury buildings.

One way of putting it is that this new set of implants contains within it a logic all of its own – one which cannot be tamed into becoming part of the logics of the traditional city. It keeps its full autonomy and, one might say, gives us all its back. And that does not look pretty."
saskiasassen  provatization  cities  puclic  policy  ownership  property  urban  urbanism  2015  business  history  rights  democracy  equity  inequality  corporatization  finance  de-urbanization 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Bloom and Bust by Phillip Longman | The Washington Monthly
"Yet starting in the early 1980s, the long trend toward regional equality abruptly switched. Since then, geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income. In 1980, the per capita income of Washington, D.C., was 29 percent above the average for Americans as a whole; by 2013 it had risen to 68 percent above. In the San Francisco Bay area, the rise was from 50 percent above to 88 percent. Meanwhile, per capita income in New York City soared from 80 percent above the national average in 1980 to 172 percent above in 2013.

Adding to the anomaly is a historic reversal in the patterns of migration within the United States. Throughout almost all of the nation’s history, Americans tended to move from places where wages were lower to places where wages were higher. Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West, young man” finds validation, for example, in historical data showing that per capita income was higher in America’s emerging frontier cities, such as Chicago in the 1850s or Denver in 1880s, than back east.

But over the last generation this trend, too, has reversed. Since 1980, the states and metro areas with the highest and fastest-growing per capita incomes have generally seen hardly, if any, net domestic in-migration, and in many notable examples have seen more people move away to other parts of the country than move in. Today, the preponderance of domestic migration is from areas with high and rapidly growing incomes to relatively poorer areas where incomes are growing at a slower pace, if at all."



"Since 1980, mergers have reduced the number of major railroads from twenty-six to seven, with just four of these mega systems controlling 90 percent of the country’s rail infrastructure. Meanwhile, many cities and towns have lost access to rail transportation altogether as railroads have abandoned secondary lines and consolidated rail service in order to maximize profits.

In this era, government spending on new roads and highways also plummeted, even as the number of people and cars continued to grow strongly. One result of this, and of the continuing failure to adequately fund mass transit and high-speed rail, has been mounting traffic congestion that reduces geographic mobility, including the ability of people to move to or remain in the areas offering the highest-paying jobs.

The New York metro area is a case in point. Between 2000 and 2009, the region’s per capita income rose from 25 percent above the average for all U.S. metro areas to 29 percent above. Yet over the same period, approximately two million more people moved away from the area to other parts of the country than moved in, according to the Census Bureau. Today, the commuter rail system that once made it comparatively easy to live in suburban New Jersey and work in Manhattan is falling apart, and commutes from other New York suburbs, whether by road or rail, are also becoming unworkable. Increasingly, this means that only the very rich can still afford to work in Manhattan, much less live there, while increasing numbers of working- and middle-class families are moving to places like Texas or Florida, hoping to break free of the gridlock, even though wages in Texas and Florida are much lower.

The next big policy change affecting regional equality was a vast retreat from antitrust enforcement of all kinds. The first turning point in this realm came in 1976 when Congress repealed the Miller-Tydings Act. This, combined with the repeal or rollback of other “fair trade” laws that had been in place since the 1920s and ’30s, created an opening for the emergence of super-chains like Walmart and, later, vertically integrated retail “platforms” like Amazon. The dominance of these retail goliaths has, in turn, devastated (to some, the preferred term is “disrupted”) locally owned retailers and led to large flows of money out of local economies and into the hands of distant owners.

Another turning point came in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department adopted new guidelines for antitrust prosecutions. Largely informed by the work of Robert Bork, then a Yale law professor who had served as solicitor general under Richard Nixon, these guidelines explicitly ruled out any consideration of social cost, regional equity, or local control in deciding whether to block mergers or prosecute monopolies. Instead, the only criteria that could trigger antitrust enforcement would be either proven instances of collusion or combinations that would immediately bring higher prices to consumers.

This has led to the effective colonization of many once-great American cities, as the financial institutions and industrial companies that once were headquartered there have come under the control of distant corporations. Empirical studies have shown that when a city loses a major corporate headquarters in a merger, the replacement of locally based managers by “absentee” managers usually leads to lower levels of local corporate giving, civic engagement, employment, and investment, often setting in motion further regional decline. A Harvard Business School study that analyzed the community involvement of 180 companies in Boston, Cleveland, and Miami found that “[l]ocally headquartered companies do most for the community on every measure,” including having “the most active involvement by their leaders in prominent local civic and cultural organizations.”

According to another survey of the literature on how corporate consolidation affects the health of local communities, “local owners and managers … are more invested in the community personally and financially than ‘distant’ owners and managers.” In contrast, the literature survey finds, “branch firms are managed either by ‘outsiders’ with no local ties who are brought in for short-term assignments or by locals who have less ability to benefit the community because they lack sufficient autonomy or prestige or have less incentive because their professional advancement will require them to move.” The loss of social capital in many Heartland communities documented by Robert Putnam, George Packer, and many other observers is at least in part a consequence of the wave of corporate consolidations that occurred after the federal government largely abandoned traditional antitrust enforcement thirty-some years ago.

Financial deregulation also contributed mightily to the growth of regional inequality. Prohibitions against interstate branching disappeared entirely by the 1990s. The first-order effect was that most midsize and even major cities saw most of their major banks bought up by larger banks headquartered somewhere else. Initially, the trend strengthened some regional banking centers, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, even as it hollowed out local control of banking nearly everywhere else across America. But eventually, further financial deregulation, combined with enormous subsidies and bailouts for banks that had become “too big to fail,” led to the eclipse of even once strong regional money centers like Philadelphia and St. Louis by a handful of elite cities such as New York and London, bringing the geography of modern finance full circle back to the patterns prevailing in the Gilded Age.

Meanwhile, dramatic changes in the treatment of what, in the 1980s, came to be known as “intellectual property,” combined with the general retreat from antitrust enforcement, had the effect of vastly concentrating the geographical distribution of power in the technology sector. At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders. In 1991, Bill Gates reflected on the change and noted in a memo to his executives at Microsoft that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

These changes caused the tech industry to become much more geographically concentrated than it otherwise would have been. They did so primarily by making the tech industry much less about engineering and much more about lawyering and deal making. In 2011, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and patent purchases exceeded their spending on research and development for the first time. Meanwhile, faced with growing barriers to entry created by patent monopolies and the consolidated power of giants like Apple and Google, the business model for most new start-ups became to sell themselves as quickly as possible to one of the tech industry’s entrenched incumbents.

For both of these reasons, success in this sector now increasingly requires being physically located where large concentrations of incumbents are seeking “innovation through acquisition,” and where there are supporting phalanxes of highly specialized legal and financial wheeler-dealers. Back in the 1970s, a young entrepreneur like Bill Gates was able to grow a new high-tech firm into a Fortune 500 company in his hometown of Seattle, which at the time was little better off than Detroit and Cleveland are today—a depopulating, worn-out manufacturing city, labeled by the Economist as “the city of despair.” Today, a young entrepreneur as smart and ambitious as the young Gates is most likely aiming to sell his company to a high-tech goliath—or will have to settle for doing so. Sure, high-tech entrepreneurs still emerge in the hinterland, and often start promising companies there. But to succeed they need to cash out, which means that they typically need to go where they’ll be in the deal flow of patent trading and mergers and acquisition, which means an already-established hub of high-tech “innovation” … [more]
us  inequality  urban  urbanism  coasts  economics  policy  politics  1980s  ronaldreagan  ip  intellectualproperty  wages  salaries  states  socialcapital  robertputnam  georgepacker  trusts  law  legal  regulation  business  finance  philliplongman 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Where should a good millennial live? | Fusion
"From this perspective, a lot of our sparkling innovations are glorified infrastructure for declining living standards. “Gypsy cabs” are a longstanding part of the urban economy, but Uber offers a brand. Tenants have been taking in extra boarders to help pay the rent for centuries, but AirBnB legitimizes the practice in the eyes of regulators. An ad for the app Wallapop shows a young man racing to sell his possessions so he can afford to take his girlfriend on a date. The app Letgo does the same thing, and it advertises during the same programs. Clearly the venture capitalists funding these companies think youth desperation is a growth industry. The billion-dollar question is which platforms can make it feel normal.

There’s nothing wrong with young people wanting to live well and independently, not at the expense of their parents, low-income longtime residents, or the environment. That’s what the fantasy of the model millennial living in a box is about, and that’s what makes parts of it very appealing. It would be great if Americans got used to taking up less residential space and filling it with less clutter. Cutting the transportation associated with our way of life may even be essential for the persistence of humans on Earth.

But in a system where every personal sacrifice turns up on some corporate balance sheet, where the workers living in trucks—celebrated and not—create the profits that buy vacation homes, it’s impossible to separate innovation and exploitation. When we talk about where good millennials should live, we’re ignoring more important questions about who owns land, how much, and why. Young Americans can’t allow ourselves to be divided and distracted into accepting a world that continues to award less to more and more to fewer."
malcolmharris  inequality  housing  land  2015  millennials  uber  airbnb  wallapop  letgo  capitalism  tinyhouses  regulation  business  corporatism  clutter  environment  labor  work 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The mystery of the white dress shirt: Makeshift Society Brooklyn postmortem — Medium
"We hosted rad events with nationally recognized partners including Adobe, HP, and SXSW on the assumption that if we get people to visit, we would get more conversions to memberships. But we saw little correlation between event attendees and future memberships. We also tried referral bonuses and monthly discounts for different skill sets (e.g. 50% off for photographers in May). That didn’t work either. The one thing that did work quite well, ironically, was a “three months for the price of two” membership offer that we launched when we had exactly 3 months left before closing. This resulted in about four conversions, which sounds small but is not insignificant (about 6% of the core membership base we were counting on in our original business plan). We probably should have experimented more with membership packages, but we were trying to avoid the situation where current members feel burnt by deals offered to new members. Strong impulses towards fairness are a liability for capitalists."



"Is community a side, or the main dish?

On the coworking as community — commodity spectrum, we existed somewhere in the middle. The feel of Makeshift Society Brooklyn was relatively communal and friendly, but ultimately it was a pay-to-play membership organization. We found that people genuinely seek community when it comes as a freebie side dish, but it’s somewhat rare that people want to pay for it as the main dish. In retrospect, this makes sense. One pays for golf at the club because paying explicitly for access to likeminded peers feels dirty. Even Airbnb, who claim to offer belonging (which is dubious, but we’ll take it at face value for now), are actually selling accommodations. The feeling of belonging is a mint on your pillow — the thing you enjoy most but would never pay for on its own.

When prospective members came through our doors asking about what amenities we offer, I could usually tell that they were not going to choose to join our community. Whereas other spaces offer hard amenities such as free beer on tap or access to legal advice, our biggest “amenity” was the ability to get to know a group of down to earth people who did something relatively close to what you’re doing, to call on them for emotional support, and occasionally to do some work together. Second to this, daylight and a dignified workspace were our primary distinctions (this says a lot about what passes for ‘quality’ in the state of workspaces). If you’ve already gotten wasted on the free beer, worked in your glass cubicle, and still haven’t found a supportive community of practice, you’d be more likely to arrive at the doors of MSS BK genuinely in search of what we offered. Leigh summed it up nicely:
At Makeshift I’m surrounded by amazingly smart and creative individuals. Whether it’s asking for a second set of eyes from a deskmate or seeing the other things members are building, being surrounded by that energy is inspiring.

It was also important to us that our people feel connected to the broader community of the neighborhood and the city, which is something that Matt and Cory picked up on:
Makeshift has all the productivity benefits of a coffee shop without the drawbacks. Well, it doesn’t have coffee, but that’s actually a benefit too. There are plenty of great cafés [nearby] that are easy to walk to. One of my favorite things about Makeshift’s space is that it really encourages creativity by making it easy to get up and move around. The location is a big, airy, bright area right on street level, on a nice quiet street, which makes it very easy to get up and get out for a quick walk outside to clear one’s head… Other co-working spaces that I’ve worked at are on high floors and I have to pack up my computer in my backpack before I can get outside, which makes it subtly harder to get up and move around. At Makeshift I can just get up, walk around, and get right back to work.

Before the Brooklyn expansion, Rena and I discussed converting MSS into a non-profit. We decided not to because we wanted to retain agility. As MSS BK was struggling I spent a good amount of time considering this as an alternative future for the space. By sliding from our midpoint on the community — commodity spectrum to somewhere more resolutely on the community side of things, such as a co-op, we would give up some or all control over the community, perhaps even the operations of the space. From the perspective of the balance sheet this could work out OK. Giving up control to a co-op could also mean freeing the MSS business entity of the responsibility to look after and pay for every little thing (printer toner, cleaning, etc) as those become shared responsibilities.

By the time we got to seriously considering converting ourselves into a co-op, we were too late to practically make the transition. It would have required a new cooperatively owned entity taking over the lease, which would require enough co-op members to assemble the tens of thousands of dollars needed just for the security deposit, not to mention a similarly formidable monthly sum to cover rent. In theory MSS could have retained the lease and sublet the space to a new co-op, but that’s a risky transition with a lot of opportunity for things to fall apart. Too risky.

By the time we were ready to do it, there was not enough money in our bank account to protect MSS in the event that the transition was less than perfect. Instead I’ll daydream of a benevolent co-op that performs hostile takeovers, converting struggling but beloved for-profit businesses into community-owned infrastructure. In the meantime, I’ll be watching Prime Produce closely as they progress with their co-op in midtown with the assist of “sympathetic investors”."
bryanboyer  2015  capitalism  coworking  makeshiftsociety  business  marketing  events  community  agility  markets  communication  cooperatives 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Orion Magazine | Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
"I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.

II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.

III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.

IV. The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.

V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes.

VI. The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all.

VII. We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

VIII. Nor did we foresee that the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to “rogue nations”, dissident or fanatical groups and individuals – whose violence, though never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be illegitimate.

IX. We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good, including our homelands and our lives.

X. We had accepted too the corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by “national defense”

XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.

XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global “free trade”, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate.

XIV. This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought, always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and citizens alike. It is hard for ordinary citizens to know what is actually happening in Washington in a time of such great trouble; for all we know, serious and difficult thought may be taking place there. But the talk that we are hearing from politicians, bureaucrats, and commentators has so far tended to reduce the complex problems now facing us to issues of unity, security, normality, and retaliation.

XV. National self-righteousness, like personal self-righteousness, is a mistake. It is misleading. It is a sign of weakness. Any war that we may make now against terrorism will come as a new installment in a history of war in which we have fully participated. We are not innocent of making war against civilian populations. The modern doctrine of such warfare was set forth and enacted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who held that a civilian population could be declared guilty and rightly subjected to military punishment. We have never repudiated that doctrine.

XVI. It is a mistake also – as events since September 11 have shown – to suppose that a government can promote and participate in a global economy and at the same time act exclusively in its own interest by abrogating its international treaties and standing apart from international cooperation on moral issues.

