robertogreco + evgenymorozov   24

Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology - The Atlantic
"In other words, is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems—and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive, and misguided? Can we find a synthesis in which technologists look at their work critically and work closely with the people they’re trying to help in order to build sociotechnical systems that address hard problems?

Obviously, I think this is possible — if really, really hard — or I wouldn’t be teaching at an engineering school. But before considering how we overcome a naïve faith in technology, let’s examine Snow’s suggestion. It’s a textbook example of a solution that’s technically sophisticated, simple to understand, and dangerously wrong."

"The problem with the solutionist critique, though, is that it tends to remove technological innovation from the problem-solver’s toolkit. In fact, technological development is often a key component in solving complex social and political problems, and new technologies can sometimes open a previously intractable problem. The rise of inexpensive solar panels may be an opportunity to move nations away from a dependency on fossil fuels and begin lowering atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, much as developments in natural gas extraction and transport technologies have lessened the use of dirtier fuels like coal.

But it’s rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale."

"Of the many wise things my Yale students said during our workshop was a student who wondered if he should be participating at all. “I don’t know anything about prisons, I don’t have family in prison. I don’t know if I understand these problems well enough to solve them, and I don’t know if these problems are mine to solve.”

Talking about the workshop with my friend and colleague Chelsea Barabas, she asked the wonderfully deep question, “Is it ever okay to solve another person’s problem?”

On its surface, the question looks easy to answer. We can’t ask infants to solve problems of infant mortality, and by extension, it seems unwise to let kindergarten students design educational policy or demand that the severely disabled design their own assistive technologies.

But the argument is more complicated when you consider it more closely. It’s difficult if not impossible to design a great assistive technology without working closely, iteratively, and cooperatively with the person who will wear or use it. My colleague Hugh Herr designs cutting-edge prostheses for U.S. veterans who’ve lost legs, and the centerpiece of his lab is a treadmill where amputees test his limbs, giving him and his students feedback about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change. Without the active collaboration with the people he’s trying to help, he’s unable to make technological advances.

Disability rights activists have demanded “nothing about us without us,” a slogan that demands that policies should not be developed without the participation of those intended to benefit from those policies.

Design philosophies like participatory design and codesign bring this concept to the world of technology, demanding that technologies designed for a group of people be designed and built, in part, by those people. Codesign challenges many of the assumptions of engineering, requiring people who are used to working in isolation to build broad teams and to understand that those most qualified to offer a technical solution may be least qualified to identify a need or articulate a design problem. This method is hard and frustrating, but it’s also one of the best ways to ensure that you’re solving the right problem, rather than imposing your preferred solution on a situation."

"It is unlikely that anyone is going to invite Shane Snow to redesign a major prison any time soon, so spending more than 3,000 words urging you to reject his solution may be a waste of your time and mine. But the mistakes Snow makes are those that engineers make all the time when they turn their energy and creativity to solving pressing and persistent social problems. Looking closely at how Snow’s solutions fall short offers some hope for building better, fairer, and saner solutions.

The challenge, unfortunately, is not in offering a critique of how solutions go wrong. Excellent versions of that critique exist, from Morozov’s war on solutionism, to Courtney Martin’s brilliant “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” If it’s easy to design inappropriate solutions about problems you don’t fully understand, it’s not much harder to criticize the inadequacy of those solutions.

What’s hard is synthesis — learning to use technology as part of well-designed sociotechnical solutions. These solutions sometimes require profound advances in technology. But they virtually always require people to build complex, multifunctional teams that work with and learn from the people the technology is supposed to benefit.

Three students at the MIT Media Lab taught a course last semester called “Unpacking Impact: Reflecting as We Make.” They point out that the Media Lab prides itself on teaching students how to make anything, and how to turn what you make into a business, but rarely teaches reflection about what we make and what it might mean for society as a whole. My experience with teaching this reflective process to engineers is that it’s both important and potentially paralyzing, that once we understand the incompleteness of technology as a path for solving problems and the ways technological solutions relate to social, market, and legal forces, it can be hard to build anything at all.

I’m going to teach a new course this fall, tentatively titled “Technology and Social Change.” It’s going to include an examination of the four levers of social change Larry Lessig suggests in Code, and which I’ve been exploring as possible paths to civic engagement. The course will include deep methodological dives into codesign, and will examine using anthropology as tool for understanding user needs. It will look at unintended consequences, cases where technology’s best intentions fail, and cases where careful exploration and preparation led to technosocial systems that make users and communities more powerful than they were before.

I’m “calling my shot” here for two reasons. One, by announcing it publicly, I’m less likely to back out of it, and given how hard these problems are, backing out is a real possibility. And two, if you’ve read this far in this post, you’ve likely thought about this issue and have suggestions for what we should read and what exercises we should try in the course of the class — I hope you might be kind enough to share those with me.

In the end, I’m grateful for Shane Snow’s surreal, Black Mirror vision of the future prison both because it’s a helpful jumping-off point for understanding how hard it is to make change well by using technology, and because the U.S. prison system is a broken and dysfunctional system in need of change. But we need to find ways to disrupt better, to challenge knowledgeably, to bring the people they hope to benefit into the process. If you can, please help me figure out how we teach these ideas to the smart, creative people I work with—people who want to change the world, and are afraid of breaking it in the process."
technology  technosolutionism  solutionism  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  2016  ethanzuckerman  design  blackmirror  shanesnow  prisons  socialchange  lawrencelessig  anthropology  medialab  courtneymartin  nutraloaf  soylent  codesign  evgenymorozov  olcp  wikipedia  bias  racism  empathy  suziecagle  mitmedialab  mit  systems  systemsthinking  oculusrift  secondlife  vr  virtualreality  solitaryconfinement  incarceration  change  changemaking  ethnography  chelseabarabas  participatory  participatorydesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Problem With Ketchup Leather - The Atlantic
"The technology critic Evgeny Morozov calls this sort of thinking “solutionism”—the belief that all problems can be solved by a single and simple technological solution. The “problem” of being a living creature who has to eat and, therefore, who must take breaks from working can be “solved” by Soylent, which takes both the decision-making and the prep/fetch time out of eating. The “problem” of finding and using a regulated taxi service can be “solved” by Uber, which offers easier access to cars for hire.

Morozov is concerned about solutionism because it recasts social conditions that demand deeper philosophical and political consideration as simple hurdles for technology. The availability of certain types of solutions—the app-driven “sharing economy” and so forth—make them seem like the right solutions for problems just because they are available as solutions.

