robertogreco + emotionallabor   24

Sam Dylan Finch 🍓 on Twitter: "This is going to be a messy thread, but a long overdue one. I want to share how my relationship to social justice/online communities has shifted in the last few years. It will probably be incomplete bc I could write a boo
“This is going to be a messy thread, but a long overdue one.

I want to share how my relationship to social justice/online communities has shifted in the last few years.

It will probably be incomplete bc I could write a book on this, but… here are some thoughts.

Something you should know about me, as context… I started out as a blogger, but a lot of my readership was built out from previously working as a staff member at Everyday Feminism.

My experiences with EF years ago really informed a lot of my politics, for better and for worse.

At the time that I worked with EF, there was a lot of groundwork being laid out in the digital space. We were looking to help people understand institutions of power, but in a very accessible, digestible way. A lot of what we managed to create, I’m still so proud of.

I can only speak for myself, but after a few years of being enmeshed in that work, I noticed that I was just primed to look for what was problematic. I was primed to look for it because that was my job — this was how we made sure our content was strong and inclusive.

And yes, there is a whole lot out there that is “problematic.” It’s important to identify it, unpack it, and do better. But it started to impact how I interacted with people online and in the real world, and it started to impact how I felt about, well, being alive, generally.

I started to feel like I just lived in this desolate space of expecting the worst from everything and everyone. And I internalized that, too, and had this constant nagging feeling that I was never doing enough, or I was always just one step away from totally fucking up.

And I became really unforgiving toward other people, too. I wasn’t very good at holding space for other people to mess up. I was projecting shit onto other people’s tweets and articles that, when I look back, was really just twisting words to confirm how I felt about the world.

I think, from a trauma place, I became hypervigilant. The same way I was hypervigilant in an abusive household, trying to make sure I did everything right, and mentally logging the inconsistencies of people around me, because I would need it to defend myself later. You know?

I don’t know how else to explain it, except to say that my depression collided with my values, and suddenly I was spiraling this drain of moralistic perfectionism. Which is easy to do when you’re moderating Everyday Feminism’s comments, which was an endless sea of semantics.

And ultimately, it wasn’t really about social justice anymore. It wasn’t about a better world. It wasn’t about showing up as the best version of myself, either. It was all of this anxiety and trauma and ego that gave me this false sense that I was doing things “right.”

I was back-doored out of Everyday Feminism. Its leadership… was not ethical, to say the least. On my way to the psych hospital, I was called and told that if I stepped down from my role, they would find another role for me that was a “better fit” for where I was emotionally.

I had been having this nervous breakdown and my boss calls me to pressure me into giving up my role. “But you have to decide right now,” she told me, “so I can put up the posting for your role while you’re away.”

I trusted her, which was a mistake. There was no job for me after.

I almost lost everything after that. I couldn’t collect unemployment because I’d “stepped down” of my own accord. I almost lost my housing. And I struggled to make sense of how we could talk about social justice, and yet… something this underhanded and callous could happen.

I was lucky to take a job at Upworthy after that. And I had so many reservations about it, because the optimistic tone was so at odds with where I was post-breakdown. But it turned out to be a saving grace, even with all of its own problems.

Every day, I had to write stories about what people were doing right in this world. Every day, I had to humanize people I wouldn’t have normally given the time of day to. Every single day, I had to reconsider how I looked at other people and the world around me.

Around the same time, I also started going to an LGBTQ+ only meeting of Alcoholics’ Anonymous. And it completely transformed how I thought about social justice, accountability, and community.

It was in that space that I realized we could be fully human, and messy, and messed up — and we could hold that for each other. Instead of “only impact matters,” we said “progress over perfection.” Instead of “cancelling” each other, we talked about HOW to make amends.

We created a sense of unconditional belonging and learned how to humanize one another, even in someone’s most vulnerable, dark, and frightening moment.

I had never been in a space where I felt so safe, unconditionally cared for, and supported. And it felt like such a stark contract to the environment I had been in, where pain and politics became their own kind of capital, just… in a microcosmic way.

There are shitty people who will look at what I’m saying and remark, “See, this is why ‘social justice’ is a bunch of shit.” And that’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that the people in these communities are just as human and fallible as the rest of us.

I had to do a lot of soul-searching. Because as much time and energy as I invested in educating myself, where were the results? I became really good at talking a good talk. But how was I treating other people? How was I showing up?

Social justice resources gave me the knowledge to recognize power structures and learn to start divesting from them.

But social justice didn’t teach me how to treat people in my own community with dignity and care and kindness. All the theory in the world won’t teach you that.

Because dignity and care and kindness have to come from a genuinely loving place. And if you become too absorbed in righteousness & despair, and you don’t balance it with the healing work that allows you to love on your people and see THAT as truly radical… you lose yourself.

I think after a certain point, I became completely burnt out. I forgot how to be in community with other people in a loving way. I forgot how to be gracious. I forgot how to parse out all the nuances that allow us to see someone fuck up and still see them as human.

And I made a conscious decision that I never wanted to be the kind of person who couldn’t still humanize others. Who was too exhausted to be kind anymore. Who was too self-righteous to consider grace. Who thought joy was just naive or frivolous. That’s not who I am.

I will mess up. That’s the truth of it. But at least now, when I do mess up, I know that I’ll have the humility to learn from it, the integrity to own up to it for the right reasons, and the willingness to make amends instead of performative apologies.

And when I find myself spiraling and not able to really see the person in front of me… I’m learning when to step back and work on my own shit. When I’m quick to react, I know how to unravel what I’VE brought to the table.

I share all this because I’ve had enough conversations offline to know that I’m not the only person who’s wrestled with this.

And I want you to know that if the values you expect yourself to have are compromising the values you want to embody, you can press pause.

Because movement burnout, even online (!!), is a thing. Compassion fatigue is a thing. Self-righteousness and ego, even when we feel like we have the best of intentions, are also a thing. Reenacting trauma is a thing.

These. Are. All. Valid. Things. That. Require. INTROSPECTION.

At the end of the day, theory can only take us so far. There’s an entire emotional dimension that we still have to connect with and move from. And if you’re going through cycles of hypervigilance and dissociation, because the stakes always feel incredibly high, it can fuck w you.

I want you think on this the next time you are going in for the “ratio.” The next time you’re ready to tear into a trans woman on Twitter. And… the next time you’re questioning if it’s okay to feel joy, to pause, to breathe, to take care of yourself, to unplug.

If you can’t give yourself permission to be human, and you can’t extend that to other people, it’s a good time to check in with yourself.

There’s a time and a place for righteousness and taking folks to task. But righteousness is a season. Rest is one, too.”
samdylanfinch  socialjustice  activism  online  communities  web  2019  burnout  humility  trauma  mentalhealth  righteousness  compassion  humanism  kindness  vulnerability  isolation  politics  work  labor  life  living  perfectionism  purity  morality  moralismethics  messiness  humans  belonging  safety  growth  fallibility  power  dignity  care  caring  emotionallabor  despair  fatigue  self-righteousness  introspection  dissociation 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Harvard Design Magazine: No. 46 / No Sweat
"This issue of Harvard Design Magazine is about the design of work and the work of design. “No Sweat” challenges designers to speculate on the spaces of work in an accelerated future, and to imagine a world in which a novel ethics of labor can emerge. What scenarios and spaces can we imagine for the next generation of work? How can we anticipate and formulate work environments and experiences that are productive, humane, and ecologically responsible?

From corner office to kitchen sink, from building site to factory floor, from cubicle to car to coffee shop, work shapes our lives and physical world. Whether we produce objects, generate ideas, manage processes, or perform services, work is a hybrid of dedication and alienation, power and oppression. As work spaces morph to integrate machines that mimic, assist, or complement human abilities, the way we perform work, and the way we feel about it, change too.

To work (to put forth effort) and the work (that effort, or the result it generates) are sources of pride and shame, fulfillment and drudgery. As many jobs become obsolete, and as populations are displaced under the pressures of climate change and political turmoil, the boundaries of the workplace are shifting in space and time. Though some claim that a world without work is on the horizon, “labor-saving” innovations are enmeshed with human exploitation, and housework and care work remain at the crux of persistent inequalities.

Paradoxically, the more that work, as we once understood it, appears to be receding, the more omnipresent and ambiguous it becomes. The workplace is everywhere—or is it nowhere?"

[via: "also check out Andrew Herscher’s piece in HDM 46 (not online) for critique of how architects mobilize constructions of “community”"
https://twitter.com/anamarialeon/status/1101941868210909184 ]
design  work  pride  shame  2018  responsibility  ecology  sustainability  humanism  productivity  labor  ethics  fulfillment  drudgery  jobs  workplace  housework  exploitation  emotionallabor  care  caring  maintenance  andrewherscher  architecture 
march 2019 by robertogreco
ties and insight | sara hendren
"Jill Lepore on the writing of Rachel Carson, in the new New Yorker:
Carson’s father died in 1935, followed, two years later, by her older sister, leaving Carson to care for her mother and her nieces, ages eleven and twelve; she later adopted her grandnephew, when he was orphaned at the age of four. These obligations sometimes frustrated Carson, but not half as much as they frustrate her biographers. For [these biographers], Carson’s familial obligations—in particular, the children—are nothing but burdens that “deprived her of privacy and drained her physical and emotional energy.” They mean this generously, as a way of accounting for why Carson didn’t write more, and why, except for her Sun articles, she never once submitted a manuscript on time.

