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Uber Undone | Noah Kulwin
"Silicon Valley began this decade as the bleeding edge of the American economy, where new technologies were said to be building a better future for the whole planet. By its end, the American tech industry will be largely viewed as the labor-destroying, profit-hungry behemoth that it truly is. While Facebook’s inadvertent election-rigging and Google’s near-monopoly on digital advertising might draw more attention as the culprits behind that pendulum swing, it is Uber’s Randian capitalism that most transparently lays bare Silicon Valley villainy. And even from outside the C-suite, from which he was ejected in 2017, Kalanick remains its smug, unapologetic face."
siliconvalley  californianideology  grifters  us  finance  economics  venturecapital  2019  mikeisaac  noahkulwin  technology  technosolutionism  google  facebook  society  traviskalanick  uber  lyft  gigeconomy  labor  inequality  urbanplanning  urban  urbanism  capitalism  neoliberalism 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
▶ Audrey Watters | Gettin' Air with Terry Greene
"Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) is an ed-tech folk hero who writes at Hack Education @hackeducation where, for the past nine years, she has taken the lead in keeping the field on its toes in regards to educational technology's "progress". Her long awaited and much anticipated book, "Teaching Machines", will be out in the new year."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  terrygreene  bfskinner  technology  schools  education  turnitin  history  learning  behaviorism  cognition  cognitivescience  psychology  automation  standardization  khanacademy  howweteach  liberation  relationships  agency  curiosity  inquiry  justice  economics  journalism  criticism  vr  facebook  venturecapital  capitalism  research  fabulism  contrafabulism  siliconvalley  archives  elonmusk  markzuckerberg  gatesfoundation  billgates 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The internet is too big
"Scale produces a vicious cycle wherein size facilitates both the problems and the "solutions."

Similarly, Twitter's userbase of hundreds of millions is what allows for the targeted, radically asymmetrical nature of harassment, where one user can be barraged by thousands of replies. The very interconnection that enables the best of the internet also helps foster its worst.

What are we to do if we want to reclaim the best of the internet while combatting its worst? While the tech giants have work to do, it seems that one way to think about this is to distinguish between the usefulness of infrastructure at scale versus the usefulness of certain networks. On one hand, it's beneficial for everyone to be potentially connected by a neutral set of wires and hardware. On the other hand, enormous, multi-billion user networks like Facebook aren't the only way we can connect.

Now that the internet is normal and accessible for billions, perhaps we need to think about the tech giants as necessary evils that kickstarted the early internet but have outlived their usefulness. In their place, imagine a set of standards — say, a calendar that anyone can access and that is interoperable with others' but doesn't require you to be on Facebook. It's an ideal of digital technology that rests on the concept that the internet is a way of connecting people but companies shouldn't entirely own the networks on which we connect.

Earlier this year, writer Max Read suggested that the best of the internet was now to be found in the group text chat. He argued that they feel so intimate and because their dynamic "occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends … rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms." It's about finding the best of the internet without the worst — connection enabled by how large and ubiquitous the internet is, but without the internet's scale infecting how we use it on a daily basis.

It's not clear how such a change would come about. The tech giants not only wield enormous political and economic power, they have also deeply and perhaps even irrevocably integrated themselves into our lives. But as ideals go, a return to a smaller internet is one worth fighting for."
scale  navneetalang  2019  internet  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  youtube  interoperability  chat  maxread  size  networks  networkeffect  calendars  communication  dicsovery  intimacy  groupchat  messaging  email  online  timcarmody  robinsloan  nostalgia  humanscale  humanism  humanity 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Uber’s Path of Destruction - American Affairs Journal
"ince it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality.

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Uber’s investors, however, never expected that their returns would come from superior efficiency in competitive markets. Uber pursued a “growth at all costs” strategy financed by a staggering $20 billion in investor funding. This funding subsidized fares and service levels that could not be matched by incumbents who had to cover costs out of actual passenger fares. Uber’s massive subsidies were explicitly anticompetitive—and are ultimately unsustainable—but they made the company enormously popular with passengers who enjoyed not having to pay the full cost of their service.

The resulting rapid growth was also intended to make Uber highly attractive to those segments of the investment world that believed explosive top-line growth was the only important determinant of how start-up companies should be valued. Investors focused narrow­ly on Uber’s revenue growth and only rarely considered whether the company could ever produce the profits that might someday repay the multibillion dollar subsidies.

Most public criticisms of Uber have focused on narrow behavioral and cultural issues, including deceptive advertising and pricing, algorithmic manipulation, driver exploitation, deep-seated misogyny among executives, and disregard of laws and business norms. Such criticisms are valid, but these problems are not fixable aberrations. They were the inevitable result of pursuing “growth at all costs” without having any ability to fund that growth out of positive cash flow. And while Uber has taken steps to reduce negative publicity, it has not done—and cannot do—anything that could suddenly pro­duce a sustainable, profitable business model.

Uber’s longer-term goal was to eliminate all meaningful competition and then profit from this quasi-monopoly power. While it has already begun using some of this artificial power to suppress driver wages, it has not achieved the Facebook- or Amazon-type “plat­form” power it hoped to exploit. Given that both sustainable profits and true industry dominance seemed unachievable, Uber’s investors de­cided to take the company public, based on the hope that enough gullible investors still believe that the compa­ny’s rapid growth and popularity are the result of powerfully effi­cient inno­vations and do not care about its inability to generate profits.

These beliefs about Uber’s corporate value were created entirely out of thin air. This is not a case of a company with a reasonably sound operating business that has managed to inflate stock market expectations a bit. This is a case of a massive valuation that has no relationship to any economic fundamentals. Uber has no competitive efficiency advantages, operates in an industry with few barriers to entry, and has lost more than $14 billion in the previous four years. But its narratives convinced most people in the media, invest­ment, and tech worlds that it is the most valuable transportation company on the planet and the second most valuable start-up IPO in U.S. history (after Facebook).

Uber is the breakthrough case where the public perception of a large new company was entirely created using the types of manufactured narratives typically employed in partisan political campaigns. Narrative construction is perhaps Uber’s greatest competitive strength. The company used these techniques to completely divert attention away from the massive subsidies that were the actual drivers of its popularity and growth. It successfully framed the entire public discussion around an emotive, “us-versus-them” battle between heroic innovators and corrupt regulators who were falsely blamed for all of the industry’s historic service problems. Uber’s desired framing—that it was fighting a moral battle on behalf of technological progress and economic freedom—was uncritically ac­cepted by the mainstream business and tech industry press, who then never bothered to analyze the firm’s actual economics or its anticompetitive behavior.

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else."
huberthoran  uber  carsharing  taxis  transportation  2019  economics  technology  technosolutionism  huxterism  propaganda  regulation  disruption  innovation  scale  networkeffects  amazon  facebook  venturecapital  siliconvalley  latecapitalism  capitalism  exploitation  labor  growth  lyft  china  startups  cities  urban  urbanism  productivity  traviskalanick 
june 2019 by robertogreco
What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away | The New Yorker
"During the first few days of my Internet decluttering, I found myself compulsively checking my unchanged in-box and already-read text messages, and scanning the same headlines over and over—attempting, as if bewitched, to see new information there. I took my dog out for longer walks, initially trying to use them for some productive purpose: spying on neighbors, planning my week. Soon I acquiesced to a dull, pleasant blankness. One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be."
jiatolentino  2019  internet  attention  jennyodell  capitalism  work  busyness  resistance  socialmedia  instagram  twitter  facebook  infooverload  performance  web  online  nature  nextdoor  advertising  thoreau  philosophy  care  caring  maintenance  silence  happiness  anxiety  leisurearts  artleisure  commodification  technology  selfhood  identity  sms  texting  viber  podcasts  grouptexts  digitalminimalism  refusal  calnewport  mobile  phones  smartphones  screentime  ralphwaldoemerson  separatism  interdependence 
april 2019 by robertogreco
401(k)s, abortion, youth football: 15 things we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years - Vox
[via: https://kottke.org/19/04/what-do-we-do-now-that-will-be-unthinkable-in-50-years ]

"Youth tackle football
Bosses
Eating meat
Conspicuous consumption
The drug war
The way we die
Banning sex work
401(k)s
Ending the draft
Facebook and Google
Abortion
Self-driving cars
Our obsession with rationality
Abandoning public education
The idea of a “wrong side of history”



"Some 50 years ago, in 1964, 42 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Smoking in bars and offices was normal and cigarettes were given to soldiers as part of military rations. Half of American physicians smoked. Ads for cigarettes bombarded the American public. That year, the surgeon general released a report outlining the health risks of smoking. Two years later, only 40 percent of Americans said that they believed smoking was a major cause of cancer.

Today, we know that smoking is bad for our health. We’ve banned smoking in most indoor public spaces. We stopped allowing tobacco companies to advertise and forced them to put warning labels on cigarette boxes. By 2001, 71 percent of the country said they recognized smoking was a major cause of cancer, and by 2017, the rate of smokers dropped to 14 percent. The habit is now looked at as a relic of the past, something we’ve come to accept as unquestionably harmful.

When we think about what common habits, social norms, or laws that are widely considered unthinkable in today’s world, a variety of past atrocities come to mind. We could point to bloodletting, Jim Crow-era segregation, and drinking and driving as being on the “wrong side” of history.

But what modern practices will we one day think of as barbaric? It’s a framework invoked frequently in political or scientific beliefs: Actor Harrison Ford recently said leaders who deny climate change are on the “wrong side of history.” President Barack Obama said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was on the “wrong side of history.” Filmmaker Spike Lee said that President Donald Trump himself is on the “wrong side of history.”

So what, by 2070 — some 50 years in the future — will join this group? We asked 15 thinkers, writers, and advocates to take their best guess.

Bioethicist Peter Singer says people will stop the habit of conspicuous consumption. “The ostentatious display of wealth, in a world that still has many people in need, is not in good taste. Within 50 years, we’ll wonder how people did not see that,” he writes.

Historian Jennifer Mittelstadt predicts that our volunteer army will be widely considered a mistake: “Fifty years from now Americans will observe with shock the damage to both foreign policy and domestic institutions wrought by our acceptance of an increasingly privatized, socially isolated, and politically powerful US military.”

For philosopher Jacob T. Levy, the very idea of there being a “wrong side of history” is wrong itself.

Other answers range from kids playing tackle football to expecting workers to invest in 401(k)s."
us  future  obsolescence  barbarity  draft  cars  self-drivingcars  retirement  saving  drugwar  football  americanfootball  conspicuousconsumption  capitalism  consumption  rationality  scientism  publiceducations  publicschools  schools  schooling  education  facebook  google  abortion  war  military  sexwork  death  dying  meat  food  howwelive  predictions  history  petersinger  kristatippett  jaboblevy  jennifermittelstadt  haiderwarraich  kathleenfrydl  meredithbroussard  chrisnowinski  adiaharveywingfield  bhaskarsunkara  horizontality  hierarchy  inequality  jacobhacker  economics  society  transportation 
april 2019 by robertogreco
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."



"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Gradients are everywhere from Facebook to the New York Times - Vox
"Here’s why The Daily, Coachella, and Facebook all use backgrounds that look like a sunset."



"What it is: A digital or print effect where one color fades into another. Typically rendered in soft or pastel tones.

Where it is: Gradients are seemingly everywhere in media and marketing. They are part of a suite of Facebook status backdrops introduced in 2017 and the branding for the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, which displays a yellow to blue gradient.

Gradients have taken over Coachella’s app and website (if you watch carefully, the colors shift). Ally’s billboard in A Star Is Born is a full-on gradient, and so was the branding for the Oscars ceremony that recognized Lady Gaga.

On Instagram, they provide a product backdrop for popular Korean beauty brand Glow, and have been embraced by indie magazines Gossamer and Anxy — both designed by Berkeley studio Anagraph.

On the luxury front, Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico has released an entire collection of gradient wallpapers called Aurora. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion house Loewe has introduced a version of their trendy Elephant bag in a spectrum of pink to yellow.

Are gradients drinkable? Heck yes, they are. Seltzer startup Recess has gone all-in on gradients in their branding.

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Gradients are the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting.

In the art and design world, Light and Space — developed in the 1960s and ’70s — has been experiencing a revival thanks to its Instagramability. Light and Space pioneer James Turrell has been embraced by celebrities like Beyoncé, Drake, and Kanye West. Drake’s Hotline Bling video was inspired by Turrell’s light-infused rooms called Ganzfelds. The Kardashian-Jenner-West crew posted an Instagram in front of one of Turrell’s works in Los Angeles. (I was yelled at by security for taking a picture there but it’s fine.)

[image]

Most recently, West donated $10 million dollars to the artist.

James Turrell’s works come with a warning because the visitor quickly loses all depth perception. Soft gradients are alluring because they cut through the noise of social media, but they also are disorienting. The Twitter bot soft landscapes operates on a similar principle, but some days the landscape all but disappears.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. Harmon compares the Recess branding to a sunset so beautiful you can’t help but stare (or take a picture) however busy you are. Changes to the sky are even more pronounced in Los Angeles, where Harmon’s studio is now based. “The quality of light in LA is something miraculous,” he says. The Light and Space movement was also started in Southern California, and it’s in the DNA of Coachella.

Gradients might be a manifestation of longing for sunshine and surf. But they also belong to the placeless digital citizen. 1980s and ’90s kids may remember messing around in Microsoft Paint and Powerpoint as a child, filling in shapes with these same gradients. It’s no surprise that this design effect is part of the technological nostalgia that fuels the vaporwave movement.

Vaporwave is a musical and aesthetic movement (started in the early 2010s) that spliced ambient music, advertising, and imagery from when the internet started. Gradient artwork shared by the clothing brand Public Space is vaporwave. So is this meme posted by direct-to-consumer health startup Hers.

[image]

When Facebook rolled out gradient status backgrounds in 2017, they knew what they were doing. “They have so much data into how the world works,” says Kerry Flynn, platforms reporter at Digiday. “They had a slow rollout to the color gradients … Obviously they could have pulled the plug anytime.”

Flynn goes on to explain that Facebook realized they had become their own worst enemy. There was so much information on their platform that personal sharing was down and they had to make it novel again. “Facebook wants our personal data, as much as possible. Hence, colorful backgrounds that encourage me to post information about myself and for my friends to ‘Like’ it and comment,” she says.

It’s ironic that in order to do so, Facebook borrowed from a digital texture most millennials associate with a time before Facebook. But it also mimics a current trend in film and television: bisexual lighting.

As Know Your Meme explains, “bisexual lighting is a slang in the queer community for neon lighting with high emphasis on pinks, purples, and blues in film.” These pinks, purples and blues often fade into one another — appearing like a gradient when rendered in two dimensions. Bisexual lighting shows up in the futuristic genre cyberpunk, which imagines an era in which high technology and low technology combine and cities are neon-bathed, landmarkless Gothams. (Overlapping with vaporwave.) Mainstream examples of cyberpunk include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Black Mirror (specifically the “San Junipero” episode). Hotline Bling makes the list of examples for bisexual lighting; the gradients come full circle.

Tati Pastukhova, co-founder of interactive art space ARTECHOUSE, says gradients have become more popular as computer display quality increases. She says the appeal of gradients is “the illusion of dimension, and giving 2-D designs 3-D appeal.” ARTECHOUSE is full of light-based digital installations, but visitors naturally gravitate toward what is most photogenic — including, unexpectedly, the soft lighting the space installed along their staircase for safety reasons.

[image]

Before gradients, neon lettering was the Instagram lighting aesthetic du jour. Gradients are wordless — like saying Live Laugh Love with just colors. “There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are also boundaryless. In 2016, artist Wolfgang Tillmans used gradients in his anti-Brexit poster campaign. Through gradients, designers have found the perfect metaphor for subjectivity in an era when even the word “fact” is up for debate. “Gradients are a visual manifestation of all of these different spectrums that we live on,” including those of politics, gender, and sexuality, says Lorenz. “Before, I think we lived in a binary world. [Gradients are] a very modern representation of the world.”

At the very least, gradients offer an opportunity to self-soothe.

Calico co-founder Nick Cope says the Aurora collection is often used in meditation rooms. He and his wife have installed it across from their bed at home. “The design was created to immerse viewers in waves and washes of tranquil atmospheric color,” Cope says, adding, “Regardless of the weather, we wake up to a sunrise every morning.”"

[See also:
"Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?"
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-43765856 ]
color  gradients  design  socialmedia  jamesturrell  2019  light  space  perception  neon  desig  graphicdesign  ux  ui  wolfgangtillmans  nickcope  meditation  colors  tatipastukhova  artechouse  computing  bisexuallighting  lighting  queer  knowyourmeme  pink  purple  blue  cyberpunk  future  technology  hightechnology  lowtechnology  vaporwave  bladerunner  ghostintheshell  blackmirror  sanjunipero  hotlinebling  kerryflynn  facebook  microsoftpaint  rionharmon  sunsets  california  socal  losangeles  coachella  depthperception  ganzfelds  drake  kanyewest  beyoncé  anagraph  ladygaga  daisyalioto 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Oh God, It's Raining Newsletters — by Craig Mod
"In truth, it’s a newsletter about the design of walking. But more broadly, launching it has given me reason to consider the state of newsletters and email, in 2019: It’s kind of amazing."



"Ownership is the critical point here. Ownership in email in the same way we own a paperback: We recognize that we (largely) control the email subscriber lists, they are portable, they are not governed by unknowable algorithmic timelines.3 And this isn’t ownership yoked to a company or piece of software operating on quarterly horizon, or even multi-year horizon, but rather to a half-century horizon. Email is a (the only?) networked publishing technology with both widespread, near universal adoption,4 and history. It is, as they say, proven."



"A lot of this newsletter writing is happening, probably, because the archives aren’t great. Tenuousness unlocks the mind, loosens tone. But the archival reality might be just the opposite of that common perception: These newsletters are the most backed up pieces of writing in history, copies in millions of inboxes, on millions of hard drives and servers, far more than any blog post. More robust than an Internet Archive container. LOCKSS to the max. These might be the most durable copies yet of ourselves. They’re everywhere but privately so, hidden, piggybacking on the most accessible, oldest networked publishing platform in the world. QWERTYUIOP indeed."
carigmod  newsletters  2019  email  internet  web  online  publishing  walking  substack  buttondown  tinyletter  mailchimp  memberful  naas  instagram  facebook  socialmedia  blogs  blogging  self-publishing  selfpublishing  intimacy  ownership 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Goodbye Big Five
"Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting my money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened."
microsoft  google  facebook  amazon  apple  kashmirhill  technology  2019  internet  web  attention  online 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 104. Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron
"Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron are two of the founders of Are.na, a knowledge sharing platform that combines the creative back-and-forth of social media with the focus of a productivity tool. Before working on Arena, Cab was a digital artist and Chris a graphic designer and in this episode, they talk about their desire for a new type of bookmarking tool and building a platform for collaborative, interdisciplinary research as well as larger questions around open source tools, research as artistic practice, and subverting the norms of social media."

[direct link to audio:
https://soundcloud.com/scratchingthesurfacefm/104-cab-broskoski-and-chris-sherron ]
jarrettfuller  are.na  cabbroskoski  chrissherron  coreyarcangel  del.icio.us  bookmarkling  pinterest  cv  tagging  flickr  michaelcina  youworkforthem  davidbohm  williamgibson  digital  damonzucconi  stanleykubrick  stephaniesnt  julianbozeman  public  performance  collections  collecting  research  2000s  interview  information  internet  web  sharing  conversation  art  design  socialmedia  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  online  onlinetoolkit  inspiration  moodboards  graphicdesign  graphics  images  web2.0  webdesign  webdev  ui  ux  scratchingthesurface  education  teaching  edtech  technology  multidisciplinary  generalists  creative  creativitysingapore  creativegeneralists  learning  howwelearn  attention  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  algorithms  canon  knowledge  transdisciplinary  tools  archives  slow  slowweb  slowinternet  instagram  facebook 
january 2019 by robertogreco
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here:
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/how-millennials-grew-up-and-burned
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/its-that-simple ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennial-burnout-perspectives

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tianaclarkpoet/millennial-burnout-black-women-self-care-anxiety-depression

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?”
https://newrepublic.com/article/152872/millennials-dont-monopoly-burnout ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."



"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."



"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."



"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2018)
"It’s been quite a year for education news, not that you’d know that by listening to much of the ed-tech industry (press). Subsidized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, some publications have repeatedly run overtly and covertly sponsored articles that hawk the future of learning as “personalized,” as focused on “the whole child.” Some of these attempt to stretch a contemporary high-tech vision of social emotional surveillance so it can map onto a strange vision of progressive education, overlooking no doubt how the history of progressive education has so often been intertwined with race science and eugenics.

Meanwhile this year, immigrant, refugee children at the United States border were separated from their parents and kept in cages, deprived of legal counsel, deprived of access to education, deprived in some cases of water.

“Whole child” and cages – it’s hardly the only jarring juxtaposition I could point to.

2018 was another year of #MeToo, when revelations about sexual assault and sexual harassment shook almost every section of society – the media and the tech industries, unsurprisingly, but the education sector as well – higher ed, K–12, and non-profits alike, as well school sports all saw major and devastating reports about cultures and patterns of sexual violence. These behaviors were, once again, part of the hearings and debates about a Supreme Court Justice nominee – a sickening deja vu not only for those of us that remember Anita Hill ’s testimony decades ago but for those of us who have experienced something similar at the hands of powerful people. And on and on and on.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) kept up with its rosy repetition that social equality is surely its priority, a product feature even – that VR, for example, a technology it has for so long promised is “on the horizon,” is poised to help everyone, particularly teachers and students, become more empathetic. Meanwhile, the founder of Oculus Rift is now selling surveillance technology for a virtual border wall between the US and Mexico.

2018 was a year in which public school teachers all over the US rose up in protest over pay, working conditions, and funding, striking in red states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma despite an anti-union ruling by the Supreme Court.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) was wowed by teacher influencers and teacher PD on Instagram, touting the promise for more income via a side-hustle like tutoring rather by structural or institutional agitation. Don’t worry, teachers. Robots won’t replace you, the press repeatedly said. Unsaid: robots will just de-professionalize, outsource, or privatize the work. Or, as the AI makers like to say, robots will make us all work harder (and no doubt, with no unions, cheaper).