XVII. And surely, in our country, under our Constitution, it is a fundamental error to suppose that any crisis or emergency can justify any form of political oppression. Since September 11, far too many public voices have presumed to “speak for us” in saying that Americans will gladly accept a reduction of freedom in exchange for greater “security”. Some would, maybe. But some others would accept a reduction in security (and in global trade) far more willingly than they would accept any abridgement of our Constitutional rights.

XVIII. In a time such as this, when we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult.

XIX. Even now we dare not forget that since the attack of Pearl Harbor – to which the present attack has been often and not usefully compared – we humans have suffered an almost uninterrupted sequence of wars, none of which has brought peace or made us more peaceable.

XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our perpetual “war to end war?”

XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.

XXII. The key to peaceableness is continuous practice. It is wrong to suppose that we can exploit and impoverish the poorer countries, while arming them and instructing them in the newest means of war, and then reasonably expect them to be peaceable.

XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us.

XXIV. Starting with the economies of food and farming, we should promote at home, and encourage abroad, the ideal of local self-sufficiency. We should recognize that this is the surest, the safest, and the cheapest way for the world to live. We should not countenance the loss or destruction of any local capacity to produce necessary goods.

XXV. We should reconsider and renew and extend our efforts to protect the natural foundations of the human economy: soil, water, and air. We should protect every intact ecosystem and watershed that we have left, and begin restoration of those that have been damaged.

XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now … [more]
via:anne  education  capitalism  economics  wendellberry  peace  war  terrorism  consumerism  food  farming  sustainability  9/11  violence  humanism  environment  children  parenting  responsibility  military  self-sufficiency  technology  technosolutionism  progress  innovation  nature  decentralization  newworldorder  growth  degrowth  prosperity  labor  work  poverty  freemarket  business  corporatism  freetrade  vulnerability  freedom  civilrights  government  security  peaceableness  islam  soil  air  water  thrift  care  caring  saving  conservation  agriculture 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Power Positions | Dirty Furniture
"When it comes to taking a seat at the table, not all sides are created equal. Architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange considers an underexplored mechanism of control.

From 1959 architect Philip Johnson would lunch at a corner table in the Grill Room, part of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building he designed. Contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Dreyfuss held court at the Oak Room in New York’s Plaza Hotel. How can Johnson’s decision to make his own Oak Room be interpreted as anything other than a power play? Here everyone had to sit, literally, at his table. Clients, colleagues, supplicants, artists: on his own turf, the architect trumped them all. And the table itself laid bare an unspoken hierarchy, depending on where you sat.

All tables do: choose a seat close to or far away from the seat of power and you reveal your sense of place. Take the seat you’ve been allocated and you find out where others place you. If you don’t like your position you can move, or, if an Arthurian knight, fight. It is more subtle, though, to change the rules of engagement by changing the shape of the board."



"The Boardroom Table"



"The Kitchen Table"



"The Schoolroom Table"



"In some offices, homes and schoolrooms, the table is now in decline. Meetings today might be held in break-out areas defined by soft furniture, stadium-style steps, or even foam mountains. With low-slung sofas and side tables, such landscaped interior spaces may come closer to Saarinen’s floor-level Katsura ideal, albeit without the elaborate manners and tatami mats. In today’s suburban kitchens, meanwhile, meals are as likely eaten at the counter or on the sofa as at a table. Family dinners have become nothing but a fetish for food writers. As schools embrace technology, communal writing surfaces become less necessary – the laptop is table, pen and pad in one. In each of these new scenarios some freedoms are gained, but chances for conversation are lost. The table gives and it takes away: it can harden hierarchies but also create the space for speech.

The idea of an architect as a fixed physical presence in a city seems quaint today; one imagines them instead in transit, on the phone, or on site. I hardly want architects to return to public life patronising from the corner table, but wouldn’t there be some benefit to watching their design work at work, to staking a claim for architecture’s importance to cities through their physical presence? The history of the table proves its versatility as a symbol for how people are connected to one another. Its disappearance suggests a retreat into individual architectures for eating, working, learning that can’t bode well for diplomats, housewives, students or business."
alexandralange  tables  power  hierarchy  education  harknesstables  harkness  harknessmethod  2015  architecture  furniture  relationships  teaching  learning  pedagogy  business  boardrooms  modernmen  kitchens  families  homes  offices  officedesign  schooldesign  kingarthur 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Managing Bias | Facebook
"At Facebook, we believe that understanding and managing unconscious bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organizations. These videos are designed to help us recognize our biases so we can reduce their negative effects in the workplace. Surfacing and countering unconscious bias is an essential step towards becoming the people and companies we want to be.

Video Modules

Welcome from Lori Goler – VP of People

There are different forms of unconscious bias that can prevent us from cultivating an inclusive and innovative workplace. In these videos, we discuss four common types of biases: Performance Bias, Performance Attribution Bias, Competence/Likeability Trade-off Bias, and Maternal Bias.

Introductions and First Impressions

Foundations for first impressions come from our own experiences and sense of the world—what’s familiar to us. Our reactions to someone we don’t know may be positive, negative, or neutral depending on what’s visible or audible about them; depending on their race, perceived sexual orientation, accent or a number of other characteristics.

Stereotypes and Performance Bias

Stereotypes are often automatic and unconscious. In the workplace, stereotypes can influence decisions we make about other people, preventing their ability to fully contribute in their jobs. Performance bias occurs when people who are part of dominant groups, such as whites or men, are judged by their expected potential, while those who are part of less dominant groups such as people of color or women are judged by their proven accomplishments.

Performance Attribution Bias

When it comes to decision-making, unconscious biases cause some people to be perceived as “naturally talented,” whereas others are presumed to have “gotten lucky.” People on the receiving end of these biases are less likely to receive credit for their ideas, are interrupted more often during team interactions and have less influence on teams.

Competence/Likeability Tradeoff Bias

Research shows that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Women are expected to be nurturing and care-taking, while men are expected to be assertive and action-oriented. Having to produce results and be liked makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted, negotiate on their own behalf, and exhibit leadership.

Maternal Bias

Research shows that women who are mothers experience an unconscious bias in the workplace that fathers and women without children do not. Mothers are disliked when not seen as nurturing mothers, and given fewer opportunities.

Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion and What You Can Do

Surfacing and counteracting unconscious bias and its impacts is not only the right thing to do—it’s essential for our success.

Why?

Research shows that individuals and organizations that believe they are meritocratic often have the poorest outcomes. That’s because when biases aren’t acknowledged, we can’t deal with them.

Our goal in publishing this portion of our managing bias training is to achieve broader recognition of the hidden biases we all hold, and to highlight ways to counteract bias in the workplace. We invite you to treat this as a framework for action. Please add to or amend this content based on challenges relevant to your organization.

Let’s commit to surfacing and counteracting unconscious bias to level the playing field for all of us.

Download More on What You Can Do

Download the Slides and References Used in these Videos"

[via https://twitter.com/sjjphd/status/654477639529402368
via https://twitter.com/V_V_G/status/654481215358042112 ]
facebook  bias  unconsciousbias  diversity  psychology  inclusivity  training  video  stereotypes  gender  maternity  likeability  competence  performance  business  workplace  firstimpressions  race  sexualorientation  judgement  success  inclusion 
october 2015 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"



"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Do the Robot – The New Inquiry
"Miya Tokumitsu had a good critique of the Do What You Love ideology in Jacobin, in which she argues that “do what you love” means turn your passion into human capital — the real subsumption of identity in another guise. She writes,
According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Having a “real” passion for your job is the extension of exhibiting “genuine” feeling in the workplace, but instead of serving a customer, it serves a boss or client. Again the metric that establishes the reality of feeling is ex post profit. If no one wants your passionate work, it’s not really passionate and you are self-deluded.

Tokumitsu argues that genuinely lovable work is a privilege that comes at the expense of lots of unlovable work being done by others:
Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished).

As a result, Tokumitsu argues, unlovable work becomes “dangerously invisible” to those whom it permits to do what they love. And in the meantime, those who love what they do work harder for less or no pay.

But the logic that sees competitive advantage in the “human touch” means that all work must be lovable and be performed as such for customers (and the managers who are supposed to be their proxy). Unlovable work isn’t made invisible but is made to seem visibly, irrepressibly loved. After all, what keeps a crappy job from being automated, from this perspective, is the joy in it that a worker can manifest and woo customers with. What prevents a job from being automated is not necessarily its complexity, as Peter Frase explains in this post (and elsewhere):
From the perspective of the boss, replacing a worker with a machine will be more appealing to the degree that the machine is:

• Cheaper than the human worker
• More convenient and easier to control than the human worker

If workers demand more wages, machines become more attractive to bosses. Likewise with “meaningful work”: If workers demand more meaningful, lovable work, then they become less “convenient” to bosses. But workers whose value rests in how much they show they love their job are quite easy to control. Servility is built into the practice. Frase writes that “the truly dystopian prospect is that the worker herself is treated as if she were a machine rather than being replaced by one.” Even more dystopian is the prospect of being treated like a de facto machine while being expected to express boundless “human” joy about it.

The threat of automation, then, can be used to extract more emotional labor and more competitive advantage from humans. After all, one of the few things a robot can’t supply is enthusiasm."
labor  robhorning  authenticity  exploitation  robots  automation  emotionallabor  sales  2015  economics  business  peterfrase  miyatokumitsu  work  humans  huamntouch  passion 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You — Medium
"We are a community branded as leaders living through this revolutionary moment, living through this extreme winning and extreme losing. It falls on us to ask the tough questions about it.

But we here in Aspen are in a bit of a tight spot.

Our deliberations about what to do about this extreme winning and losing are sponsored by the extreme winners. This community was formed by stalwarts of American capitalism; today we sit in spaces named after Pepsi (as in the beverage) and Koch (as in the brothers); our discussion of Martin Luther King and Omelas is sponsored by folks like Accenture, David Rubenstein and someone named Pom; we are deeply enmeshed and invested in the establishment and systems we are supposed to question. And yet we are a community of leaders that claims to seek justice. These identities are tricky to reconcile.

Today I want to challenge how we reconcile them. There is no consensus on anything here, as any seminar participant knows. But I believe that many of our discussions operate within what I will call the “Aspen Consensus,” which, like the “Washington Consensus” or “Beijing Consensus,” describes a nest of shared assumptions within which diverse ideas hatch. The “Aspen Consensus” demarcates what we mostly agree not to question, even as we question so much. And though I call it the Aspen Consensus, it is in many ways the prevailing ethic among the winners of our age worldwide, across business, government and even nonprofits.

The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.

The Aspen Consensus holds that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Give back,” which is of course a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid the $20 million second homes and $4,000 parkas of Aspen, it is gauche to observe that giving back is also a Band-Aid that winners stick onto the system that has privileged them, in the conscious or subconscious hope that it will forestall major surgery to that system — surgery that might threaten their privileges.

The Aspen Consensus, I believe, tries to market the idea of generosity as a substitute for the idea of justice. It says: make money in all the usual ways, and then give some back through a foundation, or factor in social impact, or add a second or third bottom line to your analysis, or give a left sock to the poor for every right sock you sell.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Do more good” — not “Do less harm.”

I want to sow the seed of a difficult conversation today about this Aspen Consensus. Because I love this community, and I fear for all of us — myself very much included — that we may not be as virtuous as we think we are, that history may not be as kind to us as we hope it will, that in the final analysis our role in the inequities of our age may not be remembered well.

This may sound strange at first, because the winners of our disruptive age are arguably as concerned about the plight of the losers as any elite in human history. But the question I’m raising is about what the winners propose to do in response. And I believe the winners’ response, certainly not always but still too often, is to soften the blows of the system but to preserve the system at any cost. This response is problematic. It keeps the winners too safe. It allows far too many of us to evade hard questions about our role in contributing to the disease we also seek to treat."



"Now, a significant minority of us here don’t work in business. Yet even in other sectors, we’re living in an age in which the assumptions and values of business are more influential than they ought to be. Our culture has turned businessmen and -women into philosophers, revolutionaries, social activists, saviors of the poor. We are at risk of forgetting other languages of human progress: of morality, of democracy, of solidarity, of decency, of justice.

Sometimes we succumb to the seductive Davos dogma that the business approach is the only thing that can change the world, in the face of so much historical evidence to the contrary.

And so when the winners of our age answer the problem of inequality and injustice, all too often they answer it within the logic and frameworks of business and markets. We talk a lot about giving back, profit-sharing, win-wins, social-impact investing, triple bottom lines (which, by the way, are something my four-month-old son has).

Sometimes I wonder whether these various forms of giving back have become to our era what the papal indulgence was to the Middle Ages: a relatively inexpensive way of getting oneself seemingly on the right of justice, without having to alter the fundamentals of one’s life.

Because when you give back, when you have a side foundation, a side CSR project, a side social-impact fund, you gain an exemption from more rigorous scrutiny. You helped 100 poor kids in the ghetto learn how to code. The indulgence spares you from questions about the larger systems and structures you sustain that benefit you and punish others: weak banking regulations and labor laws, zoning rules that happen to keep the poor far from your neighborhood, porous safety nets, the enduring and unrepaired legacies of slavery and racial supremacy and caste systems.

These systems and structures have victims, and we here are at risk, I think, of confusing generosity toward those victims with justice for those victims. For generosity is a win-win, but justice often is not. The winners of our age don’t enjoy the idea that some of them might actually have to lose, to sacrifice, for justice to be done. In Aspen you don’t hear a lot of ideas involving the privileged and powerful actually being in the wrong, and needing to surrender their status and position for the sake of justice.

We talk a lot here about giving more. We don’t talk about taking less.

We talk a lot here about what we should be doing more of. We don’t talk about what we should be doing less of.

I think sometimes that our Aspen Consensus has an underdeveloped sense of human darkness. There is risk in too much positivity. Sometimes to do right by people, you must begin by naming who is in the wrong.

So let’s just come out and say the thing you’re never supposed to say in Aspen: that many of the winners of our age are active, vigorous contributors to the problems they bravely seek to solve. And for the greater good to prevail on any number of issues, some people will have to lose — to actually do less harm, and not merely more good.

We know that enlightened capital didn’t get rid of the slave trade. Impact investing didn’t abolish child labor and put fire escapes on tenement factories. Drug makers didn’t stop slipping antifreeze into medicine as part of a CSR initiative. In each of these cases, the interests of the many had to defeat the interests of the recalcitrant few.

Look, I know this speech won’t make me popular at the bar tonight. But this, for me, is an act of stepping into the arena — something our wonderful teacher-moderators challenged us to do.

I know many of you agree with me already, because we have bonded for years over a shared feeling that something in this extraordinary community didn’t feel quite right. There are many others who, instead of criticizing as I do, are living rejections of this Aspen Consensus — quitting lucrative lives, risking everything, to fight the system. You awe me: you who battle for gay rights in India, who live ardently among the rural poor in South Africa, who risk assassination or worse to report news of corruption.