But caring for other people brings its own knowledge. Carson came to see the world as beautiful, wild, animal, and vulnerable, each part attached to every other part, not only through prodigious scientific research but also through a lifetime of caring for the very old and the very young, wiping a dying man’s brow, tucking motherless girls into bed, heating up dinners for a lonely little boy. The domestic pervades Carson’s understanding of nature. “Wildlife, it is pointed out, is dwindling because its home is being destroyed,” she wrote in 1938, “but the home of the wildlife is also our home.” If she’d had fewer ties, she would have had less insight."
"
care  caring  jilllepore  rachelcarson  children  emotionallabor  vulnerability  science  age  aging  nature  understanding  howwelearn  wildlife  sustainability  biographies  biographers 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Mindset Mindset: Passion and Grit as Emotional Labour - Long View on Education
"This overall pattern of thought, offloading socioeconomic issues onto the education system and then blaming the issues on individuals who don’t ‘stay foolish’, is known as privatizing public issues. In The Sociological Imagination (1959), C. Wright Mills makes an important distinction between troubles which “occur within the character of the individual”, and issues which concern the “institutions of an historical society as a whole.” As Mills observes, “people do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional contradiction,” and so the job of the sociological imagination is to illuminate our internal struggles in the context of history and institutions. Henry Giroux calls our growing inability to do so the ‘new illiteracy‘: tired teachers and under-performing students suffer from character defects – lack of passion or grit – rather than signal issues with the larger system of neoliberal economic and social forces. And just like that, social issues of overwork and inequality become private troubles."



"Careful, empirical studies like Mazzucato’s and Gregg’s can help us see beyond the mythology that innovation and success can be reduced to a ‘mindset’, ‘grit’, or passion. More importantly, they help us understand the effects of that mythology on our lives. If we recognize the massive public role in assuming the risk behind many innovations, we might just see a Universal Basic Income as a right, as a return on investment. If we understand the inherent structural inequalities that lurk below the surface of emotional labor, we might all hesitate before asking teachers and students to pledge their allegiance to passion and grit."
grit  emotionallabor  labor  benjamindoxtdator  2017  overwork  inequlity  universalbasicincome  henrygiroux  cwrightmills  economics  education  policy  us  politics  passion  git  robinbernstein  christineyeh  stevejobs  thomasfriedman  gertbiesta  georgecouros  marianamazzucato  ubi 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The United States of Work | New Republic
"how the discipline of work has itself become a form of tyranny, documenting the expansive power that firms now wield over their employees in everything from how they dress to what they tweet"



"both books make a powerful claim: that our lives today are ruled, above all, by work. We can try to convince ourselves that we are free, but as long as we must submit to the increasing authority of our employers and the labor market, we are not. We therefore fancy that we want to work, that work grounds our character, that markets encompass the possible. We are unable to imagine what a full life could be, much less to live one. Even more radically, both books highlight the dramatic and alarming changes that work has undergone over the past century—insisting that, in often unseen ways, the changing nature of work threatens the fundamental ideals of democracy: equality and freedom.

Anderson’s most provocative argument is that large companies, the institutions that employ most workers, amount to a de facto form of government, exerting massive and intrusive power in our daily lives. Unlike the state, these private governments are able to wield power with little oversight, because the executives and boards of directors that rule them are accountable to no one but themselves."



"they use the language of individual liberty to claim that corporations require freedom to treat workers as they like."



"These conditions render long-term employment more palatable than a precarious existence of freelance gigs, which further gives companies license to oppress their employees."



"Indeed, it is only after dismissal for such reasons that many workers learn of the sweeping breadth of at-will employment, the contractual norm that allows American employers to fire workers without warning and without cause, except for reasons explicitly deemed illegal."



"
A weak job market, paired with the increasing precarity of work, means that more and more workers are forced to make their living by stringing together freelance assignments or winning fixed-term contracts, subjecting those workers to even more rules and restrictions. On top of their actual jobs, contractors and temp workers must do the additional work of appearing affable and employable not just on the job, but during their ongoing efforts to secure their next gig. Constantly pitching, writing up applications, and personal branding on social media requires a level of self-censorship, lest a controversial tweet or compromising Facebook photo sink their job prospects."



"from Marx and Hegel to Freud and Lincoln, whose 1859 speech he also quotes. Livingston centers on these thinkers because they all found the connection between work and virtue troubling. Hegel believed that work causes individuals to defer their desires, nurturing a “slave morality.” Marx proposed that “real freedom came after work.” And Freud understood the Protestant work ethic as “the symptom of repression, perhaps even regression.”"



"In today’s economy, the demand for such labor is rising rapidly: “Nine of the twelve fastest-growing fields,” The New York Times reported earlier this year, “are different ways of saying ‘nurse.’” These jobs also happen to be low-paying, emotionally and physically grueling, dirty, hazardous, and shouldered largely by women and immigrants. Regardless of whether employment is virtuous or not, our immediate goal should perhaps be to distribute the burdens of caregiving, since such work is essential to the functioning of society and benefits us all.

A truly work-free world is one that would entail a revolution from our present social organizations. We could no longer conceive of welfare as a last resort—as the “safety net” metaphor implies—but would be forced to treat it as an unremarkable and universal fact of life. This alone would require us to support a massive redistribution of wealth, and to reclaim our political institutions from the big-money interests that are allergic to such changes."



"If we do not have a deliberate politics rooted in universal social justice, then full employment, a basic income, and automation will not liberate us from the degradations of work.

Both Livingston and Anderson reveal how much of our own power we’ve already ceded in making waged work the conduit for our ideals of liberty and morality. The scale and coordination of the institutions we’re up against in the fight for our emancipation is, as Anderson demonstrates, staggering."
work  politics  2017  miyatokumitsu  government  governance  labor  corporatism  liberty  freedom  la  precarity  economics  karlmarx  hegel  abrahamlincoln  digmundfreud  care  caregiving  emotionallabor  caretaking  maintenance  elizabethanderson  jameslivingston 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The Snarling Girl | Hazlitt
"Oh really, she says. Now I matter? Wrong, motherfucker: I mattered before. (Also: Nope, can’t help you write a book, best of luck.)

She’s a little trigger-happy on the misanthropic rage, this snarling girl. She is often accused of “not living up to her potential.” She is neither inspired by nor impressed with prep school. The college admissions race leaves her cold. Her overbearing mother berates her about crappy grades and lack of ambition. (O-ho, the snarling girl says, you want to see lack of ambition? I’ll show you lack of ambition!) Where she is expected to go right, she makes a habit of veering left. She is not popular, not likely to succeed. Her salvation arrives (surely you saw this coming) in the form of books, movies, music. She obsessively follows the trail of breadcrumbs they leave behind. Here is a neat kind of power: she can be her own curator. She can find her way from one sustaining voice to another, sniffing out what’s true, what’s real. In her notebooks she copies out passages from novels, essays, poems, and songs. She Sharpies the especially resonant bits on her bedroom wall. This is how she learns to trust herself, no easy feat. These are epigraphs to the as yet unwritten book of her life, rehearsals for the senior page she is keen to assemble. These stories and lines and lyrics are companionship, proof that the universe is much, much bigger than her radioactive family and rich bitch west L.A. and Hebrew school and Zionist summer camp. Behold: She is not crazy! She is not alone! She is not a freak! Or, rather: she is crazy, she is alone, she is a freak, and she’ll keep glorious company with all of these other crazy, lonely, amazing freaks.

Look at her notebooks, all in a row. They live in my study, above shelves stacked with my books, galleys, audiobooks, foreign editions, literary journals, anthologies, Literary Death Match Champion medal, and piles of newspapers and magazines in which I’m celebrated as this amazing thing: a writer. A novelist. Legit. But witness, please, no coincidence, the notebooks live above that stuff. Spiral-bound, leather-bound, fabric-bound, black, pink, green, floral. This Notebook Belongs To: Elisa Albert, neatly printed in the earliest, 1992. Fake it ’til you make it, girl! The notebooks have seniority. Here is how she began to forge a system of belief and belonging, to say nothing of a career. Am I aggrandizing her? Probably. I am just so goddamn proud of her."



"Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

Here is what we know for sure: there is no end to want. Want is a vast universe within other vast universes. There is always more, and more again. There are prizes and grants and fellowships and lists and reviews and recognitions that elude us, mysterious invitations to take up residence at some castle in Italy. One can make a life out of focusing on what one does not have, but that’s no way to live. A seat at the table is plenty. (But is it a good seat? At which end of the table??? Alongside whom!?) A seat at the table means we are free to do our work, the end. Work! What a fantastic privilege."