2018 was a year of ongoing and increased hate speech and bullying – racism and anti-Semitism – on campuses and online.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still maintained that blockchain would surely revolutionize the transcript and help insure that no one lies about who they are or what they know. Blockchain would enhance “smart spending” and teach financial literacy, the ed-tech industry (press) insisted, never once mentioning the deep entanglements between anti-Semitism and the alt-right and blockchain (specifically Bitcoin) backers.

2018 was a year in which hate and misinformation, magnified and spread by technology giants, continued to plague the world. Their algorithmic recommendation engines peddled conspiracy theories (to kids, to teens, to adults). “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer” as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci put it in a NYT op-ed.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still talked about YouTube as the future of education, cheerfully highlighting (that is, spreading) its viral bullshit. Folks still retyped the press releases Google issued and retyped the press releases Facebook issued, lauding these companies’ (and their founders’) efforts to reshape the curriculum and reshape the classroom.

This is the ninth year that I’ve reviewed the stories we’re being told about education technology. Typically, this has been a ten (or more) part series. But I just can’t do it any more. Some people think it’s hilarious that I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra, but it’s not funny at all. It’s depressing, and it’s painful. And no one fucking listens.

If I look back at what I’ve written in previous years, I feel like I’ve already covered everything I could say about 2018. Hell, I’ve already written about the whole notion of the “zombie idea” in ed-tech – that bad ideas never seem to go away, that just get rebranded and repackaged. I’ve written about misinformation and ed-tech (and ed-tech as misinformation). I’ve written about the innovation gospel that makes people pitch dangerously bad ideas like “Uber for education” or “Alexa for babysitting.” I’ve written about the tech industry’s attempts to reshape the school system as its personal job training provider. I’ve written about the promise to “rethink the transcript” and to “revolutionize credentialing.” I’ve written about outsourcing and online education. I’ve written about coding bootcamps as the “new” for-profit higher ed, with all the exploitation that entails. I’ve written about the dangers of data collection and data analysis, about the loss of privacy and the lack of security.

And yet here we are, with Mark Zuckerberg – education philanthropist and investor – blinking before Congress, promising that AI will fix everything, while the biased algorithms keep churning out bias, while the education/technology industry (press) continues to be so blinded by “disruption” it doesn’t notice (or care) what’s happened to desegregation, and with so many data breaches and privacy gaffes that they barely make headlines anymore.

Folks. I’m done.

I’m also writing a book, and frankly that’s where my time and energy is going.

There is some delicious irony, I suppose, in the fact that there isn’t much that’s interesting or “innovative” to talk about in ed-tech, particularly since industry folks want to sell us on the story that tech is moving faster than it’s ever moved before, so fast in fact that the ol’ factory model school system simply cannot keep up.

I’ve always considered these year-in-review articles to be mini-histories of sorts – history of the very, very recent past. Now, instead, I plan to spend my time taking a longer, deeper look at the history of education technology, with particular attention for the next few months, as the title of my book suggests, to teaching machines – to the promises that machines will augment, automate, standardize, and individualize instruction. My focus is on the teaching machines of the mid-twentieth century, but clearly there are echoes – echoes of behaviorism and personalization, namely – still today.

In his 1954 book La Technique (published in English a decade later as The Technological Society), the sociologist Jacques Ellul observes how education had become oriented towards creating technicians, less interested in intellectual development than in personality development – a new “psychopedagogy” that he links to Maria Montessori. “The human brain must be made to conform to the much more advanced brain of the machine,” Ellul writes. “And education will no longer be an unpredictable and exciting adventure in human enlightenment , but an exercise in conformity and apprenticeship to whatever gadgetry is useful in a technical world.” I believe today we call this "social emotional learning" and once again (and so insistently by the ed-tech press and its billionaire backers), Montessori’s name is invoked as the key to preparing students for their place in the technological society.

Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.

This is the only good grit:

[image of Gritty]

If I were writing a lengthier series on the year in ed-tech, I’d spend much more time talking about the promises made about personalization and social emotional learning. I’ll just note here that the most important “innovator” in this area this year (other than Gritty) was surely the e-cigarette maker Juul, which offered a mindfulness curriculum to schools – offered them the curriculum and $20,000, that is – to talk about vaping. “‘The message: Our thoughts are powerful and can set action in motion,’ the lesson plan states.”

The most important event in ed-tech this year might have occurred on February 14, when a gunman opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 others. (I chose this particular school shooting because of the student activism it unleashed.)

Oh, I know, I know – school shootings and school security aren’t ed-tech, ed-tech evangelists have long tried to insist, an argument I’ve heard far too often. But this year – the worst year on record for school shootings (according to some calculations) – I think that argument started to shift a bit. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools “security” products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, … [more]
audreywatters  education  technology  edtech  2018  surveillance  privacy  personalization  progressive  schools  quantification  gamification  wholechild  montessori  mariamontessori  eugenics  psychology  siliconvalley  history  venturecapital  highereducation  highered  guns  gunviolence  children  youth  teens  shootings  money  influence  policy  politics  society  economics  capitalism  mindfulness  juul  marketing  gritty  innovation  genetics  psychotechnologies  gender  race  racism  sexism  research  socialemotional  psychopedagogy  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  learning  howwelearn  teachingmachines  nonprofits  nonprofit  media  journalism  access  donaldtrump  bias  algorithms  facebook  amazon  disruption  data  bigdata  security  jacquesellul  sociology  activism  sel  socialemotionallearning 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
“When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit”: The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg | Vanity Fair
"Harvard Business School invented the “leadership” industry—and produced a generation of corporate monsters. No wonder Sandberg, one of the school’s most prominent graduates, lacks a functioning moral compass."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The absence of voices like Anteby’s are evident to this day, and an ongoing indictment of the culture that turned Facebook from a Harvard sophomore’s dorm-room project into what passes for a Harvard Business School success story. Return one last time to the H.B.R. Web site, and you will find a case study that was published just a few months ago entitled “Facebook—Can Ethics Scale in the Digital Age?” Set aside the abuse of the English language in the question—M.B.A.s specialize in that kind of thing. The mere fact that it’s being asked serves as resounding proof that the moral equivalence problem is still with us today. The question is not whether or not a company of Facebook’s size and reach can stay ethical. The question is whether it will even try."
harvard  harvardbusinessschool  ethics  sherylsandberg  facebook  2018  business  careerism  morality  hbs  via:nicoleslaw  leadership  billclinton  mba  mbas  harvardbusinessrevie  hbr  duffmcdonald  competition  competitiveness  winning  decisionmaking  billgeorge  larrysummers  abrahamzaleznik  johnleboutillier  jeffskilling  bowenmccoy  michelanteby  norms  values  capitalism  neoliberalism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World - The New York Times
"“Change the world” has long been the cry of the oppressed. But in recent years world-changing has been co-opted by the rich and the powerful.

“Change the world. Improve lives. Invent something new,” McKinsey & Company’s recruiting materials say. “Sit back, relax, and change the world,” tweets the World Economic Forum, host of the Davos conference. “Let’s raise the capital that builds the things that change the world,” a Morgan Stanley ad says. Walmart, recruiting a software engineer, seeks an “eagerness to change the world.” Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook says, “The best thing to do now, if you want to change the world, is to start a company.”

At first, you think: Rich people making a difference — so generous! Until you consider that America might not be in the fix it’s in had we not fallen for the kind of change these winners have been selling: fake change.

Fake change isn’t evil; it’s milquetoast. It is change the powerful can tolerate. It’s the shoes or socks or tote bag you bought which promised to change the world. It’s that one awesome charter school — not equally funded public schools for all. It is Lean In Circles to empower women — not universal preschool. It is impact investing — not the closing of the carried-interest loophole.

Of course, world-changing initiatives funded by the winners of market capitalism do heal the sick, enrich the poor and save lives. But even as they give back, American elites generally seek to maintain the system that causes many of the problems they try to fix — and their helpfulness is part of how they pull it off. Thus their do-gooding is an accomplice to greater, if more invisible, harm.

What their “change” leaves undisturbed is our winners-take-all economy, which siphons the gains from progress upward. The average pretax income of America’s top 1 percent has more than tripled since 1980, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold, even as the average income of the bottom half of Americans stagnated around $16,000, adjusted for inflation, according to a paper by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

American elites are monopolizing progress, and monopolies can be broken. Aggressive policies to protect workers, redistribute income, and make education and health affordable would bring real change. But such measures could also prove expensive for the winners. Which gives them a strong interest in convincing the public that they can help out within the system that so benefits the winners.

After all, if the Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and his co-author Mark R. Kramer are right that “businesses acting as business, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face,” we shouldn’t rein in business, should we?

This is how the winners benefit from their own kindness: It lets them redefine change, and defang it.

Consider David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He’s a billionaire who practices what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” For example, when a 2011 earthquake damaged the Washington Monument and Congress funded only half of the $15 million repair, Mr. Rubenstein paid the rest. “The government doesn’t have the resources it used to have,” he explained, adding that “private citizens now need to pitch in.”

That pitching-in seems generous — until you learn that he is one of the reasons the government is strapped. He and his colleagues have long used their influence to protect the carried-interest loophole, which is enormously beneficial to people in the private equity field. Closing the loophole could give the government $180 billion over 10 years, enough to fix that monument thousands of times over.

Mr. Rubenstein’s image could be of a man fleecing America. Do-gooding gives him a useful makeover as a patriot who interviews former presidents onstage and lectures on the 13th Amendment.

Walmart has long been accused of underpaying workers. Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group, famously accused the company of costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year because it “pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs.” Walmart denies this criticism, citing the jobs it creates and the taxes it pays.

When a column critical of Walmart ran in this newspaper some years ago, David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, published a red-penned edit of the piece on a company blog. Beside a paragraph about how cutthroat business practices had earned the heirs of the Walton family at least $150 billion in wealth, Mr. Tovar wrote: “Possible addition: Largest corporate foundation in America. Gives more than $1 billion in cash and in kind donations each year.”

Mr. Tovar wasn’t denying the $150 billion in wealth, or that more of it could have been paid as wages. Rather, he seemed to suggest that charity made up for these facts.

A few years ago, some entrepreneurs in Oakland, Calif., founded a company called Even. Its initial plan was to help stabilize the highly volatile incomes of working-class Americans — with an app. For a few dollars a week, it would squirrel away your money when you were flush and give you a boost when you were short. “If you want to feel like you have a safety net for the first time in your life, Even is the answer,” the company proclaimed.

The rub against such an idea isn’t just that it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s also that it dilutes our idea of change. It casts an app and a safety net as the same.

Fake change, and what it allows to fester, paved the road for President Trump. He tapped into a feeling that the American system was rigged and that establishment elites were in it for themselves. Then, darkly, he deflected that anger onto the most vulnerable Americans. And having benefited from the hollowness of fake change, he became it — a rich man who styles himself as the ablest protector of the underdogs, who pretends that his interests have nothing to do with the changes he seeks.

President Trump is what we get when we trust the rich to fix what they are complicit in breaking.

In 2016, Mr. Trump and many of the world-changing elite leaders I am writing about were, for the most part, on opposite sides. Yet those elites and the president have one thing in common: a belief that the world should be changed by them, for the rest of us, not by us. They doubt the American creed of self-government.

A successful society is a progress machine, turning innovations and fortuitous developments into shared advancement. America’s machine is broken. Innovations fly at us, but progress eludes us. A thousand world-changing initiatives won’t change that. Instead, we must reform the basic systems that allow people to live decently — the systems that decide what kind of school children attend, whether politicians listen to donors or citizens, whether or not people can tend to their ailments, whether they are paid enough, and with sufficient reliability, to make plans and raise kids.

There are a significant number of winners who recognize their role in propping up a bad system. They might be convinced that solving problems for all, at the root, will mean higher taxes, smaller profits and fewer homes. Changing the world asks more than giving back. It also takes giving something up."
2018  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  philanthropy  charity  hierarchy  inequality  change  democracy  donaldtrump  oligarchy  elitism  us  michaelporter  markkramer  thomasbikkety  emmanuelsaenz  gabrielzucman  markzuckerberg  morganstanley  economics  capitalism  latecapitalism  davidrubenstein  walmart  facebook  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Julie Goldberg on Twitter: "The people I know who are the most miserable about politics right now are doing all their politics online. The people I know who are the least discouraged about politics are doing most of their politics in three dimensions. Get
"The people I know who are the most miserable about politics right now are doing all their politics online. The people I know who are the least discouraged about politics are doing most of their politics in three dimensions.
Get involved. You'll never regret it!

Isolation + constantly aggravated frustration = despair.
Community + working for change = hope.
Social media corporations make more money when we sit alone, argue with strangers, yell at the TV, and despair."
juliegoldeberg  politics  activism  isolation  frustration  despair  socialimedia  online  internet  web  twitter  facebook  action  discouragement  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Missing the feed. — Scatological Sensibilities
[Also here: https://are.na/block/2485326 ]

[Related (via Allen): http://reallifemag.com/just-randomness/ ]

"So why the focus on the feed?

What does the want of an unfiltered linear feed mean? What are people really asking for when they ask for that? What pain are they solving for when they make this request?

A linear chronologically ordered feed is predictable. Its not hiding anything, its not wrestling control away from you. It isn't manipulating you in a way you can't ascertain. That should be the baseline.

Arguing for algorithmic feeds is fine, but it should never take away a users sense of control. If something is hidden, it better damn well be because I asked the system to explicitly hide that kind of thing from me. I don't want some hidden algorithm tuned to manipulate me, and I especially don't want it presented to me under a guise of paternalism. That smells like bullshit.

But of course Facebook hasn't done that. They started giving all the 'likes' you had liked pages, and handed control over to those pages to random people. Suddenly your feed was full of content from brands who had snuck in thru girardian style mimetic signaling good. And they're using it to manipulate us, as far as we can tell...

And its creepy.
“So half the Earth's Internet population is using Facebook. They are a site, along with others, that has allowed people to create an online persona with very little technical skill, and people responded by putting huge amounts of personal data online. So the result is that we have behavioral, preference, demographic data for hundreds of millions of people, which is unprecedented in history. And as a computer scientist, what this means is that I've been able to build models that can predict all sorts of hidden attributes for all of you that you don't even know you're sharing information about.”
Your social media “likes” espose more than you think [https://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_golbeck_the_curly_fry_conundrum_why_social_media_likes_say_more_than_you_might_think/transcript ]

People started complaining they couldn't see all their friends. But the options at the time ran counter to Facebook's intention of being a platform for celebrities, brands and community building thru pages. They are only just now undoing this crappy mechanism design mistake.

Even their ads don't admit the mistake. They talk about friends and friends of friends. and all the crap that started polluting the feed. But the cats out of the bag and the ecosystem is polluted with people who have built up lives around those pages.

Facebook Here Together (UK) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4zd7X98eOs ]

And when we step back and wonder what is going on?
We see something fishy and it smells rotten.
Facebook moves 1.5bn users out of reach of new European privacy law [https://amp.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/19/facebook-moves-15bn-users-out-of-reach-of-new-european-privacy-law ]

TL;DR: Is this Loss?

The incentives aren't there, and the arguments for changing this are misunderstood. Which is why I deleted my Facebook even though its the only way I can contact my dad.

I miss my dad.

And now you know my perspective."
feeds  algorithms  twitter  facebook  paternalism  socialmedia  control  trust  2018  nicholasperry 
july 2018 by robertogreco
To survive our high-speed society, cultivate 'temporal bandwidth' | Alan Jacobs | Opinion | The Guardian
"It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate; and is hard to imagine a person more exemplary of our presentism than the current president of the United States.

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

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

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

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

“Asking them to tell you how you can

Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.

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

That harasses and torments you all your days?

Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,

In anxious alternation in your mind?

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

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

What is the way to become a friend to yourself?

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, again, Trump didn’t create this situation: he found in social media and soundbite TV news an environment ready-made for the instincts he already possessed, an environment in which tenuousness is less a condition to lament than the primary instrument of ultimate celebrity and ultimate power. Trump may be 71 years old, but he is the future of our collective temperament – unless we develop some temporal bandwidth. It’s best that we start now."
alanjacobs  time  attention  politics  religion  2018  donaldtrump  thomaspynchon  temporalbandwidth  horace  futue  past  vulnerability  precarity  immediacy  socialmedia  twitter  inequality  greed  longnow  hansjonas  entanglement  facebook 
june 2018 by robertogreco
The Convivial Society, No. 4: Community
"More recently, however, I've come to think that community is a yuppie word. Let me explain. I'm borrowing the formulation from Bob Dylan, who, when asked if he was happy on the occasion of his 50th birthday, after a long pause responded, "these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed." I suppose one either takes his meaning or not. It occurred to me that Dylan's sentiment worked well with how the word community tends to get thrown around, especially by someone with a new technology to sell. It's just another commodity or accoutrement of the self. 

There's another problem, too. I once heard someone observe that only sociologists talk about community. No one who is actually in a community calls it a community. They call it what it is: a synagogue, a family, a neighborhood, a school, a sorority, etc. Or you don't call it anything at all for the same reason that a fish wouldn't talk about water, the reality is too pervasive to notice and name. If it names anything at all, it names an absence, a felt need, and object of desire. Unfortunately, it might also be the sort of thing, like happiness, that will almost certainly not be found when one sets out deliberately to search for it. What we find, if we find anything at all, will probably not be exactly like what we hoped to discover. A pursuit of community in this manner is burdened with a self-consciousness that may undermine the possibility of achieving the desired state of affairs. On this score, social media does not exactly help. 

To express wariness of community talk, whatever its sources, is not, however, to dismiss the importance, indeed, the necessity of the thing we desire when we talk about community. That thing, let us call it Community with a capital in order to distinguish it, is vital and people suffer and die for the lack of it. At its best, Community sustains us and supplies the context for our flourishing in the fullness of our humanity. Apart from it we are less than what we could be. Community, in its most satisfying forms involves the whole person, including the body. It nurtures us as individuals precisely by directing our attention and our care outward toward those to whom we are bound. And bound is the right word. In a Community, we are bound by ties of obligation and responsibility. To be in a community is to have the self spun out into the world rather than in upon itself.

The question that remains is whether or not that thing we seek can be found online. Or, whether it is useful to think of Facebook, or any other social media platform, as a community. Consider, for example, that the root from which we derive our word community reminds us that a community is bound together by what the hold in common, by their common wealth. But what exactly do we hold in common with every other user of a social media platform? For that matter, what exactly do we hold in common with those who are our Friends or Followers? What is our common wealth?

I have no interest in the denying the obvious fact that genuine and valuable human interactions occur online and through Facebook everyday. I'm certain that some have found a measure of companionship, joy, and solace as a result of these interactions. But do these interactions amount to a community? Or, to put it another way, what definition of community is being assumed when Facebook is called a community?

It seems clear to me that connection does not imply the existence of community much less Community. It also seems clear that while we may speak of Facebook as a platform that can theoretically help support certain kinds of communities, it is meaningless to call the network as a whole a community. Moreover, if the only fellowship we knew was a fellowship mediated through a social network such as Facebook, then our experience would be impoverished. But I don't imagine that there are many people who explicitly and consciously choose to use Facebook as a substitute for fully embodied experiences of community.

There are also important questions to consider about how we are formed by our use of social media, given the design and architecture of the respective platforms, and what this does to our capacity to experience community on the platform or find Community beyond it. Chiefly, I'm thinking about how social media tends to turn our gaze inward. The platforms foreground for its users the experience of being a self that is always in the midst of performing for an audience, and at a consequential remove from the immediacy of a face-to-face encounter. Moreover, it seems to me that the experience of community ordinarily presumes a degree of self-forgetfulness. Self-forgetfulness is not something social media tends to encourage.

Belonging is a critical aspect of the most satisfying kind of community. But belonging is an interesting word. When we speak of belonging to a community, we ordinarily mean to say that we associate with the community, that we count ourselves among its members. We might also mean that we are at home in the community, that we belong in the sense that we are accepted. But the word also implies that we belong to the community in the sense that the community has a claim on us. I think this last sense of belonging is critical; the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences of community presuppose this kind of claim upon our lives and we will, ultimately, be better for it, but it is also the case that we tend to mightily resist such a claim because we value our autonomy too much. As is often the case, we haven't quite counted the cost of what we say we want. "
communities  community  lmsacasas  2018  facebook  socialmedia  online  web  internet  conviviality  ivanillich  self  happiness  unhappiness  boundedness  belonging  experience  self-forgetfulness  purpose  autonomy  michaelsacasas  amish 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Ad-Free, User-Owned Future Of Social Media
"The recent revelation that Facebook allowed British firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of 50 million users has led to a cultural reckoning and spelled serious trouble for the social media giant–and many of its peers. As the dust settles, the question remains: If you’re done with Facebook, what other options are there?

One alternative is Are.na. Designed by creatives for creatives, Are.na is a research platform that happens to have a social element; you can organize all kinds of “blocks” of content into themed channels, gathering ideas and inspiration slowly over time. Other users can connect your “blocks” to their ideas, creating a network of thematic links designed for collaboration and sharing.

But here’s the thing about Are.na: It has no ads, no likes, and no tracking algorithms, making it something of an anti-Facebook. And crucially, its business model is entirely different. Rather than relying on gathering user data and selling engagement to advertisers, Are.na is funded entirely by premium users who pay a monthly fee to use the platform. According to cofounder and CEO Charles Broskoski, that means that the Are.na team is focused on making a product truly designed for its 42,000 users instead of trying to serve both users and advertisers at the same time.

Of course, there’s a reason many internet giants, including Facebook and Google, rely on advertising and user data to generate revenue. Are.na’s alternative is a hard business model to make work. That’s why the platform launched a crowdfunding campaign that allows anyone to invest in Are.na on March 14. In the two weeks since, it has raised more than $100,000–double the team’s initial goal–from 326 individual investors who pitched in amounts ranging from $100 to $5,000.

The campaign kicked off just days before the Cambridge Analytica news broke, and Broskoski attributes at least some of its success to people looking for new models to support online. “It feels like a very opportune moment for alternative approaches to social media,” he says.