I am not speaking to you tonight, and I know there are many of you. I am speaking to those who, like me, may feel caught between the ideals championed by this Institute and the self-protective instinct that is always the reflex of people with much to lose.

I am as guilty as anyone. I am part of the wave of gentrification and displacement in Brooklyn, one of the most rapidly gentrifying places in America. Any success I’ve had can be traced to my excellent choice in parents and their ability to afford incredibly expensive private schools. I like good wine. I use Uber — a lot. I once stole playing cards from a private plane. I want my new son to have everything I can give him, even though I know that this is the beginning of the inequality I loathe.

I often wonder if what I do — writing — is capable of making any difference.

When I entered this fellowship, I was so taken with that summons to make a difference. But, to be honest, I have also always had a complicated relationship to this place.

I have heard too many of us talking of how only after the IPO or the next few million will we feel our kids have security. These inflated notions of what it takes to “make a living” and “support a family” are the beginning of so much neglect of our larger human family.

I walk into too many rooms named for people and companies that don’t mean well for the world, and then in those rooms we talk and talk about making the world better.

I struggled in particular with the project. I couldn’t figure out what bothered me about it for the longest time. I wasn’t very good at coming up with one or getting it done.

And I realized, through conversation with fellows in similar dilemmas, what my problem was. Many people, including some being featured later tonight, are engaged in truly extraordinary and commendable projects. We are at our best when our projects take the system head on. But I wrestled with what I perceived to be the idea behind the project, of creating generous side endeavors rather than fighting to reform, bite by bite, the hands that feed us. I felt the project distracted us from the real question: is your regular life — not your side project — on the right side … [more]
anandgiridharadas  capitalism  change  cooperation  aspeninstitute  philanthropy  climatechange  inequality  virtue  competition  inequity  elitism  power  systemschange  privilege  finance  wealth  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  wealthdistribution  davos  riggedgames  goldmansachs  indulgence  handwashing  via:tealtan  risk  stackeddecks  labor  employment  disruption  work  civics  commongood  abstraction  business  corporatism  corporations  taxes  government  socialgood  virtualization  economics  politics  policy  speculation  democracy  solidarity  socialjustice  neoliberalism  well-being  decency  egalitarianism  community  indulgences  noblesseoblige  absolution  racism  castes  leadership  generosity  sacrifice  gambling  gender  race  sexism  emotionallabor  positivity  slavery  socialsafetnet  winwin  zerosum  gentrification  stewardship  paradigmshifts  charitableindustrialcomplex  control 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk—they come from families with money - Quartz
"We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”

University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.

New research out this week from the National Bureau of Economic Research (paywall) looked at risk-taking in the stock market and found that environmental factors (not genetic) most influenced behavior, pointing to the fact that risk tolerance is conditioned over time (dispelling the myth of an elusive “entrepreneurship gene“).

Resilience is undoubtably a necessary trait for success; many notable entrepreneurs experienced success only after leading failed ventures. But the barrier to entry is very high.

For creative professions, starting a new venture is the ultimate privilege. Many startup founders do not take a salary for some time. The average cost to launch a startup is around $30,000, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that more than 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”
1
So while yes, there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into building something, there’s also a lot of privilege involved—a factor that is often underestimated."
entrepreneurship  economics  business  inequality  wealth  2015  startups  aimeegroth  oligarchy  plutocracy  establishment  risk  risktaking  capital  capitalism  finance  privilege  conservatism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Marilynne Robinson: on capitalism and "what we actually value" by Radio Open Source
"The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson talks about what we value and what we need and the basics of American society, pitted against a "weird ideologized form of capitalism"."
marilynnerobinson  via:taryn  capitalism  criticism  wealth  values  2015  history  ideology  neoliberalism  coldwar  society  profits  profit  art  science  business  empowerment  time  culture  hierarchy  prosperity  teaching  howweteach  monetization 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Jennifer Armbrust | Proposals for the Feminine Economy | CreativeMornings/PDX
"“The experimental feminine is all that is not business as usual and vice versa.” — Joan Retallack

What does it look like to embody feminine principles in business? In art? Why does it matter—what’s at stake? What does gender have to do with business? What does business have to do with art? What does capitalism have to do with nature? And what is an economy, anyhow? Can a business be feminist? Why would it want to? Where is money in all of this? Armbrust’s Creative Mornings talk posits a protocol for prototyping an experimental/feminine business."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7kI7Bsa56g ]
jennarmbrust  via:nicolefenton  2015  capitalism  feminism  masculinity  consciouscapitalism  power  egalitarianism  growth  art  design  criticaltheory  entrepreneurship  business  economics  competition  inequality  ownership  consumerism  consumption  labor  work  efficiency  speed  meritocracy  profit  individualism  scarcity  abundance  poverty  materialism  care  caring  interdependence  vulnerability  embodiment  ease  generosity  collaboration  sustainability  resourcefulness  mindfulness  self-care  gratitude  integrity  honesty  nature  joanretallack  well-being 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Difference Between Culture and Values « Only Once – Matt Blumberg
"This topic has been bugging me for a while, so I am going to use the writing of this post as a means of working through it. We have a great set of core values here at Return Path. And we also have a great corporate culture, as evidenced by our winning multiple employer of choice awards, including being Fortune Magazine’s #2 best medium-sized workplace in America.

But the two things are different, and they’re often confused. I hear statements all the time, both here and at other companies, like “you can’t do that — it’s not part of our culture,” “I like working there, because the culture is so great,” and “I hope our culture never changes.” And those statements reveal the disconnect.

Here’s my stab at a definition. Values guide decision-making and a sense of what’s important and what’s right. Culture is the collection of business practices, processes, and interactions that make up the work environment.

A company’s values should never really change. They are the bedrock underneath the surface that will be there 10 or 100 years from now. They are the uncompromising core principles that the company is willing to live and die by, the rules of the game. To pick one value, if you believe in Transparency one day, there’s no way the next day you decide that being Transparent is unimportant. Can a value be changed? I guess, either a very little bit at a time, slowly like tectonic plates move, or in a sharp blow as if you deliberately took a jackhammer to stone and destroyed something permanently. One example that comes to mind is that we added a value a couple years back called Think Global, Act Local, when we opened our first couple of international offices. Or a startup that quickly becomes a huge company might need to modify a value around Scrappiness to make it about Efficiency. Value changes are few and far between.

If a company’s values are its bedrock, then a company’s culture is the shifting landscape on top of it. Culture is the current embodiment of the values as the needs of the business dictate. Landscapes change over time — sometimes temporarily due to a change in seasons, sometimes permanently due to a storm or a landslide, sometimes even due to human events like commercial development or at the hand of a good gardener.

So what does it mean that culture is the current embodiment of the values as the needs of the business dictate? Let’s go back to the value of Transparency. When you are 10 people in a room, Transparency means you as CEO may feel compelled to share that you’re thinking about pivoting the product, collect everyone’s point of view on the subject, and make a decision together. When you are 100 people, you probably wouldn’t want to share that thinking with ALL until it’s more baked, you have more of a concrete direction in mind, and you’ve stress tested it with a smaller group, or you risk sending people off in a bunch of different directions without intending to do so. When you are 1,000 employees and public, you might not make that announcement to ALL until it’s orchestrated with your earnings call, but there may be hundreds of employees who know by then. A commitment to Transparency doesn’t mean always sharing everything in your head with everyone the minute it appears as a protean thought. At 10 people, you can tell everyone why you had to fire Pat – they probably all know, anyway. At 100 people, that’s unkind to Pat. At 1,000, it invites a lawsuit.

Or here’s another example. Take Collaboration as a value. I think most people would agree that collaboration managed well means that the right people in the organization are involved in producing a piece of work or making a decision, but that collaboration managed poorly means you’re constantly trying to seek consensus. The culture needs to shift over time in order to make sure the proper safeguards are in place to prevent collaboration from turning into a big pot of consensus goo – and the safeguards required change as organizations scale. In a small, founder-driven company, it often doesn’t matter as much if the boss makes the decisions. The value of collaboration can feel like consensus, as they get to air their views and feel like they’re shaping a decision, even though in reality they might not be. In a larger organization with a wider range of functional specialists managing their own pieces of the organization, the boss doesn’t usually make every major decision, though guys like Ellison, Benioff, Jobs, etc. would disagree with that. But in order for collaboration to be effective, decisions need to be delegated and appropriate working groups need to be established to be clear on WHO is best equipped to collaborate, and to what extent. Making these pronouncements could come as feeling very counter-cultural to someone used to having input, when in fact they’re just a new expression of the same value.

I believe that a business whose culture never evolves slowly dies. Many companies are very dynamic by virtue of growth or scaling, or by being in very dynamic markets even if the company itself is stable in people or product. Even a stable company — think the local hardware store or barber shop — will die if it doesn’t adapt its way of doing business to match the changing norms and consumption patterns in society.

This doesn’t mean that a company’s culture can’t evolve to a point where some employees won’t feel comfortable there any longer. We lost our first employee on the grounds that we had “become too corporate” when we reached the robust size of 25 employees. I think we were the same company in principles that day as we had been when we were 10 people (and today when we are approaching 500), but I understood what that person meant.

My advice to leaders: Don’t cling to every aspect of the way your business works as you scale up. Stick to your core values, but recognize that you need to lead (or at least be ok with) the evolution of your culture, just as you would lead (or be ok with) the evolution of your product. But be sure you’re sticking to your values, and not compromising them just because the organization scales and work patterns need to change. A leader’s job is to embody the values. That impacts/produces/guides culture. But only the foolhardy leaders think they can control culture.

My advice to employees: Distinguish between values and culture if you don’t like something you see going on at work. If it’s a breach of values, you should feel very free to wave your arms and cry foul. But if it’s a shifting of the way work gets done within the company’s values system, give a second thought to how you complain about it before you do so, though note that people can always interpret the same value in different ways. If you believe in your company’s values, that may be a harder fit to find and therefore more important than getting comfortable with the way those values show up.

Note: I started writing this by talking about the foundation of a house vs. the house itself, or the house itself vs. the furniture inside it. That may be a more useful analogy for you. But hopefully you get the idea."
business  culture  values  organizations  2015  mattblumberg  change 
june 2015 by robertogreco
hautepop | I've been thinking seriously lately about getting...
"Right.

First thing you need to know is that K-Hole aren’t a real trends agency but rather conceptual art. Or, um, well, they weren’t a real trends agency. Now they might be. It’s kind of complicated.

But basically whilst they’re awesome, they are also very special snowflake and not actually a firm you can join.

In this post I’ll outline how you can actually build a career in this space from a mostly-London perspective.

Many thanks to Scott Smith of Changeist who has provided 90% of the intel. (Though I’m not sure you can work for him either, he’s very boutique.)

1. Trend forecasting is often not called trend forecasting

‘Trends’ and ‘cool hunting’ were buzzwords in the 1990s, but the rise of the internet made knowing what denim brands were hot in Tokyo less of a leverageable advantage.

“Innovation” is the present buzzword - “innovation agencies” and “innovation consultancies” are one place you find this type of work. “Brand consultancies” and “brand strategy” firms are another - and the cool (expensive) end of qualitative market research (or “consumer research”) a third.

2. Accept that what you’re doing is capitalism

Companies don’t hire you because you are especially zeitgeisty. They hire you because you can guide them to make more money - either by making products that are more relevant to consumers’ lives, or communicating (marketing) those products more effectively.

“Here is a cool thing going on in culture” is not valuable business advice. “You should do X because of Y cool thing going on in culture, and you’ll achieve result Z” is.

Accept that what you’re doing is business consultancy and read up on competitive advantage, branding, positioning and so on. Ultimately it’s knowing this stuff that makes you better at trends consultancy - not just developing some terrifically expensive intuition about brands… *cough Cayce Pollard*

2a. You can still make K-Hole style conceptual art about capitalism and brands

You just won’t be doing it as your main job. Or getting paid for it - a girl can’t eat Fast Company articles or Tumblr likes, more’s the pity.

In fact, making pretty decent money in this industry and then going freelance as a consultant is probably one of the best ways to clear time & space for making art - and arguably much more viable than traditional art routes of MFAs, teaching jobs, writing and so on.

Go talk to Benedict Singleton (a design strategist) as one example."
trendspotting  capitalism  futurism  k-hole  jayowens  2015  brands  business  trendforecasting 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Unexotic Underclass | The MIT Entrepreneurship Review
"The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics, investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it. I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere. In short, they contend that too many brains and dollars have been shoveled into resolving what I call ‘anti-problems’ – interests usually centered about food or fashion or ‘social’or gaming. Something an anti-problem company might develop is an app that provides restaurant recommendations based on your blood type, a picture of your childhood pet, the music preferences of your 3 best friends, and the barometric pressure of the nearest city beginning with the letter Q. (That such an app does not yet exist is reminder still of how impoverished a state American scientific education has descended. Weep not! We redouble our calls for more STEM funding.)

On the other side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that there are too many folks resolving anti-problems… BUT just to be on the safe side, the venture capitalists should keep pumping tons of money into those anti-problem entrepreneurs because you never know when some corporate leviathan – Google, Facebook, Yahoo! – will come along and buy what yesterday looked like a nonsense app and today is still a nonsense app, but a nonsense app that can walk a bit taller, held aloft by the insanities of American exceptionalism. For not only is our sucker birthrate still high in this country (one every minute, baby!), but our suckers are capitalists bearing fat checks.

On the other other side, a side that receives scant attention, scanter investment, is where big problems – little b, little p – reside. Here, you’ll find a group I’ll refer to as the unexotic underclass. It’s rather quiet in these parts, except during campaign season when the politicians stop by to scrape anecdotes off the skin of someone else’s suffering. Let’s see who’s here.

To your left are single mothers, 80% of whom, according to the US Census, are poor or hovering on the nasty edges of working poverty. They are struggling to raise their kids in a country that seems to conspire against any semblance of proper rearing: a lack of flexibility in the workplace; a lack of free or affordable after-school programs; an abysmal public education system where a testing-mad, criminally-deficient curriculum is taught during a too-short school day; an inescapable lurid wallpaper of sex and violence that covers every surface of society; a cultural disregard for intelligence, empathy and respect; a cultural imperative to look hot, spend money and own the latest “it”-device (or should I say i-device) no matter what it costs, no matter how little money Mum may have.

Slightly to the right, are your veterans of two ongoing wars in the Middle East. Wait, we’re at war? Some of these veterans, having served multiple tours, are returning from combat with all manner of monstrosities ravaging their heads and bodies. If that weren’t enough, welcome back, dear vets, to a flaccid economy, where your military training makes you invisible to an invisible hand that rewards only those of us who are young and expensively educated.