"Some ambition is banal: Rich spouse. Thigh gap. Gold-buckle shoes. Quilted Chanel. Penthouse. Windowed office. Tony address. Notoriety. Ten thousand followers. A hundred thousand followers. Bestseller list. Editor-in-Chief. Face on billboard. A million dollars. A million followers. There are ways of working toward these things, clear examples of how it can be done. Programs, degrees, seminars, diets, schemes, connections, conferences. Hands to shake, ladders to climb. If you are smart, if you are savvy, who’s to stop you? Godspeed and good luck. I hope you get what you want, and when you do, I hope you aren’t disappointed.

Remember the famous curse? May you get absolutely everything you want.

Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.

I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?

So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.

I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

Yes, oppression is systemic, I get it, I feel it, I live it, I struggle, I do. Women are not equal, we’re not fairly represented, the pie charts are clear as day: nothing’s fair, nothing at all, it’s maddening, it’s saddening, it’s not at all gladdening. We all suffer private and public indignities (micro-aggressions, if you prefer) big and small. It’s one thing to pause and grapple with unfairness, but if we set up camp there, we can’t get anything done, can’t get to the root of the problem. So sure, great, go on and on about how women should help other women! Rah rah, put it on a T-shirt, sell it on Etsy. Great marketing, but what’s actually being accomplished? Who, specifically, is being helped? A collection of egos shouting ME ME ME is not artistically or intellectually productive or interesting.

“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now? Bye. Take care."



"Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter. Health care, ambition, education, diet, culture: name it, and you will suffer endlessly from any attempt to go about it the same way as some projected Everyone Else. You cannot be standardized. You are a unique flower, daughter. Maybe the Ivy League will be wonderful for you; maybe it will crush your soul. If the former, I will mortgage the house to pay your way; if the latter, give that shit the finger and help me move these peonies, will you? You are not defined by such things, either way. Anyway, let us discuss what we want to whip up for dinner and take turns playing DJ while doing so.

“She can, though every face should scowl / And every windy quarter howl / Or every bellows burst, be happy still.” That was Yeats.

I mean, fuck ambition, that’s where this is going. I don’t buy the idea that acting like the oppressor is a liberation, personal ambition being, in essence, see above, patriarchal. And yeah, about recognition. What about when genius and/or hard work isn’t recognized? Because often it isn’t, and what do we make of that… [more]
elisaalbert  writing  belief  2017  literature  purpose  books  notebooks  care  caring  emotionallabor  whatmatters  feminism  audience  small  slow  ambition  standardization  mayaangelou  patriarchy  liberation  recognition  success  mastery  accomplishment  sideeffects  unintendedconsequences  striving  humility  winning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Courtney Martin: The new American Dream | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com
[via: https://twitter.com/campcreek/status/792521887343607810 ]

"Now, artist Ann Hamilton has said, "Labor is a way of knowing." Labor is a way of knowing. In other words, what we work on is what we understand about the world. If this is true, and I think it is, then women who have disproportionately cared for the little ones and the sick ones and the aging ones, have disproportionately benefited from the most profound kind of knowing there is: knowing the human condition. By prioritizing care, men are, in a sense, staking their claim to the full range of human existence.

Now, this means the nine-to-five no longer works for anyone. Punch clocks are becoming obsolete, as are career ladders. Whole industries are being born and dying every day. It's all nonlinear from here. So we need to stop asking kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and start asking them, "How do you want to be when you grow up?" Their work will constantly change. The common denominator is them. So the more they understand their gifts and create crews of ideal collaborators, the better off they will be.

The challenge ahead is to reinvent the social safety net to fit this increasingly fragmented economy. We need portable health benefits. We need policies that reflect that everyone deserves to be vulnerable or care for vulnerable others, without becoming destitute. We need to seriously consider a universal basic income. We need to reinvent labor organizing. The promise of a work world that is structured to actually fit our 21st century values, not some archaic idea about bringing home the bacon, is long overdue -- just ask your mother.

Now, how about the second question: How should we live? We should live like our immigrant ancestors. When they came to America, they often shared apartments, survival tactics, child care -- always knew how to fill one more belly, no matter how small the food available. But they were told that success meant leaving the village behind and pursuing that iconic symbol of the American Dream, the white picket fence. And even today, we see a white picket fence and we think success, self-possession. But when you strip away the sentimentality, what it really does is divides us. Many Americans are rejecting the white picket fence and the kind of highly privatized life that happened within it, and reclaiming village life, reclaiming interdependence instead.

Fifty million of us, for example, live in intergenerational households. This number exploded with the Great Recession, but it turns out people actually like living this way. Two-thirds of those who are living with multiple generations under one roof say it's improved their relationships. Some people are choosing to share homes not with family, but with other people who understand the health and economic benefits of daily community. CoAbode, an online platform for single moms looking to share homes with other single moms, has 50,000 users. And people over 65 are especially prone to be looking for these alternative living arrangements. They understand that their quality of life depends on a mix of solitude and solidarity. Which is true of all of us when you think about it, young and old alike. For too long, we've pretended that happiness is a king in his castle. But all the research proves otherwise. It shows that the healthiest, happiest and even safest -- in terms of both climate change disaster, in terms of crime, all of that -- are Americans who live lives intertwined with their neighbors.

Now, I've experienced this firsthand. For the last few years, I've been living in a cohousing community. It's 1.5 acres of persimmon trees, this prolific blackberry bush that snakes around a community garden, all smack-dab, by the way, in the middle of urban Oakland. The nine units are all built to be different, different sizes, different shapes, but they're meant to be as green as possible. So big, shiny black solar cells on our roof mean our electricity bill rarely exceeds more than five bucks in a month. The 25 of us who live there are all different ages and political persuasions and professions, and we live in homes that have everything a typical home would have. But additionally, we share an industrial-sized kitchen and eating area, where we have common meals twice a week.

Now, people, when I tell them I live like this, often have one of two extreme reactions. Either they say, "Why doesn't everyone live like this?" Or they say, "That sounds totally horrifying. I would never want to do that." So let me reassure you: there is a sacred respect for privacy among us, but also a commitment to what we call "radical hospitality" -- not the kind advertised by the Four Seasons, but the kind that says that every single person is worthy of kindness, full stop, end of sentence.

The biggest surprise for me of living in a community like this? You share all the domestic labor -- the repairing, the cooking, the weeding -- but you also share the emotional labor. Rather than depending only on the idealized family unit to get all of your emotional needs met, you have two dozen other people that you can go to to talk about a hard day at work or troubleshoot how to handle an abusive teacher. Teenagers in our community will often go to an adult that is not their parent to ask for advice. It's what bell hooks called "revolutionary parenting," this humble acknowledgment that kids are healthier when they have a wider range of adults to emulate and count on. Turns out, adults are healthier, too. It's a lot of pressure, trying to be that perfect family behind that white picket fence.

The "new better off," as I've come to call it, is less about investing in the perfect family and more about investing in the imperfect village, whether that's relatives living under one roof, a cohousing community like mine, or just a bunch of neighbors who pledge to really know and look out for one another. It's good common sense, right? And yet, money has often made us dumb about reaching out. The most reliable wealth is found in relationship.

The new better off is not an individual prospect at all. In fact, if you're a failure or you think you're a failure, I've got some good news for you: you might be a success by standards you have not yet honored. Maybe you're a mediocre earner but a masterful father. Maybe you can't afford your dream home, but you throw legendary neighborhood parties. If you're a textbook success, the implications of what I'm saying could be more grim for you. You might be a failure by standards you hold dear but that the world doesn't reward. Only you can know.

I know that I am not a tribute to my great-grandmother, who lived such a short and brutish life, if I earn enough money to afford every creature comfort. You can't buy your way out of suffering or into meaning. There is no home big enough to erase the pain that she must have endured. I am a tribute to her if I live a life as connected and courageous as possible. In the midst of such widespread uncertainty, we may, in fact, be insecure. But we can let that insecurity make us brittle or supple. We can turn inward, lose faith in the power of institutions to change -- even lose faith in ourselves. Or we can turn outward, cultivate faith in our ability to reach out, to connect, to create.

Turns out, the biggest danger is not failing to achieve the American Dream. The biggest danger is achieving a dream that you don't actually believe in."
happiness  interdependence  courtneymartin  life  living  relationships  economics  success  solidarity  community  agesegregation  cohousing  us  2016  vulnerability  policy  health  housing  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  privacy  hospitality  radicalhospitality  kindness  bellhooks  intergenerational  emotionallabor  labor  work  domesticlabor  families  money  wealth  individualism  failure  insecurity  meaningmaking  consumerism  materialism  connectedness  courage  sfsh  openstudioproject  lcproject 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Laurie Penny | Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
"Late capitalism is like your love life: it looks a lot less bleak through an Instagram filter. The slow collapse of the social contract is the backdrop for a modern mania for clean eating, healthy living, personal productivity, and “radical self-love”—the insistence that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we can achieve a meaningful existence by maintaining a positive outlook, following our bliss, and doing a few hamstring stretches as the planet burns. The more frightening the economic outlook and the more floodwaters rise, the more the public conversation is turning toward individual fulfillment as if in a desperate attempt to make us feel like we still have some control over our lives."