While the Are.na team has been overwhelmed by the response, they also say they aren’t terribly surprised by it. Some of Are.na’s most ardent users had already reached out about wanting to invest, so raising equity through the startup’s community felt like the right way to build a sustainable business model. So far, about 70% of the investments have come from Are.na members. Of the platform’s paying members, about 10% are investors.

Part of the reasoning behind opening up Are.na to individual investors is that it shows current users–and any potential new users–exactly what the company’s values are. “We’re trying to be transparent about how our business functions and how that’s good for a person,” Broskoski says. “It shows how we’re motivated. We’re trying to make a product that’s good enough for people who can afford it to pay for it.”

The money will help cover operating expenses, and Broskoski says the startup is on track to entirely cover these costs using the crowdfunded money and revenue from premium users by the end of the year. But the campaign is still going, with more than two months left. If they manage to raise $150,000, Are.na will be able to bring on another developer who can help it continue building out features for users. Right now, the team is focused on designing a version of Are.na for small teams to work together, which they hope to launch in the fall.

Anyone who buys an equity investment in Are.na receives convertible notes–an agreement that you’ve bought debt that will transform into equity when a qualifying financing round happens. In a more traditional startup, that might be through an acquisition, an IPO, or a share buyback. But Broskoski instead wants to issue dividends to the company’s investors as soon as Are.na becomes profitable. It’s not unheard of: Kickstarter pursued a similar model with its early investors.

“We love the idea of our community owning part of Are.na,” Broskoski says. “It matches up perfectly with our values and where we want to be in the future.”

Even in the last few months, the company has grown exponentially. When I last spoke to the team in January, they had 21,000 users. Just three months later, they have 42,000. The initial success of the company’s equity crowdfunding is a clear indicator: They’re onto something.

The timing could not have been better. Even before Cambridge Analytica, people were opting out of social media and looking for ways to digitally detox–citing the negative impact of Facebook and Twitter on users’ emotional lives and productivity. Even if you love using them, it can be difficult to swallow just how heavily these companies’ business models depend on mining your personal data. Though there are other alternative platforms, Are.na is one of the few making headway on a sustainable business model that puts users first.

“It’s more evidence to us that we’re doing something right and we’re reaching a type of person who wants something different on the internet,” Broskoski says. “I don’t necessarily think that Are.na is going to supplant Facebook, but this particular time is a good moment for people to think about what they want their online life to look like.”"
are.na  2018  charlesbroskoski  values  advertising  tracking  algorithms  facebook  cambridgeanalytica 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Are.na / Blog – Alternate Digital Realities
"Writer David Zweig, who interviewed Grosser about the Demetricator for The New Yorker, describes a familiar sentiment when he writes, “I’ve evaluated people I don’t know on the basis of their follower counts, judged the merit of tweets according to how many likes and retweets they garnered, and felt the rush of being liked or retweeted by someone with a large following. These metrics, I know, are largely irrelevant; since when does popularity predict quality? Yet, almost against my will, they exert a pull on me.” Metrics can be a drug. They can also influence who we think deserves to be heard. By removing metrics entirely, Grosser’s extension allows us to focus on the content—to be free to write and post without worrying about what will get likes, and to decide for ourselves if someone is worth listening to. Additionally, it allows us to push back against a system designed not to cultivate a healthy relationship with social media but to prioritize user-engagement in order to sell ads."
digital  online  extensions  metrics  web  socialmedia  internet  omayeliarenyeka  2018  race  racism  activism  davidzeig  bejamingrosser  twitter  google  search  hangdothiduc  reginafloresmir  dexterthomas  whitesupremacy  tolulopeedionwe  patriarchy  daniellesucher  jennyldavis  mosaid  shannoncoulter  taeyoonchoi  rodrigotello  elishacohen  maxfowler  jamesbaldwin  algorithms  danielhowe  helennissenbaum  mushonzer-aviv  browsers  data  tracking  surveillance  ads  facebook  privacy  are.na 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Are.na / Blog – Jenny L. Davis
"A lot of your work revolves around “affordances,” which you define as the “range of functions and constraints that an object provides”—a sort of intermediary between a “feature” of a platform and the actual outcomes of that feature. Does good design, in your opinion, narrow the range of affordances to minimize negative outcomes and maximize positive outcomes, or does it increase overall user freedom?"



"The idea of flexibility serving user-experience is rooted in a larger point: affordances aren’t uniform across persons and contexts. My grandmother’s phone would be as frustrating for me as mine would be for her. She would get lost in the choices of a mainstream phone just as I would feel stifled by the absence of Google Maps on her Jitterbug. This is why affordance analyses must always ask how features operate, for whom, and under what circumstances."
jennyldavis  grahamjohnson  2018  internet  online  are.na  socialmedia  depression  causality  web  twitter  instagram  facebook  drewaustin  stevenpinker  mayaganesh  technology  affordances  design  society 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
ORBITAL OPERATIONS: Alive And A King - OO 18 Feb 18
"2

Damien Williams on a book about animal tool-use [https://social-epistemology.com/2018/02/13/deleting-the-human-clause-damien-williams/ ] and the "human clause" -

Shew says that we consciously and unconsciously appended a “human clause” to all of our definitions of technology, tool use, and intelligence, and this clause’s presumption—that it doesn’t really “count” if humans aren’t the ones doing it—is precisely what has to change.

Tracking Elon Musk's car through space.

Eight reasons why Facebook has peaked.

Does anyone else find it odd that selfies still get more likes and engagement on Instagram than anything else?


3

Via Nabil, this interview with Jason Kottke [http://orbitaloperations.createsend1.com/t/d-l-ojdgtl-iroiiuht-i/ ], a survivor of the first wave of "professional bloggers," is interesting.
The way I’ve been thinking about it lately is that I am like a vaudevillian. I’m the last guy dancing on the stage, by myself, and everyone else has moved on to movies and television. The Awl and The Hairpin have folded. Gawker’s gone, though it would probably still be around if it hadn’t gotten sued out of existence.

On the other hand, blogging is kind of everywhere. Everyone who’s updating their Facebook pages and tweeting and posting on Instagram and Pinterest is performing a bloggish act.

The Republic Of Newsletters.

The Invisible College of Blogs.

Kottke notes that he gave up on RSS when Google Reader shut down. So did some websites. But not all of them, not by a long chalk. And RSS readers like Feedbin work just fine, even in tandem with phone apps like Reeder. (I know other people who swear by Feedly.)

In part of a long thread about the Mueller indictments, my old acquaintance Baratunde Thurston said:
We build a giant deception machine called marketing and advertising, and an adversary used it against us.

We build a giant influence machine called social media, and an adversary used it against us.

These two lines apply to pretty much everything on and about the internet in the 2010s, too.
When I was young, living down the road in Essex, where radio was born (in a Marconi hut outside Chelmsford), radio came out of wooden boxes. Switches and dials. I liked the way my old radios imposed architecture on a world of invisible waves. A red needle, numbers, a speedometer for signals. Physical switching between Medium Wave, FM and Long Wave. Ramps and streets and windows. To me, it gave radio a structure like the false topology of the Tube map.

That was me, from a few years ago. I bet, at some point, there were Tube maps made for certain blogging continuums.

Why am I going on about this again? Because you like reading. You wouldn't be here if you didn't like reading. The "pivot to video" narrative of last year turned out to be basically Facebook's way to kill publishers, and it was a great doomsday weapon. Get publishers to fire all their writers and get video makers in. Then kill publishers' ability to reach people on Facebook with video! It was genius, and you need to understand how insidious that was.

(Also ref. Chris Hardwick's recent Twitter rant about the terrible timeshifting Instagram is doing.)

Tumblr's so fucked up that you could probably take it over between you. And set up systems with IFTTT as simple as mailing your posts to yourself so you have an archive for when the ship goes down.

The Republic and the College are pro-reading, pro-thinking, pro- the independence of voices.

In 2015, I also wrote:
I’m an edge case. I want an untangled web. I want everything I do to copy back to a single place, so I have one searchable log for each day’s thoughts, images, notes and activities. This is apparently Weird and Hermetic if not Hermitic.

I am building my monastery walls in preparation for the Collapse and the Dark Ages, damnit. Stop enabling networked lightbulbs and give me the tools to survive your zombie planet.
"



"4

Back in 2012, I had the great honour of introducing reporter Greg Palast to an audience in London, and this is part of what I said:

I'm a writer of fiction. It's fair to wonder why I'm here. I'm the last person who should be standing here talking about a book about real tragedies and economics. I come from a world where even the signposts are fictional. Follow the white rabbit. Second star to the right and straight on til morning. And a more recent one, from forty years ago, the fictional direction given by a mysterious man to an eager journalist: follow the money.

Economics is an artform. It's the art of the invisible. Money is fictional.

The folding cash in your pocket isn't real. Look at it. It's a promissory note. "I promise to pay the bearer." It's a little story, a fiction that claims your cash can be redeemed for the equivalent in goods or gold. But it won't be, because there isn't enough gold to go around. So you're told that your cash is "legal tender," which means that everyone agrees to pretend it's like money. If everyone in this room went to The Bank Of England tomorrow and said "I would like you to redeem all my cash for gold, right here, in my hand" I guarantee you that you all would see some perfect expressions of stark fucking terror.

It's not real. Cash has never been real. It's a stand-in, a fiction, a symbol that denotes money. Money that you never see. There was a time when money was sea shells, cowries. That's how we counted money once. Then written notes, then printed notes. Then telegraphy, when money was dots and dashes, and then telephone calls. Teletypes and tickers. Into the age of the computer, money as datastreams that got faster and wider, leading to latency realty where financial houses sought to place their computers in physical positions that would allow them to shave nanoseconds off their exchanges of invisible money in some weird digital feng shui, until algorithmic trading began and not only did we not see the money any more, but we can barely even see what's moving the money, and now we have people talking about strange floating computer islands to beat latency issues and even, just a few weeks ago, people planning to build a neutrino cannon on the other side of the world that actually beams financial events through the centre of the planet itself at lightspeed. A money gun.

Neutrinos are subatomic units that are currently believed to be their own antiparticle. Or, to put it another way, they are both there and not there at the same time. Just like your cash. Just like fiction: a real thing that never happened. Money is an idea.

But I don't want to make it sound small. Because it's really not. Money is one of those few ideas that pervades the matter of the planet. One of those few bits of fiction that, if it turns its back on you, can kill you stone dead."
warrenellis  2018  damienwilliams  multispecies  morethanhuman  blogging  economics  communities  community  newsletters  googlereader  rss  feedly  feedbin  radio  reading  chrishardwick  instagram  timelines  socialmedia  facebook  selfies  aggregator  monasteries  networks  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  gregpalast  fiction  money  capitialism  cash  tumblr  ifttt  internet  web  online  reeder 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Baratunde on Twitter: "Ok. I made it through the indictment. Yes I was hoping to see Donald Trump Jr's stupid face in there proving he was knowingly wiring money to the Russians. Didn't get that. Instead found a more frightening reality: we got hacked big
"Ok. I made it through the indictment. Yes I was hoping to see Donald Trump Jr's stupid face in there proving he was knowingly wiring money to the Russians. Didn't get that. Instead found a more frightening reality: we got hacked bigtime. Based on known vulnerabilities.

We build a giant deception machine called marketing and advertising, and an adversary used it against us.

We build a giant influence machine called social media, and an adversary used it against us.

We left open, unreconciled divisions in our society, and an adversary used it against us.

We weakened our press such that all the phony conflict inspired by this information warfare campaign was reported in real-time with little to no vetting, and an adversary used it against us.

We allowed our democracy to become so corrupted by money and self-serving, power-hungry folks that we already didn't trust it, and an adversary used it against us.

If the election had turned out differently, would we even know half of what we do? We only got Robert Mueller because Trump is president but also bad at wielding his power.

And even though the Russians amplified divisions to be greater than they are, those divisions are real now. There is a basic level of trust we have to have in our environment to act appropriately, and that's severely broken.

On top of that, one-half of the political establishment (the republican half) is completely uninterested in acknowledging, investigating, or responding to this sophisticated act of information warfare. They've done NOTHING to prepare us for the next campaign.

The president still hasn't imposed the Russia sanctions that Congress passed overwhelmingly. And everybody's just acting like, "Meh. TRUMP WILL BE TRUMP! Undermining national security is just his THING ya know?"

And Facebook. Oh Facebook. So happy to monetize the destruction of our civil fabric. They made $7B in the 3rd quarter of 2016. Zuckerberg smugly said 99% of posts are "authentic." We cannot trust this company to do what's best for us. Not just FB btw.

This indictment isn't just about Trump. It's about us needing a better vision for how we do this whole "society" thing. What forms of power get held accountable. What voices we listen to. This is ultimately about reality and our collective agreement on what THAT is. /END"
baratundethurston  donaldtrump  2018  politics  russia  hacking  marketing  elections  facebook  civics  division  infowarfare  deception  advertising  socialmedia  republicans  democrats  power  corruption  news  media  medialiteracy  robertmueller  money 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Facebook is wrong, text is deathless
[resurfaced because:

"Welcome to the Post-text Future
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/the-rise-of-a-visual-internet.html ]

"Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable — you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral — text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

Because nothing has proved as invincible as writing and literacy. Because text is just so malleable. Because it fits into any container we put it in. Because our world is supersaturated in it, indoors and out. Because we have so much invested in it. Because nothing we have ever made has ever rewarded our universal investment in it more. Unless our civilization fundamentally collapses, we will never give up writing and reading.

We’re still not even talking to our computers as often as we’re typing on our phones. What logs the most attention-hours — i.e., how media companies make their money — is not and has never been the universe of communications.

(And my god — the very best feature Facebook Video has, what’s helping that platform eat the world — is muted autoplay video with automatic text captions. Forget literature — even the stupid viral videos people watch waiting for the train are better when they’re made with text!)

Nothing is inevitable in history, media, or culture — but literacy is the only thing that’s even close. Bet for better video, bet for better speech, bet for better things we can’t imagine — but if you bet against text, you will lose."
timcarmody  2016  text  facebook  canon  communication  evolution  resilience  efficiency  elegance  adaptability  simplicity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power by Byung-Chul Han – review | Books | The Guardian
"The new surveillance society that has arisen since 1984, argues Han, works differently yet is more elegantly totalitarian and oppressive than anything described by Orwell or Jeremy Bentham. “Confession obtained by force has been replaced by voluntary disclosure,” he writes. “Smartphones have been substituted for torture chambers.” Well, not quite. Torture chambers still exist, it’s just that we in the neoliberal west have outsourced them (thanks, rendition flights) so that that obscenity called polite society can pretend they don’t exist.

Nonetheless, what capitalism realised in the neoliberal era, Han argues, is that it didn’t need to be tough, but seductive. This is what he calls smartpolitics. Instead of saying no, it says yes: instead of denying us with commandments, discipline and shortages, it seems to allow us to buy what we want when we want, become what we want and realise our dream of freedom. “Instead of forbidding and depriving it works through pleasing and fulfilling. Instead of making people compliant, it seeks to make them dependent.”

Your smartphone, for Han, is crucial in this respect, the multifunctional tool of our auto-exploitation. We are all Big Brother now. It is in part Catholicism with better technology, a modern rosary that is handheld confessional and effective surveillance apparatus in one. “Both the rosary and the smartphone serve the purpose of self-monitoring and control,” he explains. “Power operates more effectively when it delegates surveillance to discrete individuals.” And we queue overnight to get the latest model: we desire our own domination. No wonder the motto for Han’s book is US video artist Jenny Holzer’s slogan: “Protect me from what I want.”

Han considers that the old form of oppressive capitalism that found its personification in Big Brother has found its most resonant expression in Bentham’s notion of a panopticon, whereby all inmates of an institution could be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they were being watched. Bentham’s invention in turn catalysed French theorist Michel Foucault’s reflections on the disciplinary, punishing power that arose with industrial capitalism, leading him to coin the term biopolitics. Because the body was the central force in industrial production, Han argues, then a politics of disciplining, punishing and perfecting the body was understandably central to Foucault’s notion of how power worked.

But in the west’s deindustrialised, neoliberal era, such biopolitics is obsolete. Instead, by means of deploying “big data”, neoliberalism has tapped into the psychic realm and exploited it, with the result that, as Han colourfully puts it, “individuals degrade into the genital organs of capital”. Consider that the next time you’re reviewing your Argos purchase, streaming porn or retweeting Paul Mason. Instead of watching over human behaviour, big data’s digital panopticon subjects it to psychopolitical steering."



"At least in Nineteen Eighty-Four, nobody felt free. In 2017, for Han, everybody feels free, which is the problem. “Of our own free will, we put any and all conceivable information about ourselves on the internet, without having the slightest idea who knows what, when or in what occasion. This lack of control represents a crisis of freedom to be taken seriously.”"



"No matter. How might we resist psychopolitics? In this respect, Han cuts an intriguing figure. He rarely makes public appearances or gives interviews (and when he does he requires journalists turn off their recorders ), his Facebook page seems to have been set up by Spanish admirers, and only recently did he set up an email address which he scarcely uses. He isn’t ungooglable nor yet off the grid, but rather professor at Berlin’s University of the Arts and has written 16 mostly lovely, slender volumes of elegant cultural critique (I particularly recommend The Burnout Society, The Scent of Time, Saving Beauty and The Expulsion of the Other – all available in English) and is often heralded, along with Markus Gabriel and Richard David Precht, as a wunderkind of a newly resurgent and unprecedentedly readable German philosophy.

For all that, and I mean this as a compliment, Byung-Chul Han is an idiot. He writes: “Thoroughgoing digital networking and communication have massively amplified the compulsion to conform. The attendant violence of consensus is suppressing idiotisms.”

Indeed, the book’s last chapter is called “Idiotism”, and traces philosophy’s rich history of counter-cultural idiocy. Socrates knew only one thing, namely that he knew nothing. Descartes doubted everything in his “I think therefore I am”. Han seeks to reclaim this idiotic tradition. In an age of compulsory self-expression, he cultivates the twin heresies of secrets and silence.

Perhaps similarly, for our own well being, in our age of overspeak and underthink, we should learn the virtue of shutting up."
capitalism  latecapitalism  technology  politics  2017  biopolitics  byung-chulhan  stuartjeffries  1984  freedom  control  data  mobile  phones  facebook  twitter  conformity  conformism  amazon  internet  web  online  markusgabriel  richarddavidprecht  philosophy  idiocy  overspeak  underthink  thinking  communication  neoliberalism  foucault  power  smartphones  bigbrother  catholicsm  jennyholzer  desire  michelfoucault 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Final Boss Form — Even though we are now free from the machines that...
"Even though we are now free from the machines that enslaved and exploited people during the industrial age, digital apparatuses are installing new constraints, new slavery. Because of their mobility, they make possible exploitation that proves even more efficient, by transforming every space into a workplace - and all time into working hours.

The freedom of movement is switching over into a fatal compulsion to work everywhere. During the machine age, working time could be held in check and separated from periods of not-working, if only because the machines could not move, or be moved. One had to go to work on one’s own: this space was distinct from where work did not occur.

Today, however, this distinction no longer holds in many professions. Digital devices have mobilized work itself. The workplace is turning into a portable labor camp, from which there is no escape.

The smartphone promises more freedom, but it radiates a fatal compulsion - the compulsion to communicate. Now an almost obsessive, compulsive relationship to digital devices prevails. Here, too, “freedom” is switching over into compulsion and constraint. Social networks magnify such compulsion to communicate, on a massive scale. More communication means more capital. In turn, the accelerated circulation of communication and information leads to the accelerated circulation of Capital.

The word “digital” points to the finger (digitus). Above all, the finger counts. Digital culture is based on the counting finger. In contrast, history means recounting. It is not a matter of counting, which represents a post-historical category. Neither information nor tweets yield a whole, an account. A timeline does not recount the story of a life, either; it provides no biography. Timelines are additive, not narrative.

Digital man “fingers” the world, in that he is always counting and calculating. The digital absolutizes numbers and counting. More than anything, friends on Facebook are counted, yet real friendship is an account, a narrative. The digital age is totalizing addition, counting, and the countable. Even affection and attachments get counted - as “likes.” The narrative dimension is losing meaning on a massive scale. Today, everything is rendered countable so that it can be transformed into the language of performance, and efficiency.

As such, whatever resists being counted ceases to “be.”"

—Byung-Chul Han, In The Swarm: Digital Prospects
digital  quantitative  quantification  byung-chulhan  machines  industrialization  narrative  relationships  scale  being  presence  numbers  counting  measurement  friendship  facebook  metrics  affection  attachments  likes  meaning  capitalism  information  exploitation  mobility  work  labor  freedom  movement  compulsion  communication  constraint  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  timelines 
january 2018 by robertogreco
André Staltz - The Web began dying in 2014, here's how
"The events and data above describe how three internet companies have acquired massive influence on the Web, but why does that imply the beginning of the Web’s death? To answer that, we need to reflect on what the Web is.

The original vision for the Web according to its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, was a space with multilateral publishing and consumption of information. It was a peer-to-peer vision with no dependency on a single party. Tim himself claims the Web is dying: the Web he wanted and the Web he got are no longer the same."



"GOOG, MSFT, FB, and AMZN are mimicking AAPL’s strategy of building brand loyalty around high-end devices. Through a process I call “Appleification”, they are (1) setting up walled gardens, (2) becoming hardware companies, and (3) marketing the design while designing for the market. It is a threat to AAPL itself, because they are behind the other giants when it comes to big data collection and its uses. While AAPL’s early and bold introduction of an App Store shook the Web as the dominant software distribution platform, it wasn’t enough to replace it. The next wave of walled gardens might look different: less noticeable, but nonetheless disruptive to the Web."



"There is a tendency at GOOG-FB-AMZN to bypass the Web which is motivated by user experience and efficient communication, not by an agenda to avoid browsers. In the knowledge internet and the commerce internet, being efficient to provide what users want is the goal. In the social internet, the goal is to provide an efficient channel for communication between people. This explains FB’s 10-year strategy with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as the next medium for social interactions through the internet. This strategy would also bypass the Web, proving how more natural social AR would be than social real-time texting in browsers. Already today, most people on the internet communicate with other people via a mobile app, not via a browser.