Welcome back to a 9-month wait for medical benefits. According to investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who was embedded in Iraq, and has now authored The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle against America’s Veterans, 9 months is the average amount of time a veteran waits for his or her disability claim to be processed after having filed their paperwork. And by ‘filed their paperwork,’ I mean it literally: veterans are sending bundles of papers to some bureaucratic Dantean capharnaum run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where, by its own admission, it processes 97% of its claims by hand, stacking them in heaps on tables and in cabinets.

In the past 5 years, the number of vets who’ve died before their claim has even been processed has tripled. This is America in 2013: 40 years ago we put a man on the moon; today a young lady in New York can use anti-problem technology if she wishes to line up a date this Friday choosing only from men who are taller than 6 feet, graduated from an Ivy, live within 10 blocks of Gramercy, and play tennis left-handed…

…And yet, veterans who’ve returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have to wait roughly 270 days (up to 600 in New York and California) to receive the help — medical, moral, financial – which they urgently need, to which they are honorably entitled, after having fought our battles overseas.

Technology, indeed, is solving the right problems.

Let’s keep walking. Meet the people who have the indignity of being over 50 and finding themselves suddenly jobless. These are the Untouchables of the new American workforce: 3+ decades of employment and experience have disqualified them from ever seeing a regular salary again. Once upon a time, some modicum of employer noblesse oblige would have ensured that loyal older workers be retained or at the very least retrained, MBA advice be damned. But, “A bas les vieux!” the fancy consultants cried, and out went those who were ‘no longer fresh.’ As Taylor Swift would put it, corporate America and the Boomer worker “are never ever getting back together.” Instead bring in the young, the childless, the tech-savvy here in America, and the underpaid and quasi-indentured abroad willing to work for slightly north of nothing in the kinds of conditions we abolished in the 19th century.

For, in the 21st century, a prosperous American business is a soaring 2-storied cake: 1 management layer at top thick with perks, golden parachutes, stock options, and a total disregard for those beneath them; 1 layer below of increasingly foreign workers (If you’re lucky, you trained these people before you were laid off!), who can’t even depend on their jobs because as we speak, those sameself consultants – but no one that we know of course — are scouring the globe for the cheapest labor opportunities, fulfilling their promise that no CEO be left behind.

Above all of this, the frosting on the cake, the nec plus ultra of evolutionary corporate accomplishment: the Director of Social Media. This is the 20-year old whose role it is to “leverage social media to deliver a seamless authentic experience across multiple digital streams to strategic partners and communities.” In other words, this person gets paid six figures to send out tweets. But again, no one that we know.

Time and space and my own sheltered upbringing defend me from giving you the whole tour of the unexotic underclass, but trust that it is big, and only getting bigger."



"There’s nothing wrong with the entrepreneurship-as-salvation gospel. Nothing wrong with teaching more people to code. But it’s impractical in the short term, and misses the greater point in the long term: We shouldn’t live in a universe of solipsistic startups… where I start a company and produce things only for myself and for people who resemble me. Let’s be honest. Very few of us are members of this unexotic underclass. Very few of us even know anyone who’s in it. There’s no shame in that. That we have sailed on a yacht of good fortune most of our lives — supportive generous families, a stable peaceful democracy, excellent schooling, prestigious careers and companies, relatively good health – is nothing to be ashamed of. Consider yourselves remarkably blessed."



"When I look at the bulk of startups today – while there are notable exceptions (Code for America for example, which invites local governments to request technology help from teams of coders) – it doesn’t seem like we’ve aspired to something nobler: it just looks like we’ve shifted the malpractice from feeding the money machine to making inane, self-centric apps. Worse, is that the power players, institutional and individual — the highflying VCs, the entrepreneurship incubators, the top-ranked MBA programs, the accelerators, the universities, the business plan competitions have been complicit in this nonsense.

Those who are entrepreneurially-minded but young and idea-poor need serious direction from those who are rich in capital and connections. We see what ideas are getting funded, we see money flowing like the river Ganges towards insipid me-too products, so is it crazy that we’ve been thinking small? building smaller? that our “blood and judgment” to quote Hamlet, have not been “so well commingled?”

We need someone bold (and older than us) to stand up for Big Problems which are tough and dirty. But what we especially need is someone to stand up for big problems – little b, little p –which are tough and dirty and too easy to overlook.

We need:

A Ron Conway, a Fred Wilson-type at the venture level to say, ‘Kiddies, basta with this bull*%!..  This year we’re only investing in companies targeting the unexotic underclass.”

A Paul Graham and his Y Combinator at the incubator level, to devote one season to the underclass, be it veterans, single moms or overworked young doctors, Native Americans, the list is long:  “Help these entrepreneurs build something that will help you.”

The head of an MIT or an HBS or a Stanford Law at the academic level, to tell the entire incoming class: “You are lucky to be some of the best engineering and business and law students, not just in the country, but in the world.  And as an end-of-year project, you are going to use that talent to develop … [more]
creativity  entrepreneurship  poverty  inequality  wickedproblems  purpose  siliconvalley  class  venturecapital  problemsolving  economics  capitalism  work  labor  unemployment  veterans  via:sha  underclass  inequity  business  cznnaemeka  2013 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: foylibra
"This is a bookmark they give you at Foyles. Modern businesses could learn from the specificity, variety and ambition of this. [image] "

[via: http://migurski.tumblr.com/post/117610727955/this-is-a-bookmark-they-give-you-at-foyles-modern ]
books  booksellers  foylesbooks  business  booklovers  russelldavies 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Meet the lawyer taking on Uber and the rest of the on-demand economy | Fusion
"If cases like Liss-Riordan’s are successful, on-demand companies would have to pay overtime, deductions from wages, and, in California, the expenses incurred by their service providers. Those costs would mount into the millions, and proponents of the on-demand economy worry that they could force successful companies out of business.

“Our community cares about flexibility and setting their own hours,” said Fiona Ramsey, the director of communications for Peers, an advocacy group for the on-demand economy. She added: “We worry the share economy will cease to exist if these cases are successful.”

That worry may be exaggerated, however. Deep-pocketed companies like Uber, which has raised nearly $5 billion in venture capital since launching, could surely afford the additional expense of putting drivers on its payroll. And several on-demand companies, such as the house cleaning start-up MyClean and the food delivery service Munchery, already treat their workers as W-2 employees. These companies’ labor costs are higher than their 1099-dependent rivals, but they get additional benefits, such as being able to train their workers and hold them to consistent schedules.

Liss-Riordan thinks Uber did “a great thing for the world in terms of convenience for customers.” But she contends that the company’s insanely high valuation is based on its skirting employment responsibilities and having drivers bear the costs of its business operations. She also thinks the on-demand economy’s existential fears about the oncoming wave of class-action lawsuits are overblown.

“Uber and Lyft can survive classifying drivers as employees,” she says. “It might cost them a little more, but it’s a successful concept. It’s not going to go away because we are trying to enforce the rules.”
business  law  uber  sharingeconomy  2015  economics  employment  labor  work  compensation  shannonliss-riordan  kashmirhill 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Defies Measurement on Vimeo
"DEFIES MEASUREMENT strengthens the discussion about public education by exploring why it is so important to address the social and emotional needs of every student, and what happens when the wrong people make decisions for schools.

For information on how to screen this film for others and for resources to learn more and take action, visit defiesmeasurement.com

By downloading this film, you are agreeing to the 3 terms listed below:

1) I will only use portions of Defies Measurement or the whole film for educational purposes and I will NOT edit or change the film in any way. (Educational purposes = viewing a portion or complete version of the film for an individual, private or public event, free of charge or as a fundraiser)

2) I will post a photo or comment about the film and/or screening on the Defies Measurement Facebook page

3) I will spread the word about the film to others via social media and word of mouth. Follow us @defymeasurement #defiesmeasurement"

[See also:
https://www.shineonpro.com/
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/115791029088/defies-measurement-via-will-richardsondefies ]
testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  schools  education  middleschool  chipmanmiddleschool  lindadarling-hammond  alfiekohn  martinmalström  socialemotionallearning  poverty  iq  assessment  policy  howweteach  howelearn  learning  competition  politics  arneduncan  jebbush  measurement  quantification  inequality  finland  us  edreform  tcsnmy  community  experientiallearning  communitycircles  morningmeetings  documentary  film  terrielkin  engagement  meaningmaking  howwelearn  teaching  sylviakahn  regret  sellingout  georgewbush  susankovalik  lauriemclachlan-fry  joanduvall-flynn  government  howardgardner  economics  anthonycody  privatization  lobbying  gatesfoundation  marknaison  billgates  davidkirp  broadfoundation  charitableindustrialcomplex  commoncore  waltonfamily  teachforamerica  tfa  mercedesschneider  dianeravitch  davidberliner  publischools  anationatrisk  joelklein  condoleezzarice  tonywagner  business  markets  freemarket  neworleans  jasonfrance  naomiklein  shockdoctrine  karranharper-royal  julianvasquezheilig  sarahstickle  ronjohnson  alanskoskopf  soci 
april 2015 by robertogreco
“Rules of Business” — Medium
"Pretend like you’re a human being
With the possible exception of artists and architects, no one is more full of shit than designers. We can find a way to justify anything. Blah blah blah. That means no matter what you end up with, you can come up with some reason why it’s a good design. The best advice I have for designers is to practice being not-designers: stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then look again like you’re just a regular person encountering this product/service/user interface/object/page/poster for the first time. Where do your eyes go? What do you think it is at first? How do you figure out what you are supposed to do?

Make it inevitable
There is some truth to that old Henry Ford aphorism “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”. If you can’t believe it, it’s probably not going to happen. However, I like to take that one step further and ensure that every action we take is one that assumes the desired outcome is inevitable. Do not make actions that are out of alignment with that inevitability. Do not allow judgements which contradict it. The more evidence you have — and everyone else has — that things will come out as planned, the more likely it will be so.

Every job you do has your signature on it
When I was around 10 or 11 years old, my father offered me $10 to move a cord of recently-delivered firewood from the driveway into the garage and stack it up inside (I am old; $10 was a great deal of money back then). I managed to get all the firewood inside but rather than it being stacked against the wall, it was more or less evenly distributed across the floor of the garage. I expected my payment, but instead got some advice: “Every job you do has your signature on it — do you really want to sign that?” I always remembered that and if I am going to do something, I make every effort to do it right. (I also properly stacked the wood afterwards, even though it took forever, and I got paid in the end.)

Everyone should always be trying to make it easier for everyone
I used to play in a band. Other people might have played team sports, or worked in a well-functioning restaurant. There’s something about working deeply, in real-time, with other people that’s both incredibly satisfying and enormously more effective than working alone. You need to be open for the pass, you need to hear the subtle rhythm shifts, you need to spot when someone else’s table needs the check … everyone should be taking account of what everyone else is doing and constantly modifying their own behaviour to better serve the team.

Know why you’re doing it
If you are just out to make money, god bless: I hope you make some money. If you just want awards or recognition or for others to think highly of you, I hope you get that too. But I don’t think anyone is really satisfied by fame or fortune. I find it incredibly satisfying (and gratifying, rewarding and pleasant) to honestly have done the best job I could have done on something and I believe that works for everyone else too. Being skillful and exercising your mastery is what you’re here to do. Doing anything less undermines the whole point of being alive."
stewartbutterfield  business  advice  2015  design  humans  purpose  responsibility 
april 2015 by robertogreco
No legal merit | A Working Library
"In happier news, The Verge reports on Amazon’s shameless enforcement of non-competes for low-wage temporary workers, and Amazon rapidly about-faces. Nevermind pageviews and reading time, let’s measure publishing success by the actual change we bring about. Metrics could include unjust laws repealed, despicable company policies reversed, social welfare improved, centimeters of sea level increase averted, pseudo-science rejected, reduction in atmospheric carbon, happy children, puppies with loving homes. I’m only half-kidding. Business metrics are critical, but they’re not why we pour our hearts into this work, and we can’t ever let the numbers obscure that."



"An interesting aside: media Twitter was understandably aghast at Facebook’s new initiative, while seemingly unmoved by similar patterns on YouTube. I suspect this is because we have feels about words that we don’t have with video. It’s worth noting that while the web has become the de facto distribution method for video, the internet—that is, the open network of hypertext documents—privileges words over images. HTML is words annotating words. Words are foundational to HTML; images and video are not. Even our relationship to images is driven by language: one can “read” a picture, and our interpretation of images is constrained by words. I’m tempted to think our angst about the economy of letters should be directed at the underlying economic concerns—of which publishing is only one victim—and away from the words themselves. The words will be fine."
2015  mandybrown  metrics  journalism  activism  justice  policy  politics  business  measurement  publishing  success  change  changemaking  socialwelfare  society  law  legal  progress  climatechange  science  education  happiness  ellenpao  gender  inequality  amazon  labor  exploitation  women  facebook  html  text  images  video  youtube 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Look! Just Phone!
"Can you build a company or product entirely from your smartphone? Let's try!

What kind of company or product could you build entirely from your smartphone?

If you are curious about the answer (“is that even possible?!!”!)…

… join us for Look! Just Phone!

Look! Just Phone! is a 1-week challenge where you build and launch a company or product entirely from your smartphone!

How to join? Just tweet:
I’m in! @lookjustphone #lookjustphone

And follow the rules. The rules? Ah, yes…

The rules are:

• Build a company or product entirely from your smartphone

• No laptop computer, no desktop computer. Very small tablets under 7” are ok but using an iPad or equivalent is cheating ;-)

• You can use SMS, apps, the browser, call anyone you want… your smartphone is your office.

• You can be at the beach, on the subway, in a elevator ;-)

• 1 week to launch the beta product and test it Be clever, lean and MVP of course The goal is to learn, not to win

• When?
Start Monday March 30th
End Sunday April 5th

• Where?
Anywhere you can work with your smartphone. Sorry, your local opera house is clearly off limits! Share your progress on Twitter via screenshots and using the hashtag #lookjustphone

What will you start? You could compose music using apps and sell them on a digital market place. Or you could start a hiring consulting business from your phone, finding talents on Twitter and Instagram for companies. Or you could do much more crazy things! You have a super-connected computer in your hand, after all :-) you are like Batman.

In the spirit of the challenge, the challenge itself is organized and launched from smartphones :-)
List of organizers: @juliendorra @widawskij @freelancis @ya_f @dajbelshaw

Getting started tools

http://www.designwithnapkin.com/ https://cash.me/ https://ilikerabbits.com/ https://vytmn.com/ https://wrte.io/ https://ifttt.com/myrecipes/do http://meerkatapp.co/ Fiddle.md - a collaborative writing tool, export to HTML http://tumblr.com

Have a good tool to share? Tell us on Twitter we’ll add it to the list."
smarthphoneonly  business  hmmm  2015  mobile  phones 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Morality and the Idea of Progress in Silicon Valley | Berkeley Journal of Sociology
"Silicon Valley’s amorality problem arises from the blind faith many place in progress. The narrative of progress provides moral cover to the tech industry and lulls people into thinking they no longer need to exercise moral judgment."