But solutionism has another, subtler downside: It trains us to see everything as a problem in the first place. Not just urban transit or productivity, but even hamburgers. Even ketchup!

The fact that tech rags like Tech Insider and Mashable are covering ketchup leather as technology or innovation exemplifies the issue. When presented as a solution, ketchup leather demands that a problem exist. And so we invent one—sogginess, for example.

In truth, what’s really going on at Plan Check, the Los Angeles restaurant credited with “solving” the burger problem through ketchup leather, is something far more modest—and more interesting—than solutionism allows.

Specifically, an ancient food-preparation technique, dehydration, is being applied in a novel and clever way. There’s no problem whatsoever, and certainly not one solved by dried slaps of tomato paste. If your burgers are soggy, it probably means they’re not being cooked to proper temperature. Some folks love their meat medium-rare, but a medium or well-done burger makes for better hand-edible cooked sandwiches (and also better protects you from the risk of food contamination).

When seen from a culinary rather than a technological vantage point, the ketchup-leather technique doesn’t solve a problem so much as it offers a different way of experiencing ketchup on burgers. The pleasure of a cheeseburger comes from the hot patty’s ability to melt and meld with the cheese, yielding a glorious merger of flavors. When squeezed or even spread, condiments must either be applied to the bun or atop the patty. Both approaches resist incorporating the flavors into the burger itself. By dehydrating tomato paste, Plan Check is able to create a thin layer of ketchup flavor that reconstitutes into the burger like cheese.

It also serves an ornamental and exhibitionist purpose, of course. Anyone who’s made meatloaf knows that getting tomato flavor into ground beef is a “solved problem,” as it were. But the delight of watching ketchup melt like cheese is one that burger lovers are justified in wanting to experience. To encounter familiar materials in new ways is one of the delights of dining."
ianbogost  food  ketchup  evgenymorozov  solutionism  design  innovation  problemsolving  technosolutionism  2015 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Imperial Designs | The Unforgiving Minute
[via: ]


Here’s an example: the Chand Baori Stepwell in Rajasthan, built in the 8th and 9th centuries. (You can watch a video about Chand Baori, and another about stepwells, based on an article by journalist Victoria Lautman.) Stepwells were a critical part of water management, particularly in western India and other dry areas of Asia, the earliest known stepwell forms date from around 600AD. The Mughal empire encouraged stepwell construction, but the administrators British empire decided that stepwells should be replaced with pumped and piped water systems modelled on those developed in the UK – a ‘superior’ system. It was of course also a system that moved from a communal and social model of water management to a centralised model of water management – and the British loved centralised management, because it’s easier to control.


Here’s another model of water management – the Playpump, which received a lot of media attention and donor support after it was proposed in 2005. The basic idea was that kids playing on the big roundabout would pump water up from the well for the whole village. This doesn’t seem very imperial at first sight: it looks like these kids are having fun, and the village is getting water. Unfortunately it was a massive failure because it flat out didn’t work, although the Playpumps organisation is still around; if you want to know more about that failure, read this article in the Guardian and this lessons learned from the Case Foundation, and listen to this Frontline radio show on PBS. TL;DR: the Playpump didn’t work because it was designed by outsiders who didn’t understand the communities: a classic case of design imperialism. There are lots of examples just like this, where the failure is easy to see but the imperialism is more difficult to spot.

About 5 years ago there was a big hoo-hah about an article called “Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?” by Bruce Nussbaum. Nussbaum accused people and organisations working on design that would alleviate poverty as yet another imperial effort. This depends on defining “empire” as a power relationship – an unequal power relationship, where the centre holds the power (and resources) and the periphery will benefit from those resources only when the centre decides to give it to them. At the time, there was a lot of discussion around this idea, but that discussion has died now. That’s not because it’s no longer an issue: it’s because a new imperial model, more subtle than Nussbaum’s idea, has successfully taken root, and few people in the design world even realise it."


During the talk I mentioned that I was planning to show video of robot dogs, but I didn’t because they freak me out. They don’t really freak me out – I think they’re astonishing feats of technology – but what they say about our attitudes towards warfare worries me. They’re being built by Boston Dynamics, who started out under military contracts from DARPA, have recently been acquired by Google X, and who post a ton of promo videos. Particularly funny is this supercut video of robots falling over.

One question raised the issue of whether our education system enables people to recognise the trap that they might be in, and give them the tools to make their own way. The short answer is no. The industrial model of education is not equipped for the 21st century, although I remain hopeful that the internet will also disrupt education as it has other sectors. At the same time I am sceptical of the impact of the most-hyped projects (such as the Khan Academy and the wide range of MOOCs) – it seems to me that we need something that learns from a wider range of educational approaches.

We also discussed whether there is an underlying philosophy to the invisible empire of the internet. I believe that there is, although it isn’t necessarily made explicit. One early artefact of this philosophy is A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace; one early analysis of aspects of it is The Californian Ideology. Evgeny Morozov is interesting on this topic, but with a pinch of salt, since in a relatively short time he has gone from incisive commentator to intellectual troll. It’s interesting that a few Silicon Valley big beasts are trained in philosophy, although to be honest this training doesn’t seem to be reflected in their actual philosophy."

[See also:
via: ]
designimperialism  design  via:tealtan  humanitariandesign  2015  africa  paulcurrion  control  colonialism  technology  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  siliconvalley  philosophy  politics  mooc  moocs  doublebind  education  bostondynamics  googlex  darpa  robots  yuvalnoahharari  californianideology  wikihouse  globalconstructionset  3dprinting  disobedientobjects  anarchism  anarchy  legibility  internet  online  web  nezaralsayyad  smarthphones  mobile  phones  benedictevans  migration  refugees  fiveeyes  playpumps  water  chandbaori  trevorpaglen 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."

"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."

"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."

"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Inequalities
"“Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” you’ll often hear politicians and education reform types say.

"To the contrary, I maintain that civil rights remain the civil rights issue of our generation. When we see, for example, the Supreme Court overturn part of the Voting Rights Act, when we see rampant police violence against marginalized groups, when we see backlash against affirmative action and against Title IX protections, when we see pervasive discrimination – institutionalized – in people’s daily lives, when we see widespread inequalities – socioeconomic stratification based on race, ethnicity, gender, geography – we need to admit: there are things that, as Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued, the “education gospel cannot fix.”

And yet the dominant narrative – the gospel, if you will – about education and, increasingly education technology, is that it absolutely is “the fix.”