"The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease. The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level. Chris Maisano concludes that while “the appeal of individualistic and therapeutic approaches to the problems of our time is not difficult to apprehend . . . it is only through the creation of solidarities that rebuild confidence in our collective capacity to change the world that their grip can be broken.”

The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.

Secondly, it prevents us from even considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crises of work, poverty, and injustice. "



"When modernity teaches us to loathe ourselves and then sells us quick fixes for despair, we can be forgiven for balking at the cash register. Anxious millennials now seem to have a choice between desperate narcissism and crushing misery. Which is better? The question is not rhetorical. On the one hand, Instagram happiness gurus make me want to drown myself in a kale smoothie. On the other, I’m sick and tired of seeing the most brilliant people I know, the fighters and artists and mad radical thinkers whose lives’ work might actually improve the world, treat themselves and each other in ludicrously awful ways with the excuse, implicit or explicit, that any other approach to life is counterrevolutionary."



"The problem with self-love as we currently understand it is in our view of love itself, defined, too simply and too often, as an extraordinary feeling that we respond to with hearts and flowers and fantasy, ritual consumption and affectless passion. Modernity would have us mooning after ourselves like heartsick, slightly creepy teenagers, taking selfies and telling ourselves how special and perfect we are. This is not real self-love, no more than a catcaller loves the woman whose backside he’s loudly admiring in the street.

The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action. It’s about what you do for another person over the course of days and weeks and years, the work put in to care and cathexis. That’s the kind of love we’re terribly bad at giving ourselves, especially on the left.

The broader left could learn a great deal from the queer community, which has long taken the attitude that caring for oneself and one’s friends in a world of prejudice is not an optional part of the struggle—in many ways, it is the struggle. Writer and trans icon Kate Bornstein’s rule number one is “Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Just don’t be mean.” It’s more than likely that one of the reasons that the trans and queer communities continue to make such gains in culture, despite a violent backlash, is the broad recognition that self-care, mutual aid, and gentle support can be tools of resistance, too. After the Orlando massacre, LGBTQ people across the world started posting selfies under the hashtag #queerselflove. In the midst of the horror, the public mourning, and the fear, queer people of all ages and backgrounds across the world engaged in some light-hearted celebration of ourselves, of one another.

The ideology of wellbeing may be exploitative, and the tendency of the left to fetishize despair is understandable, but it is not acceptable—and if we waste energy hating ourselves, nothing’s ever going to change. If hope is too hard to manage, the least we can do is take basic care of ourselves. On my greyest days, I remind myself of the words of the poet and activist Audre Lorde, who knew a thing or two about survival in an inhuman world, and wrote that self care “is not self-indulgence—it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”"
lauriepenny  2016  feminism  happiness  culture  capitalism  neoliberalism  self-care  katebornstein  audrelorde  chloeking  chrismaisano  well-being  latecapitalism  work  emotionallabor  poverty  injustice  labor  privation  justice  socialjustice  society  democracy  gtd  hopelessness  despair 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Work-Life Balance Needs an Update - The Atlantic
"How people think and talk about an issue matters. Every time people say “working mother” but don’t say “working father,” every time people talk about parental issues (or caregiving issues generally) as “women’s issues,”—together these small failures continually reinforce the assumption that it is up to women to raise children and care for elders, even though most people now accept that it is up to both women and men to earn a living. That assumption, in turn, enables male-female inequality to persist.

Another common idiom—that of “work-life balance”—does a disservice to women at the bottom of the income scale, implying that people have some control over this situation. The notion of “balance” summons an image of a see-saw or a scale, a stable equilibrium in which people have the right amounts of different things that they want. It is the ultimate expression of “having it all”—just enough of this and just enough of that.

The majority of American women who have caregiving obligations are persevering in the face of seemingly impossible conflicting pressures—how to get their jobs done and be at their children’s sports games and organize weekend activities and help with homework and take their mothers to the doctor and cook for or at least take dinner to a friend with cancer and and and. Or worse still, how to work two or three jobs to put food on the table and pay the rent and still have any time for children or parents at all?

Instead of balance, a better approach is to talk more simply and straightforwardly about making room for care, a concept I explore in my new book Unfinished Business. Begin from the proposition that we cannot survive, as individuals or as a nation, without caring for one another. George Halvorson, former head of Kaiser Permanente, recently wrote: “The biggest single public health deficit and failure in America today is the fact that almost no parents of newborn children have been told or taught that they can improve their child's learning abilities significantly by exercising their baby's brain in the first three years of life.” Caring for children properly, and valuing the unpaid and paid work of those who undertake this vital job, will determine America’s future competitiveness, security, equality, and the wellbeing of its citizens. And at the other end of life, who are we if we do not care for those who cared for us?

Making room for care is dependent on one thing: valuing it, economically. Yet instead of valuing care as the indispensable work that it is, society as a whole free rides on the labor of family caregivers, who are not compensated for their work. Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood, cites studies estimating a mother’s worth as somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000 a year, depending on whether the measure is the replacement value of each of the services she is expected to provide or what we could expect to have to pay one individual to provide a combination of those services. But none of those goods and services is ever counted in the U.S. GDP.

They could be. Plenty of economists have shown how. Bringing together much of this work, Riane Eisler is leading over 100 organizations in the Caring Economy Campaign, which has put together a set of Social Wealth Indicators specifically designed to track the value of caring for others and to measure where the U.S. stands on these measures versus other advanced industrial countries.

If society valued care, it would be accounted for in measurements of the economy and assessments of the country’s health and wealth. If society valued care, workplaces would adopt an entire set of new practices, from a right to request flexible work to the routine creation of work coverage plans for every worker, on the expectation that all workers must make room for caring for someone in their lives at some point in their lives. And if society valued care, the roles of teacher, lead parent, coach, nurse, therapist, or any other caring profession would have a degree of prestige and compensation that reflect the enormous importance of the work these people do.

“Balance” is a luxury, something only the very luckiest can ever attain. Equality—of the activities that are equally necessary for our survival and flourishing—is a better framework, as it demonstrates why care is something everybody needs to do and everybody needs access to. That’s not about balancing work and life. That’s about valuing all the activities that society needs for humans to flourish."
anne-marieslaughter  2015  work-lifebalance  caring  caringeconomy  economics  class  care  emotionallabor  gender  inequality  work  labor  health  mentalhealth  wellbeing  motherhood  women  society  values 
december 2015 by robertogreco
"I'm Doing Work" on Vimeo
[More from this series: https://vimeo.com/sluggish

"Sluggish is a video web series that brings together different stories around a single idea. Sometimes the stories are about art and sometimes they’re about science or history or sports but they are always about everyday things that are weird and esoteric and they are always fun.

It’s a bit like a visualized podcast.

The series is a completely independent project produced in Berlin and shot around the world. It is an ongoing experiment for me and there are many things I plan to try out here so I hope you stick around to see how it evolves. Season two is already in the works.
SEASON ONE

What are the upsides of doing nothing? The first season takes on the current universal obsession with the concept of productivity while trying to explore the benefits of wasting your time.

It’s pretty much your best chance to feel good about wasting your time watching online videos."

"The Art of Not Working"
https://vimeo.com/143685855

"To Dive or Not to Dive"
https://vimeo.com/143687704

"Fighting Blue Sky Thinking"
https://vimeo.com/143687714 ]
work  productivity  stevenpoole  leisure  effort  priorities  gtd  labor  idleness  michaelbar-eli  gavinpretor-pinney  doingnothing  football  soccer  economics  bias  actionbias  emotionallabor  care  caring  decisionmaking  timewasting  2015  ignaciouriarte  art  futbol  sports 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."



"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."



"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 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
McQ to You April 19
"I'm a writer but I'm also a teacher and having been successful at both I can tell you that people who say things like "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," ought to try to teach. It is hard to be a teacher. There are a lot fewer editors in the world than there are writers and the competition for those jobs is fierce. 

I have dedicated my life to art but honestly, in many way, artists are parasites. We don't keep people warm, we don't feed people, we don't keep them dry (unless they use books to build a shelter.) Give me an oncology nurse any day. You can all deluge me with emails about how important art was/is to you and I won't disagree, but try living in your car for a week.

I'm proud of what I do. But I've arguably changed more lives by being a mom and by teaching than by writing. Don't stop being a maker. It's not a bad thing. But lets keep it all in perspective, okay?"
making  makers  teaching  teachers  emotionallabor  parenting  maureenmchugh  2015  small  slow  worldchanging  art  leisurearts  artleisure 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages. [emotional-labor.email]
"emotional-labor.email
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages.

Lighten up your email with the Emotional Labor extension. Works on any email sent through Gmail.