The common pattern among these three internet giants is to grow beyond browsers, creating new virtual contexts where data is created and shared. The Web may die like most other technologies do: simply by becoming less attractive than newer technologies. And like most obsolete technologies, they don’t suddenly disappear, neither do they disappear completely. You can still buy a Walkman and listen to a tape with it, but the technology has nevertheless lost its collective relevance. The Web’s death will come as a gradual decay of its necessity, not as a dramatic loss.

The Trinet

The internet will survive longer than the Web will. GOOG-FB-AMZN will still depend on submarine internet cables (the “Backbone”), because it is a technical success. That said, many aspects of the internet will lose their relevance, and the underlying infrastructure could be optimized only for GOOG traffic, FB traffic, and AMZN traffic. It wouldn’t conceptually be anymore a “network of networks”, but just a “network of three networks”, the Trinet, if you will. The concept of workplace network which gave birth to the internet infrastructure would migrate to a more abstract level: Facebook Groups, Google Hangouts, G Suite, and other competing services which can be acquired by a tech giant. Workplace networks are already today emulated in software as a service, not as traditional Local Area Networks. To improve user experience, the Trinet would be a technical evolution of the internet. These efforts are already happening today, at GOOG. In the long-term, supporting routing for the old internet and the old Web would be an overhead, so it could be beneficial to cut support for the diverse internet on the protocol and hardware level. Access to the old internet could be emulated on GOOG’s cloud accessed through the Trinet, much like how Windows 95 can be today emulated in your browser. ISPs would recognize the obsolescence of the internet and support the Trinet only, driven by market demand for optimal user experience from GOOG-FB-AMZN.

Perhaps a future with great user experience in AR, VR, hands-free commerce and knowledge sharing could evoke an optimistic perspective for what these tech giants are building. But 25 years of the Web has gotten us used to foundational freedoms that we take for granted. We forget how useful it has been to remain anonymous and control what we share, or how easy it was to start an internet startup with its own independent servers operating with the same rights GOOG servers have. On the Trinet, if you are permanently banned from GOOG or FB, you would have no alternative. You could even be restricted from creating a new account. As private businesses, GOOG, FB, and AMZN don’t need to guarantee you access to their networks. You do not have a legal right to an account in their servers, and as societies we aren’t demanding for these rights as vehemently as we could, to counter the strategies that tech giants are putting forward.

The Web and the internet have represented freedom: efficient and unsupervised exchange of information between people of all nations. In the Trinet, we will have even more vivid exchange of information between people, but we will sacrifice freedom. Many of us will wake up to the tragedy of this tradeoff only once it is reality."
andréstaltz  amazon  facebook  google  internet  web  online  walledgardens  marketing  advertising  2014  2017  seo  publishing  amp  apple 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Zeynep Tufekci: We're building a dystopia just to make people click on ads | TED Talk | TED.com
"We're building an artificial intelligence-powered dystopia, one click at a time, says techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. In an eye-opening talk, she details how the same algorithms companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon use to get you to click on ads are also used to organize your access to political and social information. And the machines aren't even the real threat. What we need to understand is how the powerful might use AI to control us -- and what we can do in response."

[See also: "Machine intelligence makes human morals more important"
https://www.ted.com/talks/zeynep_tufekci_machine_intelligence_makes_human_morals_more_important

"Machine intelligence is here, and we're already using it to make subjective decisions. But the complex way AI grows and improves makes it hard to understand and even harder to control. In this cautionary talk, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains how intelligent machines can fail in ways that don't fit human error patterns -- and in ways we won't expect or be prepared for. "We cannot outsource our responsibilities to machines," she says. "We must hold on ever tighter to human values and human ethics.""]
zeyneptufekci  machinelearning  ai  artificialintelligence  youtube  facebook  google  amazon  ethics  computing  advertising  politics  behavior  technology  web  online  internet  susceptibility  dystopia  sociology  donaldtrump 
october 2017 by robertogreco
How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets - The New York Times
"nshuman Pandey was intrigued. A graduate student in history at the University of Michigan, he was searching online for forgotten alphabets of South Asia when an image of a mysterious writing system popped up. In eight years of digging through British colonial archives both real and digital, he has found almost 200 alphabets across Asia that were previously undescribed in the West, but this one, which he came across in early 2011, stumped him. Its sinuous letters, connected to one another in cursive fashion and sometimes bearing dots and slashes above or below, resembled those of Arabic.

Pandey eventually identified the script as an alphabet for Rohingya, the language spoken by the stateless and persecuted Muslim people whose greatest numbers live in western Myanmar, where they’ve been the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing. Pandey wasn’t sure if the alphabet itself was in use anymore, until he lucked upon contemporary pictures of printed textbooks for children. That meant it wasn’t a historical footnote; it was alive.

An email query from Pandey bounced from expert to expert until it landed with Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya activist and television host who was living in Malaysia. He told Pandey the short history of this alphabet, which was developed in the 1980s by a group of scholars that included a man named Mohammed Hanif. It spread slowly through the 1990s in handwritten, photocopied books. After 2001, thanks to two computer fonts designed by Noor, it became possible to type the script in word-processing programs. But no email, text messages or (later) tweets could be sent or received in it, no Google searches conducted in it. The Rohingya had no digital alphabet of their own through which they could connect with one another.

Billions of people around the world no longer face this plight. Whether on computers or smartphones, they can write as they write, expressing themselves in their own linguistic culture. What makes this possible is a 26-year-old international industrial standard for text data called the Unicode standard, which prescribes the digital letters, numbers and punctuation marks of more than 100 different writing systems: Greek, Cherokee, Arabic, Latin, Devanagari — a world-spanning storehouse of languages. But the alphabet that Noor described wasn’t among them, and neither are more than 100 other scripts, just over half of them historical and the rest alphabets that could still be used by as many as 400 million people today.

Now a computational linguist and motivated by a desire to put his historical knowledge to use, Pandey knows how to get obscure alphabets into the Unicode standard. Since 2005, he has done so for 19 writing systems (and he’s currently working to add another eight). With Noor’s help, and some financial support from a research center at the University of California, Berkeley, he drew up the basic set of letters and defined how they combine, what rules govern punctuation and whether spaces exist between words, then submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital scripts. In 2018, seven years after Pandey’s discovery, what came to be called Hanifi Rohingya will be rolled out in Unicode’s 11th version. The Rohingya will be able to communicate online with one another, using their own alphabet."



"Unicode’s history is full of attacks by governments, activists and eccentrics. In the early 1990s, the Chinese government objected to the encoding of Tibetan. About five years ago, Hungarian nationalists tried to sabotage the encoding for Old Hungarian because they wanted it to be called “Szekley-Hungarian Rovas” instead. An encoding for an alphabet used to write Nepal Bhasa and Sanskrit was delayed a few years ago by ethnonationalists who mistrusted the proposal because they objected to the author’s surname. Over and over, the Unicode Consortium has protected its standard from such political attacks.

The standard’s effectiveness helped. “If standards work, they’re invisible and can be ignored by the public,” Busch says. Twenty years after its first version, Unicode had become the default text-data standard, adopted by device manufacturers and software companies all over the world. Each version of the standard ushered more users into a seamless digital world of text. “We used to ask ourselves, ‘How many years do you think the consortium will need to be in place before we can publish the last version?’ ” Whistler recalls. The end was finally in sight — at one point the consortium had barely more than 50 writing systems to add.

All that changed in October 2010, when that year’s version of the Unicode standard included its first set of emojis."



"Not everyone thinks that Unicode should be in the emoji business at all. I met several people at Emojicon promoting apps that treat emojis like pictures, not text, and I heard an idea floated for a separate standards body for emojis run by people with nontechnical backgrounds. “Normal people can have an opinion about why there isn’t a cupcake emoji,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, an entrepreneur and a film producer whose advocacy on behalf of a dumpling emoji inspired her to organize Emojicon. The issue isn’t space — Unicode has about 800,000 unused numerical identifiers — but about whose expertise and worldview shapes the standard and prioritizes its projects.

“Emoji has had a tendency to subtract attention from the other important things the consortium needs to be working on,” Ken Whistler says. He believes that Unicode was right to take responsibility for emoji, because it has the technical expertise to deal with character chaos (and has dealt with it before). But emoji is an unwanted distraction. “We can spend hours arguing for an emoji for chopsticks, and then have nobody in the room pay any attention to details for what’s required for Nepal, which the people in Nepal use to write their language. That’s my main concern: emoji eats the attention span both in the committee and for key people with other responsibilities.”

Emoji has nonetheless provided a boost to Unicode. Companies frequently used to implement partial versions of the standard, but the spread of emoji now forces them to adopt more complete versions of it. As a result, smartphones that can manage emoji will be more likely to have Hanifi Rohingya on them too. The stream of proposals also makes the standard seem alive, attracting new volunteers to Unicode’s mission. It’s not unusual for people who come to the organization through an interest in emoji to end up embracing its priorities. “Working on characters used in a small province of China, even if it’s 20,000 people who are going to use it, that’s a more important use of their time than deliberating over whether the hand of my yoga emoji is in the right position,” Mark Bramhill told me.

Since its creation was announced in 2015, the “Adopt a Character” program, through which individuals and organizations can sponsor any characters, including emojis, has raised more than $200,000. A percentage of the proceeds goes to support the Script Encoding Initiative, a research project based at Berkeley, which is headed by the linguistics researcher Deborah Anderson, who is devoted to making Unicode truly universal. One the consortium recently accepted is called Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong, devised for the Hmong language by a minister in California whose parishioners have been using it for more than 25 years. Still in the proposal stage is Tigalari, once used to write Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

One way to read the story of Unicode in the time of emoji is to see a privileged generation of tech consumers confronting the fact that they can’t communicate in ways they want to on their devices: through emoji. They get involved in standards-making, which yields them some satisfaction but slows down the speed with which millions of others around the world get access to the most basic of online linguistic powers. “There are always winners and losers in standards,” Lawrence Busch says. “You might want to say, ultimately we’d like everyone to win and nobody to lose too much, but we’re stuck with the fact that we have to make decisions, and when we make them, those decisions are going to be less acceptable to some than to others.”"
unicode  language  languages  internet  international  standards  emoji  2017  priorities  web  online  anshumanpandey  rohingya  arabic  markbramhill  hmong  tigalari  nyiakengpuachuehmong  muhammadnoor  mohammedhanif  kenwhistler  history  1980  2011  1990s  1980s  mobile  phones  google  apple  ascii  facebook  emojicon  michaelaerard  technology  communication  tibet 
october 2017 by robertogreco
You Have a New Memory - Long View on Education
"Last night I nearly cleaned out my social media presence on Instagram as I’ve used it about 6 times in two years. More generally, I want to pull back on any social media that isn’t adding to my life (yeah, Facebook, I’m talking about you). Is there anything worth staying on Instagram for? I know students use it to show off the photographic techniques they learn in their digital photography class. When I scrolled through to see what photos have been posted from the location of our school, I was caught by a very striking image that represents a view out of a classroom.

One of the most striking things about Instagram is how students engage with it (likes) way more than they do our school Twitter stream. I care about where their engagement happens since in the last two days of learning conferences, many students told me that they got their news through Snapchat. But neither Instagram nor Snapchat are where I have the interactions that I value.

This poses a serious challenge for teaching media literacy, but also for teaching the more traditional forms of text. With my Grade 9s, we have been reading and crafting memoirs. How does their construction of ephemeral memoirs on Snapchat and curated collections of memories on Instagram shape both how they write and see themselves?

Even though I understand how Snapchat works, I will never understand what it’s like to feel the draw of streaks or notifications. And with Instagram, I’m well past a point where I’m drawn to construct images that vie for hundreds of likes. I’m simply not shaped by these medias in the same way.

Beyond different medias, students really carry around different devices than I do, even though they may both be called iPhones. Few of them read the news on it or need to sift through work emails. But in both cases, these devices form the pathway to a public presentation of self, which is something that I struggle with on many levels. I’m happy to be out here in public intellectual mode sharing and criticizing ideas, and to reflect on my teaching and share what my students are doing, and to occasionally put out parts of my personal life, but I resent the way that platforms work to combine all of those roles into one public individual.

Just this morning, I received the most bizarre notification from my Apple Photos: “You Have a New Memory”. So, even in the relatively private space between my stored photos and my screen, algorithms give birth to new things I need to be made aware of. Notified. How I go about opting out of social media now seems like an easier challenge than figuring out how I withdraw from the asocial nudges that emerge from my own archives."
2017  benjamindoxtdator  instagram  twitter  facebook  algorithms  memory  memories  photography  presentationofself  apple  iphone  smartphones  technology  teaching  education  edtech  medialiteracy  engagement  snapchat  ephemerality  text  memoirs  notifications  likes  favorites  ephemeral 
october 2017 by robertogreco
The Great Thing About Apple's 'Town Squares' - The Atlantic
"In adopting the faux democratic language of Facebook and Twitter, Apple has made the perfect physical metaphor for the largely ineffable problem the internet poses to democracy.

Maybe that will make people realize how absurd it is to expect fundamentally commercial entities to build community or to serve liberal democracy or to make your voice heard or to act as an agora or whatever else.

These are businesses. They sell stuff. People buy it. That’s great.

Bringing these democratic ideas inside private enterprises seems nice, but it warps the very idea of “the public.” Who is excluded from the Apple Town Square that should have equal access to the soapbox?"
democrcy  alexismadrigal  facebook  apple  publicspace  2017  twitter  language  technology  economics  corporatism  capitalism  latecapitalism 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Tim Maughan on Twitter: "Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it https://t.co/nIMEez6IT5"
"Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it [screenshot]

been saying this for ages (as has Curtis and others) - this is now the way the world works.

We build systems so complex we don't understand them, and can't control. Instead we try and manage and reactively fire-fight small parts.

see also: all markets, supply chains, the media, algorithms, economies, day to day politics, policing, advertising..just take your pick.

How do you make sense of a system no single individual can comprehend? You lose agency and blame others. You dream up conspiracy theories.

Or you try to find one single answer or reason - and you argue violently for it - when the reality is its far too complex for that.

"It was her emails! The media! Racism! It was bernie! No, it was the russians!" It was all those things, plus x more levels of complexity.

This all sounds very 'we're fucked' and defeatist and, well, yeah. Maybe. Or maybe we can try and find ways to wrestle control back.

One thing these systems all have in common: their purpose is primarily to create and hoard capital. Maybe we should pivot away from that?

More relevant quotes re complexity, control, and automation from that Zuckerberg statement (which is here https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104052907253171 …) [two screenshots]"
timmaughan  elections  2017  2016  markzuckerberg  facebook  systems  complexity  agency  cv  control  systemsthinking  economics  algorithms  media  supplychains  advertising  politics  policing  lawenforcement 
september 2017 by robertogreco
recalibrating your sites – the ANOVA
"Not too long ago, I felt the need to change the stream of personalities and attitudes that were pouring into my head, and it’s been remarkable.

This was really the product of idiosyncratic personal conditions, but it’s ended up being a good intellectual exercise too. I had to rearrange a few things in my digital social life. And concurrently I had realized that my sense of the world was being distorted by the flow of information that was being deposited into my brain via the internet. I hadn’t really lost a sense of what the “other side” thinks politically; I’m still one of those geezers who forces himself to read Reason and the Wall Street Journal op/ed page and, god help me, National Review. But I had definitely lost a sense of the mental lives of people who did not occupy my various weird interests.

What were other people thinking about, at least as far as could be gleaned by what they shared online? What appeared to be a big deal to them and what didn’t? I had lost my sense of social proportion. I couldn’t tell if the things my friends were obsessing about were things that the rest of the world was obsessing about. Talking to IRL friends that don’t post much or at all online helped give me a sense that I was missing something. But I didn’t know what.

No, I had to use the tools available to me to dramatically change the opinions and ideas and attitudes that were coming flowing into my mental life. And it had become clear that, though I have an RSS feed and I peruse certain websites and publications regularly, though I still read lots of books and physical journals and magazines, the opinions I was receiving were coming overwhelmingly through social media. People shared things and commented on what they shared on Facebook and Twitter, they made clear what ideas were permissible and what weren’t on Facebook and Twitter, they defined the shared mental world on Facebook and Twitter. They created a language that, if you weren’t paying attention, looked like the lingua franca. I’m sure there are people out there who can take all of this in with the proper perspective and not allow it to subtly shape your perception of social attitudes writ large. But I can’t.

It’s all particularly disturbing because a lot of what you see and don’t online is the product of algorithms that are blunt instruments at best.

So I set about disconnecting, temporarily, from certain people, groups, publications, and conversations. I found voices that popped up in my feeds a lot and muted them. I unfollowed groups and pages. I looked out for certain markers of status and social belonging and used them as guides for what to avoid. I was less interested in avoiding certain subjects than I was in avoiding certain perspectives, the social frames that we all use to understand the world. The news cycle was what it was; I could not avoid Trump, as wonderful as that sounds. But I could avoid a certain way of looking at Trump, and at the broader world. In particular I wanted to look past what we once called ideology: I wanted to see the ways in which my internet-mediated intellectual life was dominated by assumptions that did not recognize themselves as assumptions, to understand how the perspective that did not understand itself to be a perspective had distorted my vision of the world. I wanted to better see the water in which my school of fish swims.

Now this can be touchy – mutually connecting with people on social media has become a loaded thing in IRL relationships, for better or worse. Luckily both Facebook and Twitter give you ways to not see someone’s posts without them knowing and without severing the connection. Just make a list of people, pages, and publications that you want to take a diet from, and after a month or two of seeing how different things look, go back to following them. (Alternatively: don’t.) Really do it! The tools are there, and you can always revert back. Just keep a record of what you’re doing.

I was prepared for this to result in a markedly different online experience for me, and for it to somewhat change my perception of what “everyone” thinks, of what people are reading, watching, and listening to, etc. But even so, I’ve been floored by how dramatically different the online world looks with a little manipulation of the feeds. A few subjects dropped out entirely; the Twin Peaks reboot went from being everywhere to being nowhere, for example. But what really changed was the affect through which the world was presenting itself to me.

You would not be surprised by what my lenses appear to have been (and still largely to be): very college educated, very left-leaing, very New York, very media-savvy, very middlebrow, and for lack of a better word, very “cool.” That is, the perspective that I had tried to wean myself off of was made up of people whose online self-presentation is ostentatiously ironic, in-joke heavy, filled with cultural references that are designed to hit just the right level of obscurity, and generally oriented towards impressing people through being performatively not impressed by anything. It was made up of people who are passionately invested in not appearing to be passionately invested in anything. It’s a sensibility that you can trace back to Gawker and Spy magazine and much, much further back than that, if you care to.

Perhaps most dramatic was the changes to what – and who – was perceived as a Big Deal. By cutting out a hundred voices or fewer, things and people that everybody talks about became things and people that nobody talks about. The internet is a technology for creating small ponds for us to all be big fish in. But you change your perspective just slightly, move over just an inch, and suddenly you get a sense of just how few people know about you or could possibly care. It’s oddly comforting, to be reminded that even if you enjoy a little internet notoriety, the average person on the street could not care less who you are or what you do. I recommend it.

Of course, there are profound limits to this. My feeds are still dominantly coming from a few overlapping social cultures. Trimming who I’m following hasn’t meant that I’m suddenly connected to more high school dropouts, orthodox Jews, senior citizens, or people who don’t speak English. I would never pretend that this little exercise has given me a truly broad perspective. The point has just been to see how dramatically a few changes to my digital life could alter my perception of “the conversation.” And it’s done that. More than ever, I worry that our sense of shared political assumptions and the perceived immorality of the status quo is the result of systems that exclude a large mass of people, whose opinions will surely matter in the political wars ahead.

I am now adding some of what I cut back in to my digital life. The point was never really to avoid particular publications or people. I like some of what and who I had cut out very much. The point is to remain alive to how arbitrary and idiosyncratic changes in the constant flow of information can alter our perception of the human race. It’s something I intend to do once a year or so, to jolt myself back into understanding how limiting my perspective really is.

Everyone knows, these days, that we’re living in digitally-enabled bubbles. The trouble is that our instincts are naturally to believe that everyone else is in a bubble, or at least that their bubbles are smaller and with thicker walls. But people like me – college educated, living in an urban enclave, at least socially liberal, tuned in to arts and culture news and criticism, possessed of the vocabulary of media and the academy, “savvy” – you face unique temptations in this regard. No, I don’t think that this kind of bubble is the same as someone who only gets their news from InfoWars and Breitbart. But the fact that so many people like me write the professional internet, the fact that the creators of the idioms and attitudes of our newsmedia and cultural industry almost universally come from a very thin slice of the American populace, is genuinely dangerous.

To regain perspective takes effort, and I encourage you all to expend that effort, particularly if you are an academic or journalist. Your world is small, and our world is big."
freddiedeboer  2017  internet  twitter  facebook  filterbubbles  socialmedia  relationships  algorithms  echochambers  academia  journalism  culture  society  diversity  perspective  listening  web  media  feeds 
august 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

[video]

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

3. the precarity of nothing

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

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

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools - The New York Times
"The involvement by some of the wealthiest and most influential titans of the 21st century amounts to a singular experiment in education, with millions of students serving as de facto beta testers for their ideas. Some tech leaders believe that applying an engineering mind-set can improve just about any system, and that their business acumen qualifies them to rethink American education.

“They are experimenting collectively and individually in what kinds of models can produce better results,” said Emmett D. Carson, chief executive of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which manages donor funds for Mr. Hastings, Mr. Zuckerberg and others. “Given the changes in innovation that are underway with artificial intelligence and automation, we need to try everything we can to find which pathways work.”

But the philanthropic efforts are taking hold so rapidly that there has been little public scrutiny."



"But many parents and educators said in interviews that they were unaware of the Silicon Valley personalities and money influencing their schools. Among them was Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin Independent School District, a public school system in Lufkin, Tex., where students regularly use DreamBox Learning, the math program that Mr. Hastings subsidized, and have tried Code.org’s coding lessons.

“We should be asking a lot more questions about who is behind the curtain,” Ms. Davis said."
automation  education  personalization  facebook  summitpublicschools  markzuckerberg  publicschools  edtech  data  chaters  culture  2017  marcbenioff  influence  democracy  siliconvalley  hourofcode  netflix  algorithms  larrycuban  rafranzdavis  salesforce  reedhastings  dreamboxlearning  dreambox  jessiewoolley-wilson  surveillance  dianetavenner 
june 2017 by robertogreco
What's Wrong With Letting Tech Run Our Schools - Bloomberg
"Silicon Valley tech moguls are conducting an enormous experiment on the nation’s children. We should not be so trusting that they’ll get it right.