Education technology will close the achievement gap; education technology will close the opportunity gap. Education technology will revolutionize; education technology will democratize. Or so we are told. That's the big message at this week's ASU-GSV Summit, where education technology investors and entrepreneurs and politicians have gathered (registration: $2995) to talk about "equity." (Equity and civil rights, that is; not equity as investing in exchange for stock options and a seat on the Board of Directors, I should be clear. Although I'm guessing most of the conversations there were actually about the latter.)

"The rhetoric of “open” and education technology – particularly with regards to MOOCs and OER – needs to be interrogated. “Open access” is not sufficient. Indeed, as research by Justin Reich suggests – he’s also one of the authors of the MOOC study I just cited, incidentally – open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities. A digital Matthew effect, if you will, where new technologies actually extend the advantages of the already advantaged.

In his research on OER, Reich looked at schools’ uses of wikis – some 180,000 wikis – and measured the opportunities that these provide students “to develop 21st-century skills such as expert thinking, complex communication, and new media literacy.” Among the findings: “Wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st-century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students.” Reich found that students in more affluent schools were more likely to use wikis to collaborate and to build portfolios and presentations to showcase their work, for example.

Reich’s assertion that education technology broadens rather than erases educational inequality is echoed elsewhere. An article published last year in the journal Economic Inquiry, for example, found that “the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest, but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.” Importantly, the negative impact was the greatest among low income students, in part the authors suggested because “student computer use is more effectively monitored and channeled toward productive ends in more affluent homes.” That is, students from affluent homes have a different sort of digital literacy and different expectations – themselves and from their parents – about what a computer is for."

"Anyon’s work is critical as it highlights how students’ relationship to “the system of ownership of symbolic and physical capital, to authority and control, and to their own productive activity” are developed differently in working class, middle class, and elite schools. Her work helps us to see too how the traditional practices of school might be reinforced, re-inscribed by technology – not, as some like to argue, magically disrupted, with these hierarchies magically flattened. Menial tasks are still menial if done on a computer. To argue otherwise is ed-tech solutionism – dangerous and wrong.

That’s not to say that education technology changes nothing, or changes little more than moving the analog to the digital. There are profoundly important questions we must ask about the shifts that education technology might bring about, particularly if we have our eye towards justice. How does education technology alter the notion of “work” in school, for example – students’ labor as well as teachers’ labor? Who owns all the content and data that students create when using educational technology? How do technology companies use this data to build their algorithms; how do they use it to build profiles and models? How do they use it to monitor, assess, predict, surveil? Who is surveilled; and who is more apt to be disciplined for what’s uncovered?

If we’re only concerned about the digital divide, we are likely to overlook these questions. We cannot simply ask “Who has access to Internet-connected devices at home?” We need to ask how Internet-connected devices are used – at home and at school?"

"This surveillance is increasingly pervasive, at both the K–12 and at the college level. New education technologies create more data; new education technology regimes – education policy regimes – demand more data."

"The architecture of education technology is not neutral.

Despite all the hype and hope about revolution and access and opportunity that these new technologies are supposed to provide us, they do not negate hierarchy, history, privilege, power. They reflect those. They channel it. They concentrate it, in new ways and in old."

"Education technology simply does not confront systemic inequalities. Or rather, it often substitutes access to a computing device or high speed Internet for institutional or structural change. Education technology routinely fails to address power or privilege. It fails to recognize, let alone examine, its history. It insists instead on stories about meritocracy and magic and claims about “blindness.”

I want to end here on what is a bit of a tangent, I suppose, about blindness – the things in technology we refuse to see.

This is a picture from Baotou in Inner Mongolia. Tim Maughan published a story last week on the BBC website about this artificial lake “filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge” – the toxic result of mining rare earth minerals, used in our modern computing devices, many of which are assembled – at least in part – in China.

That means this toxic lake is a byproduct of education technology. It grows as our fervor for new devices grows. Can we really say we’re architecting an equitable educational future if we ignore this foundation?

This is the great challenge for those of us in education: to address and not dismiss the toxicity. Adding technology does not scrub it away. To the contrary, we need to recognize where and how and why education technology actually makes things worse."
audreywatters  education  edtech  2015  technology  inequality  equity  mooc  moocs  anantagarwal  edx  dabanks  meritocracy  privilege  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  suveillance  natashasinger  pearson  aclu  eff  rocketshipschools  seymourpapert  carpediemschools  arneduncan  civilrights  justinreich  jeananyon  solutionism  charterschools 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [ ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [ ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov: Author of the Quixote?
" With just 4,000 words at his disposal in the New Yorker Morozov was generous to spend two of them evaluating Medina’s work in passing as an “entertaining history.” Two words might not sound like much, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (revised edition) summed up Earth and everyone on it as “mostly harmless.” Heck, I’ve seen posters for really bad movies that blew up fainter and shorter praise in huge letters (“Energetic!” Some guy you’ve never heard of – Huffington Post). Despite this clear signposting in the tenth paragraph some dimwits did not grasp that the piece was a book review. With what little respect might be due to them, this is clear their fault, not his. He simply did not have enough space “to repeat what was already obvious.” Let me observe in passing that Morozov is wasting his new piece on Tumblr. With a little editing it too could be published in the New Yorker. I suggest the “Shouts & Murmurs” section.

I have particular sympathy for Morozov as a glance at his Twitter feed over the past month shows that he is beset with idiots on all sides. People with paralyzed brains in startups. Events “about bullshit.” The silliness of Marshal McLuhan. The “stupidity” of Checky. The dullards who retweet him without recognizing his sarcasm. Bravest of all, a tweet observing “Got nothing to say? Add the word ‘ontology’ to it – at least, it will get published.” Perhaps he had, at that very moment in his research, come across Peter Galison’s classic paper “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Weiner and the Cybernetic Vision.” His books tell a similarly moving story. As the only person in the world who is both intelligent and principled he puts a succession of idiots, hacks, and corporate shills to shame. It’s the lot of the genius to be unappreciated in his own lifetime.

His plight is captured eloquently by his twitter tagline, “There are useful idiots. Look around.” Let’s do that right now. All of you line up. Look left. Look right. One of you is an idiot. Probably that guy on your left. I think he’s drooling, but it’s hard to tell with the light down here. The woman on the right doesn’t look too sharp either. Chances are that they’re both idiots. Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if all three of you are idiots. Some of you don’t even go to Harvard.

So, implausible as this might seem, here’s why I think Morozov is being unduly modest about his own immense potential. Over the past six months I’ve been conducting my own unpublished, unwritten, research project on a little known figure of the early twentieth century: Pierre Menard. Menard is remembered a prolific yet minor scholar, author of five monographs and a number of articles on a range of topics. Like Morozov he spread his talent widely.