First write an email. Then click the smiley face to brighten up the tone of the email before sending."

[Describes in this post:
https://medium.com/message/canned-email-eb6f4ba843d9

"I feel more acutely aware of the strain of feigned enthusiasm when I am writing email. I guess it is not much different than day to day interactions like answering “things are going good” when asked, when actually things are not so great. But some email correspondence feels like a race to collect and dispense exclamation marks and xoxos. As if we could cash them all in for prizes upon achieving — Darth Vader voice, flashlight under chin — inbox zero.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!!

That paragraph I just wrote appears more cynical than I intended. But that’s my point. It is hard to communicate in words. It is work. What was once the concern of professional writers is now a burden we all share, as we communicate all day long over email and texts.

We might garnish our messages with emoticons and emojis like strewing garland and bunting to demonstrate emotion. Sometimes that comes out naturally. But that fake smile, “yeah, things are going good,” way of deflecting attention, and containing unhappiness, plays out differently in written correspondence. When I attempt to display an emotion I don’t actually feel over email, I fret over sounding insincere or abrupt or otherwise upsetting someone unintentionally.

That’s why I made this: the Emotional Labor email extension. Install it in Chrome, then click on the smiley face after composing an email in Gmail to brighten up the mood of the letter. It replaces serious words with playful ones, swaps out periods for exclamation marks, and a adds cheerful introductory text.

Everyone has a story you tell again and again. But you alter it a bit upon each re-telling don’t you? You edit it for length, you play up certain details depending upon company. Customer service is where that line blurs. It can be impossible to tell whether a voice on the phone is automated or a real person speaking committedly to a script.

I was inspired to create the extension after many futile attempts to start using canned responses. “Canned responses” — email written in advance to send again and again — is a common bullet point on content listicles suggesting ways someone might improve their productivity. Canned responses are kind of like a one-on-one FAQ. If people often ask directions to your office, you can write a canned response to send rather than writing the directions out over and over. Or, if you are a vendor that often receives the same question from customers, you can send a canned response with the answer instead of cutting-and-pasting again and again. I have a few shortcuts for texting on my phone (autocorrect “OMW” to “On my way!” has saved me precious seconds when I’ve needed to remove my gloves to text someone in the cold.) But I never found a reason to use canned answers. Nothing in my life is structured for its use.

The Emotional Labor extension is also a response to an app released last year: Romantimatic. It automates sending texts like “I love you” and other sweet nothings to a person’s love interest. While canned answers were developed for professional use, the Romantimatic app less ambiguously demonstrates where credence to authenticity should outweigh urgency and obligation. One of the suggested messages to send is “I can’t get you off my mind,” which is ridiculously untrue if this app is in use.

The Emotional Labor email extension looks fake. That’s the point. I wanted to reveal my exhaustion, my fatigue in needing to attend to so much correspondence. Until there is an emoticon for “Things are kind of not great but I don’t want to disturb you let’s just pretend things are fine,” that’s the grey area where this project resides. I made this to reveal the friction in my indecisiveness — how many xs do I normally sign off — one, two, three?

Perhaps it may be of some use!!!! Or, at the very least, I hope you find it amusing!!!!!

XOXO"]
extensions  gmail  email  joannemcneil  writing  communication  2015  tone  correspondence  automation  emotions  emotionallabor  cannedresponses  productivity 
february 2015 by robertogreco
My First Post on Family and Tribe | Best of Rob's Old Radio Posts
"Friday, March 28, 2003
I have been working on a research proposal to study the family and had this aha at least an aha for me today. Does the family exist anymore? So here are my musings

——————————————————————————————————————-

If we really look at the data for North America (WASPS) the family as we think of it is already dead! What I mean by the “family” is a two parent unit with at least one grandparent so that there are three generations involved all providing value to each other as a social unit in a rough world. We think that this is the family and I suspect that we think that we should hold this up as a model. Little knowing of course that for more than 4 million years we raised our children and did our work in a small 30-5 person unit that combined work and society called a tribe. Little knowing that all primates except us still use this arrangement. My aha was maybe that .our search for June Cleaver is getting in the way of the fact that June is dead and was never a good model anyway I wonder if looking for June obscures a possible return to the tribe and the deinstitutionalization at last of our western society?

What are the remnants of June today? What is the reality today? Most WASP families ( Most immigrant families still adhere to the larger extended model – by the way look at how much better their kids are doing at school) have only one parent – female (why are boys in trouble?) Very few have a grandparent in the mix and most grandparents are often not even in the same city. Elderly parents are also increasingly institutionalized. I fear that our society is becoming a society of one who interacts only with institutions and not with real people.

Children our greatest asset have become for most of us a huge economic drain. In their younger years they go to expensive daycare, they demand fashion and toys and have a closer connection to TV than to any other influence. As teens they need even more economic support: on PEI every teen has to have a car. If they go onto university the drain is even greater. Then after a few years on their own they often return home – sometime as single parents – and seek to be looked after all over again!!!! When do our children grow into adults? No wonder our wasp birthrate is below replacement. That itself is a sign of a powerful set of forces.

Tell that I am exaggerating. What do the stats tell us?

So long as we assume that the June Cleaver Family is alive, we think that we can and should go back to it. We feel guilt but we know that we cannot go back. So long as I feel that I should be somehow living my grandparent’s life, I am stuck. Here is the aspiration aspect - We want to strive for a better social unit. We can see a new model in business – the Wal-Mart response model. Can we see the new family emerging????? It must be but so long as we think that the old family is it, we won’t be able to see the new one.

Be assured that a new unit is emerging and will emerge. If we can describe it, it will become real for many people very quickly – they will aspirationally jump to a model that works. The prize is a big one for us as people, for business and for our nation.

This may then end the idea that we are only a disconnected individual whose only relationships are at work, whose children are in daycare and whose parents are in a home and whose protector is the state. For I sense that it is our growing dependence on institutions that has played a major role in why the 1950’s family has collapsed – it may also be worth studying these trends as well. It is surely important to know why we have come to this.

Putnam blames work and TV. He sees TV as a relationship blocker and as a community influence that drives a world of things over relationships and a world of passivity over exploration. I include for blame our school system where we teach the institutional Cartesian model as the main curriculum and where we deny all that we know about primate learning process. Kids who don’t fit are drugged. (30%?) I blame Daycare where we rely on a few strangers to park our small children at the most important learning period of their lives. Most of all we need to ask ourselves about the pull of the workplace out of the home where work has replaced most other relationships and has broken the bond of parent child and in many cases between spouses. Why have we put away all other relationships for those at work?

I bet that we are going to find that the tribe (a combined social and economic unit) is emerging again. You see this is the idea of Free Agent Nation where up to 50 million North Americans have left the traditional workplace and work for themselves mainly at home and who have set up networks of support for both work and social issues such as their kids and parents. I feel this among many of blogging out there who have built working relationships out of personal relationships. I have been touched at the help that I have received from many of you and I feel good that I can reach out in a way that is not possible in the traditional work place. I sense that blogging will itself create little tribes of co workers who also really care for each other. The more we work at home, the more we interact in a tribal way with our kids. I work with my son – it is my greatest joy. mainly he teaches me.

Daniel Pink I think provides us with a model for finding the new family. Pink himself went around America and discovered this group, saw its common elements and gave it a label. All of us who live like this suddenly understood what we were doing and how to do this better. We have a model and with a model we have power.

His book is having a profound impact as it enables individuals who thought that they were alone to see that theory make up a pattern. I suspect that the new family is located in this group who have healed the breach between work and life and who aspire to a living and not a paycheck. These people reject all institutions as do most of our kids. I wonder if we looked with fresh eyes that we might see that for many of us – a new family based on the tribe is emerging and that it is something that if we talk about more, will become more clear and more helpful"
robertpaterson  2003  families  economics  junecleaver  aging  elderly  children  institutions  society  relationships  interdependence  individualism  daycare  care  emotionallabor  tribes  danielpink 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Who Cares – The New Inquiry
"The supposedly natural emotions of love and compassion are used to compel many people, especially women, to work for free."



"Reports of neglect and abuse in hospitals and care homes appear with alarming regularity. Received narratives blame “burn-out”: understaffing, low wages and squeezed margins transform overworked and overstressed carers into monsters. The proposed solution is extra vigilance and “Compassion Training.” Shifting the question of working practices and worker wellbeing onto the terrain of compassion is a sleight of hand. It implies that care workers should police themselves and their colleagues rather than fight collectively for better pay and conditions. By this account, compassion flows in one direction only, from nurse to patient, and never between nurses, or from the nurse to her or his own family and friends."



"Of course, the majority of care workers—parents but mostly mothers, children but mostly daughters, spouses but mostly wives—never receive any wages at all. Within families, and other close interpersonal relationships, love and guilt are the mechanisms by which caring labor (cleaning, wiping, feeding and so on) is extorted from a largely female workforce. Perhaps this is what nurse-lecturers are really alluding to when they ask students to imagine their patients as their mothers. When women, who dominate caring professions, take their capacity to care away from the private sphere and sell it on the labor market instead, the same mechanisms—love and guilt—are called upon to bridge the shortfall in staff, resources and wages that characterize many caring institutions, whether they are run for profit or by the state."