Alphabet Inc. unit Google has taken a big role in public education, offering low-cost laptops and free apps. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc. is investing heavily in educational technology, largely though the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Netflix Inc. head Reed Hastings has been tinkering with expensive and algorithmic ed-tech tools.

Encouraging as all this may be, the technologists might be getting ahead of themselves, both politically and ethically. Also, there’s not a lot of evidence that what they’re doing works.

Like it or not, education is political. People on opposite sides of the spectrum read very different science books, and can’t seem to agree on fundamental principles. It stands to reason that what we choose to teach our children will vary, depending on our beliefs. That’s to acknowledge, not defend, anti-scientific curricula.

Zuckerberg and Bill Gates learned this the hard way last year when the Ugandan government ordered the closure of 60 schools -- part of a network providing highly scripted, low-cost education in Africa -- amid allegations that they had been “teaching pornography” and “conveying the gospel of homosexuality” in sex-ed classes. Let’s face it, something similar could easily happen here if tech initiatives expand beyond the apolitical math subjects on which they have so far focused.

Beyond that, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about letting tech companies wield so much influence in the classroom. They tend to offer “free services” in return for access to data, a deal that raises some serious privacy concerns -- particularly if you consider that it can involve tracking kids’ every click, keystroke and backspace from kindergarten on.

My oldest son is doing extremely well as a junior in school right now, but he was a late bloomer who didn’t learn to read until third grade. Should that be a part of his permanent record, data that future algorithms could potentially use to assess his suitability for credit or a job? Or what about a kid whose “persistence score” on dynamic, standardized tests waned in 10th grade? Should colleges have access to that information in making their admissions decisions?

These are not far-fetched scenarios. Consider the fate of nonprofit education venture InBloom, which sought to collect and integrate student records in a way that would allow lessons to be customized. The venture shut down a few years ago amid concerns about how sensitive information -- including tags identifying students as “tardy” or “autistic” -- would be protected from theft and shared with outside vendors.

Google and others are collecting similar data and using it internally to improve their software. Only after some prompting did Google agree to comply with the privacy law known as FERPA, which had been weakened for the purpose of third-party sharing. It’s not clear how the data will ultimately be used, how long the current crop of students will be tracked, or to what extent their futures will depend on their current performance.

Nobody really knows to what educational benefit we are bearing such uncertainties. What kinds of kids will the technological solutions reward? Will they be aimed toward producing future Facebook engineers? How will they serve children in poverty, with disabilities or with different learning styles? As far as I know, there’s no standard audit that would allow us to answer such questions. We do know, though, that the companies and foundations working on educational technology have a lot of control over the definition of success. That’s already too much power.

In short, blindly trusting the tech guys is no way to improve our educational system. Although they undoubtedly mean well, we should demand more accountability."
edtech  google  provatization  siliconvalley  technology  schools  politics  policy  2017  publicschools  education  inbloom  facebook  markzuckerberg  data  pivacy  accountability  via:audreyatters 
june 2017 by robertogreco
What's Wrong with Apple's New Headquarters | WIRED
"But … one more one more thing. You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general. People rightly credit Apple for defining the look and feel of the future; its computers and phones seem like science fiction. But by building a mega-headquarters straight out of the middle of the last century, Apple has exacerbated the already serious problems endemic to 21st-century suburbs like Cupertino—transportation, housing, and economics. Apple Park is an anachronism wrapped in glass, tucked into a neighborhood."



"Apple Park isn’t the first high-end, suburban corporate headquarters. In fact, that used to be the norm. Look back at the 1950s and 1960s and, for example, the Connecticut General Life Insurance HQ in Hartford or John Deere’s headquarters in Moline, Illinois. “They were stunningly beautiful, high modernist buildings by quality architects using cutting-edge technology to create buildings sheathed in glass with a seamless relationship between inside and outside, dependent on the automobile to move employees to the site,” says Louise Mozingo, a landscape architect at UC Berkeley and author of Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. “There was a kind of splendid isolation that was seen as productive, capturing the employees for an entire day and in the process reinforcing an insular corporate culture.”

By moving out of downtown skyscrapers and building in the suburbs, corporations were reflecting 1950s ideas about cities—they were dirty, crowded, and unpleasantly diverse. The suburbs, though, were exclusive, aspirational, and architectural blank slates. (Also, buildings there are easier to secure and workers don’t go out for lunch where they might hear about other, better jobs.) It was corporatized white flight. (Mozingo, I should add, speaks to this retrograde notion in Levy’s WIRED story.)

Silicon Valley, though, never really played by these rules. IBM built a couple of research sites modeled on its East Coast redoubts, but in general, “Silicon Valley has thrived on using rather interchangeable buildings for their workplaces,” Mozingo says. You start in a garage, take over half a floor in a crummy office park, then take over the full floor, then the building, then get some venture capital and move to a better office park. “Suddenly you’re Google, and you have this empire of office buildings along 101."

And then when a bust comes or your new widget won’t widge, you let some leases lapse or sell some real estate. More than half of the lot where Apple sited its new home used to be Hewlett Packard. The Googleplex used to be Silicon Graphics. It’s the circuit of life.

Except when you have a statement building like the Spaceship, the circuit can’t complete. If Apple ever goes out of business, what would happen to the building? The same thing that happened to Union Carbide’s. That’s why nobody builds these things anymore. Successful buildings engage with their surroundings—and to be clear, Apple isn’t in some suburban arcadia. It’s in a real live city, across the street from houses and retail, near two freeway onramps.

Except the Ring is mostly hidden behind artificial berms, like Space Mountain at Disneyland. “They’re all these white elephants. Nobody knows what the hell to do with them. They’re iconic, high-end buildings, and who cares?” Mozingo says. “You have a $5 billion office building, incredibly idiosyncratic, impossible to purpose for somebody else. Nobody’s going to move into Steve Jobs’ old building.”"



"The problems in the Bay Area (and Los Angeles and many other cities) are a lot more complicated than an Apple building, of course. Cities all have to balance how they feel about adding jobs, which can be an economic benefit, and adding housing, which also requires adding expensive services like schools and transit. Things are especially tough in California, where a 1978 law called Proposition 13 radically limits the amount that the state can raise property taxes yearly. Not only did its passage gut basic services the state used to excel at, like education, but it also turned real estate into the primary way Californians accrued and preserved personal wealth. If you bought a cheap house in the 1970s in the Bay Area, today it’s a gold mine—and you are disincentivized from doing anything that would reduce its value, like, say, allowing an apartment building to be built anywhere within view.

Meanwhile California cities also have to figure out how to pay for their past employees’ pensions, an ever-increasing percentage of city budgets. Since they can’t tax old homes and can’t build new ones, commercial real estate and tech booms look pretty good. “It’s a lot to ask a corporate campus to fix those problems,” Arieff says.

But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t try. Some companies are: The main building of the cloud storage company Box, for example, is across the street from the Redwood City CalTrain station, and the company lets people downtown park in its lot on weekends. “The architecture is neither here nor there, but it’s a billion times more effective than the Apple campus,” Arieff says. That’s a more contemporary approach than building behind hills, away from transit.

When those companies are transnational technology corporations, it’s even harder to make that case. “Tech tends to be remarkably detached from local conditions, primarily because they’re selling globally,” says Ed Glaeser, a Harvard economist who studies cities. “They’re not particularly tied to local suppliers or local customers.” So it’s hard to get them to help fix local problems. They have even less of an incentive to solve planning problems than California homeowners do. “Even if they see the problem and the solution, there’s not a way to sell that. This is why there are government services,” Arieff says. “You can’t solve a problem like CalTrain frequency or the jobs-to-housing ratio with a market-based solution.”

Cities are changing; a more contemporary approach to commercial architecture builds up instead of out, as the planning association’s report says. Apple’s ring sites 2.5 million square feet on 175 acres of rolling hills and trees meant to evoke the Stanford campus. The 60-story tall Salesforce Tower in San Francisco has 1.5 million square feet, takes up about an acre, has a direct connection to a major transit station—the new Transbay Terminal—and cost a fifth of the Apple ring. Stipulated, the door handles probably aren’t as nice, but the views are killer.

The Future

Cupertino is the kind of town that technology writers tend to describe as “once-sleepy” or even, and this should really set off your cliche alarm, “nondescript.” But Shrivastava had me meet her for coffee at Main Street Cupertino, a new development that—unlike the rotten strip malls along Stevens Creek Blvd—combines cute restaurants and shops with multi-story residential development and a few hundred square feet of grass that almost nearly sort of works as a town square.

Across the actual street from Main Street, the old Vallco Mall—one of those medieval fortress-like shopping centers with a Christmas-sized parking lot for a moat—has become now Cupertino’s most hotly debated site for new development. (The company that built Main Street owns it.) Like all the other once-sleepy, nondescript towns in Silicon Valley, Cupertino knows it has to change. Shrivastava knows that change takes time.

It takes even longer, though, if businesses are reluctant partners. In the early 20th century, when industrial capitalists were first starting to get really, really rich, they noticed that publicly financed infrastructure would help them get richer. If you own land that you want to develop into real estate, you want a train that gets there and trolleys that connect it to a downtown and water and power for the houses you’re going to build. Maybe you want libraries and schools to induce families to live there. So you team up with government. “In most parts of the US, you open a tap and drink the water and it won’t kill you. There was a moment when this was a goal of both government and capital,” Mozingo says. “Early air pollution and water pollution regulations were an agreement between capitalism and government.”

Again, in the 1930s and 1940s, burgeoning California Bay Area businesses realized they’d need a regional transit network. They worked for 30 years alongside communities and planners to build what became BART, still today a strange hybrid between regional connector and urban subway.

Tech companies are taking baby steps in this same direction. Google added housing to the package deal surrounding the construction of its new HQ in the North Bayshore area—nearly 10,000 apartments. (That HQ is a collection of fancy pavilion-like structures from famed architect Bjarke Ingels.) Facebook’s new headquarters (from famed architect Frank Gehry) is supposed to be more open to the community, maybe even with a farmers’ market. Amazon’s new headquarters in downtown Seattle, some of 10 million square feet of office space the company has there, comes with terrarium-like domes that look like a good version of Passengers.

So what could Apple have built? Something taller, with mixed-use development around it? Cupertino would never have allowed it. But putting form factor aside, the best, smartest designers and architects in the world could have tried something new. Instead it produced a building roughly the shape of a navel, and then gazed into it.

Steven Levy wrote that the headquarters was Steve Jobs’ last great project, an expression of the way he saw his domain. It may look like a circle, but it’s actually a pyramid—a monument… [more]
apple  urbanism  cities  architects  architecture  adamrogers  2017  applecampus  cupertino  suburbia  cars  civics  howbuildingslearn  stevejobs  design  housing  publictransit  civicresponsibility  corporations  proposition13  bart  allisonarieff  bayarea  1030s  1940s  1950s  facebook  google  amazon  seattle  siliconvalley  isolationism  caltrain  government  capitalism  publicgood  louisemozingo  unioncarbide  ibm  history  future  landscape  context  inequality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
David Byrne | Journal | ELIMINATING THE HUMAN
"My dad was an electrical engineer—I love the engineer's’ way of looking at the world. I myself applied to both art school AND to engineering school (my frustration was that there was little or no cross-pollination. I was told at the time that taking classes in both disciplines would be VERY difficult). I am familiar with and enjoy both the engineer's mindset and the arty mindset (and I’ve heard that now mixing one’s studies is not as hard as it used to be).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive."
davidbyrne  2017  automation  ai  business  culture  technology  dehumanization  humanism  humanity  gigeconomy  labor  work  robots  moocs  socialmedia  google  facebook  amazon  yuvalharari  social  productivity  economics  society  vr  ebay  retail  virtualreality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Eyes Without a Face — Real Life
"The American painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly — remembered mainly for his contributions to minimalism, Color Field, and Hard-edge painting — was also a prodigious birdwatcher. “I’ve always been a colorist, I think,” he said in 2013. “I started when I was very young, being a birdwatcher, fascinated by the bird colors.” In the introduction to his monograph, published by Phaidon shortly before his death in 2015, he writes, “I remember vividly the first time I saw a Redstart, a small black bird with a few very bright red marks … I believe my early interest in nature taught me how to ‘see.’”

Vladimir Nabokov, the world’s most famous lepidopterist, classified, described, and named multiple butterfly species, reproducing their anatomy and characteristics in thousands of drawings and letters. “Few things have I known in the way of emotion or appetite, ambition or achievement, that could surpass in richness and strength the excitement of entomological exploration,” he wrote. Tom Bradley suggests that Nabokov suffered from the same “referential mania” as the afflicted son in his story “Signs and Symbols,” imagining that “everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence” (as evidenced by Nabokov’s own “entomological erudition” and the influence of a most major input: “After reading Gogol,” he once wrote, “one’s eyes become Gogolized. One is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places”).

For me, a kind of referential mania of things unnamed began with fabric swatches culled from Alibaba and fine suiting websites, with their wonderfully zoomed images that give you a sense of a particular material’s grain or flow. The sumptuous decadence of velvets and velours that suggest the gloved armatures of state power, and their botanical analogue, mosses and plant lichens. Industrial materials too: the seductive artifice of Gore-Tex and other thermo-regulating meshes, weather-palimpsested blue tarpaulins and piney green garden netting (winningly known as “shade cloth”). What began as an urge to collect colors and textures, to collect moods, quickly expanded into the delicious world of carnivorous plants and bugs — mantises exhibit a particularly pleasing biomimicry — and deep-sea aphotic creatures, which rewardingly incorporate a further dimension of movement. Walls suggest piled textiles, and plastics the murky translucence of jellyfish, and in every bag of steaming city garbage I now smell a corpse flower.

“The most pleasurable thing in the world, for me,” wrote Kelly, “is to see something and then translate how I see it.” I feel the same way, dosed with a healthy fear of cliché or redundancy. Why would you describe a new executive order as violent when you could compare it to the callous brutality of the peacock shrimp obliterating a crab, or call a dress “blue” when it could be cobalt, indigo, cerulean? Or ivory, alabaster, mayonnaise?

We might call this impulse building visual acuity, or simply learning how to see, the seeing that John Berger describes as preceding even words, and then again as completely renewed after he underwent the “minor miracle” of cataract surgery: “Your eyes begin to re-remember first times,” he wrote in the illustrated Cataract, “…details — the exact gray of the sky in a certain direction, the way a knuckle creases when a hand is relaxed, the slope of a green field on the far side of a house, such details reassume a forgotten significance.” We might also consider it as training our own visual recognition algorithms and taking note of visual or affective relationships between images: building up our datasets. For myself, I forget people’s faces with ease but never seem to forget an image I have seen on the internet.

At some level, this training is no different from Facebook’s algorithm learning based on the images we upload. Unlike Google, which relies on humans solving CAPTCHAs to help train its AI, Facebook’s automatic generation of alt tags pays dividends in speed as well as privacy. Still, the accessibility context in which the tags are deployed limits what the machines currently tell us about what they see: Facebook’s researchers are trying to “understand and mitigate the cost of algorithmic failures,” according to the aforementioned white paper, as when, for example, humans were misidentified as gorillas and blind users were led to then comment inappropriately. “To address these issues,” the paper states, “we designed our system to show only object tags with very high confidence.” “People smiling” is less ambiguous and more anodyne than happy people, or people crying.

So there is a gap between what the algorithm sees (analyzes) and says (populates an image’s alt text with). Even though it might only be authorized to tell us that a picture is taken outside, then, it’s fair to assume that computer vision is training itself to distinguish gesture, or the various colors and textures of the slope of a green field. A tag of “sky” today might be “cloudy with a threat of rain” by next year. But machine vision has the potential to do more than merely to confirm what humans see. It is learning to see something different that doesn’t reproduce human biases and uncover emotional timbres that are machinic. On Facebook’s platforms (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) alone, over two billion images are shared every day: the monolith’s referential mania looks more like fact than delusion."
2017  rahelaima  algorithms  facebook  ai  artificialintelligence  machinelearning  tagging  machinevision  at  ellsworthkelly  color  tombrdley  google  captchas  matthewplummerfernandez  julesolitski  neuralnetworks  eliezeryudkowsky  seeing 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Can the online community be saved? Is it even worth saving? - The Globe and Mail
"It seems quaint now to speak of online communities in romantic terms. I’ll do it anyway. For the past few decades, we’ve been in love with them.

What made them so appealing was the way that made the world suddenly seemed to open up. Bulletin boards, and then forums, then blogs allowed everyone from knitting enthusiasts to politics nerds to find and talk to others who shared their interests or views. We liked that, and made hanging out there a mainstay of life. But as can happen with love, things can sour bit by bit, almost imperceptibly, until one day you awake and find yourself in toxic relationships.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, in the mid-2000s, I sat in a Toronto basement apartment, adding my thoughts to posts on a site called Snarkmarket, which delved into the artsy and philosophical sides of technology and media. To my mind, these wide, wild, intimate discussions seemed to capture everything wonderful about the new modern age: I found like-minded individuals and, eventually, a community.

And then, I was on a plane, flying over the deeply blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in November, 2013. Somehow, a blog comment section had led me from Toronto to Florida. A group flew in from all over the continent to St. Petersburg, and brought our online discussions to life around tables replete with boozy pitchers shared on patios in the thick Florida air. Putting faces to usernames made fleeting connections feel more solid, and years later, a small number of us are still in touch: so much for the alienating nature of technology.

It does, however, already feel like a different era, and that such recent history can seem so far away brings with it a strange sense of vertigo. Logging on each morning now, I sometimes forget why I ever had so much faith in all this novelty, and wonder if it can be saved at all.

The first fault line was when the centre of gravity of our online socializing shifted to giant platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and more. With that shift to mainstream sites composed of tens or hundreds of millions of users colliding together in a riot of opinion and expression, online communities started to seem unwelcoming, even dangerous places."



"It is tempting to say, then, that the solution is simple: barriers. A functioning community should draw a line around the kind of people it wants, and keep others out. But that’s also demoralizing in its own way. It suggests those lofty ideals that we could find community with people of all sorts across the globe are well and truly dead, forever.

Anil Dash doesn’t believe they are – at least not fully. A mainstay in the American tech scene after founding the blogging platform Typepad in the early 2000s, he has been vocal in his disappointment that platforms such as Twitter have been slow in responding to abuse. “The damage can be done now is so much more severe because everyone is on these networks and they have so much more reach,” he says on the phone from New York. “The stakes are now much higher.”"



"At a scale of tens of thousands or even millions of people, it’s not just notions of community that are lost, but norms, too, where what would be obvious offline – don’t yell at someone to make a point, don’t dominate a conversation just because you can, and so on – are ignored because of the free-for-all vibe of much social media.

Britney Summit-Gil, a writer, academic and researcher of online communities at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, suggests that while sites such as Facebook and Reddit can be full of hate and harassment, there are increasingly effective tools to build smaller, more private spaces, both on those platforms, and on other sites such as messaging app Slack, or even group text chats.

Summit-Gil also argues that in adopting the idea of community, these huge platforms are responsible for endorsing the principle of guidelines more generally: rules for how and by what standards online communities should operate, that allow these spaces to work at all.

Our online relationships aren’t dead, but our sense of community has become more private: hidden in plain sight, in private Facebook or Slack groups, text chats with friends, we connect in closed spaces that retain the idea of a group of people, bound by shared values, using tech to connect where they otherwise might not be able to. Online communities were supplanted by social media, and for a time we pretended they were the same thing, when in fact they are not.

Social media is the street; the community is the house you step into to meet your friends, and like any house, there are rules: things you wouldn’t do, people you wouldn’t invite it in and a limit on just how many people can fit. We forgot those simple ideas, and now it’s time to remember.

My own online community that took me to Florida was, sadly, subject to the gravity of the social giants. It dissipated, pulled away by the weight of Twitter and Facebook, but also the necessities of work and money and family. Nonetheless, we still connect sometimes, now in new online places, quiet, enclosed groups that the public world can’t see. New communities have sprouted up, too – and I still dive in. I’m not sure I would do so as easily, though, had it not been for what now threatens to be lost: that chance to get on a plane, look down from above and see, from up high, what we share with those scattered around the globe.

That sense of radical possibility is, I think, worth fighting to save."
navneetalang  socialmedia  online  internet  web  anildash  britneysummit-gil  2017  consolidation  tumblr  instagram  twitter  facebook  social  lindywest  snarkmarket  community  gamergate  reddit  scale  typepad  abuse 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Weird Thing About Today's Internet - The Atlantic
"O’Reilly’s lengthy description of the principles of Web 2.0 has become more fascinating through time. It seems to be describing a slightly parallel universe. “Hyperlinking is the foundation of the web,” O’Reilly wrote. “As users add new content, and new sites, it is bound into the structure of the web by other users discovering the content and linking to it. Much as synapses form in the brain, with associations becoming stronger through repetition or intensity, the web of connections grows organically as an output of the collective activity of all web users.”

Nowadays, (hyper)linking is an afterthought because most of the action occurs within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and messaging apps, which all have carved space out of the open web. And the idea of “harnessing collective intelligence” simply feels much more interesting and productive than it does now. The great cathedrals of that time, nearly impossible projects like Wikipedia that worked and worked well, have all stagnated. And the portrait of humanity that most people see filtering through the mechanics of Facebook or Twitter does not exactly inspire confidence in our social co-productions.

Outside of the open-source server hardware and software worlds, we see centralization. And with that centralization, five giant platforms have emerged as the five most valuable companies in the world: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook."



"All this to say: These companies are now dominant. And they are dominant in a way that almost no other company has been in another industry. They are the mutant giant creatures created by software eating the world.

It is worth reflecting on the strange fact that the five most valuable companies in the world are headquartered on the Pacific coast between Cupertino and Seattle. Has there ever been a more powerful region in the global economy? Living in the Bay, having spent my teenage years in Washington state, I’ve grown used to this state of affairs, but how strange this must seem from from Rome or Accra or Manila.