Yet Menard’s true, and little acknowledged, genius lay in an entirely separate project. He was attempting a supremely audacious literary feat: reproducing Don Quixote without, and here comes the hard part, having read it since early childhood. He did not want to compose another Quixote —which is easy— but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes. By the time of his death years of meticulous research had allowed Menard to independently reproduce significant portions of the text. He was one of the forgotten greats of world literature.

Menard’s challenge was more formidable that Cervantes’, just as Morozov faced a more difficult task than Medina. As Menard wrote, “To compose the Quixote at the beginning of the seventeenth century was a reasonable undertaking, necessary and perhaps even unavoidable; at the beginning of the twentieth, it is almost impossible. It is not in vain that three hundred years have gone by, filled with exceedingly complex events. Amongst them, to mention only one, is the Quixote itself.”

Looking side by side at identical passages from Menard and Cervantes it is clear that Menard’s was the greater accomplishment. To write in an alien tongue, three centuries later and still produce the same words was a remarkable and subtle triumph. Since Menard’s death none have dared to take up this challenge, but given his remarkable talent as a replicator of research I think Morozov might be able to finish the job. There are other parallels. Menard was drawn to Don Quixote as “an entertaining book.” Morozov’s research began with Medina’s “entertaining history.” Both authors transcended their sources by reproducing them.

They also share working methods. Menard spent sleepless nights scribbling thousands of draft pages, which he meticulously destroyed. As he noted, “the philosophers publish the intermediary stages of their labor in pleasant volumes and I have resolved to do away with those stages.” Only the brilliant end product remains. Morozov tweeted to an admirer that his method was “old school: most of is (sic) in my head and occasional notes in Open Office. I am blessed with good memory.”

Morozov’s ability to repeat interviews with Medina’s oral history subjects to reproduce the same quotes she used in her book is the surest sign of his readiness for this awesome challenge. Morozov mentions interviewing Flores and Brian Eno, but again his modesty is deceptive. I’m sure that he also interviewed Ángel Parra (quote p. 133) and Tomas Kohn (quote p. 132) to independently reproduce the remarks from their 2008 interviews with Medina that appear both in her book and in his article. He showed particular ingenuity in discovering that a quote Medina incorrectly attributed to a 2006 interview she conducted with Raul Espejo (quote p. 186 fn. 53, p. 288) was actually something that “one of Cybersyn’s directors remarked at the time.” Contemporary remarks are more historically reliable that those given decades later, so this is another way in which Morozov’s is a more profound historical contribution than Medina’s.

As Jorge Luis Borges noted in “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” an entertaining history article, Menard believed that “Every man should be capable of all ideas and I understand that in the future this will be the case.” We live in that future, and Evgeny Morosov is our champion. It would be a crime for him to spend years working on a Ph.D. thesis with footnotes and the other accoutrements of mediocrity. Let him instead do what only he can do: take up the project of Menard and complete the Quixote.

There must be no more grumbling against this great and humble scholar. Cabal dismissed."
borges  evgenymorozov  satire  thomashaigh  2014  academia  writing  plagiarism  attribution  cybersyn  quixote  thenewyorker  research  footnotes  memory  pierremenard  edenmedina  donquixote  humor 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov | Don't believe the hype, the 'sharing economy' masks a failing economy | Comment is free | The Observer
"But the broader problem with these optimistic, utopian tales is that they rationalise the pathologies of the current political and economic system, presenting them as our conscious lifestyle choices. It's nice to be in a position to choose between renting and owning but this is a choice that many people simply do not get to make, settling on "renting" as a default option.

Given vast youth unemployment, stagnating incomes, and skyrocketing property prices, today's sharing economy functions as something of a magic wand. Those who already own something can survive by monetising their discomfort: for example, they can earn cash by occasionally renting out their apartments and staying with relatives instead. Those who own nothing, on the other hand, also get to occasionally enjoy a glimpse of the good life – built entirely on goods they do not own.

The supposed environmental benefits of the sharing economy are likewise laughable: while we are asked to share our cars with neighbours – it's cheaper and greener! – the rich keep enjoying their yachts, limos and private jets, all while the real polluters – oil companies and other industrial giants – get away with even worse offences.

There's no denying that the sharing economy can – and probably does – make the consequences of the current financial crisis more bearable. However, in tackling the consequences, it does nothing to address the causes. It's true that, thanks to advances in the information technology, some of us can finally get by with less – chiefly, by relying on more effective distribution of existing resources. But there's nothing to celebrate here: it's like handing everybody earplugs to deal with intolerable street noise instead of doing something about the noise itself.

Sensors, smartphones, apps: these are our generation's earplugs. That we no longer notice how thoroughly they banish anything that even smacks of politics from our lives is itself a telling sign: deafness – to injustice and inequality but, above all, to our own dire state of affairs – is the price we'll pay for this dose of immediate comfort."
evgenymorozov  economics  sharing  politics  policy  sharingeconomy  2014  uber  autoshare  airbnb  taskrabbit  lyft  renting  inequality  injustice 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Facebook’s Gateway Drug -
"Consider the role of “identity services,” the mesh of publicly issued identifications that has traditionally meant things like driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, but has come to include things like Facebook accounts. In a short essay outlining the vision behind, Mr. Zuckerberg says one of its goals is to offer credit and identity infrastructure “that is still nascent in many developing countries.” Such services might be of some help in developing countries. But is Facebook the best entity to provide them?"

"Any emergent social movements concerned with matters of universal and affordable connectivity — as opposed to the corporatism of Silicon Valley — should not take this premise for granted. Nor should they fall for the pseudo-humanitarian rhetoric of rights espoused by technology companies. Whenever Mark Zuckerberg says that “connectivity is a human right,” as he put it in his essay, you should think twice before agreeing. There is, after all, little joy in obtaining free access to an empty library, or browsing a bookstore with empty pockets — which is, in effect, what offers, while holding out the promise of robust content, if users will pay, a few cents at a time, for the privilege.