"In the SCUM Manifesto, Valerie Solanas proposes that “thrill-seeking females overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.” In her vision of post-revolution society, all work will be performed by machines. Caring labor will be eliminated and will no longer be constitutive of expressions of love between individuals. Instead, women will spend their newfound leisure time expressing love for each other through intellectual discourse and great projects (e.g. curing death).

While increased leisure time and revolutionized interpersonal relationships have not yet been forthcoming, technology has already been employed in a range of caring tasks from baby formula milk or TV as babysitter to animal robots. However, we remain a long way from machines raising the next generation of workers and carers. As demonstrated by Harry Harlow’s heartbreaking experiments raising baby monkeys in isolation chambers with inanimate robot mothers, the task of reproducing socialized primates is complex and nuanced. So far, despite the deficiencies of some human carers, we do not have a machine that can care for the sick or bring up a child.

Many feminist theorists disagree with Solanas’s analysis. They argue that while in patriarchal capitalist societies women are overburdened with the tasks of love and care, these tasks are an inherent part of what it means to be human. For example, Selma James, co-founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign, defends care work like this: “Mothers feeding infants, in fact all caring work outside any money exchange, is basic to human survival—not exactly a marginal achievement. What, we must ask in our own defense and in society’s, is more important than this?”"



"Is it possible to imagine a restructured society in which love remains the primary motivation for engaging in care work but where this labor is provided freely, without exploitation? We might assume that rich women love their families, but just as they don’t work in the factories where their iPhones are made, they rarely perform the hard graft of caring labor themselves. Instead they employ nurses and nannies. The reason that some working class women perform care work for rich people as well as for their own families and communities is not that they experience love more intensely. Or if they do, perhaps they experience it more intensely because they are required by capitalism to perform this labor. Ultimately they do it because they do not have a choice.

There are potentially a million different possible ways to treat the sick, raise children or organize intimacy. It’s at least imaginable that in a different social form we could cure ourselves with shared knowledge of pharmacologically active substances, or that sick people might choose to meditate on their pain alone, or countless other examples. In a fully communized society, it might be possible to retain both love and iPhones, but the conditions of their production and consumption would need to be radically transformed. It might be necessary, as Solanas suggests, to de-couple love from care work. Whatever happens, we must stop taking it for granted that women care and want to care. And we must begin to investigate the meaning of that caring."
care  caring  emotionallabor  2014  economics  lauraannerobertson  love  healthcare  gender  aging  children  parenting  childcare  eldercare  housework  homemaking  capitalism  labor  work  valeriesolanas  patriarchy  silviafederici  employment 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets
[Update 23 Jan 2015: a new version of this is now at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/ ]

"HOMO FABBER: Every once in a while, I am asked what I ‘make’. When I attended the Brighton Maker Faire in September, a box for the answer was under my name on my ID badge. It was part of the XOXO Festival application for 2013; when I saw the question, I closed the browser tab, and only applied later (and eventually attended) because of the enthusiastic encouragement of friends. I’m always uncomfortable identifying myself as a maker. I'm uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity (‘maker’, rather than ‘someone who makes things’). But I have much deeper concerns.

Walk through a museum. Look around a city. Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women. As a teenager, I read Ayn Rand on how any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavour. My response to this was to stop making my bed every day, to the distress of my mother. (While I admit the possibility of a misinterpretation, as I haven’t read Rand’s writing since I was so young my mother oversaw my housekeeping, I have no plans to revisit it anytime soon.) The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling things), and from what Ursula Franklin describes as prescriptive technologies to ones that are more holistic, it mostly reinscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not.

In light of this history, it’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into ‘making’. Consider the instant gratification of seeing ‘hello, world’ on the screen; it’s nearly the easiest possible way to ‘make’ things, and certainly one where failure has a very low cost. Code is 'making' because we've figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men. But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviours from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s 'Chinese room' take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviours. We call the latter 'education', and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost. Consider the economics term ‘Baumol's cost disease’: it suggests that it is somehow pathological that the time and energy taken by a string quartet to prepare for a performance--and therefore the cost--has not fallen in the same way as goods, as if somehow people and what they do should get less valuable with time (to be fair, given the trajectory of wages in the US over the last few years in real terms, that seems to be exactly what is happening).

It's not, of course, that there's anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). It's that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it's nearly always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.

I am not a maker. In a framing and value system that is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is, at least superficially, the same year after year. That's because all of the actual change is at the interface between me, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like 'design learning experiences', which is mistaking what I do for what I’m actually trying to elicit and support. The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.

My graduate work in materials engineering was all about analysing and characterizing biological tissues, mostly looking at disease states and interventions and how they altered the mechanical properties of bone, including addressing a public health question for my doctoral research. My current education research is mostly about understanding the experiences of undergraduate engineering students so we can do a better job of helping them learn. I think of my brilliant and skilled colleagues in the social sciences, like Nancy Baym at Microsoft Research, who does interview after interview followed by months of qualitative analysis to understand groups of people better. None of these activities are about ‘making’.

I educate. I analyse. I characterize. I critique. Almost everything I do these days is about communicating with others. To characterize what I do as 'making' is either to mistake the methods—the editorials, the workshops, the courses, even the materials science zine I made—for the purpose. Or, worse, to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminishing their own agency and role in sensemaking, as if their learning is something I impose on them.

In a recent newsletter, Dan Hon wrote, "But even when there's this shift to Makers (and with all due deference to Getting Excited and Making Things), even when "making things" includes intangibles now like shipped-code, there's still this stigma that feels like it attaches to those-who-don't-make. Well, bullshit. I make stuff." I understand this response, but I'm not going to call myself a maker. Instead, I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else. Instead of calling myself a maker, I'm proud to stand with the caregivers, the educators, those that analyse and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things and all the other people who do valuable work with and for others, that doesn't result in something you can put in a box and sell."

[My response on Twitter:

Storified version: https://storify.com/rogre/on-the-invisible-infrastructure-of-often-intangibl

and as a backup to that (but that doesn't fit the container of what Pinboard will show you)…

“Great way to start my day: @debcha on invisible infrastructure of (often intangible) labor, *not* making, & teaching.”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601349756956672

“[pause to let you read and to give you a chance to sign up for @debcha’s Metafoundry newsletter http://tinyletter.com/metafoundry ]”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601733791633408

““behind every…[maker] is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in…various aspects—…mostly performed by women” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602125107605505

“See also Maciej Cegłowski on Thoreau. https://static.pinboard.in/xoxo_talk_thoreau.htm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eky5uKILXtM”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602602431995904

““Thoreau had all these people, mostly women, who silently enabled the life he thought he was heroically living for himself.” —M. Cegłowski”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602794786963458

“And this reminder from @anotherny [Frank Chimero] that we should acknowledge and provide that support: “Make donuts too.”” http://frankchimero.com/blog/the-inferno-of-independence/
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603172244967424

“small collection of readings (best bottom up) on emotional labor, almost always underpaid, mostly performed by women https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:emotionallabor”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603895087128576

““The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604452065513472

““to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminish[es] their own agency & role in sensemaking” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604828705648640

“That @debcha line gets at why Taylor Mali’s every-popular “What Teachers Make” has never sat well with me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605134185177088

““I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605502805798912

“This all brings me back to Margaret Edson’s 2008 Commencement Address at Smith College. http://www.smith.edu/events/commencement_speech2008.php + https://vimeo.com/1085942”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606045200588803

“Edson’s talk is about classroom teaching. I am forever grateful to @CaseyG for pointing me there (two years ago on Tuesday).”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606488144248833

““Bringing nothing, producing nothing, expecting nothing, withholding … [more]
debchachra  2014  making  makers  makermovement  teaching  howweteach  emotionallabor  labor  danhon  scubadiving  support  ursulafranklin  coding  behavior  gender  cv  margaretedson  caseygollan  care  caretaking  smithcollege  sensemaking  agency  learning  howwelearn  notmaking  unproduct  frankchimero  maciejceglowski  metafoundry  independence  interdependence  canon  teachers  stigma  gratitude  thorough  infrastructure  individualism  invisibility  critique  criticism  fixing  mending  analysis  service  intangibles  caregiving  homemaking  maciejcegłowski 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Dads of Tech - The Baffler
"The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” Audre Lorde famously said, but let Clay Shirky mansplain. It “always struck me as a strange observation—even the metaphor isn’t true,” the tech consultant and bestselling author said at the New Yorker Festival last autumn in a debate with the novelist Jonathan Franzen. “Get ahold of the master’s hammer,” and you can dismantle anything. Just consider all the people “flipping on the ‘I’m gay’ light on Facebook” to signal their support for marriage equality—there, Shirky declared, is a prime example of the master’s tools put to good use.