Even for a local, there are things about the current domination of the technology industry that are startling. Take the San Francisco skyline. In 2007, the visual core of the city was north of Market Street, in the chunky buildings of the downtown financial district. The TransAmerica Pyramid was a regional icon and had been the tallest building in the city since construction was completed in 1972. Finance companies were housed there. Traditional industries and power still reigned. Until quite recently, San Francisco had primarily been a cultural reservoir for the technology industries in Silicon Valley to the south."

[See also:

"How the Internet has changed in the past 10 years"
http://kottke.org/17/05/how-the-internet-has-changed-in-the-past-10-years

"What no one saw back then, about a week after the release of the original iPhone, was how apps on smartphones would change everything. In a non-mobile world, these companies and services would still be formidable but if we were all still using laptops and desktops to access information instead of phones and tablets, I bet the open Web would have stood a better chance."

"‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It"
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/technology/evan-williams-medium-twitter-internet.html]

[Related:
"Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us"
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/technology/techs-frightful-five-theyve-got-us.html

"Which Tech Giant Would You Drop?: The Big Five tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. Could you ditch them?"
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/10/technology/Ranking-Apple-Amazon-Facebook-Microsoft-Google.html

"Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?"]
alexismadrigal  internet  2017  apple  facebook  google  amazon  microsoft  westcoast  bayarea  sanfrancisco  seattle  siliconvalley  twitter  salesforce  instagram  snapchat  timoreilly  2005  web  online  economics  centralization  2007  web2.0  whatsapp  evanwilliams  kottke  farhadmanjoo 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Your Camera Wants to Kill the Keyboard | WIRED
"SNAPCHAT KNEW IT from the start, but in recent months Google and Facebook have all but confirmed it: The keyboard, slowly but surely, is fading into obscurity.

Last week at Google’s annual developer conference, the company presented its vision for how it expects its users—more than a billion people—to interact with technology in the coming years. And for the most part, it didn’t involve typing into a search box. Instead, Google’s brass spent its time onstage touting the company’s speech recognition skills and showing off Google Lens, a new computer vision technology that essentially turns your phone’s camera into a search engine.

Technology has once again reached an inflection point. For years, smartphones relied on hardware keyboards, a holdover from the early days of cell phones. Then came multitouch. Spurred by the wonders of the first smartphone screens, people swiped, typed, and pinched. Now, the way we engage with our phones is changing once again thanks to AI. Snapping a photo works as well, if not better, than writing a descriptive sentence in a search box. Casually chatting with Google Assistant, the company’s omnipresent virtual helper, gets results as fast, if not faster, than opening Chrome and navigating from there. The upshot, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained, is that we’re increasingly interacting with our computers in more natural and emotive ways, which could mean using your keyboard a lot less.

Ask the people who build your technology, and they’ll tell you: The camera is the new keyboard. The catchy phrase is becoming something of an industry-wide mantra to describe the constant march toward more visual forms of communication. Just look at Snapchat. The company bet its business on the fact that people would rather trade pictures than strings of words. The idea proved so compelling that Facebook and Instagram unabashedly developed their own versions of the feature. “The camera has already become a pervasive form of communication,” says Roman Kalantari, the head creative technologist at the design studio Fjord. “But what’s the next step after that?”

For Facebook and Snapchat, it was fun-house mirror effects and goofy augmented reality overlays—ways of building on top of photos that you simply can’t with text. Meanwhile, Google took a decidedly more utilitarian approach with Lens, turning the camera into an input device much like the keyboard itself. Point your camera at a tree, and it’ll tell you the variety. Snap a pic of the new restaurant on your block, and it’ll pull up the menu and hours, even help you book a reservation. Perhaps the single most effective demonstration of the technology was also its dullest—focus the lens on a router’s SKU and password, and Google’s image recognition will scan the information, pass it along to your Android phone, and automatically log you into the network.

This simplicity is a big deal. No longer does finding information require typing into a search box. Suddenly the world, in all its complexity, can be understood just by aiming your camera at something. Google isn’t the only company buying into this vision of the future. Amazon’s Fire Phone from 2014 enabled image-based search, which meant you could point the camera at a book or a box of cereal and have the item shipped to you instantly via Amazon Prime. Earlier this year, Pinterest launched the beta version of Lens, a tool that allows users to take a photo of an object in the real world and surface related objects on the Pinterest platform. “We’re getting to the point where using your camera to discover new ideas is as fast and easy as typing,” says Albert Pereta, a creative lead at Pinterest, who led the development at Lens.

Translation: Words can be hard, and it often works better to show than to tell. It’s easier to find the mid-century modern chair with a mahogany leather seat you’re looking for when you can share what it looks like, rather than typing a string of precise keywords. “With a camera, you can complete the task by taking a photo or video of the thing,” explains Gierad Laput, who studies human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon. “Whereas with a keyboard, you complete this task by typing a description of the thing. You have to come up with the right description and type them accordingly.”

The caveat, of course, is that the image recognition needs to be accurate in order to work. You have agency when you type something into a search box—you can delete, revise, retype. But with a camera, the devices decides what you’re looking at and, even more crucially, assumes what information you want to see in return. The good (or potentially creepy) news is that with every photo taken, search query typed, and command spoken, Google learns more about you, which means over time your results grow increasingly accurate. With its deep trove of knowledge in hand, Google seems determined to smooth out the remaining rough edges of technology. It’ll probably still be a while before the keyboard goes extinct, but with every shot you take on your camera, it’s getting one step closer."
interface  ai  google  communication  images  cameras  2017  snapchat  facebook  smartphones  lizstinson  imagerecognition  pinterest  keyboards  input  romankalantari  technology  amazon  sundarpichai  albertpereta  gieradlaput 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Picting, not Writing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth -- THE Journal
[full page format: https://thejournal.com/Articles/2017/05/08/Picting-Not-Writing.aspx?p=1 ]

[goes with http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/54488126022/future-communications ]

"Two interesting observations:

• In the K–12 classroom, today’s youth spend 90 percent of the time with text-based materials and 10 percent of the time with image-based materials.
• Outside the K–12 classroom, today’s youth spend 90 percent of the time with image-based materials and 10 percent of the time with text-based materials."



"But, don’t count millennials out! Millennials use Pinterest as much as Instagram! (Hmm: that data is from 2014 — and a lot has happened since then to Snapchat and Instagram!) Bottom line on Pinterest: Words are an add-on; images are primary.

Now that we have established that picting is a real trend — and one that is significantly engaged in by the youth of today, it’s time to ask this question: Is the trend towards picting, and away from writing, a good thing for today’s youth? Here’s a pro and here’s a con:

Pro: Since 2008, we (CN and ES) have worked in a primary school in Singapore, helping the administrators and teachers transition from a didactic pedagogy to an inquiry pedagogy. As witnessed by their top test rankings, Singapore is the best in the world at drill pedagogy. But Singapore’s Ministry of Education understands that drill pedagogy doesn’t develop children that are entrepreneurial, imaginative — so Singapore is trying to change their school’s pedagogy. Hmm: Maybe America could learn something from Singapore? (See an earlier blog post for a more in-depth analysis of the pedagogical transition taking place in Singapore.)

Key in Singaporean school’s transition was the use of mobile technologies. After all, if we want children to do inquiry and ask questions, the children need a way to answer their questions. So, with support from the Wireless Reach Project (Qualcomm, Inc.), each third and fourth grader at "our" Singaporean primary school was provided with a handheld computing device equipped with WiFi and cellular connectivity — 24/7, inside the school and outside the school, internet connectivity. When a question arose, the youngsters would say: "ask the phone" — a shorthand for "search the internet."

Along with 24/7 internet access, we gave the students a suite of apps, designed — using LCD (Learner-Centered Design) — expressly for the youngsters, that support concept mapping, writing, charting, and most importantly drawing and animating (Sketchy). What we were told by the teachers and by some of the students themselves is this: The struggling learners preferred to express themselves in Sketchy using drawings and animations — not writing.

Why? We were told this: Writing was too easy to grade "right" or "wrong." And for the struggling learners, "wrong" was, of course, the more typical. But, when asked by their teachers to explain how their drawing and animations did demonstrate their understanding — their correct understanding, in fact — of a science process, say, the struggling learners felt comfortable explaining their drawings and animations to the teachers. Clearly words were important, but as a companion to drawings and animations.

Con: In 1991, Mark Guzidal, then a graduate student in ES’s research group at the University of Michigan — and now a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology — designed a simple-to-use, education-oriented, multimedia authoring tool we called "MediaText." Tony Fadell, then an undergraduate student also in ES’s research group, started a company (Constructive Instruments, Inc.) and made MediaText into a commercial product. (For calibration: with Windows 95, 1995 was the "official" start of the public internet.) And, in 1992, MediaText was given a "Top 6 Educational Software" award. MediaText was really quite cool! (FYI: Not particularly astute at business, ES signed onto a "bad" (financially-speaking) deal: Constructive Instruments went bankrupt, and its CEO, Tony, went on to better things. (Go ahead, Google "Tony Fadell.")

Figure 1 shows two screen images of MediaText documents. On the left was a typical document: Text taking up its usual position on the page but with media icons — pointers to videodisc clips (yes, videodisc!), audio clips, pictures, etc. — in the margin, complementing the writing. However, we saw a significant number of MediaText documents — like the one on the right — that had no writing, no text, just media icons, just picting!

At a dinner party at ES’s home with friends — one who was a successful stock broker and one who was a successful lawyer — ES proudly showed off the commercial version of MediaText, and especially the document on the right — pointing out how clever the young person was to create a story using only images. (Sound familiar?)

But the stock broker and the lawyer were horrified! They said: "Elliot, you are harming those children, you are doing those children a disservice! Writing is how we make a living; pictures are for fun, not for real work." ES harming children? OMG, OMG, OMG! Needless to say, ES has never forgotten that dinner party!

Bottom line: No question about it: picting is the new literacy. For better — for worse: "It is what it is." When will the U.S. Congress express laws in images? When will venture capitalists express business plans in pictures? More immediately: What is K–12 going to do? In your opinion, what should K–12 do about picting? Please, add your comments — in writing <smilely face goes here> — below."
photography  communication  cathienorris  elliotsoloway  socialmedia  2017  picting  images  emoticons  education  children  youth  digital  writing  howwewrite  snapchat  instagram  youtube  video  sfsh  pinterest  facebook 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Build a Better Monster: Morality, Machine Learning, and Mass Surveillance
"technology and ethics aren't so easy to separate, and that if you want to know how a system works, it helps to follow the money."



"A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on our platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we're good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it?"



"The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance. Every interaction with a computing device leaves a data trail, and whole industries exist to consume this data. Unlike dystopian visions from the past, this surveillance is not just being conducted by governments or faceless corporations. Instead, it’s the work of a small number of sympathetic tech companies with likeable founders, whose real dream is to build robots and Mars rockets and do cool things that make the world better. Surveillance just pays the bills."



"These companies exemplify the centralized, feudal Internet of 2017. While the protocols that comprise the Internet remain open and free, in practice a few large American companies dominate every aspect of online life. Google controls search and email, AWS controls cloud hosting, Apple and Google have a duopoly in mobile phone operating systems. Facebook is the one social network.

There is more competition and variety among telecommunications providers and gas stations than there is among the Internet giants."



"Build a Better Monster
Idle Words · by Maciej Cegłowski
I came to the United States as a six year old kid from Eastern Europe. One of my earliest memories of that time was the Safeway supermarket, an astonishing display of American abundance.

It was hard to understand how there could be so much wealth in the world.

There was an entire aisle devoted to breakfast cereals, a food that didn't exist in Poland. It was like walking through a canyon where the walls were cartoon characters telling me to eat sugar.

Every time we went to the supermarket, my mom would give me a quarter to play Pac Man. As a good socialist kid, I thought the goal of the game was to help Pac Man, who was stranded in a maze and needed to find his friends, who were looking for him.

My games didn't last very long.

The correct way to play Pac Man, of course, is to consume as much as possible while running from the ghosts that relentlessly pursue you. This was a valuable early lesson in what it means to be an American.

It also taught me that technology and ethics aren't so easy to separate, and that if you want to know how a system works, it helps to follow the money.

Today the technology that ran that arcade game permeates every aspect of our lives. We’re here at an emerging technology conference to celebrate it, and find out what exciting things will come next. But like the tail follows the dog, ethical concerns about how technology affects who we are as human beings, and how we live together in society, follow us into this golden future. No matter how fast we run, we can’t shake them.

This year especially there’s an uncomfortable feeling in the tech industry that we did something wrong, that in following our credo of “move fast and break things”, some of what we knocked down were the load-bearing walls of our democracy.

Worried CEOs are roving the landscape, peering into the churches and diners of red America. Steve Case, the AOL founder, roams the land trying to get people to found more startups. Mark Zuckerberg is traveling America having beautifully photographed conversations.

We’re all trying to understand why people can’t just get along. The emerging consensus in Silicon Valley is that polarization is a baffling phenomenon, but we can fight it with better fact-checking, with more empathy, and (at least in Facebook's case) with advanced algorithms to try and guide conversations between opposing camps in a more productive direction.

A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on our platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we're good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it?

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

I contend that there are structural reasons to worry about the role of the tech industry in American political life, and that we have only a brief window of time in which to fix this.

Surveillance Capitalism

The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance. Every interaction with a computing device leaves a data trail, and whole industries exist to consume this data. Unlike dystopian visions from the past, this surveillance is not just being conducted by governments or faceless corporations. Instead, it’s the work of a small number of sympathetic tech companies with likeable founders, whose real dream is to build robots and Mars rockets and do cool things that make the world better. Surveillance just pays the bills.

It is a striking fact that mass surveillance has been driven almost entirely by private industry. While the Snowden revelations in 2012 made people anxious about government monitoring, that anxiety never seemed to carry over to the much more intrusive surveillance being conducted by the commercial Internet. Anyone who owns a smartphone carries a tracking device that knows (with great accuracy) where you’ve been, who you last spoke to and when, contains potentially decades-long archives of your private communications, a list of your closest contacts, your personal photos, and other very intimate information.

Internet providers collect (and can sell) your aggregated browsing data to anyone they want. A wave of connected devices for the home is competing to bring internet surveillance into the most private spaces. Enormous ingenuity goes into tracking people across multiple devices, and circumventing any attempts to hide from the tracking.

With the exception of China (which has its own ecology), the information these sites collect on users is stored permanently and with almost no legal controls by a small set of companies headquartered in the United States.

Two companies in particular dominate the world of online advertising and publishing, the economic engines of the surveillance economy.

Google, valued at $560 billion, is the world’s de facto email server, and occupies a dominant position in almost every area of online life. It’s unremarkable for a user to connect to the Internet on a Google phone using Google hardware, talking to Google servers via a Google browser, while blocking ads served over a Google ad network on sites that track visitors with Google analytics. This combination of search history, analytics and ad tracking gives the company unrivaled visibility into users’ browsing history. Through initiatives like AMP (advanced mobile pages), the company is attempting to extend its reach so that it becomes a proxy server for much of online publishing.

Facebook, valued at $400 billion, has close to two billion users and is aggressively seeking its next billion. It is the world’s largest photo storage service, and owns the world’s largest messaging service, WhatsApp. For many communities, Facebook is the tool of choice for political outreach and organizing, event planning, fundraising and communication. It is the primary source of news for a sizable fraction of Americans, and through its feed algorithm (which determines who sees what) has an unparalleled degree of editorial control over what that news looks like.

Together, these companies control some 65% of the online ad market, which in 2015 was estimated at $60B. Of that, half went to Google and $8B to Facebook. Facebook, the smaller player, is more aggressive in the move to new ad and content formats, particularly video and virtual reality.

These companies exemplify the centralized, feudal Internet of 2017. While the protocols that comprise the Internet remain open and free, in practice a few large American companies dominate every aspect of online life. Google controls search and email, AWS controls cloud hosting, Apple and Google have a duopoly in mobile phone operating systems. Facebook is the one social network.

There is more competition and variety among telecommunications providers and gas stations than there is among the Internet giants.

Data Hunger

The one thing these companies share is an insatiable appetite for data. They want to know where their users are, what they’re viewing, where their eyes are on the page, who they’re with, what they’re discussing, their purchasing habits, major life events (like moving or pregnancy), and anything else they can discover.

There are two interlocking motives for this data hunger: to target online advertising, and to train machine learning algorithms.

Advertising

Everyone is familiar with online advertising. Ads are served indirectly, based on real-time auctions … [more]
advertising  facebook  google  internet  politics  technology  apple  labor  work  machinelearning  security  democracy  california  taxes  engagement 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Time is Part of the Work: An Interview with Agnes Varda — Bright Wall/Dark Room
"For a while she sold DVDs of her movies to visitors from around the world through the window, living out a daydream, she says, of being a shopkeeper."



"I like to reconciliate black and white and color, the past and the present, the digital and the authentic. It’s like trying to make everything simple for me. It’s not ‘that time’ or ‘this time’. It’s mixing time and technique.”"



"This is a recurring idea in her work, that beyond the representational space of a film frame, an edit, a single image, a gallery space, there is an outside world only implied or imagined or rendered as unknown history."



"All images are questions. if you look at everything, a painting, an image, you can question… The way you look at it, what it brings to your mind, if it reminds you of something. My god. It does something. You could get that from one image, and there are so many. So you have to choose.

A snapshot is a real mystery. Because you do them in the street somewhere and really each time when I look at them I say who are they? From where are they coming? Why are they together? Maybe they hate each other, maybe they love each other. It’s even - in a magazine when they show all these things about war, about peace, about people in the streets, even you see them in demonstrations, I am always questioning: who are they?"



[Q: "A lot of the art you’re making asks the viewer’s imagination to be a participant…"]

"Well I ask people to participate, because an image you know… If you close the light, and you all go out, an image is nothing. It’s nothing. If nobody looks at an image it’s a dead piece of paper.

One viewer is enough. Somebody looks at the image, one viewer is enough. Two or three is fine. A thousand is, you know, in a film if you run the film in an empty theater, it’s nothing. But one spectator is enough."



[Q: "So what about our modern culture of photographs and videos? Last night at your art opening everyone was taking photos constantly of everything."]

"Well that’s interesting, cause you know when I was young it meant something to have a camera. It changed so much that now not only people start to have cheap cameras, but they all have smartphones and people do photos all the time. And it’s interesting because most, when they do selfies, they want to prove to themselves they were there.

It’s interesting because it’s saying “I need proof in my life”. When I am traveling, or I meet someone, people say “can I take a picture with you” like this [she mimes standing next to her and making a selfie]. And it has been studied by sociologists and historians because it’s something very new in civilization, that not only images are everywhere and easy to make, but we want to have memories of ourselves. So people do that.

When at the time, when I was young, people would bring a child to a photographer. And the child would be on a shiny pedestal, and the baby lying on its belly, or sitting, very posed, and it was an act, you know?

I even made a short film about it called Ydessa. And at the time, in Germany, before the war, they would always take a teddy bear with them and go into the studio with the teddy bear. The child or the couple would pose. It was like an art that would last for their whole life, they would have a photo. But the questions in this film are everywhere eight years later.

It’s very democratic in a way but still, some people now think of photos differently. And a lot of people are on Instagram and they put a lot of images, beautiful images, private images. They're beautiful. I look at a lot of Instagram pictures of people I don’t know. And I say, “Oooh he went there and did that, or she did this?” A woman that I knew, but I lost for years, and suddenly there are images of Mexico - she must have been traveling there. She’s in Mexico! Oh! And then she is back.

So it’s like in a way it becomes transparent. Like you leave information about yourself. Like all this Twitter and Facebook. Do you use them?"



"Sometimes I think in a selfish way, you know, we cannot grab all the misery and carry it in our bags.

Sometimes I feel we have to do what I feel I have to do as an artist. To do things. Maybe sharing with people. Sharing emotion, sharing information. But, I am just, too… I cannot change the world. I can only change some relation between some people in the cinema. It’s a very modest work. Touching very few people. I mean it’s, we have no possibility to do much more than the very modest work of artists. That’s the way I feel."



"I like to make films about people who aren’t spoken about.

What I think is because I know… The way you are involved in what’s happening in the world is relative. Because I cannot make a change about the desires of millions of people that want to move.

I’ve been hurt, in the heart, just by watching these images when they are on a boat and they die in the ocean and sometimes they are saved. But we cannot save them. We cannot go and take another boat and save three people and give them food and bring them home.

So we are assisting as a terrible spectacle all the hunger and migration in the world.

So I say, as artists, you can only do what we know how to do, which includes friendship, sharing, transmission."



"I have a formula: I switched from old filmmaker to young visual artist. Because people want definition. You are this or that. And I like to feel that I’m everything. I’ve had three lives: as a photographer, a filmmaker, and as a visual artist.

I am in time. I’m old. I’ve been crossing time for years. I love the idea that even with a bad memory I can pick something which is years ago or someone I met years ago and I am here, and I enjoy it."



[Q: "I ask her one final question: In all your work as a photographer, as a filmmaker, as an artist, what have you come to discover is the difference between media and memory?"]

"I don’t know, because you can see in your own life and use your memory to remember what you have. That’s not my point. My point is to get a piece of the past and bring it into my life of today.

So I don’t have the feeling that I wish to tell you my memories. I’ve done that in some of my films. What I do now, is always: make it alive now. I’ve been loving the seaside since I’m young. And it’s set where I did my first film, La Pointe Courte. By bringing the sea into a new medium, into the art world, it makes it alive. It’s not my past. I don’t care so much. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life. What I love is to make the now and here very important. That’s how I stand life.

It’s sharing what I do with people. My work is to propose, to propose the notion, to propose surprises, my view. That’s life. That’s what we call… The artist."
agnèsvarda  2017  aaronstewart-ahn  interviews  time  memory  memories  film  filmmaking  photography  audiencesofone  instagram  twitter  facebook  socialmedia  digital 
april 2017 by robertogreco
A lawyer rewrote Instagram's terms of service for kids. Now you can understand all of the private data you and your teen are giving up to social media — Quartz
"– Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.

– […] we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).

– We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert.

– We can change or end Instagram, or stop you accessing Instagram at any time, for any reason and without letting you know in advance. We can also delete posts and other content randomly, without telling you, for any reason. If we do this, we will not be responsible for paying out any money and you won’t have any right to complain.