In this way, Facebook and are following a well-trod path. As the World Bank has demonstrated, when development becomes just a means of making a buck, the losers will always be the people at the bottom. Thus, to Silicon Valley’s question of “Is Internet access a human right?” one could respond by turning the tables: What kind of “Internet,” and what kind of “access”?"
africa  facebook  global  mobile  identity  services  evgenymorozov  2012  markzuckerberg  worldbank  colonialism  internet  online  web  sliconvalley  capitalism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov: Hackers, Makers, and the Next Industrial Revolution
"The kind of Internet metaphysics that informs Anderson’s account sees ingrained traits of technology where others might see a cascade of decisions made by businessmen and policymakers. This is why Anderson starts by confusing the history of the Web with the history of capitalism and ends by speculating about the future of the maker movement, which, on closer examination, is actually speculation on the future of capitalism. What Anderson envisages—more of the same but with greater diversity and competition—may come to pass. But to set the threshold for the third industrial revolution so low just because someone somewhere forgot to regulate A.T. & T. (or Google) seems rather unambitious [...]

[Homebrew Computer Club leader] Felsenstein took [Ivan] Illich’s advice to heart, not least because it resembled his own experience with ham radios, which were easy to understand and fiddle with. If the computer were to assist ordinary folks in their political struggles, the computer needed a ham-radio-like community of hobbyists. Such a club would help counter the power of I.B.M., then the dominant manufacturer of large and expensive computers, and make computers smaller, cheaper, and more useful in political struggles.

Then Steve Jobs showed up. Felsenstein’s political project, of building computers that would undermine institutions and allow citizens to share information and organize, was recast as an aesthetic project of self-reliance and personal empowerment. For Jobs, who saw computers as “a bicycle for our minds,” it was of only secondary importance whether one could peek inside or program them.

Jobs had his share of sins, but the naïveté of Illich and his followers shouldn’t be underestimated. Seeking salvation through tools alone is no more viable as a political strategy than addressing the ills of capitalism by cultivating a public appreciation of arts and crafts. Society is always in flux, and the designer can’t predict how various political, social, and economic systems will come to blunt, augment, or redirect the power of the tool that is being designed. Instead of deinstitutionalizing society, the radicals would have done better to advocate reinstitutionalizing it: pushing for political and legal reforms to secure the transparency and decentralization of power they associated with their favorite technology

[...] A reluctance to talk about institutions and political change doomed the Arts and Crafts movement, channelling the spirit of labor reform into consumerism and D.I.Y. tinkering. The same thing is happening to the movement’s successors. Our tech imagination is at its zenith [but our institutional imagination has stalled, and with it the democratizing potential of radical technologies]. We carry personal computers in our pockets—nothing could be more decentralized than this!—but have surrendered control of our data, which is stored on centralized servers, far away from our pockets. The hackers won their fight against I.B.M.—only to lose it to Facebook and Google. And the spooks at the National Security Agency must be surprised to learn that gadgets were supposed to usher in the “de-institutionalization of society.”"
technology  computer  gadget  history  criticism  intellectualproperty  data  labor  remake  regulation  transparency  power  inequality  hierarchy  privacy  politics  diy  consumers  consumerism  apple  ivanillich  google  evgenymorozov  ip  makermovement  making  makers  capitalism  chrisanderson  2014  via:Taryn  toolsforconviviality  leefelsenstein  technosolutionism  stevejobs  stewartbrand  wholeearthcatalog  tools  murraybookchin  society  homebrewers  institutions  change  reforms  conviviality 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov on Why Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise | MIT Technology Review
"Three technological trends underpinned Simitis’s analysis. First, he noted, even back then, every sphere of social interaction was mediated by information technology—he warned of “the intensive retrieval of personal data of virtually every employee, taxpayer, patient, bank customer, welfare recipient, or car driver.” As a result, privacy was no longer solely a problem of some unlucky fellow caught off-guard in an awkward situation; it had become everyone’s problem. Second, new technologies like smart cards and videotex not only were making it possible to “record and reconstruct individual activities in minute detail” but also were normalizing surveillance, weaving it into our everyday life. Third, the personal information recorded by these new technologies was allowing social institutions to enforce standards of behavior, triggering “long-term strategies of manipulation intended to mold and adjust individual conduct.”

Modern institutions certainly stood to gain from all this. Insurance companies could tailor cost-saving programs to the needs and demands of patients, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry. Police could use newly available databases and various “mobility profiles” to identify potential criminals and locate suspects. Welfare agencies could suddenly unearth fraudulent behavior.

But how would these technologies affect us as citizens—as subjects who participate in understanding and reforming the world around us, not just as consumers or customers who merely benefit from it?

In case after case, Simitis argued, we stood to lose. Instead of getting more context for decisions, we would get less; instead of seeing the logic driving our bureaucratic systems and making that logic more accurate and less Kafkaesque, we would get more confusion because decision making was becoming automated and no one knew how exactly the algorithms worked. We would perceive a murkier picture of what makes our social institutions work; despite the promise of greater personalization and empowerment, the interactive systems would provide only an illusion of more participation. As a result, “interactive systems … suggest individual activity where in fact no more than stereotyped reactions occur.”
democracy  internet  politics  privacy  information  surveillance  evgenymorozov  2013  spirossimitis  transparency  technology 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Internet Ideology: Why We Are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley - Debatten - FAZ
"Reason number one: Silicon Valley firms are building what I call “invisible barbed wire” around our lives. We are promised more freedom, more openness, more mobility; we are told we can roam wherever and whenever we want. But the kind of emancipation that we actually get is fake emancipation; it’s the emancipation of a just-released criminal wearing an ankle bracelet.

Reason number two: Silicon Valley has destroyed our ability to imagine other models for running and organizing our communication infrastructure. Forget about models that aren’t based on advertising and that do not contribute to the centralization of data on private servers located in America. To suggest that we need to look into other – perhaps, even publicly-provided alternatives –is to risk being accused of wanting to “break the Internet.” We have succumbed to what the Brazilian social theorist Roberto Unger calls “the dictatorship of no alternatives”: we are asked to accept that Gmail is the best and only possible way to do email, and that Facebook is the best and only possible way to do social networking.

Reason number three: the simplistic epistemology of Silicon Valley has become a model that other institutions are beginning to emulate. The trouble with Silicon Valley is not just that it enables the NSA –it also encourages, even emboldens them. It inspires the NSA to keep searching for connections in a world of meaningless links, to record every click, to ensure that no interaction goes unnoticed, undocumented and unanalyzed. Like Silicon Valley, NSA assumes that everything is interconnected: if we can’t yet link two pieces of data, it’s because we haven’t looked deep enough – or we need a third piece of data, to be collected in the future, to make sense of it all.

Do people in Silicon Valley realize the mess that they are dragging us into? I doubt it. The “invisible barbed wire” remains invisible even to its builders. Whoever is building a tool to link MOOCs to biometric identification isn’t much concerned with what this means for our freedoms: “freedom” is not their department, they are just building cool tools for spreading knowledge!