"The progress narrative has a strong hold on Silicon Valley for business and cultural reasons. The idea that technology will bring about a better world for everyone can be traced back to the Enlightenment aspiration to “master all things by calculation” in the words of Max Weber.[3] The successes of science and technology give rise to a faith among some that rationality itself tends to be a force for good.[4] This faith makes business easier because companies can claim to be contributing to progress while skirting the moral views of the various groups affected by their products and services. Most investors would rather not see their firms get mired in the fraught issue of defining what is morally better according to various groups; they prefer objective benefits, measured via return on investment (ROI) or other metrics. Yet, the fact that business goals and cultural sentiments go hand in hand so well ought to give us pause.

The idea of progress is popular because it ends up negating itself, and as a result, makes almost no demands upon us. In Silicon Valley, progress gets us thinking about objectively better, which suggests that we come up with some rational way to define better (e.g., ROI). But the only way to say that something is better in the sense we associate with progress is to first ask whether it is moral. Morality is inherently subjective and a-rational. Suggesting that a technology represents progress in any meaningful, moral sense would require understanding the values of the people affected by the technology. Few businesses and investors would be willing to claim they contributed to progress if held to account by this standard. If people are concerned with assessing whether specific technologies are helpful or harmful in a moral sense, they should abandon the progress narrative. Progress, as we think of it, invites us to cannibalize our initial moral aspirations with rationality, thus leaving us out of touch with moral intuitions. It leads us to rely on efficiency as a proxy for morality and makes moral discourse seem superfluous."



"We would like progress to be defined in moral terms. Yet, because not everyone shares the same morals, businesses and governments try to redefine progress in objective terms. Because we fear charges of subjectivity, we look to rational means and rational measures for pursuing objective goals. Besides, moral goals would, in many cases, make it impossible to serve everyone (to “scale,” in the local parlance). As a result, we take a technocrat’s approach to progress: we try to define it in objective terms and pursue it through rational means.[9] Yet, the only criteria we have for better (i.e., progress) are informed by subjective, moral intuitions. How we might define and measure better, even in an economic sense (e.g., cost-of-living adjusted income or reduced income disparity), is informed by moral intuitions. If we deny the importance of these moral intuitions, we cannot say much, if anything, about whether something is good or bad.[10] In our culture, progress is self-negating because we define and pursue progress solely in objective, rational terms, thus ignoring our inherently subjective moral intuitions and allowing them to atrophy. It is a classic story of the means overtaking the ends."



"There are alternatives to the progress narrative for making work in technology meaningful. Many people find meaning in their work through a narrative about making a contribution. Rather than thinking about contribution in a historic sense (i.e., progress), contribution can be thought in terms of specific groups of people.[13] People in many fields—teachers, cooks, doctors, among others—find meaning in their work through making a contribution to specific people. In tech, some might define the affected group more broadly, for example, programmers who rely on a software development tool, the users of a word processor, or the people who enjoy a particular game. The point is that knowing who will be affected by our work keeps us honest in terms of what we think is a contribution.

There is a second benefit to thinking of contribution in terms of specific people or groups rather than human progress generally. Knowing a group through individuals rather than via market segments prevents professionals from inadvertently imposing one set of values on groups with disparate values. In other words, thinking about contributions in terms of specific groups encourages understanding the people within those groups.[14] Many of the complaints about Silicon Valley’s service and social media tools focus on the fact that they reflect the concerns and interests of privileged young urbanites. Tools developed with the idea of contributing to specific groups would do less to encourage convergence of views about what constitutes the “good life.”[15]

None of this is to say that there are no do-gooders in tech. There are people who have a clear idea of how the technologies they are developing will serve specific groups – whether pursuing social justice in the United States or for providing better medical care in poorer nations. The morality of these causes does not stem from their association with progress – it flows from the desire to bring about real benefits that real people affected would say are good. Although it would be ideal if everyone could pursue such causes, that day is a long way off.

That does not leave everyone else off the hook. Everyone can, at a minimum, ask whether they are doing more harm than good. The trouble in Silicon Valley is that many talented, highly educated young people seem relatively unconcerned with the potential for harm. To be more aware of not harming people, much less helping them, we need to cultivate moral intuitions by discussing the consequences of our work for specific people.[16] The search for solidarity with specific people, not some objectively better moment in human history, keeps us exercising our moral intuitions."
siliconvalley  morality  business  progress  ericagiannella  technology  technosolutionism  mexweber  capitalism  economics  rationality 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Jony’s Patience — Medium
"There are a lot of opinions and ideas about how building a company should be done, but there’s no instruction manual. Every company is different, they change over time, and people are complicated. It’s political, it’s emotional, it’s messy. Sometimes all that company building stuff feels like it gets in the way of just designing the damn product. We all just want to focus on designing and making great things, but building the company is what will support you to do the work you aspire to do…and it takes a long time. When company stuff gets complicated, its easy to complain, to point at the people you think are responsible, or to just quit.

But it’s your job to help. Your role in a company isn’t to just be the designer of products; Your role is to be a designer of that company, to help it become the company that has the ability to make the products you aspire to make. When you joined your company, you probably didn’t think you signed up to help build the company too, but you did. By helping to make your company a better place to work, you make it a better place to design and build things. If you believe that design is critical to the success of the company you’re working for, then you need to prove it everyday. Don’t just think about that one product you need to design in the next 3, 6, or 12 months. Consider the skills, relationships, and tools that you and your company will need for the next 2, 5, 7, or 10 years and start working on them now. Don’t just measure yourself by the output of your very next project; Measure yourself by how you’re improving quality over the course of your next 10 projects. Measure yourself by the quality of the projects of your peers. When you see problems, go tackle them, even if nobody told you to. Put it on yourself to make it better, so that your current and future colleagues won’t have to deal with that same problem. Your job is to be the shoulders that the next generation of designers — and perhaps your future self — at your company will stand on."



"I don’t know whether I have the kind of patience necessary to stay with one company for 20 years, but I assume that people who stay at companies that long don’t plan to from the beginning. I imagine that at some point Jony Ive was enjoying his work so much that he stopped paying attention to the years. What I try to do in my work now is to approach it as if I will be there in 20 years, still pushing. I think about the kinds of products I hope to be building in the next several years, and what capabilities my team and I will need to be able to build those products. As I work on projects in the near term, I try to make sure I’m also making investments in myself, my colleagues, and my team for the long, long term. Working this way helps to make the environment I’m working in continuously better; As it gets better, there’s more reason to just keep going. The distractions fall away. Who knows, maybe the next 20 years will fly by.

If you knew you would stay at your current company for 20 years, what would you do differently, starting tomorrow?
“Even a small thing takes a few years. To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years, more likely seven or eight.” — Steve Jobs, 1995
"

[via: "A great post from @mkruz about patience. I think it applies to education too. https://medium.com/@mkruz/jony-s-patience-670d5a3dc128”
https://twitter.com/matthewward/status/580060988478734336 ]
mikekruzeniski  patience  jonyive  2015  time  education  persistance  organizations  business  longview  billflora  design  technology  tenure  1995  stevejobs  jonathanive 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Bruce Sterling Closing Talk by SXSW on SoundCloud - Hear the world’s sounds
"World traveler, science fiction author, journalist, and future-focused design critic Bruce Sterling spins the globe a few rounds as he wraps up the Interactive Conference with his peculiar view of the state of the world. Always unexpected, invented on the fly, a hash of trends, trepidations, and creative prognostication. Don't miss this annual event favorite. What will he covered in 2015?"
makers  making  brucesterling  internetofthings  sxsw  2015  turin  torino  design  climatechange  makerspaces  ianbogost  via:steelemaley  3dprinting  economics  apple  google  amazon  microsoft  future  business  iot 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A Christian Nation? Since When? - NYTimes.com
""AMERICA may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country’s identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling reported that 57 percent of Republicans favored officially making the United States a Christian nation. But in 2007, a survey by the First Amendment Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believed it already was one.

The confusion is understandable. For all our talk about separation of church and state, religious language has been written into our political culture in countless ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patriotism, marked on our money, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capitol. Perhaps because it is everywhere, we assume it has been from the beginning.

But the founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the “creeping socialism” of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans’ thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention.

The Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apostle of Big Business” and “Saint Paul of the Prosperous” — emerged as an early evangelist for the cause. Preaching to pews of millionaires at the elite First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, Mr. Fifield said reading the Bible was “like eating fish — we take the bones out to enjoy the meat. All parts are not of equal value.” He dismissed New Testament warnings about the corrupting nature of wealth. Instead, he paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s “pagan statism.”

Through his national organization, Spiritual Mobilization, founded in 1935, Mr. Fifield promoted “freedom under God.” By the late 1940s, his group was spreading the gospel of faith and free enterprise in a mass-circulated monthly magazine and a weekly radio program that eventually aired on more than 800 stations nationwide. It even encouraged ministers to preach sermons on its themes in competitions for cash prizes. Liberals howled at the group’s conflation of God and greed; in 1948, the radical journalist Carey McWilliams denounced it in a withering exposé. But Mr. Fifield exploited such criticism to raise more funds and redouble his efforts.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Abraham Vereide advanced the Christian libertarian cause with a national network of prayer groups. After ministering to industrialists facing huge labor strikes in Seattle and San Francisco in the mid-1930s, Mr. Vereide began building prayer breakfast groups in cities across America to bring business and political elites together in common cause. “The big men and the real leaders in New York and Chicago,” he wrote his wife, “look up to me in an embarrassing way.” In Manhattan alone, James Cash Penney, I.B.M.’s Thomas Watson, Norman Vincent Peale and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia all sought audiences with him.

In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influence spread to Washington. He persuaded the House and Senate to start weekly prayer meetings “in order that we might be a God-directed and God-controlled nation.” Mr. Vereide opened headquarters in Washington — “God’s Embassy,” he called it — and became a powerful force in its previously secular institutions. Among other activities, he held “dedication ceremonies” for several justices of the Supreme Court. “No country or civilization can last,” Justice Tom C. Clark announced at his 1949 consecration, “unless it is founded on Christian values.”

The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism, though, was the Rev. Billy Graham. In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him “the Big Business evangelist.” The Garden of Eden, he informed revival attendees, was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.” In the same spirit, he denounced all “government restrictions” in economic affairs, which he invariably attacked as “socialism.”

In 1952, Mr. Graham went to Washington and made Congress his congregation. He recruited representatives to serve as ushers at packed revival meetings and staged the first formal religious service held on the Capitol steps. That year, at his urging, Congress established an annual National Day of Prayer. “If I would run for president of the United States today on a platform of calling people back to God, back to Christ, back to the Bible,” he predicted, “I’d be elected.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled that prediction. With Mr. Graham offering Scripture for Ike’s speeches, the Republican nominee campaigned in what he called a “great crusade for freedom.” His military record made the general a formidable candidate, but on the trail he emphasized spiritual issues over worldly concerns. As the journalist John Temple Graves observed: “America isn’t just a land of the free in Eisenhower’s conception. It is a land of freedom under God.” Elected in a landslide, Eisenhower told Mr. Graham that he had a mandate for a “spiritual renewal.”

Although Eisenhower relied on Christian libertarian groups in the campaign, he parted ways with their agenda once elected. The movement’s corporate sponsors had seen religious rhetoric as a way to dismantle the New Deal state. But the newly elected president thought that a fool’s errand. “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs,” he noted privately, “you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” Unlike those who held public spirituality as a means to an end, Eisenhower embraced it as an end unto itself.

Uncoupling the language of “freedom under God” from its Christian libertarian roots, Eisenhower erected a bigger revival tent, welcoming Jews and Catholics alongside Protestants, and Democrats as well as Republicans. Rallying the country, he advanced a revolutionary array of new religious ceremonies and slogans.

The first week of February 1953 set the dizzying pace: On Sunday morning, he was baptized; that night, he broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” campaign; on Thursday, he appeared with Mr. Vereide at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast; on Friday, he instituted the first opening prayers at a cabinet meeting.

The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too. The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, “In God We Trust,” on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation’s official motto.

During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as “one nation under God.” They’ve believed it ever since.""
us  history  christianity  myths  2015  capitalism  propaganda  evangelism  libertarianism  1930s  1940s  1950s  socialism  government  politics  business  ealth  abrahamvereide  jamesfifield  jhowardpew  billygraham  corporatism  economics  labor  unions  newdeal 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Freakonomics » From Good to Great … to Below Average
"Ironically, I began reading the book on the very same day that one of the eleven “good to great” companies, Fannie Mae, made the headlines of the business pages. It looks like Fannie Mae is going to need to be bailed out by the federal government. If you had bought Fannie Mae stock around the time Good to Great was published, you would have lost over 80 percent of your initial investment.

Another one of the “good to great” companies is Circuit City. You would have lost your shirt investing in Circuit City as well, which is also down 80 percent or more. Best Buy has cleaned Circuit City’s clock for the last seven or eight years.

Nine of the eleven companies remain more or less intact. Of these, Nucor is the only one that has dramatically outperformed the stock market since the book came out. Abbott Labs and Wells Fargo have done okay. Overall, a portfolio of the “good to great” companies looks like it would have underperformed the S&P 500.

I seem to remember that someone did an analysis of the companies highlighted in Peters and Waterman‘s 1980′s classic book In Search of Excellence and found the same thing.
What does this all mean? In one sense, not much.

These business books are mostly backward-looking: what have companies done that has made them successful? The future is always hard to predict, and understanding the past is valuable; on the other hand, the implicit message of these business books is that the principles that these companies use not only have made them good in the past, but position them for continued success.

To the extent that this doesn’t actually turn out to be true, it calls into question the basic premise of these books, doesn’t it?"
2008  goodtogreat  jimcollins  leadership  administration  management  business  businessbooks 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A negative interest rate world? Why? | Ian Welsh
"Why there is too much money chasing returns is important, however, so I’m going to tease apart some of the reasons.

Central Bank Policy

Look, the ECB is buying bonds. The BOJ is buying bonds. The US was doing so. This is demand. It pushes the yield of bonds down.

China is printing piles of money, Japan is printing it, etc… That money isn’t staying in those economies, it is hunting through the world for returns or even just security. Federal Reserve policy has put a floor under losses from various securities by accepting that at near par, and Fed policy of free money has underwritten an epic bull market in securities.

No cleanup of the banking or shadow banking systems.

Most money is created by private actors. Banks, shadow banks (brokerages, etc…) There is no effective oversight of these organizations, still (you’d think after 2007, but you’d be wrong.) In fact, not only is there not enough oversight, but in most cases they’ve been effectively encourages to create more money. We have another derivatives bubble underway, we have housing bubbles in multiple countries (e.g. Canada and the UK), and while the US doesn’t have one, parts of the US, like Manhattan, do.

Oligopolistic profits.