“Shirky invented the Internet and Franzen wants to shut it down,” panel moderator Henry Finder mused with an air of sophisticated hyperbole. Finder said he was merely paraphrasing a festival attendee he’d overheard outside—and joked that for once in his New Yorker editing career, he didn’t need fact-checkers to determine whether the story was true. He then announced with a wink that it was “maybe a little true.” Heh.

Shirky studied fine art in school, worked as a lighting designer for theater and dance companies; he was a partner at investment firm The Accelerator Group before turning to tech punditry. Now he teaches at NYU and publishes gung-ho cyberliberation tracts such as Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus while plying a consulting sideline for a diverse corps of well-paying clients such as Nokia, the BBC, and the U.S. Navy—as well as high-profile speaking gigs like the New Yorker forum, which was convened under the stupifyingly dualistic heading “Is Technology Good for Culture?”

And that’s tech punditry for you: simplification with an undercurrent of sexism. There are plenty of woman academics and researchers who study technology and social change, but we are a long way from the forefront of stage-managed gobbledygook. Instead of getting regaled with nods and winks for “inventing the Internet,” women in the tech world typically have to overcome the bigoted suspicions of an intensively male geek culture—when, that is, they don’t face outright harassment in the course of pursuing industry careers."



"No wonder, then, that investors ignore coders from marginalized communities who aspire to meet real needs. With an Internet so simple even your Dad can understand it as our guiding model, the myriad challenges that attend the digital transformation, from rampant sexism, racism, and homophobia to the decline of journalism, are impossible to apprehend, let alone address. How else could a white dude who didn’t know that a “bustle” is a butt-enhancing device from the late nineteenth century raise $6.5 million to start a women’s content site under that name? Or look at investors racing to fund the latest fad: “explainer” journalism, a format that epitomizes our current predicament. Explainer journalism is an Internet simple enough for Dad to understand made manifest. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, the New York Times’ The Upshot, and Ezra Klein’s Vox (which boasts a “Leadership Team” of seventeen men and three women) all champion a numbers-driven model that does not allow for qualification or uncertainty. No doubt, quantification can aid insight, but statistics shouldn’t be synonymous with a naive, didactic faith that numbers don’t lie or that everything worth knowing can be rendered in a series of quickly clickable virtual notecards. Plenty of news reports cry out for further explanation, because the world is complex and journalists often get things wrong, but like Internet punditry before it, these explainer outlets don’t explain, they simplify."



"Most of all, the dominance of the Dad’s-eye-view of the world shores up the Internet’s underlying economic operating system. This also means a de facto free pass for corporate surveillance, along with an increasing concentration of wealth and power in the coffers of a handful of advertising-dependent, privacy-violating info-monopolies and the men who run them (namely Google and Facebook, though Amazon and Apple are also addicted to sucking up our personal data). Study after study shows that women are more sensitive to the subject of privacy than men, from a Pew poll that found that young girls are more prone than boys are to disabling location tracking on their devices to another that showed that while women are equally enthusiastic about technology in general, they’re also more concerned about the implications of wearable technologies. A more complicated Internet would incorporate these legitimate apprehensions instead of demanding “openness” and “transparency” from everyone. (It would also, we dare to hope, recognize that the vacuous sloganeering on behalf of openness only makes us more easily surveilled by government and big business.) But, of course, imposing privacy protections would involve regulation and impede profit—two bête noires of tech dudes who are quite sure that Internet freedom is synonymous with the free market.

The master’s house might have a new shape—it may be sprawling and diffuse, and occupy what is euphemistically referred to as the “cloud”—but it also has become corporatized and commercialized, redolent of hierarchies of yore, and it needs to be dismantled. Unfortunately, in the digital age, like the predigital one, men don’t want to take it apart."
astrataylor  joannemcneil  2014  sexism  technology  culture  siliconvalley  dads  nodads  patriarchy  paternalism  gender  emotionallabor  hisotry  computing  programming  complexity  simplification  nuance  diversity  journalism  clayshirky  polarization  exclusion  marcandreessen  ellenchisa  julieannhorvath  github  careers  audrelorde  punditry  canon  inequality 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Neoliberal Feminists Don't Want Women to Organize
"One of the insidious things about neoliberalism is how it has managed to absorb our vibrant, multifaceted liberation struggles into itself and spit them back out to us as monotone (dollar-bill-green) self-actualization narratives. The way this has happened to feminism is particularly instructive. As I wrote in Dissent last winter, the so-called “second wave” of feminism fought for women to gain access to work outside of the home and outside of the “pink-collar” fields. Yet in doing so, as Barbara Ehrenreich has written, some feminists wound up abandoning the fight for better conditions in what had always been considered women’s work—whether that be as teachers and nurses, or the work done in the home for little or no pay.

In fact, the flight of middle-class women into the paid workplace left other women, namely domestic workers, cleaning up the mess left behind, and many of those middle-class women seemed unwilling to deal with the fact that they too, sometimes, could oppress. As Ehrenreich wrote in “Maid to Order,” a piece published in the anthology, Global Woman, which she co-edited with Arlie Russell Hochschild, “To make a mess that another person will have to deal with—the dropped socks, the toothpaste sprayed on the bathroom mirror, the dirty dishes left from a late-night snack—is to exert domination in one of its more silent and intimate forms.”

While some women have experienced the workplace as a site of liberation and increased power, for many others, the workplace was never a choice. Particularly for women of color, whose domestic work was excluded intentionally from New Deal-era labor laws, the workplace was and remains a site of oppression. And to this day, women remain concentrated in the economy’s lowest-paying jobs—some two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women, and three of the fastest-growing occupations in the country are retail sales, food service, and home health care, which are both low-wage and female-dominated jobs. Home health care workers, in many ways the face of the new service economy, were just ruled only “partial” public employees by the right-wing Roberts Supreme Court. More than 90 percent of them, according to the Economic Policy Institute, are female.

Those are jobs at which, no matter how hard one leans in, the view doesn’t change.

And these days, the conditions for more and more workers are beginning to resemble those at the bottom; fleeing the female-dominated workplace, rather than improving it, has left middle-class women more, not less, vulnerable. The devaluation of work that involves care, work for which women were assumed to be innately suited, continued apace when feminism turned its back. As other jobs have disappeared, the low wages that were acceptable when women were presumed not to need a “family wage,” because they ought to be married to a man who’d do the breadwinning, became the wages that everyone has to take or leave.

Though the movement for paid sick leave has gained some important wins in recent months and years, alongside a growing movement to raise the minimum wage, a more expansive family policy that would actually allow more than a few days’ paid leave or allow workers more control over their own schedules remains a pipe dream.

Equal pay for equal work means little when the wages for all are on the way down. You would be hard pressed to find a self-proclaimed feminist, even of the most neoliberal variety, who doesn’t argue in favor of equal pay, but this focus has often served, as I have argued, to stifle discussion of other concerns in the workplace. As Marilyn Sneiderman, lifelong labor organizer and director of the New Labor Center at Rutgers University, told me for Dissent, the fight for fair pay might seem an individual struggle for high-end workers like Abramson, but for a hotel housekeeper, a nurse, a janitor, the best way to improve your job isn’t to get promoted through the ranks, but to organize with your fellow workers.

Neoliberal feminism is a feminism that ignores class as a determining issue in women’s lives. It presumes, as Tressie McMillan Cottom pointed out in an article on her personal website, that giving power to some women will automatically wind up trickling if not power, than at least some lifestyle improvements down to women with less power."
neoliberalism  feminism  work  labor  inequality  2014  women  emotionallabor  domesticlabor  sarahjaffe  class  gender 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma — The Message — Medium
"In fact, automation usually follows this path: first, the job is broken down into pieces, and “lower-end” pieces are first outsourced to cheaper labor (China in the 20th century or rural laborers that fled to cities in 19th century), then automated and replaced with machines, then integrated into even more powerful machines.

And this automation always moves up the value chain. First, the machine does the arithmetic, but the human is still solving the integrals. Then Matlab comes for the integrals. Next, machines are doing mathematical proofs, and so up it goes the value chain, often until it hits a regulatory block, hence Silicon Valley’s constant desire to undermine regulation and licensing. Doctors are somewhat safe, for example, because of licensing requirements, but technology can find a way around that, too: witness the boom in cheaper radiologists located in India, reading US-based patients x-rays and MRIs; and “homework tutors” that tutor US-based kids remotely from China.

For example, it was nurses who used to take blood pressure. Then it became nurse’s assistants or physician’s assistant—much lower-paid jobs that require less training. Then came machines that perform a reasonable job taking your blood pressure, and the job became even less skilled. More and more, you only see your doctor for a few minutes so that her highly-paid time is dedicated to only that which she can do—is licensed to do—, and everything else is either automated or done by someone paid much less.