This is where the “digital debate” leads us astray: it knows how to talk about tools but is barely capable of talking about social, political, and economic systems that these tools enable and disable, amplify and pacify. When these systems are once again brought to the fore of our analysis, the “digital” aspect of such tool-talk becomes extremely boring, for it explains nothing. Deleuze warned of such tool-centrism back in 1990:

“One can of course see how each kind of society corresponds to a particular kind of machine – with simple mechanical machines corresponding to sovereign societies, thermodynamic machines to disciplinary societies, cybernetic machines and computers to control societies. But the machines don’t explain anything, you have to analyze the collective arrangements of which the machines are just one component.”

In the last two decades, our ability to make such connections between machines and “collective arrangements” has all but atrophied. This happened, I suspect, because we’ve presumed that these machines come from “cyberspace,” that they are of the “online” and “digital” world – in other words, that they were bestowed upon us by the gods of “the Internet.” And “the Internet,” as Silicon Valley keeps reminding us, is the future. So to oppose these machines was to oppose the future itself.

Well, this is all bunk: there’s no “cyberspace” and “the digital debate” is just a bunch of sophistries concocted by Silicon Valley that allow its executives to sleep well at night. (It pays well too!) Haven’t we had enough? Our first step should be to rob them of their banal but highly effective language. Our second step should be to rob them of their flawed history. Our third step should be to re-inject politics and economics into this debate. Let’s bury the “digital debate” for good – along with an oversupply of intellectual mediocrity it has produced in the meantime."
siliconvalley  technology  politics  economics  freedom  privacy  evgenymorozov  2013  society  technosolutionism  moocs  communication  information  tracking  californianideology  mooc 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Information Consumerism: The Price of Hypocrisy - Überwachung - FAZ
"In as much as the Snowden affair has forced us to confront these issues, it’s been a good thing for democracy. Let’s face it: most of us would rather not think about the ethical implications of smart toothbrushes or the hypocrisy involved in Western rhetoric towards Iran or the genuflection that more and more European leaders show in front of Silicon Valley and its awful, brain-damaging language, the Siliconese. The least we can do is to acknowledge that the crisis is much deeper and that it stems from intellectual causes as much as from legal ones. Information consumerism, like its older sibling energy consumerism, is a much more dangerous threat to democracy than the NSA."
edwardsnowden  2013  evgenymorozov  ethics  technology  nsa  informationconsumerism  consumerism  hypocrisy  piracy  politics  morality  economics  civics  citizenship  markets  capitalism  law  legal  internetofthings  internet  web  freedom  iot 
july 2013 by robertogreco
I've Seen the Worst Memes of My Generation Destroyed by Madness
"Cultural critic Evgeny Morozov has just written the essay equivalent of The Social Network. "The Meme Hustlers," published yesterday in The Baffler, is a fictional-but-true account of a well-known Silicon Valley figure, O'Reilly Books publisher Tim O'Reilly. It's also a story about the future that Silicon Valley pioneers want to build for the world, using corrupt memes that could wreck democracy."

"What disgusts Morozov about the slide from free software to open source is that a revolutionary idea -- radical transparency, radical sharing -- became yet another corporate landscape with a little bit of cooperation between companies. Morozov blames O'Reilly's "meme engineering" for this shift, for popularizing open source at the expense of freedom.

The real problem, however, is the way this shift to open source has spawned a creepy kind of political futurism devoted to "open government.""

"More importantly, Morozov believes this future will fragment our citizenry, eroding group solidarity and turning us into little monads who can't organize a protest or social movement. After all, we'll be busy trying to set up DiY schools and build roads that our government stopped providing because doing so was inefficient.

It's a dystopian vision of the open future, and one that's worth paying attention to.

As a coda, it's worth noting that Morozov's rhetorical style in this essay has a history that stretches back as far as the one he attributes to O'Reilly. This is the kind of article that made The Baffler famous back in the 1990s, when founder Thomas Frank ran the zine as the intellectual wing of an indie movement whose biggest political enemies were artists and thinkers who had "sold out" to corporate capitalism. Morozov's essay eviscerates O'Reilly's career in order to out him as a fake progressive who confuses entrepreneurialism with political freedom. In this story, O'Reilly is the indie rocker who sold out -- or maybe the hipster marketer who induced other indie rockers to sell out. Either way, O'Reilly's foundational crime is taking something radical and transformative like free software and mainstreaming it by making it palatable to entrepreneurs and consumers. And this is the kind of mainstreaming that also turns participatory, responsible governments into pathetic tools of crony capitalism and (in a worst-case scenario) privatized military forces.

As I said, the essay must be read as an allegory about a set of memes, not as a profile of a man. But Morozov is correct to identify a disturbing slipperiness at the core of the "open government" meme. It sounds like freedom but is really just another way of turning you into a passive data point, easily mined by the highest bidder."
annaleenewitz  timoreilly  evgenymorozov  2013  technocracy  opensource  rhetoric  writing  opengovernment  californianideology  siliconvalley  libertarianism  freedom  markets  wealth  capitalism  miltarism 
april 2013 by robertogreco
5 Things About Ubiquitous Computing That Make Me Nervous | Design Culture Lab
"[I]t is difficult to develop a critical perspective whilst in school that includes the possibility of *not* designing something, simply because we force them to make things."

"[O]ur imaginations are not as strong when we come to the task of redesigning design itself."

"to understand … *process* as a form of social, cultural, political, ethical, etc. *agency*"


"1. Technological determinism & defeatism

Or, the cultural belief that technological development and progress is inevitable, and we have to adapt.

2. Technological solutionism

Or, the cultural belief that technology is the best solution to life’s problems.

3. Quantification imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that everything can and should be measured, and that everyday life would be better if all our decisions were based on these data.

4. Connection & sharing imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that everyday life would be better if more information was transmissible and accessible to people.

5. Convenience & efficiency imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that people would be better off if there were more technologies to make daily life more convenient, and common tasks more efficient."

"Like many students facing a critique of their practice, they struggled to understand how they could proceed. Some still focussed on how to provide the right solutions to the right problems (I asked who should get to decide what is right); others wanted to know how they could predict the likelihood of something bad happening (I pointed back to #3); and a few wanted ethical guidelines (I wondered if this fell under #2, or if I needed to add a #6, Prescriptive imperatives). Taking a more pedagogical perspective, a couple of students recognised that it is difficult to develop a critical perspective whilst in school that includes the possibility of not designing something, simply because we force them to make things."