US broadband profits are almost 100%-annualized. Every app store takes a 30% cut (a level which would have been shut down by regulators of the post-war liberal period.) Copyright law makes it difficult to impossible to create generic alternatives to common items. These have all led to very high profit levels, and those profits have largely been plowed back into stock buy backs (most corporate borrow is matched by stock buy backs). But much of the economy is not available to be bought on the stock market, many large investors can’t invest on the stock market by law (they have to invest in high-grade bonds), and much of those profits are now priced into stock prices anyway.

Inequality

In the United States more than all the gains of the last “recovery” have gone to the top 10% (really the top 3% or so.) There has limited broad based demand for new goods. Luxury goods, investment art, and London and Manhattan real-estate do not scale. Without widespread demand, opportunities for new businesses, with new employers, are limited.

Barriers to Entry

Much of this came under oligoplistic profits. Draconic “intellectual property” laws make it difficult to compete, bringing prices down and increasing volumes while freeing up money for people to spend on other things. 30% cuts from app stores and other virtual marketplaces make many businesses simply unprofitable—first they must make 30% for Apple or whoever, then they get to make a profit for themselves. But if you aren’t on those virtual marketplaces (and there is usually one which controls most of the business) you will not make enough sales to be viable. This sort of “you make no money without us, so we’ll take all the profits” behavior is little different from what the railroads did to farmers in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.

And while there’s tons of credit for big business and people who are already rich, a new business trying to get funding faces huge barriers to getting money. It’s boutique investment, it requires a lot of time, and most investors would rather just buy bonds, structured securities, or play the stock market. Money may be cheap, but not for you.



No Future Till The Current Rich Can Monetize It

We could have had a lot of what we have today many years ago.  But the rich control the politicians, and the politicians won’t allow it to occur.  There was great squealing for years about subsidies for solar, and corruption in how they were given out, but they were always a rounding error compared to subsidies for oil, let along the military-industrial complex, big agriculture, pharma, health insurance, and so on.  All of those industries were powerful enough to strangle subsidies to competitors (solar, generic drugs, whatever) and strong enough to insist on new laws which strangled startups and competition (every copyright extension is nothing but an anti-competitive measure intended to keep profits coming to incumbents.)

Bottom Line

We have too much money chasing too few returns because we’ve spent 40 odd years making sure that ordinary people get less and less money; the rich get more; and that oligopolies are nurtured and protected.  The rich control government, and they intend to make sure that all the money goes to them.  Unfortunately, in a mass market economy, that means the economy becomes lousier and lousier.  This doesn’t matter to the rich because they are comparatively better off. Better a Czar amidst serfs than the CEO of General Motors in 1955."
deflation  inflation  labor  capitalism  power  inequality  economics  2015  ianwelsh  wealth  us  policy  banking  finance  wallstreet  oligarchs  intellectualproperty  copyright  patents  business 
march 2015 by robertogreco
No Panaceas! Elinor Ostrom Talks with Fran Korten - Shareable
"Fran: Many people associate “the commons” with Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” He says that if, for example, you have a pasture that everyone in a village has access to, then each person will put as many cows on that land as he can to maximize his own benefit, and pretty soon the pasture will be overgrazed and become worthless. What’s the difference between your perspective and Hardin’s?

Elinor: Well, I don’t see the human as hopeless. There’s a general tendency to presume people just act for short-term profit. But anyone who knows about small-town businesses and how people in a community relate to one another realizes that many of those decisions are not just for profit and that humans do try to organize and solve problems.

If you are in a fishery or have a pasture and you know your family’s long-term benefit is that you don’t destroy it, and if you can talk with the other people who use that resource, then you may well figure out rules that fit that local setting and organize to enforce them. But if the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.

Fran: So, are you saying that Hardin is sometimes right?

Elinor: Yes. People say I disproved him, and I come back and say “No, that’s not right. I’ve not disproved him. I’ve shown that his assertion that common property will always be degraded is wrong.” But he was addressing a problem of considerable significance that we need to take seriously. It’s just that he went too far. He said people could never manage the commons well.

At the Workshop we’ve done experiments where we create an artificial form of common property such as an imaginary fishery or pasture, and we bring people into a lab and have them make decisions about that property. When we don’t allow any communication among the players, then they overharvest [the commons]. But when people can communicate, particularly on a face-to-face basis, and say, “Well, gee, how about if we do this? How about we do that?” Then they can come to an agreement.

Fran: But what about the “free-rider” problem where some people abide by the rules and some people don’t? Won’t the whole thing fall apart?

Elinor: Well if the people don’t communicate and get some shared norms and rules, that’s right, you’ll have that problem. But if they get together and say, “Hey folks, this is a project that we’re all going to have to contribute to. Now, let’s figure it out,” they can make it work. For example, if it’s a community garden, they might say, “Do we agree every Saturday morning we’re all going to go down to the community garden, and we’re going to take roll and we’re going to put the roll up on a bulletin board?” A lot of communities have figured out subtle ways of making everyone contribute, because if they don’t, those people are noticeable.

Fran: So public shaming and public honoring are one key to managing the commons?

Elinor: Shaming and honoring are very important. We don’t have as much of an understanding of that. There are scholars who understand that, but that’s not been part of our accepted way of thinking about collective action."



"Fran: Do you have a message for the general public?

Elinor: We need to get people away from the notion that you have to have a fancy car and a huge house. Some of the homes that have been built in the last 10 years just appall me. Why do humans need huge homes? I was born poor and I didn’t know you bought clothes at anything but the Goodwill until I went to college. Some of our mentality about what it means to have a good life is, I think, not going to help us in the next 50 years. We have to think through how to choose a meaningful life where we’re helping one another in ways that really help the Earth."

[via: http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/post/112050255339/theres-a-general-tendency-to-presume-people-just ]
elinorostrom  2010  economics  behavior  longterm  slow  community  communities  communication  organizing  business  problemsolving  fisheries  environment  sustainability  cooperation  collaboration  garretthardin  frankorten  collectivism  commons  landmanagement  governance  resourcemanagement  robertnetting  freeriding  freeriders 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Gig Economy Won't Last Because It's Being Sued To Death | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
"If Uber, Lyft, and others don't stop relying on contract workers, business could crumble. Is it time for a new definition of employee?"
2015  uber  sharingeconomy  labor  business  work  employment  freelancing  amazon  amazonturk  handy  sarahkessler  lyft 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Tomgram: Miller and Schivone, Bringing the Battlefield to the Border | TomDispatch
"It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”

Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology -- the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.

Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.

Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”"



"No one may frame the budding romance between Israel’s high-tech companies and Arizona better than Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “If you go to Israel and you come to Southern Arizona and close your eyes and spin yourself a few times,” he says, “you might not be able to tell the difference.”

Global Advantage is a business project based on a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks Arizona and the Offshore Group, a business advisory and housing firm which offers “nearshore solutions for manufacturers of any size” just across the border in Mexico. Tech Parks Arizona has the lawyers, accountants, and scholars, as well as the technical knowhow, to help any foreign company land softly and set up shop in the state. It will aid that company in addressing legal issues, achieving regulatory compliance, and even finding qualified employees -- and through a program it’s called the Israel Business Initiative, Global Advantage has identified its target country.

Think of it as the perfect example of a post-NAFTA world in which companies dedicated to stopping border crossers are ever freer to cross the same borders themselves. In the spirit of free trade that created the NAFTA treaty, the latest border fortification programs are designed to eliminate borders when it comes to letting high-tech companies from across the seas set up in the United States and make use of Mexico’s manufacturing base to create their products. While Israel and Arizona may be separated by thousands of miles, Rothschild assured TomDispatch that in “economics, there are no borders.”"



"Arizona, as Weiner puts it, possesses the “complete package” for such Israeli companies. “We’re sitting right on the border, close to Fort Huachuca,” a nearby military base where, among other things, technicians control the drones surveilling the borderlands. “We have the relationship with Customs and Border Protection, so there’s a lot going on here. And we’re also the Center of Excellence on Homeland Security.”

Weiner is referring to the fact that, in 2008, DHS designated the University of Arizona the lead school for the Center of Excellence on Border Security and Immigration. Thanks to that, it has since received millions of dollars in federal grants. Focusing on research and development of border-policing technologies, the center is a place where, among other things, engineers are studying locust wings in order to create miniature drones equipped with cameras that can get into the tiniest of spaces near ground level, while large drones like the Predator B continue to buzz over the borderlands at 30,000 feet (despite the fact that a recent audit by the inspector general of homeland security found them a waste of money).

Although the Arizona-Israeli romance is still in the courtship stage, excitement about its possibilities is growing. Officials from Tech Parks Arizona see Global Advantage as the perfect way to strengthen the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of homeland security tech companies than Israel. Six hundred tech start-ups are launched in Tel Aviv alone every year. During the Gaza offensive last summer, Bloomberg reported that investment in such companies had “actually accelerated.” However, despite the periodic military operations in Gaza and the incessant build-up of the Israeli homeland security regime, there are serious limitations to the local market.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy is painfully aware of this. Its officials know that the growth of the Israeli economy is “largely fueled by a steady increase in exports and foreign investment.” The government coddles, cultivates, and supports these start-up tech companies until their products are market-ready. Among them have been innovations like the “skunk,” a liquid with a putrid odor meant to stop unruly crowds in their tracks. The ministry has also been successful in taking such products to market across the globe. In the decade following 9/11, sales of Israeli “security exports” rose from $2 billion to $7 billion annually.

Israeli companies have sold surveillance drones to Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and massive security systems to India and Brazil, where an electro-optic surveillance system will be deployed along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. They have also been involved in preparations for policing the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The products of Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries are now in use from the Americas and Europe to Australia. Meanwhile, that mammoth security firm is ever more involved in finding “civilian applications” for its war technologies. It is also ever more dedicated to bringing the battlefield to the world’s borderlands, including southern Arizona.

As geographer Joseph Nevins notes, although there are many differences between the political situations of the U.S. and Israel, both Israel-Palestine and Arizona share a focus on keeping out “those deemed permanent outsiders,” whether Palestinians, undocumented Latin Americans, or indigenous people.

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has seen this “special relationship” from both sides, as a Palestinian refugee whose home and village Israeli military forces destroyed in 1967 and as a long-time resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. A founding member of the Southern Arizona BDS Network, whose goal is to pressure U.S. divestment from Israeli companies, Abdulaziz opposes any program like Global Advantage that will contribute to the further militarization of the border, especially when it also sanitizes Israel’s “violations of human rights and international law.”

Such violations matter little, of course, when there is money to be made, as Brigadier General Elkabetz indicated at that 2012 border technology conference. Given the direction that both the U.S. and Israel are taking when it comes to their borderlands, the deals being brokered at the University of Arizona look increasingly like matches made in heaven (or perhaps hell). As a result, there is truth packed into journalist Dan Cohen’s comment that “Arizona is the Israel of the United States.”"
border  borders  us  mexico  israel  palestine  gaza  2015  drones  surveillance  militarization  arizona  naomiweiner  toddmiller  gabrielschivone  economics  warfare  business 
january 2015 by robertogreco
BusinessTown
"An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry."

[via: http://kottke.org/15/01/richard-scarrys-business-business-town
see also: http://boingboing.net/2014/11/26/tom-the-dancing-bug-richard-s.html ]
humor  richardscarry  labor  work  siliconvalley  business  2015  meritocracy  bullshitjobs  disruption 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Wake Up Now | This American Life
[Bookmarking mostly for the intro and act one. I know someone who got sucked into something similar and predating WakeUpNow. It was frustrating and disheartening, but also a little fascinating to watch as he bought in (despite my warnings) to the pyramid scheme, mostly due to someone who he considered to be a mentor. At the time, I did a lot of searching to expose to him that the company was a pyramid scheme. YouTube and the rest of the web was full of videos that were labeled as exposing them as a scam, but actually supported the company. Wake Up Now seems to have taken that strategy to a whole new level. SEO is bad, but this is the worst of all SEO.

Reminds me too of Adam Curtis talking about “a constant state of destabilized perception” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcy8uLjRHPM ]

"This American Life staffers Brian Reed and Bianca Giaever explain to Ira this thing they've found online called WakeUpNow. It's a company but they can't tell exactly what it does, and what its product is. Maybe it's a club? An organization? They find hundreds of enthusiastic videos people have made about it. (5 minutes)

Act One: Something’s Happening Here and You Don’t Know What It Is.
Brian and Bianca go to a WakeUpNow conference to try to figure out what the company really is. WakeUpNow does something called "network marketing," which Brian points out, is a very bland term for something completely mind-blowing. The company's Marketing Director Jordan Harris tells Brian and Bianca that what they saw at the conference was not a good measure of what the company is. We also hear from Robert L. Fitzpatrick, who researches network marketing and wrote a book called False Profits; and Damien Lacks, who quit his job to do WakeUpNow. (31 minutes)

Act Two: Board Games.
Jacob Goldstein and David Kestenbaum of NPR's Planet Money tell the story of two guys who decided that the CEO of a small tool company was paid too much and wanted to wake people up to that fact - They wanted to cut the CEO's pay. The two people happened to be investors in the tool company. It turns out if you think CEOs are paid too much, it's guys like this with money to invest in stocks that you want on your side. Planet Money is a production of NPR News. (15 minutes)

Act Three: Sleep No More.
A woman in Springfield Oregon named Angela Jane Evancie tries to get her boyfriend, sleepy grad student Morgan Peach, to wake up during finals week. (3 minutes)"
business  employment  fraud  wakeupnow  seo  2014  thisamericanlife  pyramidschemes  brianreed  biancagiaever  wakupnow  networkmarketing  marketing  misinformation  psychology  attitude  emptiness  presentationofself  positivepsychology  cults 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Art World’s Patron Satan - NYTimes.com
"More than supportive, Simchowitz had stepped out of a fairy tale — a godfather whose emissary swooped down from the heavens to rescue Ulman from catastrophe. Ulman had not yet heard all the stories about Simchowitz’s generosity and its fatal attraction for young, penniless artists whom he lured into Faustian bargains. He would provide them with “all those adult things” they needed and so often lacked: room, board, materials. In exchange for extraordinary support, Simchowitz asked not for his artists’ souls but for their art, a deal that many of his protégés lived to regret. In any event, lying alone in a hospital bed, broken and delirious, Ulman did not have the luxury of worrying about a far-off day of reckoning.

Ulman met Simchowitz earlier that year after an email introduction from the editor of Sex Magazine, an online arts publication, and was unaware of his reputation for aggressive accumulation. She agreed to sell him two giant paintings covered in blue eyes, but she was surprised by his brutal plans for them. Like a land developer subdividing a great estate, Simchowitz planned to chop up Ulman’s paintings into roughly a dozen smaller units. “He wanted me to cut the eyes into pieces so he could sell more paintings!” she said. Ulman, who put herself through art school by working as a librarian, was taken aback by the proposed dismemberment, but she wasn’t in a strong position to negotiate. “I was very desperate,” she said. “I didn’t have anything to eat.” She ended up selling Simchowitz the smaller units for less than $150 apiece, adding that he could “wipe his ass with them” if he really wanted to.