This arrangement has advantages but it is not without trade-offs. Your doctor will miss anything that requires a broader eye and reflection, because she’s spending very little time with you, and the information she has about you in front of her is low bandwidth—whatever the physician’s assistant checked on a chart. She may or may not notice your slightly pale skin if it’s not noted on the chart. Most of the time, that’s okay. Sometimes, though, patients spend months and years in this “low-bandwidth” medical care environment while nobody puts two-and-two-and-three-and-that-pale-skin and wait-didn’t-you-have-a-family-history-of-kidney-disease together.

Occasionally, loss of holistic awareness due to division of labor between humans and machines ends up in disasters."



"It’s those face-to-face professions, ones in which being in contact with another human being are important, that are growing in numbers—almost every other profession is shrinking, numerically.

No there won’t be a shortage of engineers and programmers either—engineers and programmers, better than anyone, should know that machine intelligence is coming for them fairly soon, and will move up the value chain pretty quickly. Also, much of this “shortage”, too, is about controlling workers and not paying them—note how Silicon Valley colluded to not pay its engineers too much, even as the companies in question had hoarded billions in cash. In a true shortage under market conditions, companies would pay more to that which was scarce. Instead, wages are stagnant in almost all professions, including technical ones.

Many of these jobs BLS says will grow, however, are only there for the grace-of-the-generation that still wants to see a cashiers while checking out—and besides, they are low-paid jobs. Automation plus natural language processing by machines is going to obliterate through those jobs in the next decade or two. (Is anyone ready for the even worse labor crisis that will ensue?) Machines will take your order at the fast-food joint, they will check out your groceries without having to scan them, it will become even harder to get a human on the customer service line.

What’s left as jobs is those transactions in which the presence of the human is something more than a smiling face that takes your order and enters into another machine—the cashier and the travel agent that has now been replaced by us, in the “self-serve” economy.

What’s left is deep emotional labor: taking care of each other.

And emotional labor is already greatly devalued: notice how most of it is so little paid: health-aides and pre-school teachers are among the lowest paid jobs even though the the work is difficult and requires significant skill and emotional labor. It’s also crucial work: economists estimate a good kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year, when measured as adult outcomes of those children she teaches well. (And yes, devalued emotional labor is mostly a female job around the world—and the gendered nature of this reality is a whole other post).

And the argument, now is that we should turn care over to machines as well, because, there is a “shortage of humans”.

What are seven billion people supposed to do? Scour Task Rabbit hoping that the few percent who will have money to purchase services have some desires that still require a human?

Turning emotional labor to machines isn't just economically destructive; it’s the very description of inhuman.

In my view, warehousing elderly and children—especially children with disabilities—in rooms with machines that keep them busy, when large numbers of humans beings around the world are desperate for jobs that pay a living wage is worse than the Dickensian nightmares of mechanical industrialization, it’s worse than the cold, alienated workplaces depicted by Kafka."



"So where to go? Here’s where not to go. Expecting all care work to be unpaid and done voluntarily (almost solely by women) is not the path forward.

I don’t mourn if Deep Blue beats Kasparov. Chess is a fine game, but it’s a pretty rigid game, invented by us as a game exactly because it doesn't play to our strengths—that’s why it’s a challenge and a game worth playing. If we were naturally good at it, there’d be no point to it as a game. I don’t mourn not having to dig ditches—though abandoning our flesh as if it were irrelevant is turning out not to be a good idea. Many of us hop on exercise machines that go nowhere to counter our coerced sedentary lifestyle, a development surely bemusing to our ditch-digging ancestors.

But surely we should mourn if we put our elderly and our children in “care” of metal objects animated by software because we, the richest society globally the world has ever seen, with so much abundance of wealth that there are persistent asset bubbles—indicating piles of wealth looking for something anything to invest in—as well as hundreds of millions, if not billions, of under and unemployed people around the world looking for a way to make a living in a meaningful way, cannot bring together the political will to remain human through taking care of each other, and making a decent living doing so."
automation  capitalism  economics  jobs  work  labor  2014  relationships  zeyneptufekci  edtech  care  caring  purpose  dehumanization  humanism  humans  society  childcare  aging  elderly  industrialization  emotionallabor  shrequest1  softskills 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth of the Non-Technical Startup Employee, by Zoelle Egner | Model View Culture
"The indignities unwittingly foisted upon the early operations employee are many and varied."

As the first non-technical hire at a startup, you wear many hats.

You answer support tickets, write newsletters, even order lunch: whatever needs to get done. When you’re lucky - and I was - that means days spent untangling complex problems and creating processes to keep the chaos at bay.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the tech industry at large, it can also mean a constant battle to justify your intelligence, your value, and your very existence. It can mean struggling against gendered expectations about your work product and complete ignorance of what your role entails. Worse, as the defacto keeper of the sacred Company Culture™, you run the risk of enabling and reinforcing a system of amenities and perks which aren’t actually meant for you.

Though the indignities unwittingly foisted upon the early operations employee are many and varied, at their core, most can be traced back to three core misconceptions that pervade the industry at large.

1. You only take a job in business operations if you aren’t smart enough to be an engineer (or designer, or product manager, or…)



2. If your role isn’t technical, you don’t actually understand the product.



3. The ops person is here to be your mommy.



Operations is a necessary evil, and it doesn’t really matter

That means the people who do it don’t really matter, either.

Choosing to work at an early-stage startup can mean choosing to sacrifice a lot: weekends, the opportunity to see friends for weeks on end, even basic knowledge of what’s going on in the outside world. Obviously, it’s also rewarding enough that we continue to make those sacrifices time and time again. Yet the myths we hold so dear — the noble engineer, sleeping under his desk to get the product out on time; the company that cares for its employees’ every need — exclude and marginalize an entire class of people whose contributions to these startups make their success possible. Perhaps that just comes with the territory of working in an operational role, but it also sends a clear message: this industry is supposedly changing the world, but only the contributions of a select few are worthy of celebration. The rest, well — someone had to keep the snacks filled.

But of course it’s not that simple. If you don’t file your taxes or pay vendors on time or hire the right people at the right speed or handle any of the other, myriad issues that operations folks handle each day, it doesn’t matter how great your product is: you’re going to run into serious problems. Technical infrastructure isn’t the only part of a startup that needs to scale seamlessly. This, ultimately, is why these myths about business operations are so painful and damaging, both to the professionals who suffer from them and the businesses that perpetuate them. You can have a great product and still fail because your business was broken. But it shouldn’t happen that way, and it doesn’t have to.

Yes, it means taking the time as a founder to understand what operations means, and finding the right person to help make it happen, regardless of their gender. It means trusting that whomever you hire will be just as invested in the success of the company and just as valuable as people with more widely understood responsibilities. But the result is worth it. Particularly when it comes to early stage startups, a good operations person who is engaged as a true partner in building the business can lengthen your runway and give you the chance you need to be successful and sustainable. That’s a prospect worth fighting for."
zoelleegner  softskills  management  operations  startups  2014  gender  organizations  work  labor  culture  administration  technology  emotionallabor  shrequest1 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Labor of Social Media | Jacobin
"Battles over whether communities on Twitter are good or bad, toxic or supportive, obscure the labor that sustains all social networks."



"We rightly don’t celebrate the fact that 75 percent of unpaid interns are women as a victory for feminism; it should similarly concern us that that black women and other women of color could likely have the monopoly on doing the hard work of social justice organizing on Twitter without remuneration, sometimes literally for hours a day. Though a few Twitter superstars have been able to parlay a vibrant social media presence into paid writing or speaking gigs, for the vast majority of users, their Twitter output continues to financially benefit only the company’s owners. (By the close of 2012, Twitter’s revenue had reached $317 million through a combination of advertising and data licensing.)

The invisibility of the labor of social media has adversely affected even those who are paid to tweet. Most companies and publications now have dedicated personnel handling their social media accounts — whether they be entire departments or a single undergraduate intern. But as a new breed of communication work, social media management comes with all the attendant demands of older forms of emotional labor.

As Kate Losse and Melissa Gira Grant have noted in their work on Silicon Valley, the people who are responsible for tending to digital “communities” are predominantly women. This uneasy fact undergirds the way in which people have become accustomed to treating the Twitter accounts of publications as customer service hotlines. In an age when you can tweet your displeasure over the shortcomings of JetBlue or Pizza Hut and maybe receive a coupon for your trouble, why not use Twitter as a vehicle for 140-character letters to the editor?

The problem, however, is that the internal hierarchies of news publications are usually structured such that the people responsible for handling social media rarely have any sway over the publication’s main content. Despite their lack of editorial influence, these social media workers must perform the emotional labor of fielding any fallout that results from the publication of controversial articles, often (as in the case of the Goldberg firestorm) contending with thousands of angry messages over the course of a few hours. Though in some cases these employees may pass the complaints they receive up the chain, they remain the human buffers between an outraged public and the publication itself."

[See also: https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/sex-and-the-startup-men-women-and-work ]
twitter  socialmedia  labor  2014  jenniferpan  laurelptak  michellegoldberg  feminism  media  establishment  flaviadzodan  trudyofgradientlair  astrataylor  kenzoshibata  katelosse  melissagiragrant  gender  hierarchy  emotionallabor 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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