"A few students even accused me of being defeatist and anti-technology in my critique, but I responded that I never said that ubicomp shouldn’t be designed, and neither did I say that we couldn’t create technologies in more critical, or interrogative ways. A serious problem, I think, is that our imaginations are not as strong when we come to the task of redesigning design itself. Design still suffers, for example, from having contradictory interests in sustainability and planned obsolescence, and still responds to the perils of mass production through the design of small-run luxury goods. In these, and other cases, one problem is simply substituted for another–and the solutionist imperative encourages us to respond by designing and producing more and more in turn.

In my class this term we’re using Anne Balsamo’s Designing Culture as a starting point for identifying when, where and how designers make decisions. For all our focus on teaching students to design digital and physical products, I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of getting them to understand their process as a form of social, cultural, political, ethical, etc. agency. There is still, I think, too much emphasis on design process as some sort of mythical, mystical, essentially ineffable, act of creation.

This problem, I think, is further compounded in more critical approaches, where design effectively begins and ends with the creative act."

"By articulating “things that make me nervous” instead of talking about “things that are bad,” I had hoped to help students realise that critique is also not a final act. I wanted them to keep moving, to keep acting–but with greater awareness, responsibility and accountability. Critique shouldn’t stop us from acting or, in my opinion, tell us how to act. Critical awareness should help us situate ourselves, make active decisions to do some things and not others, and accept the consequences of these actions for ourselves and others."


[See also:

"And indeed true “interrogative” works, in my estimation, are best when they suspend questions indefinitely. They press and hold two or more opposing functions or symbolic/expressive gestures together at once, without resolve."

"resisting the seduction of “solutions” in design where “problems” become invisible"


"Sometimes *not* building is the right answer, but it is not one that architects are trained to recommend." ]
annegalloway  criticalthinking  design  making  thinking  ubicomp  awareness  adesign  evgenymorozov  solutionism  technologicalsolutionism  2013  defeatism  determinism  quantification  measurement  data  everydaylife  efficiency  productivity  ethics  pedagogy  howwethink  howweteach  crticism  designcriticism  annebalsamo  decisionmaking  criticaldesign  remkoolhaas  sarahendren  inquiry  questions  questioning  systemsthinking  agency  cv  tcsnmy  products  technology  convenience  sharing  connections  culture  capitalism  teaching  learning  imagination  designeducation  education  unschooling  deschooling  canon  shrequest1 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Machines of Laughter and Forgetting -
"The hidden truth about many attempts to “bury” technology is that they embody an amoral and unsustainable vision. Pick any electrical appliance in your kitchen. The odds are that you have no idea how much electricity it consumes, let alone how it compares to other appliances and households. This ignorance is neither natural nor inevitable; it stems from a conscious decision by the designer of that kitchen appliance to free up your “cognitive resources” so that you can unleash your inner Oscar Wilde on “contemplating” other things. Multiply such ignorance by a few billion, and global warming no longer looks like a mystery."

"Imagine being told that “you visited 592 Web sites this week. That’s .5 times the number of Web pages on the whole Internet in 1994!”

The goal here is not to hit us with a piece of statistics — sheer numbers rarely lead to complex narratives — but to tell a story that can get us thinking about things we’d rather not be thinking about. So let us not give in to technophobia just yet: we should not go back to doing everything by hand just because it can lead to more thinking.

Rather, we must distribute the thinking process equally. Instead of having the designer think through all the moral and political implications of technology use before it reaches users — an impossible task — we must find a way to get users to do some of that thinking themselves."

"While devices-as-problem-solvers seek to avoid friction, devices-as-troublemakers seek to create an “aesthetic of friction” that engages users in new ways. Will such extra seconds of thought — nay, contemplation — slow down civilization? They well might. But who said that stopping to catch a breath on our way to the abyss is not a sensible strategy?"
design  friction  frictionlessness  seams  scars  ambient  evgenymorozov  canon  civilization  thinking  2013  slow  slowtechnology  transparency  problemsolving  problemshowing  contemplation  via:anne  cognitiveresources  technology  globalwaming  mindfulness  narrative  forgetting  memory  seamlessness 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism
"This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human judgments with timeless truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism. Bruno Latour distinguishes between “matters of facts,” the old unrealistic way of presenting all knowledge claims as stable, natural, and apolitical, and “matters of concern,” a more realistic mode that recognizes that knowledge claims are usually partial and reflect a particular set of problems, interests, and agendas. For Latour, one way to reform our political system is to acknowledge that knowledge is made of matters of concern and to identify all those affected by such matters; the proliferation of self-tracking—and the displacement of thinking by numbers—risks forever grounding us in the matters-of-fact paradigm. Once we abandon thinking for optimizing, it becomes much more difficult not only to enact but to actually imagine possible reforms of the system being “measured” and “tracked.”"

“Technostructuralists,” he argues, “view information technologies ‘neither as technologies of freedom nor of tyranny but primarily as technologies of power that lock into existing or emerging technostructures of power.’ Thus, any given technology is allowed to centralize and decentralize, homogenize and pluralize, empower and disempower simultaneously.”

"I’ve been told quite often that I’m too negative. Too critical. Too unsupportive of education technology entrepreneurship. Too loud. Too mean. And lately, I’ve wanted to retort, "Maybe. But I’m no Evgeny Morozov” — even though, truth be told, I think ed-tech desperately needs one. Ed-tech, once so deeply grounded in progressive educational theory and practice, has been largely emptied of both."
audreywatters  2013  evgenymorozov  technology  solutionism  technosolutionism  education  mattersoffacts  mattersofconcern  criticalthinking  quantifiedself  knowledge  brunolatour  optimization  efficience  scale  questions  questioning  edtech  technostructuralism  kevinkelly  janmcgonigal  jeffjarvis  clayshirky  timoreilly  timwu  books  problemsolving  problemdefining 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov: 'We are abandoning all the checks and balances' | Technology | The Observer
"Do we want [technological devices] to obviate problem solving? To make our lives frictionless? Or do we want these new devices to enhance our problem solving – not to make problems disappear but assist us with solving them?"