– We can force you to give up your username for any reason.

– We can, but do not have to, remove, edit, block and/or monitor anything posted or any accounts that we think breaks any of these rules. We are not responsible if somebody breaks the law or breaks these rules; but if you break them, you are responsible."
instagram  facebook  privacy  security  tos  termsofservice  2017  law  parenting 
january 2017 by robertogreco
From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck (Spoilers) | Motherboard
"Why on Earth are ports standardized but data storage isn’t? Why are data storage formats wildly variable, but file formats are readable across enemy lines? Why is it that I have to carry five dongles so my Macbook can play a PowerPoint presentation but a decades-old Rebel droid needs zero to stay interoperable with an enemy’s state-of-the-art battle station?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I at least have a theory about why the Empire keeps its backups on magnetic tape.

You see, the Scarif facility is just too badly designed for it all to be a coincidence. It doesn’t appear to be patterned after Old Republic systems. The tape format never appears again in the movies. The incredibly large files contained on the tape can be stored on palm-sized, paper-thin disks, meaning the tapes are unnecessary. The claw-machine system makes no sense. The antenna tower makes the Scarif facility easy to target in a military attack.

In other words, the archival system on Scarif appears to be designed in a deliberate act of sabotage by anti-Imperial archivists attempting to undermine Palpatine’s rule. Like Galen Erso, the archivists chose to remain embedded inside the Empire, and as their act of resistance, build the most useless, asinine archival system the galaxy had ever seen.

As part of their plan, they adopted a magnetic tape format, to maximize the size of the facility and make it necessary to manufacture massive amounts of interoperable technology to support the tapes. Given that the tapes are never seen before or after Rogue One, it may be that the archivists developed the tape format using military funding, in hopes that diverting money away from weapons and into a bad R&D project would, in the grand scheme of things, save lives.

This is absolutely the only rational explanation for the data storage formats depicted in Rogue One, and I look forward to seeing the prequel about the heroic rebel archivists."
archives  media  facebook  interoperability  2016  startwars  rogueone  sarahjeong  archivists  mediatypes  standardization  data  datastorage  storage 
january 2017 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 195
"Some have argued that we simply need better “media literacy,” but as danah boyd writes, we need “a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information.” “Media literacy” as currently practiced and taught, she contends, might be part of the problem.

boyd argues elsewhere that we’re witnessing “the democratization of manipulation.” But that’s always been the goal of marketing and advertising. Edward Bernays and such.

What is striking to me is how much technology journalism – and that’s ed-tech journalism too, let’s be frank – is itself “fake news.” It’s marketing. It’s manipulation. No, it’s not inevitable that robots are going to take all our jobs, or that AI will raise our children, or that everything in our homes will be Internet-connected. This is industry PR, promoting a certain ideology and a certain future, posing as “news.”

No wonder there’s so much bullshit on Facebook. Facebook itself is part of that larger bullshit industry known as Silicon Valley."
audreywatters  medialiteracy  danahboyd  2017  fakenews  advertising  pr  siliconvalley  edtech  technology  technosolutionism  facebook  propaganda  manipulation  marketing  ideology  jelanicobb  misinformation  disinformation  information  crapdetection 
january 2017 by robertogreco
B.S. 💩 Detector
"B.S. Detector is a rejoinder to Mark Zuckerberg’s dubious claims that Facebook is unable to substantively address the proliferation of fake news on its platform. A browser extension for both Chrome and Mozilla-based browsers, B.S. Detector searches all links on a given webpage for references to unreliable sources, checking against a manually compiled list of domains. It then provides visual warnings about the presence of questionable links or the browsing of questionable websites:

bs-detector-alert

The list of domains powering the B.S. Detector was somewhat indiscriminately compiled from various sources around the web. We are actively reviewing this dataset, categorizing entries, and removing misidentified domains. We thus cannot guarantee complete accuracy of our data at the moment. You can view the complete list here.

Domain classifications include:

• Fake News: Sources that fabricate stories out of whole cloth with the intent of pranking the public.
• Satire: Sources that provide humorous commentary on current events in the form of fake news.
• Extreme Bias: Sources that traffic in political propaganda and gross distortions of fact.
• Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.
• Rumor Mill: Sources that traffic in rumors, innuendo, and unverified claims.
• State News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.
• Junk Science: Sources that promote scientifically dubious claims.
• Hate Group: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

If there are any sites you recommend adding or removing, or if you object to your site being listed, you can file a report here."
medialiteracy  extensions  plugins  facebook  news  crapdetection  media 
december 2016 by robertogreco
This Is What Happens When Millions Of People Suddenly Get The Internet - BuzzFeed News
"Less than 1% of Myanmar had internet access until 2014. Now the country is getting online at an astonishing rate — but so is fake news and anti-Muslim sentiment. Sheera Frenkel finds out what happens when everyone you know joins Facebook at the same time."



"YANGON, Myanmar — The internet brought Donald Trump to Myanmar. Or, at least that’s how Shar Ya Wai first remembers hearing about the Republican president-elect.

“One day, nobody knew him. Then, everyone did. That’s what the internet is. It takes people who say crazy things and makes them famous,” the 19-year-old student said.

Like most people in this country of 50 million, which only recently opened up to the outside world, Shar Ya Wai is new to the internet. And on this day, she had walked purposefully into a phone shop in central Yangon to buy her first smartphone, a simple model by China’s Huawei that is popular among her friends. “Today I’ll buy this phone,” she said. “I guess I’ll find out how crazy [the internet] really is.”

It’s not that she’d never seen the internet before. She’d tried to stalk ex-boyfriends through a friend’s Facebook page and caught glimpses of the latest Thai pop bands on her uncle’s old tablet, which he bought secondhand a year ago. But her forays into the internet have been brief and largely left her perplexed. Here was a public space where everyone seemed to have so much to say, but it was disorganized, bombastic, overwhelming. It felt like the polar opposite of the quiet, sheltered life she’d lived until recently.

“My father is a measured person. He speaks carefully and always wanted us to speak carefully too,” she said, smoothing down her waist-length black hair, betraying her nerves. “I’m more energetic, like my mom. We speak a lot more, but it is nothing like what I see on the internet.”

It was her father who wanted her to put off buying a phone until she was old enough to “use it safely,” though she wasn’t really sure what that meant. She thought he might be referring to the men who post crass and vulgar photos online. Or he might be worried about the various scammers who are increasingly targeting the nascent internet in Myanmar. She wasn’t sure because no one had ever told her how to stay safe online — what to do, or say, or write.

Still, on this day in mid-July, Shar Ya Wai pushed herself out of a crowded store in central Yangon, holding the cellophane-wrapped cell phone as though it were an injured bird. Her fingers cradled the top and felt for the button that would turn it on, but then hesitated.

“Maybe I should wait until later. I should wait until I’m with my family,” she said, and then admitted, “I’m scared.”

She has reason to be afraid. For nearly five decades, Myanmar lived under military dictatorships that suppressed all forms of dissent and limited free speech, leading to US and European sanctions that largely cut off the country from the rest of the world. That changed in 2011, when the military junta was officially dissolved and a nominally civilian government was established. In 2015, in the first national election since the military eased its hold, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party was voted into power. Of the changes to hit the largely Buddhist country since then, few have been as drastic — and as rapid — as the sudden arrival of the internet to the general public. It revolutionized everything, from how people interact with one another to how they get their news, once the exclusive purview of hyper-regulated state-sanctioned media."
myanmar  mobileonly  mobile  phones  internet  sheerafrenkel  technology  news  media  online  facebook  smartphones  viber  socialmedia 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Wikity, One Year Later | Hapgood
"I have to admit, I thought early on that there would be larger appetite for Wikity. There may still be. But it has proved harder than thought.

Part of the reason, I think, is that the social bookmarking world that I expected Wikity to expand on is smaller than I thought, and has at least one good solid provider that people can count on (Pinboard, written and maintained by the excellent Maciej Cegłowski). More importantly, people have largely built a set of habits today that revolve around Twitter and Facebook and Slack. The habits of personal bookmarking have been eroded by these platforms which give people instant social gratification. In today’s world, bookmarking, organizing, and summarizing information feels a bit like broccoli compared to re-tweeting something with a “WTF?” tag and watching the likes roll in.

I had a bunch of people try Wikity, and even paid many people to test it. The conclusion was usually that it was easy to use, valuable, cool — and completely non-addictive. One hour into Wikity people were in love with the tool. But the next day they felt no compulsion to go back.

We could structure Wikity around social rewards in the future, and that might happen. But ultimately, for me, that struggle to understand why Wikity was not addictive in the ways that Twitter and Facebook were ended up being the most important part of the project.

I began, very early on, compiling notes in Wikity on issues surrounding the culture of Twitter, Facebook, social media, trolling, and the like. Blurbs about whether empathy was the problem or solution. Notes on issues like Abortion Geofencing, Alarm Fatigue, and the remarkable consistency of ad revenue to GDP over the last century. Was this the battle we needed to have first? Helping people understand the profound negative impact our current closed social media tools are having on our politics and culture?

I exported just my notes and clippings on these issues the other day, from Wikity, as a pdf. It was over 500 pages long. I was in deep.

As the United States primary ramped up, I became more alarmed at the way that platforms like Facebook and Twitter were polarizing opinions, encouraging shallow thought, and promoting the creation and dissemination of conspiracy theories and fake news. I began to understand that the goals of Wikity — and of any social software meant to promote deeper thought — began with increasing awareness of the ways in which our current closed, commercial environments our distorting our reality.

Recently, I have begun working with others on tools and projects that will help hold commercial social media accountable for their effect on civic discourse, and demonstrate and mitigate some of their more pernicious effects. Tools and curriculum that will help people to understand and advocate for the changes we need in these areas: algorithmic transparency, the right to modify our social media environments, the ability to see what the feed is hiding from us, places to collectively fact-check and review the sources of information we are fed.

Wikity will continue to be developed, but the journey that began with a tool ended at a social issue, and I think it’s that social issue — getting people to realize how these commercial systems have impacted political discourse and how open tools might solve the problem — that most demands addressing right now. I don’t think I’ve been this passionate about something in a very long time.

I’ve had some success in getting coverage of this issue in the past few weeks, from Vox, to TechCrunch, to a brief interview on the U.S.’s Today Show this morning.

I think we need broader collaborations, and I think open tools and software will be key to this effort. This is a developing story.

So it’s an interesting end to this project — starting with a tool, and getting sucked into a movement. Wikity is complete and useful, but the main story (for me) has turned out to lead beyond that, and I’m hurtling towards the next chapter.

Was this a successful grant? I don’t know what other people might think, but I think so. Freed from the constrictions of bullet pointed reports and waterfall charts, I just followed it where it led. It led somewhere important, where I’m making a positive difference. Is there more to success than that?

Thanks again to the Shuttleworth Foundation which kicked me off on this ride. I’ll let you all know where it takes me in the future.

(And to my Wikity fans and users — don’t worry: Wikity is not going away. As long as I can’t live without it, it’s going to continue to be developed, just a bit more slowly)."
mikecaulfield  wikity  bookmarking  socialbookmarking  software  pinboard  wikis  2016  socialmedia  titter  facebook  slack  socialgratification  tagging  compulsion 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Research study: To do better in school, log out of Facebook (FB) and play videogames — Quartz
"Pokémon Go might offer more than mindless entertainment.

Since the dawn of videogames, parents across the world have complained that their kids spend too much time playing online contests like Nintendo’s recent hit and other best-selling games such as Grand Theft Auto, Mario Kart, and Call of Duty. Yet according to new research, gamers actually do better in school.

This isn’t proof that playing videogames causes academic success, but it sets up a strong link. Alberto Posso, a business professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, looked at data from national surveys on 12,000 Australian high school students, studying how their academic scores connected with their personal interests and activities. His report—published in the International Journal of Communication—shows that the teens who made a near-daily habit of playing videogames scored roughly 15 points higher than average on math, reading, and science tests.

“Videogames potentially allow students to apply and sharpen skills learned in school,” Posso wrote. Gamers solve puzzles, often using deductive reasoning, science knowledge, or math, and they have to be completely focused on the task at hand.

No surprise, then, that Posso’s study also found students who heavily used social media, which requires only minimal focus and promotes superficial thinking, tended to score 4% lower than their peers. The more time kids spent on sites like Twitter and Facebook, the bigger the drop in their scores—a conclusion that echoes that of many prior studies on social media and academic performance.

The evidence on videogames isn’t conclusive. It may be that kids who are naturally gifted at math and reasoning also gravitate toward gaming; gamers might also have other shared interests that contribute to their sharpness in school.

Still, between time spent online on Minecraft or Facebook, parents might want to consider being more lenient on the former."
games  gming  videogames  school  education  learning  facebook  2016  albertoposso  socialmedia  minecraft  gaming  reasoning  math  mathematics 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and the Internet of Forgetting - The New Yorker
"There was seemingly nothing wrong with Instagram, up to the moment that it underwent an identity crisis. Each day, as usual, some three hundred million users had been meticulously curating and sharing images of their lives, meals, selves, and bookshelves. Earlier this week, though, the app took a hard right turn. It introduced Stories, a feature that allows users to post photos and videos, sometimes embellished with text and illustrations, in a kind of slide show, which automatically disappears after twenty-four hours. The content must have been recorded recently—nothing older than a day can be uploaded—so the result is like viewing the backstage footage rather than the rehearsed performance. Stories looked nothing like Instagram and everything like Snapchat, another app that has for years offered users a platform for this very same interaction.

It has always been common for software developers to improve their work by co-opting their competitors’ ideas. Many functions of the iPhone, for instance, are the result of Apple’s artful borrowing—the Reading List in Safari closely resembles dedicated link-saving services, and after apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic became popular the company added a half-hearted set of analog-looking filters to its camera app. Snapchat itself is not immune to the practice. A few weeks ago, it débuted a feature called Memories, whereby users can post old photos or videos from their phone’s camera roll, rather than having to film or shoot in the moment. Instagram, which pre-dates Snapchat by less than a year, has offered this since it first appeared on the App Store, in 2010. Even Memories, however, doesn’t totally erase the immediacy of Snapchat, since a photo, no matter how old, still disappears after twenty-four hours, consistent with the over-all spirit of the app. Instagram’s more recent move, by contrast, seems to run counter to its precious spirit—a betrayal of all the careful curation and perfect visuals.

As a way of reaching new demographics, Stories makes sense. The posting tools mimic Snapchat, but they’re built right into an otherwise familiar app. Most of Snapchat’s interface is obscured and requires knowing the right taps and swipes to get around, even to add a friend, and it’s notoriously hard for people over the age of thirty—“olds,” in Internet speak—to master. Now these people have access to Snapchat-like socializing without the burden of navigating the app. But Stories is also an accommodation of the off-label ways in which another important demographic—teens—use Instagram. The average teen posts often but erases often, too, especially if the posts don’t receive enough likes, interaction, or attention from the right people. A recent Washington Post profile of Katherine Pommerening, an eighth grader from Virginia, noted that she never has more than a couple dozen posts visible on her Instagram profile at any given time. Teens love to post, but they love nearly as much to delete and unburden themselves of past gauche choices—the selfie taken in bad light, or with a then friend, now enemy. Pommerening and her cohort, in other words, have been rigging Instagram to do what Snapchat does automatically.

Snapchat has often been depicted as seedy and fly-by-night, a place for people to exchange illicit pictures without leaving much in the way of a virtual paper trail. This was particularly the case when the app first became popular. (Never mind the function that alerts you when someone has screenshotted one of your photos.) But it has since become clear that Snapchat holds a deeper appeal. It satisfies a craving for immediacy and ephemerality, one that has lately grown to encompass all of social media. Posts can’t simply disappear after they’re viewed—they have to expire, whether they’ve been seen or not. Back in 2013, Facebook released a study showing that the bigger and more diverse your online audience seems, the more pressure you feel to say the right thing, and so hesitate to post anything at all. But never posting, ironically, makes your not-so-recent history terrifyingly within reach; it could take a new friend only a few scrolls to reach the Facebook status updates from your college years, when they were meant to be seen only by a few close friends. The solution, then, is deletion—like the third-party Twitter tools that nuke your tweets after a set amount of time (a day, a week, a month).

Part of the explanation for this new desire, if indeed it is new, is that our collective understanding of the role of social media has changed. In 2012, Facebook spooked its users by making all their posts searchable; old status updates from when Facebook was a more closed environment felt so jarringly intimate that people were sure the company had published private-message exchanges by accident. This wasn’t true; we just used Facebook differently then, and we were younger then, and now we were suddenly, uncomfortably confronted with our past. Today, there are scattered indications that people want some space to be fully themselves online as they are, without years of their past selves trailing behind them. Teens, perhaps, feel this desire more acutely, and Instagram has responded.

For Facebook, which acquired Instagram in 2012, Stories is part of a concerted strategy. The company embodies the ship-of-Theseus paradox: we still use it every day, but over the years all of the parts have been upgraded, swapped, replaced. It has survived in large part through what might charitably be called inspiration—most recently, it picked up on the trend of live-streaming video from the apps Periscope and Meerkat, and integrated its own live streams right into the News Feed. Instagram has changed relatively little since Facebook bought it. But the app’s introduction of an expiring highlight reel is more than a shameless grab for one of Snapchat’s core features. It’s a response to a demand: on an Internet that always remembers, we are fighting for places we can go to forget."
instagram  facebook  socialmedia  snapchat  preservation  images  identity  youth  teen  privacy  ephemerality  immediacy  caseyjohnston  internet  forgetting  web  online  ephemeral 
august 2016 by robertogreco
a16z Podcast: The Meaning of Emoji 💚 🍴 🗿 – Andreessen Horowitz
"This podcast is all about emoji. But it’s really about how innovation really comes about — through the tension between standards vs. proprietary moves; the politics of time and place; and the economics of creativity, from making to funding … Beginning with a project on Kickstarter to crowd-translate Moby Dick entirely into emoji to getting dumplings into emoji form and ending with the Library of Congress and an “emoji-con”. So joining us for this conversation are former VP of Data at Kickstarter Fred Benenson (and the 👨 behind ‘Emoji Dick’) and former New York Times reporter and current Unicode emoji subcommittee member Jennifer 8. Lee (one of the 👩 behind the dumpling emoji).

So yes, this podcast is all about emoji. But it’s also about where emoji fits in the taxonomy of social communication — from emoticons to stickers — and why this matters, from making emotions machine-readable to being able to add “limbic” visual expression to our world of text. If emoji is a (very limited) language, what tradeoffs do we make for fewer degrees of freedom and greater ambiguity? How exactly does one then translate emoji (let alone translate something into emoji)? How do emoji work, both technically underneath the hood and in the (committee meeting) room where it happens? And finally, what happens as emoji becomes a means of personalized expression?

This a16z Podcast is all about emoji. We only wish it could be in emoji!"
emoji  open  openstandards  proprietarystandards  communication  translation  fredbenenson  jennifer8.lee  sonalchokshi  emopjidick  mobydick  unicode  apple  google  microsoft  android  twitter  meaning  standardization  technology  ambiguity  emoticons  text  reading  images  symbols  accessibility  selfies  stickers  chat  messaging  universality  uncannyvalley  snapchat  facebook  identity  race  moby-dick 
august 2016 by robertogreco
China Residencies: An Artist's Guide to WeChat
"WeChat is *the* most important app in China. It's absolutely crucial for navigating life in mainland China, and we tell all artists heading that way to download it immediately. To help convey all the wonders of WeChat, we here at China Residencies commissioned Katy Roseland, artist & co-founder of Basement6 Collective, a Shanghai artist run space and residency, to write this guide. Katy's been based in China since the construction of the Great Firewall in 2009, she makes performance work and research centering on the Chinese internet. This guide was generated from her years of researching WeChat along with interviews from Chinternet Noobs and her fellows at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, where she's currently an artist-in-residence.


An Artist's Guide to WeChat

1. INTRODUCTION (LIFE WITHOUT WECHAT)
2. DOWNLOAD!
3. SET IT UP
4. TALK TO PEOPLE
5. LOOK AT PICTURES
6. GROUPTHINK
7. MONEY, MONEY
8. WHERE R U NOW ?
9. JUST HAVE A GOOD TIME
10. MOBILIZE YOURSELF


1. INTRODUCTION (LIFE WITHOUT WECHAT)

In preparing your transition into the "other side of the world", it's safe to assume you have done a bit of research no? You're thinking about what to pack, but you might not have anticipated how to plan for your first encounter with the Chinese internet. The Great Firewall. The big data dissolve. The weirdest facet of this country.

You say censorship, I say xxxxxx xxxx xx.

Once your flight touches down, instinctively you’ll reboot your phone to what might feel like a data void. Maybe you’re adorably surprised by all the new things you can’t access... Not all internets are the same, I met a girl from Japan who couldn’t understand why her Gmail wouldn’t refresh, a friend thought her Facebook had been hacked, and, for a visiting writer, his “critical tweets” were out of reach. If you’re wondering why you’re lacking notifications, it’s because you’re in the land of 404. This is daily life on the Chinese internet, VPN off, we survive.

2. DOWNLOAD!

Let me show you how... Tencent’s China-centric answer to Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter, Vine, and Paypal in a single application. You download this one thing [download it now! do it!] and place it very centrally on your homescreen. You have not a single choice.

…"
wechat  china  chinternet  2016  katyroseland  socialmedia  messaging  mobile  whatsapp  twitter  vine  paypal  facebook  instagram 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Walled Gardens & Escape Routes | Kneeling Bus
"Slack and Snapchat are two of the platforms that best embody the current technological moment, the fastest recent gainers in Silicon Valley’s constant campaign to build apps we put on our home screens and not only use constantly but freely give our locations, identities, relationships, and precious attention. One of those products is for work and one is for play; both reflect values and aesthetics that, if not new, at least differ in clear ways from those of email, Facebook, and Twitter—the avatars of comparable moments in the recent past.

Recently I compared Twitter to a shrinking city—slowly bleeding users and struggling to produce revenue but a kind of home to many, infrastructure worth preserving, a commons. Now that Pokemon Go has mapped the digital universe onto meatspace more literally, I’ll follow suit and extend that same “city” metaphor to the rest of the internet.