“He paid me nothing, basically, but at the moment it seemed like a lot,” she said. “And it was great. It allowed me to go to Berlin. I think I lived three months out of that.”

Since 2007, Simchowitz has sponsored and promoted roughly two dozen young artists. In addition to arranging sales for their work, Simchowitz often provides them with a studio, purchases their materials, covers their rent and subsidizes their living expenses. Perhaps most consequentially, he also posts photos of them and their work on his influential Instagram account, thereby creating what he calls “heat” and “velocity” for the artists he supports, who have included market darlings like the Colombian Oscar Murillo, the Japanese-American Parker Ito and the Brazilian Christian Rosa, all under the age of 35. But Simchowitz’s methods call down the opprobrium of art-world stalwarts, who are contemptuous of his taste, suspicious of his motives and fearful of his network’s potential to subvert the intricate hierarchies that have regulated art for centuries.

Reputations in the art world are forged over many years across countless fairs, openings, reviews and dinners. Although laypeople may look at a $30 million Richter and compare it to splatters from a second grader, Richter’s prices are determined not by chance but by the elaborate academic, journalistic and institutional infrastructure the art world has built to mete out prizes and anoint the next generation of cultural torchbearers. The collector class has traditionally come from the very top of the wealth spectrum and has included people looking to trade money for social prestige by participating in the art world’s stately rituals. Over the last few years, though, a new class of speculators has emerged with crasser objectives: They are less interested in flying to Basel to attend a dinner than in riding the economic wave that has caused the market for emerging contemporary art to surge in the past decade.

Critics charge that Simchowitz often preys on vulnerable young artists without gallery representation — some say without talent — and buys up huge quantities of their work, then flips the pieces back and forth at escalating prices among a cultivated group of buyers: a network of movie stars, professional poker players, orthodontists, nightclub promoters, financiers, football players and corned-beef magnates, many of whom hold Simchowitz in such high esteem that they’re willing to purchase the pieces he acquires for them sight unseen, artist unnamed. In March, in an online screed for New York magazine, the art critic Jerry Saltz tore into Simchowitz with unusual ferocity, dubbing him a “Sith Lord” and the Pied Piper of the “New Cynicism.” Simchowitz’s artists may enjoy a temporary surge in prices, his critics argue, but they typically see little of the upside; in any case, or so the story goes, once their bubbles pop, they’re left for dead.

Many important galleries have blacklisted Simchowitz as a buyer, forcing him to take extreme measures to secure desired work, including using consultants as undercover mules. Simchowitz told me about a recent scheme in which he had a consultant buy three pieces from Essex Street, a Lower East Side gallery. The purchase was nominally on behalf of another client, but the ultimate recipient was Simchowitz; by the time the gallery suspected the ruse, money had already changed hands, but the pieces had not been delivered. The gallery requested that Simchowitz not only cancel the purchase but also return another piece by the same artist that was already in his possession, which he did. Moreover, the gallerist, furious over what happened, called the other client to inform him that he was colluding in fraud, an accusation that heartily amused Simchowitz. (Asked for comment, the gallery responded, “Essex Street has never done business with Stefan Simchowitz.”)

To his detractors, Simchowitz is the Michael Milken of the art world — someone who has created, through his extensive network and force of personality, a market for high-risk, high-yield investments that have little to do with the fundamentals of talent and critical acclaim. By contrast, Simchowitz sees himself as something akin to the art world’s Mark Zuckerberg, a 21st-century player using technology to disrupt the institutional establishment. Despite his reputation for transaction-driven opportunism, Simchowitz insists he is playing the long game. “I’m looking for the big fish,” he told me, predicting that in 30 years his investments in the next generation of art stars could yield him a fortune worth a hundred million dollars. “The downside is that it’s worth only $50 million,” he allowed. “But I want the big kahuna.”"
art  artworld  capitalism  2014  christopherglazek  stefansimchowitz  money  power  exploitation  business  investment  finance  via:caseygollan 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Shoshanna Zuboff: Dark Google
"We witness the rise of a new absolute power. Google transfers its radical politics from cyberspace to reality. It will earn its money by knowing, manipulating, controlling the reality and cutting it into the tiniest pieces."



"If there is a single word to describe Google, it is „absolute.” The Britannica defines absolutism as a system in which „the ruling power is not subject to regularized challenge or check by any other agency.” In ordinary affairs, absolutism is a moral attitude in which values and principles are regarded as unchallengeable and universal. There is no relativism, context-dependence, or openness to change.

Six years ago I asked Eric Schmidt what corporate innovations Google was putting in place to ensure that its interests were aligned with its end users. Would it betray their trust? Back then his answer stunned me. He and Google’s founders control the super-voting class B stock. This allows them, he explained, to make decisions without regard to short-term pressure from Wall Street. Of course, it also insulates them from every other kind of influence. There was no wrestling with the creation of an inclusive, trustworthy, and transparent governance system. There was no struggle to institutionalize scrutiny and feedback. Instead Schmidt’s answer was the quintessence of absolutism: „trust me; I know best.” At that moment I knew I was in the presence of something new and dangerous whose effects reached beyond narrow economic contests and into the heart of everyday life."
ethics  google  surveillance  soshanazuboff  2014  business  politics  data  evil  bigdata  power  control  innovation  absolutism  ericschmidt  finance  capitalism  nsa  colonization  self-determination  reality  raykurzweil  europe 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Primer0012 -Seeing Like A Supply Chain
"For the supply chain, overzealous security is a much clearer and more present danger than the Poor Man's ICBM."
emilyhrone  timmaly  2014  shipping  infrastructure  security  policy  economics  business  markets  supplychain  terrorism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
12 ideas for making Boston more inclusive - Magazine - The Boston Globe
"1) CREATE SPACES WHERE PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS CONVERGE … — Francie Latour

2) HELP SKILLED IMMIGRANTS GET RE-LICENSED … — Omar Sacirbey

3) BRING HIGH-TECH OPPORTUNITIES TO THE INNER CITY … — Michael Fitzgerald

4) GET HIGH SCHOOLERS TO CROSS CLIQUE LINES … — James H. Burnett III

5) ENSURE ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION … — Sarah Shemkus

6) NURTURE URBAN BUSINESSES … — Michael Fitzgerald

7) SPREAD THE HEALTH … — Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

8) BUILD MORE MIXED-INCOME HOUSING … — Jeremy C. Fox

9) PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER PEOPLE … — Jeremy C. Fox

10) CULTIVATE INCLUSION EXPERTS … — Nadia Colburn

11) CELEBRATE DIVERSITY THROUGH THEATER … — Cindy Atoji Keene

12) TEACH TOLERANCE TO CHILDREN — Sarah Shemkus"

[See also: "What are Boston’s biggest barriers to inclusion? Community and nonprofit leaders, academics, activists, and others discuss problems and priorities."
http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/12/03/what-are-boston-biggest-barriers-inclusion/0PnxFPYOYlqbAyQRGS4TRK/story.html

[via: https://twitter.com/anamarialeon/status/543045803393433600 ]
boston  cities  urban  urbanism  inequality  2014  francielatour  omarsacirbey  michaelfitzgerald  jamesburnett  sarahshemkus  priyankadayalmccluskey  jeremyfox  nadiacolbum  cindyatojikeene  inclusion  housing  education  health  healthcare  business  highschool  relationships  community  diversity  tolerance  theater  children  youth  technology  immigrants  urbanplanning  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Joi Ito's 9 Principles of the Media Lab on Vimeo
"In a brief address delivered at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, Media Lab director Joi Ito proposed the "9 Principles" that will guide the Media Lab's work under his leadership… some in pointed contrast to those of the Lab's founder, Nicholas Negroponte.

Ito's principles are:

1. Disobedience over compliance
2. Pull over push
3. Compasses over maps
4. Emergence over authority
5. Learning over education
6. Resilience over strength
7. Systems over objects
8. Risk over safety
9. Practice over theory"
joiito  mitmedialab  disobedience  compliance  authority  emergence  learning  education  resilience  systemsthinking  systems  2014  practice  process  risk  risktaking  safety  leadership  administration  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  knightfoundation  money  academia  internet  culture  business  mbas  innovation  permission  startups  power  funding  journalism  hardware  highered  highereducation  agile  citizenjournalism  nicholasnegroponte  citizenscience  medialab 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Plashing Vole: Grimm's Tale
"Stefan was going to be fired. Not because his work was no good: it was, as the publications list shows. No, he was going to be fired because he didn't attract the 'sexy', headline funding. He quietly raised money to pay for his ongoing research as and when he needed it. His failure was the inability to grasp that his university – which isn't so different from lots of others – care far less about the discoveries made than the headlines achieved from lottery-style grants. 'X wins £50m grant' is the dream THES or New Scientist headline, not '£50,000 for Grimm'.
Your current level of funding does not constitute the appropriate level for a professor at Imperial College. Unless you submit and are awarded a Platform grant as PI in the next 12 months we will seek to initiate disciplinary action against you. This email constitutes a warning that your performance is being monitored and that action may be brought if you fail to meet the conditions herein

Grimm was told he had to bring in £200,000 p.a. – not contractually, but let's leave that aside. His letter explains that he did that through a series of small grants, but that wasn't good enough: it had to be the stuff of headlines, or 'impact' as it's officially known in the Research Assessment Framework to which we all have to submit.

This isn't about science - it's about bragging rights, or institutional willy-waving. Grimm was informed – in public – that he was to be fired, and left waiting for the axe to fall while the axe-wielder marauded around the campus boasting about it like an even more pathetic Alan Sugar.
I fell into the trap of confusing the reputation of science here with the present reality. This is not a university anymore but a business with very few up in the hierarchy, like our formidable duo, profiteering and the rest of us are milked for money, be it professors for their grant income or students who pay 100.- pounds just to extend their write-up status.

If anyone believes that I feel what my excellent coworkers and I have accomplished here over the years is inferior to other work, is wrong. With our apoptosis genes and the concept of Anticancer Genes we have developed something that is probably much more exciting than most other projects, including those that are heavily supported by grants.

This is not, I shouldn't have to say, how academia works. Einstein famously published one peer-reviewed paper. Science rarely has a Eureka moment: it's rather a series of careful, thoughtful developments of work done by one's forebears and peers. A management which demands a Eureka a day is one which doesn't just not 'get' academia, it's a management which contradicts the academic method and it's one which has forgotten that it's meant to serve the needs of science, the arts, students and researchers, not the insatiable maw of attention seeking 'Leaders' (that's the word they use now) and the PR office. It's also a management that kills."

[See also: http://musicfordeckchairs.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/wider-lessons/
http://www.dcscience.net/2014/12/01/publish-and-perish-at-imperial-college-london-the-death-of-stefan-grimm/ ]
stefangrimm  academia  education  funding  highereducation  highered  money  finance  business  corporatization  2014  science  publishorperish  bullying  capitalism  pressure  management  administration  hierarchy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Uber Delenda Est — Medium
"It’s hard not to conclude that Uber’s corporate “code of ethics” consists entirely of sending a public spokesperson out to lie about the unethical stuff they do.

And although Uber in recent months has become a mainstream libertarian shibboleth alongside Bitcoin — I regularly get swarmed by right-wing trolls after tweeting critically about it — it’s even begun to alienate longtime right-libertarian supporters. But how could this be? Because the company is, in the words of Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, “bedding down with regulators to screw over competitors”: “After spending years antagonizing would-be regulators, Uber is now working with them to hammer out agreements that will let the company flourish even as less-connected competitors face tougher regulations.” Uber has hired former Obama adviser David Plouffe to negotiate regulations with local governments, and has said it “needs to be regulated.” The kind of needful regulations he has in mind, it goes without saying, are those that raise the cost of entry and make it harder for little guys to compete with Uber. A good example of the specific regulatory model they have in mind is the recent ride-sharing regulations passed by Washington, D.C. — which Uber and Plouffe have applauded — that includes $1 million in liability insurance and registering with the DC cab commission.

Still don’t hate Uber? It was also a platinum vendor sponsor of the Urban Shield police conference in Oakland. Urban Shield is an annual, DHS-funded training conference for militarized police.

As loathsome as Uber is, though, its liberal and “progressive” critics miss the point more than they hit it."



"I argued six months ago that, even as Uber was unleashing creative destruction against the legacy taxicab industry, it in turn should be destroyed by a genuine open-source alternative. I echoed C4SS Director James Tuttle’s call to “hack the app, salt the service, fight the competition with better competition.” One possible action along those lines, among many, was suggested by a C4SS comrade on our email list who befriended the driver on an Uber trip: “I’ve got his number on my phone. Now we bypass Uber, call the guy and hear if he’s available to pick us up, and pay him cash.” This is something home care aides working for temp agencies do on a regular basis: cut out the middleman and make a deal directly with the customer that benefits both parties. Since, rather than being a genuine p2p service that empowers drivers and passengers to collaborate with each other, Uber has become a glorified temp agency that sets up a toll gate between driver and passenger, it should get the same treatment.

Today I repeat that call, but with far more urgency. The sooner Uber is destroyed by genuinely open-source, cooperative, free market and libertarian alternatives, the better. It’s time for Uber’s customers and drivers to destroy it from both inside and out. Its customers need to jailbreak it with an open-source app. Its drivers need to either violate their non-competition clause and go over to open-source alternatives, or organize independent union locals and go on strike inside from inside (which, as we saw in examples above, they’re already beginning to do).

Uber delenda est."
uber  labor  business  horizontality  verticality  abuse  2014  unions  journalism  competition  privacy  data  evil  sharingeconomy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103750710570/you-gotta-remember-and-im-sure-you-do-the

quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The End of the Skateboard Shop | RIDE Channel
"Your local shop may soon be a thing of the past... if it isn't already."



"Here’s the gist of it.

Has anyone on the planet earth ever purchased a pair of golf cleats or Tom Brady-endorsed footwear to look cool? Somehow, though, Michael Jordan hasn’t played in an NBA game in more than a decade, but his signature shoes and clothing line are still relevant and profitable. That’s because the Air Jordan transcended the actual context of basketball and became an icon in fashion. So even when MJ laced up for the Wiz and sucked, people still wanted his shoe.

Conversely (pun intended), skateboarding, has finally become “normal,” and is a massive influencer in footwear. Through its SB program, Nike reframed the sneaker market, formalizing drops through boutiques instead of chains. As a sport, skateboarding doesn’t mean anything to most, but it allows Nike to keep new colorways of Dunks and Janoskis coming out.

This doesn’t translate into TV ratings or sales of core skate products, but it absolutely drives footwear and clothing trends. So even though it’s a niche market, it’s a valuable one. But what’s relevant to the business side of skating isn’t the board sales—it’s the shoe sales. Don’t believe me? Ask Foot Locker how that played out. The reality is that skateboarding has become a vehicle to sell sneakers, not skateboards, and that’s changed the dynamic of the all-American skateshop.