"I have bought myself a type of laptop from which it was very easy to remove the Wi-Fi card – so when I go to a coffee shop or the library I have no way to get online. However, at home I have cable connection. So I bought a safe with a timed combination lock. It is basically the most useful artefact in my life. I lock my phone and my router cable in my safe so I'm completely free from any interruption and I can spend the entire day, weekend or week reading and writing. [...] To circumvent my safe I have to open a panel with a screwdriver, so I have to hide all my screwdrivers in the safe as well."
evgenymorozov  google  howwework  disruption  concentration  2013  attention  via:rodcorp 
march 2013 by robertogreco
How Facebook could get you arrested | Technology | The Observer
"The promise of predictive policing might be real, but so are its dangers. The solutionist impulse needs to be restrained. Police need to subject their algorithms to external scrutiny and address their biases. Social networking sites need to establish clear standards for how much predictive self-policing they'll actually do and how far they will go in profiling their users and sharing this data with police. While Facebook might be more effective than police in predicting crime, it cannot be allowed to take on these policing functions without also adhering to the same rules and regulations that spell out what police can and cannot do in a democracy. We cannot circumvent legal procedures and subvert democratic norms in the name of efficiency alone."
facebook  police  surveillance  ethics  bigdata  legal  law  democracy  justice  policing  solutionism  security  2013  evgenymorozov  socialnetworking  technology  internet  web 
march 2013 by robertogreco
future shock - / current issue
“Fixing government” for Newsom and Brand means getting rid of its vast bureaucracy. But if the Tea Partiers, steeped in Ayn Rand, want to dismantle government bureaucracy because they hate government, Newsom and Brand want to dismantle it simply because they have the tools to do it. And this is where Newsom’s tract moves beyond mere callow publishing opportunism into a broader, more pernicious rejection of progressive ideas. The purely formal urge to overhaul government along notionally digital lines is a manifestation of what I call “solutionism”—a tendency to justify reforms of social and political institutions by invoking the easy availability of powerful technological fixes rather than by engaging in a genuine analysis of what, if anything, is ailing those institutions and how to fix it.

Solutionists are not interested in investigating the subtle but constitutive roles of supposed vices like bureaucracy, opacity, or inefficiency in enabling liberal subjects to pursue their own life projects. Solutionists simply want to eliminate those vices—and the institutions that produce them—because technology permits them to do so. In his discussion of bureaucracy, for example, Newsom doesn’t even bother with the standard Weberian explanation that bureaucracy is a decidedly modernist institution for minimizing nepotism and introducing some fairness and neutrality to public administration. Instead, he simply views bureaucracy as a consequence of inadequate technology, concluding that better technology will allow us to get rid of it altogether—and why shouldn’t we?

“Our government is clogged with a dense layer of bureaucracy,” he complains. “It’s like a clay layer, a filler that serves only to slow everything down. But technology can get rid of that clay layer by making it possible for people to bypass the usual bureaucratic morass.” In a very limited sense, Newsom is right: Modern technology does allow us to bypass “the usual bureaucratic morass.” But to fail to examine why that morass exists and simply proceed to eliminate it because we have the technology is to fall for a very narrow-minded, regressive, and (paradoxically enough) antimodern kind of solutionism.
evgenymorozov  gavinnewson  scathing  review  book  solutionism  california  technology  government  bureaucracy  democracy  stewartbrand  californianideology  via:migurski  books  teaparty  clayshirky  timoreilly  dontapscott  kevinkelly  estherdyson  longnow 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking at Education: TED, Technology Entrepreneurship, Uncollege, and the Hole in the Wall
"I have questions about community support. I have questions about what happens when we dismantle public institutions like schools — questions about social justice, questions about community, questions about care. I have questions about the promise of a liberation via a “child-driven education,” questions about this particular brand of neo-liberalism, techno-humanitarianism, and techno-individualism."

"Now don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty that education institutions do — from K–12 onward — that doesn’t help learners at all. Cost. Curriculum. Control. Assessments. Standardization. Debt. Unemployment. Existential Malaise."

"So despite their claims to be liberatory — with the focus on “the learner” and “the child” — this hacking of education by Mitra and Stephens is politically regressive. It is however likely to be good business for the legions of tech entrepreneurs in the audience."
education  schools  schooling  ted  tedtalks  sugatamitra  holeinthewall  community  publicgood  dalastephens  uncollege  unschooling  deschooling  criticism  audreywatters  techno-humanitarianism  neoliberalism  liberation  criticalthinking  groupthinking  dalestephens  evgenymorozov  highereducation  highered  funding  sole  capitalism  coursera  salmankhan  khanacademy  daphnekoller  privilege  techno-individualism  individualism  libertarians  libertarianism  californianideology  niit  salkhan 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov: The Naked And The TED | The New Republic
"I take no pleasure in declaring what has been obvious for some time: that TED is no longer a responsible curator of ideas “worth spreading.” Instead it has become something ludicrous, and a little sinister. Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”"
evgenymorozov  ted  memes  2012 memelaundering  memetics  via:Preoccupations 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Flaneurism shouldn’t be easy | I Am Pete Ashton
"When you think about it, relying on the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook et al stand up for the niche and the curious is pretty naive. Where their interests coincide they will side with the mainstream, and those interests will coincide more and more. We can’t rely on large Internet companies to look after this stuff – Yahoo’s half-arsed custody of Flickr should have taught us that. If we’re going to have an infrastructure that enables the spirit of the cyberflaneur to thrive we’re going to have to build and maintain it ourselves, above and beyond the financial blinkers of the mainstream.

One of the most surprising things about the Internet is how people think there’s a single monolithic culture. There used to be, back when access was difficult and determined by circumstance. But it’s not like that now. The Internet is for everything and everyone, which means it’s like everything else, prone to mediocrity and abuses of power…"
monoculture  discovery  diy  serendipity  stateoftheweb  exploration  psychogeography  online  web  flaneur  cyberflaneurism  2012  evgenymorozov  peteashton 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Our Internet intellectuals lack the intellectual... | Final Boss Form
"who wants to bother submitting papers to conferences, hoping that it gets accepted and published so that you can talk about your ideas twelve months from now when you can affect tangible change by posting them to the fucking internet right fucking now?

Would we even have half of the internet we have now if people like danah and clay waited years to publish their work on online social behavior and community? And, by the way, if you spend any time in a half decent web community, you soon learn that’s it’s nothing but a giant critique machine.

The other, smaller problem with this “critique” is that Jeff Jarvis wrote a fucking business book. Faulting him for not wasting hundreds of pages on theory is like faulting Dr. Phil for not citing Abraham Maslow."
change  time  criticism  via:preoccupations  community  webcommunities  jeffjarvis  academia  publishing  online  web  internet  clayshirky  danahboyd  evgenymorozov  kenyattacheese  from delicious
december 2011 by robertogreco

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