But what the hell is a skateshop, anyway? The specialized skateboard store wasn’t really a thing across the United States until the industry boom of the ‘80s. Before that—depending on which coast you were nearest—it was just a rack in a surf of bicycle shop.

Think of your favorite fast food establishment deciding that a strong demand for French fries warranted an entire brick-and-mortar store dedicated store to selling items related to potato sticks submerged in oil exclusively. That’s how skateshops originated.

But here’s the weird part: Skateshops have never made much money from skateboarding. I’m not shitting you. In 1984, the average deck sold for $49. In 2014, the average deck sells for $49. If you spoke to any economist, even one recently concussed in a car accident, he’d be puzzled as to how an industry could exist without responding to inflation for the past 30 years.

The only reasonable explanation would be this: Skateboarding doesn’t exist to sell skateboards. As a business, it’s a tool to sell a lifestyle, clothing and footwear included.

Store owners long ago recognized and responded to this reality. For proof, walk into your local shop (provided you still have one) and compare the board wall to the shoe wall. All it takes is some quick math to recognize that the profit margin on the former—probably the smaller of the two—is a fraction of a fraction of what those rows of sneakers are generating.

That makes sense. Skateboarders buy skateboards, but everyone buys sneakers. So do you see the problem here? Even in the early ‘90s, when boards were snapping from sloppily landed flip tricks (or, yeah, from being focused), the profit margin on them wasn’t nearly enough to keep stores in business. And, really, how often do you buy other hard goods—like new trucks?

THE REAL NEED FOR SKATESHOPS
So why the hell would anyone open a skateshop in 2014? There’s a plethora of valid reasons, but the one that resonates strongest is that if someone breaks a skateboard, buying one at a shop is the fastest way to get another. The internet hasn’t figured out how to get you one in a few hours... yet. But that’s not the charm of skateshops. Before communities existed in digital code in some virtual space that most of us barely understand, walking into a skateshop was an experience.

In the ‘80s and even well into the ‘90s, there was a disparity between what you saw in a magazine and what was available to you. Sure, you might have seen an ad for a new graphic from Skater X, but that didn’t mean that you could walk into your local and buy the board. Instead, you entered with a sense of wonderment and anxiety because you had no clue what would actually be on the shelves. Skateshops were hubs of skateboarding—the only places you were guaranteed to meet another skateboarder. Does make sense? It gets crazier. Skateshops used to be one of the few places where you could see skateboarding. I swear.

Most of the skate videos that drove the industry never premiered; they simply showed up in shops. No screenings, no fanfare, no ads, and no fucking hashtags. They just materialized, and the first place you usually saw them was on the convex screen of a tube television sitting on the counter of a skateshop. You’d digest the advertisement for whatever brand made the video, discuss it with fellow shoppers—a term I use loosely, since most skaters lacked the funds to buy anything—and linger. For hours.

Outside of seeing them at spots, this is how most skaters met fellow skaters. Does anyone in a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts talk and share ideas and techniques on how to drink coffee? Hell no—the environment in those chains is exactly the opposite of what you see in a mom-and-pop café equipped with free WiFi. Similarly, you don’t go to your average mall skateshop to hang out. You go there to buy. Just try to sit down to watch a video or whatever. If you’re not asked to leave, a store employee will probably try to push weed-graphic socks on you.

If 2014 is any indicator, skateboarding is going to follow the same trajectory as every other business: Keep a low price point, mass-market product through chain stores and eCommerce sites, and offer the core audience elaborate and exclusive pop-ups in media-driven cities. The stores started and run by actual skateboarders without the vested interest of a larger brand will struggle, hoping their athletic shoe accounts drive enough sales to keep them in business but knowing that the shop groms who hang out each day will eventually get sponsored or find a way not to pay for things.

Basically, running a skateshop is as ill-advised a decision as it’s ever been... unless you flip it and just say you run a sneaker shop that sells skateboards. Online and chain stores haven’t figured out how to replicate the sense of community and belonging common to legitimate shops because that doesn’t serve their agenda. Aside from a need for clothing, there's no connective tissue between people who buy your average jeans and T-shirts.

Every town has a park, everyone can buy anything with a few clicks and swipes from a mini-computer in their pocket, and every kid is good and can get sponsored. For the tiny number of people who care more about the community than the sport, skateshops are clubhouses, VFW halls for each of us, but they’re getting harder to sustain, and in 10 years they’ll be all but extinct."
skateboarding  skating  retail  2014  business  via:tom.hoffman  skateboards 
november 2014 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » What is Fairness?
"Increasingly, tech folks are participating in the instantiation of fairness in our society. Not only do they produce the algorithms that score people and unevenly distribute scarce resources, but the fetishization of “personalization” and the increasingly common practice of “curation” are, in effect, arbiters of fairness.

The most important thing that we all need to recognize is that how fairness is instantiated significantly affects the very architecture of our society. I regularly come back to a quote by Alistair Croll:
Our social safety net is woven on uncertainty. We have welfare, insurance, and other institutions precisely because we can’t tell what’s going to happen — so we amortize that risk across shared resources. The better we are at predicting the future, the less we’ll be willing to share our fates with others. And the more those predictions look like facts, the more justice looks like thoughtcrime.

The market-driven logic of fairness is fundamentally about individuals at the expense of the social fabric. Not surprisingly, the tech industry — very neoliberal in cultural ideology — embraces market-driven fairness as the most desirable form of fairness because it is the model that is most about individual empowerment. But, of course, this form of empowerment is at the expense of others. And, significantly, at the expense of those who have been historically marginalized and ostracized.

We are collectively architecting the technological infrastructure of this world. Are we OK with what we’re doing and how it will affect the society around us?"
algorithms  culture  economics  us  finance  police  policing  lawenforcement  technology  equality  equity  2014  danahboyd  alistaircroll  justice  socialjustice  crime  civilrights  socialsafetynet  welfare  markets  banks  banking  capitalism  socialism  communism  scarcity  abundance  uncertainty  risk  predictions  profiling  race  business  redlining  privilege 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: clarity as a business model
"I've had the phrase 'clarity as a business model' in my head for a while - probably since I heard a splendid NPR podcast about fine print.

Being clear about things that are normally muddy seems like a potential competitive advantage.

It might mean making the most of something you do anyway. Apple, for instance, don't get revenue from ads and personal information in the same way Google and Facebook do - so they can be much clearer about privacy.

And you'll probably have seen this Lidl ad:

[image]

The point is not that it's a clever ad, it's that it's a clever business model, a cleverly clear one. The ad is enabled by a better, simpler product/service.

And sometimes there's probably opportunity in being clear about the previously opaque. This post, for instance, about predictive analytics talks about how hotel chains routinely overbook their rooms to ensure they're full. This was probably seen to be OK in the days when you could disappoint someone and only that person would know. These days, with all that social media around, you may want to be clear about the assumptions built into your booking algorithms. Cheaper but risky! More expensive, but more certain!

[image]

Of course, very often, the challenge is for organisations to get out of their own way - the lack of clarity stems from their relentless instinct to brand things and invent new names for them.

Thus, tfl can't just say 'keep your oyster card and your contactless card separate', they have to invent 'card clash' - which really doesn't help, it just gives them an extra thing they have to explain.

(An example borrowed from Rachel)

(Our rule of thumb for public service things is:

1. Tell people the name you're thinking of for your new thing

2. If they say 'oh, what does that do?' get a clearer name)

The big opportunity though seems to be to find things that are murky and confusing and to redesign them so that they're clear. There are some obvious candidates - phone tarrifs, loan payments, energy bills, EULAs - but the interesting ones will be where we don't even notice things are murky any more."
clarity  communication  business  russelldavies  2014  eulas  simplicity  comparison  publicservice 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Empires Revolution of the Present - marclafia
"The film and online project brings together international philosophers, scientists and artists to give description and analysis to the contemporary moment as defined by computational tools and networks.

It states that networks are not new and have been forever with us in the evolution of our cities, trade, communications and sciences, in our relations as businesses and nation states, in the circulation of money, food, arms and our shared ecology.

Yet something has deeply changed in our experience of time, work, community, the global. Empires looks deeply to unravel how we speak to the realities of the individual and the notion of the public and public 'good' in this new world at the confluence of money, cities, computation, politics and science."

[Film website: http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org/ ]

[Trailer: https://vimeo.com/34852940 ]
[First cut (2:45:05): https://vimeo.com/32734201 ]

[YouTube (1:21:47): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaTw5epW_QI ]

"Join the conversation at http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org

Summary: The hope was that network technology would bring us together, create a "global village," make our political desires more coherent. But what's happened is that our desires have become distributed, exploded into images and over screens our eyes relentlessly drop to view.

REVOLUTION OF THE PRESENT examines the strange effects — on cities, economies, people — of what we might call accelerated capitalism. Set against a visually striking array of sounds and images, 15 international thinkers speak to the complexity and oddity of this contemporary moment as they discuss what is and what can be.

Documentary Synopsis:
Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.' One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world."

[See also: http://hilariousbookbinder.blogspot.com/2014/09/rethinking-internet-networks-capitalism.html ]

[Previously:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:ec1d3463d74b
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:9f60604ec3b3 ]
marclafia  networks  philosophy  politics  science  money  cities  scale  economics  capitalism  2014  kazysvarnelis  communication  communications  business  work  labor  psychology  greglindsay  saskiasassen  urban  urbanism  freedom  freewill  howardbloom  juanenríquez  michaelhardt  anthonypagden  danielisenberg  johnhenryclippinger  joséfernández  johannaschiller  douglasrushkoff  manueldelanda  floriancrammer  issaclubb  nataliejeremijenko  wendychun  geertlovink  nishantshah  internet  online  web  danielcoffeen  michaelchichi  jamesdelbourgo  sashasakhar  pedromartínez  miguelfernándezpauldocherty  alexandergalloway  craigfeldman  irenarogovsky  matthewrogers  globalization  networkedculture  networkculture  history  change  nationstates  citystates  sovreignty  empire  power  control  antonionegri  geopolitics  systems  systemsthinking  changemaking  meaningmaking  revolution  paradigmshifts  johnlocke  bourgeoisie  consumption  middleclass  class  democracy  modernity  modernism  government  governence  karlmarx  centralization  socialism  planning  urbanplanning  grass 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Ello | quinn
"Ello needs to make money, and that means Ello eventually needs to charge someone. So who can it charge? The only way to make the massive returns VCs like is to charge companies or governments. These are the only thing in our society rich enough to consistently feed the VC mouths. (this is why I strongly recommend against taking VC money -- it's much like adopting 15 children at once, it limits your options.) The only thing a social network can sell to companies are its users. It could work, to have Ello sponsored by X corporation for a given day or week or whatever, but in this business environment part of X corporation's demand for its money is going to be user data. So there you're back to tracking your users like everyone else. Ello could charge databrokers and governments for their user data too, but that also drives them towards being Facebook, Twitter, etc.

That leave Ello to charge their users. This is a fine business model and the one that has supported more things for most of human history. I like this model, I even pay for online services now, though not many -- not many are worth it, and they usually track me anyway. Asking users to pay allows Ello to do something no other online company is doing right now -- optimize Ello for users. This is a great advantage for Ello, because it would mean they could actually listen to users and give them an experience that would, given enough time, be so much better than the massive social networks that people would love joining Ello.

But of course this is a problem too... most users can't pay. Some people like to complain, say that we deserve to be surveiled because no one is willing to pay for anything. This is a ridiculous statement, people all over the world are paying for things every day of their lives. But until we do something about the distribution of the world's wealth, the vast majority of people, even those with internet access, will find that paying a high enough amount for it to be worthwhile for Ello to collect it will cause a real decline in their quality of life.

obligatory graph:

hmm, I can't get obligatory graph to load. I less than three you, betas. ;) Anyway.

The only people that can pay Ello right now are in that top wealth quintile, and then probably the top 2/3rds of it at best. But social networks are like languages -- they are only worthwhile when they are broadly adopted. This makes an incredibly compelling case for user tracking and adverts, since success as a broad network makes the most sense by giving network access away and then selling the people to companies. This is a hard model to escape, to be honest, and it always has been. Companies and governments are essentially colonizing the internet, extracting, monetizing, and controlling the humans therein just like they did during the colonial period, only with less physical violences. Facebook is essentially John Company.

There are only two ways I can see that Ello can escape getting crushed by the contemporary versions of John Company (which did a huge amount of crushing in its day). One is to beat them at their own game and become the next John Company/Facebook/etc, which means becoming better at colonial extraction on users -- most likely in the growth arena -- actual former colony nations. If they don't have the stomach for this kind of evil, and and I deeply hope they don't, the other way is to make far less money. To be, compared to the big VC funded players, a small business with hopeful growth over the course of decades, not quarters.

This is going to mean working out something no one has been able to yet -- differential pricing on the net. The best system of payment they could have, with a magic wand and a fairy godmother etc interceding would be to extract something like $.25 a day from users in the top billion, maybe $.05 a day from the next billion, and possibly nothing or money losing from users in the last 3 billion. The problem is that people hate differential pricing, see it as unfair, when they can see it. They can't see income inequality all the time in their houses and neighborhoods and work places, so that doesn't bother them. They can't see massive surveillance and manipulation, so that doesn't bother them. But dear god, when they see a price list with differential pricing, people go purple with rage. So that's a problem.

Nowadays there's a lot you can do with geolocating IPs, and showing people variable content based on where they are. This could mean that Ello could price based on that, and for now, I believe that's their best option. But no VC will ever accept that, and chances are if Ello has or ever will take VC, they are already dead and just don't know it yet. Their chances of beating Facebook are next to none, especially as they would have to betray everything they've said they were about, and there is no other model that could feed the VC mouth.

Introducing variable pricing, pricing on features, and multiple payment systems over time could let Ello developers make a comfortable living. But at no time in the near future would it make them .com millionaires. To make Ello compelling and free of surveillance and extraction means making a service many can use and doesn't cost too much. Eventually, wide enough adoption to be meaningful to the world means opening it up and making it a protocol other people can build businesses on that don't provide much or any revenue for Ello. It means striving to enter that most dreaded of economic states -- becoming a commodity.

Making social networking a common commodity could remake the world, like the world wide web, or vaccination did. But like the world wide web and vaccination, they aren't ever going to let Paul Budnitz become Cornelius Vanderbilt or Mark Zuckerberg. He'd have to settle for the hope that a lifetime of hard work and enough money to live could let him be Tim Berners-lee or Jonas Salk.

So, Ello, what do you want?"

[See also: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/09/hello-ello.html ]
ello  quinnnorton  2014  jonassalk  markzuckerberg  corneliusvanderbilt  vc  venturecapital  business  monetization  funding  advertising  privacy  socialmedia  variablepricing  pricing 
september 2014 by robertogreco