I’m kidding about the Pokemon part (only not really), but the internet has nearly completed one major stage of its life, evolving from a mechanism for sharing webpages between computers into a series of variously porous platforms that are owned or about to be owned by massive companies who have divided up the available digital real estate and found (or failed to find) distinct revenue-generating schemes within each platform’s confines, optimizing life inside to extract revenue (or failing to do so). The app is a manifestation of this maturing structure, each app a gateway to one of these walled gardens and a point of contact with a single company’s business model—far from the messy chaos of the earlier web. So much urban space has been similarly carved up.

If Twitter is a shrinking city, then Slack or Snapchat are exploding fringe suburbs at the height of a housing bubble, laying miles of cul-de-sac and water pipe in advance of the frantic growth that will soon fill in all the space. The problem with my spatial metaphor here is that neither Slack nor Snapchat feels like a “city” in its structure, while Twitter and Facebook do by comparison. I never thought I’d say this, but Twitter and Instagram are legible (if decentralized): follower counts, likes, or retweets signal a loosely quantifiable importance, the linear feed is easy enough to follow, and everything is basically open by default (private accounts go against the grain of Twitter). Traditional social media by now has become a set of tools for attaining a global if personally-tailored perspective on current events and culture.

Slack and Snapchat are quite different, streams of ephemeral and illegible content. Both intentionally restrict your perspective to the immediate here and now. We don’t navigate them so much as we surf them. They’re less rationally-organized, mapped cities than the postmodern spaces that fascinated Frederic Jameson and Reyner Banham: Bonaventure Hotels or freeway cloverleafs, with their own semantic systems—Deleuzian smooth space. Nobody knows one’s position within these universes, just the context their immediate environment affords. Facebook, by comparison, feels like a high modernist panopticon where everyone sees and knows a bit too much.

Like cities, digital platforms have populations that ebb and flow. The history of urbanization is a story of slow, large-scale, irreversible migrations. It’s hard to relocate human settlements. The redistributions of the digital era happen more rapidly but are less absolute: If you have 16 waking hours of daily attention to give, you don’t need to shift it all from Facebook to Snapchat but whatever you do shift can move instantly.

The forces that propel migrations from city to city to suburb and back to city were frequently economic (if not political). Most apps and websites cost nothing to inhabit and yield little economic opportunity for their users. If large groups are not abandoning Twitter or Facebook for anything to do with money, what are they looking for?"



"If we’ve learned anything from recent technology, we can expect Slack and Snapchat to reveal their own serious flaws over time as users accumulate, behaviors solidify, and opportunists learn to exploit their structure. Right now most of the world is still trying to understand what they are. When the time comes—and hopefully we’ll recognize it early enough—we can break camp and go looking for our next temporary outpost."
walledgadens  web  online  internet  2016  snapchat  slack  darknet  darkweb  instagram  twitter  legibility  drewaustin  fredericjameon  reynerbanham  email  venkateshrao  benbashe  identity  communication  openweb  facebook  texting  sms  flowlaminar 
july 2016 by robertogreco
61 Glimpses of the Future — Today’s Office — Medium
"1. If you want to understand how our planet will turn out this century, spend time in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil.

2. If you’re wondering how long the Chinese economic miracle will last, the answer will probably be found in the bets made on commercial and residential developments in Chinese 3rd to 6th tier cities in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet.

4. Touch ID doesn’t work at high altitude, finger prints are too dry.

5. You no longer need to carry a translation app on your phone. If there’s someone to speak with, they’ll have one on theirs.

6. A truly great border crossing will hold a mirror up to your soul.

9. The art of successful borderland travel is to know when to pass through (and be seen by) army checkpoints and when to avoid them.

10. Borders are permeable.

12. The premium for buying gasoline in a remote village in the GBAO is 20% more than the nearest town. Gasoline is harder to come by, and more valuable than connectivity.

13. After fifteen years of professionally decoding human behaviour, I’m still surprised by the universality of body language.

14. Pretentious people are inherently less curious.

15. Everything is fine, until that exact moment when it’s obviously not. It is easy to massively over/under estimate risk based on current contextual conditions. Historical data provides some perspective, but it usually comes down to your ability to read undercurrents, which in turn comes down to having built a sufficiently trusted relationship with people within those currents.

16. Sometimes, everyone who says they know what is going on, is wrong.

17. Every time you describe someone in your own country as a terrorist, a freedom is taken away from a person in another country.

18. Every country has its own notion of “terrorism”, and the overuse, and reaction to the term in your country helps legitimise the crack-down of restive populations in other countries.

17. China is still arguably the lowest-trust consumer society in the world. If a product can be faked it will be. Out of necessity, they also have the most savvy consumers in the world.

18. After twenty years of promising to deliver, Chinese solar products are now practical (available for purchase, affordable, sufficiently efficient, robust) for any community on the edge-of-grid, anywhere in the world. Either shared, or sole ownership.

20. When a fixed price culture meets a negotiation culture, fun ensues.

21. The sharing economy is alive and well, and has nothing to with your idea of the sharing economy.

25. Chinese truckers plying their trade along the silk road deserve to be immortalised as the the frontiersmen of our generation. (They are always male.)

29. The most interesting places have map coordinates, but no names.

30. There are are number of companies with a competitive smartphone portfolio. The rise of Oppo can be explained by its presence on every block of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th tier Chinese cities.

32. People wearing fake Supreme are way more interesting than those that wear the real deal.

33. An iPhone box full of fungus caterpillar in Kham Tibet sold wholesale, is worth more than a fully specced iPhone. It’s worth 10x at retail in 1st/2nd Tier China. It is a better aphrodisiac too.

35. One of the more interesting aspects of very high net worth individuals (the financial 0.001%), is the entourage that they attract, and the interrelations between members of that entourage. This is my first time travelling with a spiritual leader (the religious 0.001%), whose entourage included disciples, and members of the financial 0.01% looking for a karmic handout. The behaviour of silicon valley’s nouveau riche is often parodied but when it comes to weirdness, faith trumps money every time. Any bets on the first Silicon Valley billionaire to successfully marry the two? Or vice versa?

37. For every person that longs for nature, there are two that long for man-made.

38. Tibetan monks prefer iOS over Android.

40. In order to size up the tribe/sub-tribe you’re part of, any group of young males will first look at the shoes on your feet.

42. After the Urumqi riots in 2009 the Chinese government cut of internet connectivity to Xinjiang province for a full year. Today connectivity is so prevalent and integrated into every aspect of Xinjiang society, that cutting it off it would hurt the state’s ability to control the population more than hinder their opposition. There are many parts to the current state strategy is to limit subversion, the most visible of which is access to the means of travel. For example every gas station between Kashi and Urumqi has barbed wire barriers at its gates, and someone checking IDs.

43. TV used to be the primary way for the edge-of-grid have-nots to discover what they want to have. Today it is seeing geotagged images from nearby places, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.

44. Facebook entering China would be a Pyrrhic victory, that would lead to greater scrutiny and regulation worldwide. Go for it.

45. The sooner western companies own up to copying WeChat, the sooner we can get on with acknowledging a significant shift in the global creative center of gravity.

48. Green tea beats black tea for acclimatising to altitude sickness.

49. The most interesting destinations aren’t geotagged, are not easily geo-taggable. Bonus points if you can figure that one out.

50. The first time you confront a leader, never do it in front of their followers, they’ll have no way to back down.

51. There is more certainty in reselling the past, than inventing the future.

55. Pockets of Chengdu are starting to out-cool Tokyo.

56. To what extent does cultural continuity, and societal harmony comes from three generations under one roof?

58. If you want to understand where a country is heading pick a 2nd or 3rd tier city and revisit it over many years. Chengdu remains my bellwether 2nd tier Chinese city. It’s inland, has a strong local identity and sub-cultures, and has room to grow. Bonus: its’ only a few hours from some of the best mountain ranges in the world.

60. The difference between 2.5G and 3G? In the words of a smartphone wielding GBAO teenager on the day 3G data was switched on her town, “I can breathe”."
janchipchase  2016  travel  technology  borders  authenticity  pretension  curiosity  china  tibet  japan  eligion  culture  capitalism  wechat  facebook  android  ios  tokyo  chengdu  future  past  communication  tea  greentea  certainty  monks  translation  nature  indonesia  nigeria  brasil  brazil  india  shoes  connectivity  internet  mobile  phones  smartphones  sharingeconomy  economics  negotiation  touchid  cities  urban  urbanism  location  risk  relationships  consumers  terrorism  truckers  oppo  siliconvalley  wealth  nouveauriche  comparison  generations 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Ghost in the machine: Snapchat isn’t mobile-first — it’s something else entirely — Free Code Camp
"Snapchat is not mobile-first, and it’s not really an app anymore. Nor is it a meta-app platform at this point like Facebook Messenger is angling to become (at least not yet). Snapchat is a true creature of mobile, a living, breathing embodiment of everything that our camera-enabled, networked pocket computer can possibly offer. And in its cooption of smartphones into a true social operating system, we see the inklings of what is beyond mobile.
When I open Snapchat up to the camera, I can’t shake the feeling that the ghost is banging on the glass, trying to break out into the world."
snapchat  benbasche  2016  photography  ar  augmentedreality  design  ux  ui  media  susansontag  nathanjurgenson  cameras  feeds  mobile  mobilefirst  twitter  facebook  instagram  experience  socialmedia  smartphones  uber  authenticallymobile  evanspiegel 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Bot Power List 2016 — How We Get To Next
"Science fiction is full of bots that hurt people. HAL 9000 kills one astronaut and tries to kill another in 2001: A Space Odyssey; Ava in Ex Machina expertly manipulates the humans she meets to try and escape her cell; the T-800 is known as The Terminator for obvious reasons.

Even more common, though, are those bots clever and sentient enough to have real personality but undone through their naïveté — from Johnny Five in Short Circuit to the robotic cop in RoboCop, sci-fi is great at examining the dangers of greater intelligence when it’s open to manipulation or lacking concrete moral direction. A smarter bot, a more powerful bot, is also a bot that has more power to do evil things, and in the process expose human hubris.

These are all fictional examples, of course, but since we’re starting to see the tech industry shift its focus toward conversational bots as the future of, well, everything, maybe it offers us a useful way to define the power that a bot has. In this case, we’ll say that a bot is powerful if it could do powerfully evil things if it wanted to.

We’ve asked a number of experts to suggest what they think are the most powerful bots around today, in what is still an early stage for the industry. Together, those suggestions make up our first-ever Bot Power List."
bots  2016  googlenow  alexa  siri  ai  xiaoic  wordsmith  watson  hellobarbie  jillwatson  viv  cortana  amazon  apple  google  microsoft  facebook  eliza  luvo  lark  quartznwws  hala  cyberlover  murdock  bendixon  brucewilcox  neomy  deepdrumpf  rbs  josephweizenbaum  irenechang  ibm  mattel 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Facebook is wrong, text is deathless
"It's a throwaway line in a longer talk and we probably shouldn't make too much of it, but I will anyway.
In five years time Facebook "will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video," said Nicola Mendelsohn, who heads up Facebook's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at a conference in London this morning. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, has already noted that video will be more and more important for the platform. But Mendelsohn went further, suggesting that stats showed the written word becoming all but obsolete, replaced by moving images and speech.

"The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video," Mendelsohn said. "It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information."

Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It's cheap, it's flexible, it's discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there's nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it's endlessly computable -- you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral -- text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it's still remained text. It's still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

Because nothing has proved as invincible as writing and literacy. Because text is just so malleable. Because it fits into any container we put it in. Because our world is supersaturated in it, indoors and out. Because we have so much invested in it. Because nothing we have ever made has ever rewarded our universal investment in it more. Unless our civilization fundamentally collapses, we will never give up writing and reading.

We're still not even talking to our computers as often as we're typing on our phones. What logs the most attention-hours -- i.e., how media companies make their money -- is not and has never been the universe of communications.

(And my god -- the very best feature Facebook Video has, what's helping that platform eat the world -- is muted autoplay video with automatic text captions. Forget literature -- even the stupid viral videos people watch waiting for the train are better when they're made with text!)

Nothing is inevitable in history, media, or culture -- but literacy is the only thing that's even close. Bet for better video, bet for better speech, bet for better things we can't imagine -- but if you bet against text, you will lose."
facebook  internet  text  literacy  timcarmody  2016  video  media  culture  history  future  communication 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Prince, tech, and the Californian Ideology - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"I recently gave some talks to a gathering of clergy that focused on the effects of digital technology on the cultivation of traditional Christian practices, especially the more contemplative ones. But when I talked about the dangers of having certain massive tech companies — especially the social-media giants: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat — dictate to us the modes of our interaction with one another, I heard mutters that I was “blaming technology.”

I found myself thinking about that experience as I read this reflection on Prince’s use of technology — and his resistance to having technological practices imposed on him by record companies.
Prince, who died Thursday at 57, understood how technology spread ideas better than almost anyone else in popular music. And so he became something of a hacker, upending the systems that predated him and fighting mightily to pioneer new ones. Sometimes he hated technology, sometimes he loved it. But more than that, at his best Prince was technology, a musician who realized that making music was not his only responsibility, that his innovation had to extend to representation, distribution, transmission and pure system invention.

Many advances in music and technology over the last three decades — particularly in the realm of distribution — were tried early, and often first, by Prince. He released a CD-ROM in 1994, Prince Interactive, which featured unreleased music and a gamelike adventure at his Paisley Park Studios. In 1997, he made the multi-disc set “Crystal Ball” set available for sale online and through an 800 number (though there were fulfillment issues later). In 2001, he began a monthly online subscription service, the NPG Music Club, that lasted five years.

These experiments were made possible largely because of Prince’s career-long emphasis on ownership: At the time of his death, Prince reportedly owned the master recordings of all his output. With no major label to serve for most of the second half of his career and no constraints on distribution, he was free to try new modes of connection.

No musician of our time understood technology better than Prince — but he wasn’t interested in being stuffed into the Procrustean bed of technologies owned by massive corporations. He wanted to own his turf and to be free to cultivate it in ways driven by his own imagination.

The megatech companies’ ability to convince us that they are not Big Business but rather just open-minded, open-hearted, exploratory technological creators is perhaps the most powerful and influential — and radically misleading — sales jobs of the past 25 years. The Californian ideology has become our ideology. Which means that many people cannot help seeing skepticism about the intentions some of the biggest companies in the world as “blaming technology.” But that way Buy n Large lies."
alanjacobs  prince  technology  socialmedia  twitter  copyright  music  ownership  2016  californianideology  facebook  snapchat  instagram 
may 2016 by robertogreco
On technology, culture, and growing up in a small town
"Rex Sorgatz grew up in a small and isolated town (physically, culturally) in North Dakota named Napoleon.
Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the '80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. "My Best Friend's Girl" was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn't meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn't meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid.

He recently returned there and found that the physical isolation hasn't changed, but thanks to the internet, the kids now have access to the full range of cultural activities and ideas from all over the world.
"Basically, this story is a controlled experiment," I continue. "Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology."

Rex is a friend and nearly every time we get together, we end up talking about our respective small town upbringings and how we both somehow managed to escape. My experience wasn't quite as isolated as Rex's -- I lived on a farm until I was 9 but then moved to a small town of 2500 people; plus my dad flew all over the place and the Twin Cities were 90 minutes away by car -- but was similar in many ways. The photo from his piece of the rusted-out orange car buried in the snow could have been taken in the backyard of the house I grew up in, where my dad still lives. Kids listened to country, top 40, or heavy metal music. I didn't see Star Wars or Empire in a theater. No cable TV until I was 14 or 15. No AP classes until I was a senior. Aside from a few Hispanics and a family from India, everyone was white and Protestant. The FFA was huge in my school. I had no idea about rap music or modernism or design or philosophy or Andy Warhol or 70s film or atheism. I didn't know what I didn't know and had very little way of finding out.

I didn't even know I should leave. But somehow I got out. I don't know about Rex, but "escape" is how I think of it. I was lucky enough to excel at high school and got interest from schools from all over the place. My dad urged me to go to college...I was thinking about getting a job (probably farming or factory work) or joining the Navy with a friend. That's how clueless I was...I knew so little about the world that I didn't know who I was in relation to it. My adjacent possible just didn't include college even though it was the best place for a kid like me.

In college in an Iowan city of 110,000, I slowly discovered what I'd been missing. Turns out, I was a city kid who just happened to grow up in a small town. I met other people from all over the country and, in time, from all over the world. My roommate sophomore year was black.1 I learned about techno music and programming and photography and art and classical music and LGBT and then the internet showed up and it was game over. I ate it all up and never got full. And like Rex:

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of "the publishing process." Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting -- all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That's the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous "What's on your mind?" input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.
I eventually found the desire to express myself. Using a copy of Aldus PhotoStyler I had gotten from who knows where, I designed party flyers for DJ friends' parties. I published a one-sheet periodical for the residents of my dorm floor, to be read in the bathroom. I made meme-y posters2 which I hung around the physics department. I built a homepage that just lived on my hard drive because our school didn't offer web hosting space and I couldn't figure out how to get an account elsewhere.3 Well, you know how that last bit turned out, eventually.4"
jasonkottke  kottke  rexsorgatz  2016  rural  internet  web  isolation  connectivity  change  subcultures  media  culture  childhood  youth  teens  socialmedia  college  education  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  cv  music  film  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  worldliness  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  minnesota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure  facebook 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Has the Internet Really Changed Everything? — Backchannel
[See also: http://kottke.org/16/04/on-technology-culture-and-growing-up-in-a-small-town ]

"How have decades of mass media and technology changed us? A writer returns to his remote hometown — once isolated, now connected. And finds unexpected answers."



"In the Napoleon of the 1980s, where I memorized the alphabet and mangled my first kiss, distractions were few. There were no malls to loiter, no drags to cruise. With no newsstand or bookstore, information was sparse. The only source of outside knowledge was the high school library, a room the size of a modest apartment, which had subscriptions to exactly five magazines: Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and People. As a teenager, these five magazines were my only connection to the outside world.

Of course, there was no internet yet. Cable television was available to blessed souls in far-off cities, or so we heard, but it did not arrive in Napoleon until my teens, and even then, in a miniaturized grid of 12 UHF channels. (The coax would transmit oddities like WGN and CBN, but not cultural staples like HBO or Nickelodeon. I wanted my MTV in vain.) Before that, only the staticky reception of the big three — ABC, CBS, NBC — arrived via a tangle of rabbit ears. By the time the PBS tower boosted its broadcast reach to Napoleon, I was too old to enjoy Sesame Street.

Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the ’80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn’t meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn’t meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid."



"“Basically, this story is a controlled experiment,” I continue. “Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology.”

Photog2 begins to fiddle with an unlit Camel Light, which he clearly wants to go smoke, even if it is 8 degrees below zero outside. But I am finding the rhythm of my pitch.

“All scientific experiments require two conditions: a static environment and a control — a testable variable that changes. Napoleon is the static environment; technology, the control. With all else being equal, this place is the perfect environment to explore societal questions like, What are the effects of mass communications? How has technology transformed the way we form ideas? Does access to information alone make us smarter?”

“How am I supposed to photograph that?” asks Photog2."



"As we discuss other apps on his home screen — YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo — I realize that my line of questions are really just attempts to prove or disprove a sentence that I read on the flight to Dakota. The sentence appears on page 20 of Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, a study of the social lives of networked teens:
What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall was in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now.

I cannot shake the sentence, which seems to contain between its simple words a secret key, a cipher to crack my inquiries into technology and change. Napoleon didn’t have a drive-in in the 1950s, or a mall in the 1980s, but today it definitely has the same social communications tools used by every kid in the country. By that fact alone, the lives of teenagers in Napoleon must be wildly different than they were 20 years ago. But I lack the social research finesse of Boyd, who could probably interrogate my thesis about technology beyond anecdote. So I change the topic to something I know much better: television."



"Whether with sanguine fondness or sallow regret, all writers remember their first publishing experience — that moment when an unseen audience of undifferentiated proportion absorbs their words from unknown locales.
I remember my first three.

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of “the publishing process.” Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting — all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That’s the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous “What’s on your mind?” input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.

This was publishing to me. My collected works were UGC."



"“What are your favorite apps?”

This time my corny question is fielded by Katelyn, another student who my mother suggests will make a good subject for my harebrained experiment. During her study hall break, we discuss the hectic life of a millennial teenager on the plains. She is already taking college-level courses, lettering in three varsity sports, and the president of the local FFA chapter. (That’s Future Farmers of America, an agricultural youth organization with highly competitive livestock judging and grain grading contests. It’s actually a huge deal in deep rural America, bigger than the Boy and Girl Scouts. Katelyn won the state competition in Farm Business Management category.)

To the app question, she recites the universals of any contemporary young woman: Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest. She mentions The Skimm as a daily news source, which is intriguing, but not as provocative as her next remark: “I don’t have Facebook.”

Whoa, why?

“My parents don’t support social media,” says the 18-year-old. “They didn’t want me to get Facebook when I was younger, so I just never signed up.” This is closer to the isolationist Napoleon that I remember. They might not ban books anymore, but parents can still be very protective.

“How do you survive without Facebook?” I ask. “Do you wish you had it?”

“I go back and forth,” she avers. “It would be easier to connect with people I’ve met through FFA and sports. But I’m also glad I don’t have it, because it’s time-consuming and there’s drama over it.”

She talks like a 35-year-old. So I ask who she will vote for.

“I’m not sure. I like how Bernie Sanders is sounding.”

I tell her a story about a moment in my junior civics class where the teacher asked everyone who was Republican to raise their hand. Twenty-five kids lifted their palms to the sky. The remaining two students called themselves Independents. “My school either had zero Democrats or a few closeted ones,” I conclude.

She is indifferent to my anecdote, so I change the topic to music.

“I listen to older country,” she says. “Garth Brooks, George Strait.” The term “older country” amuses me, but I resist the urge to ask her opinion of Jimmie Rodgers. “I’m not a big fan of hardcore rap or heavy metal,” she continues. “I don’t understand heavy metal. I don’t know why you would want to listen to it.”

So no interest in driving three hours in the snow to see AC/DC at the Fargodome last night?

“No, I just watched a couple Snapchat stories of it.”

Of course she did.

While we talk, a scratchy announcement is broadcast over the school-wide intercom. A raffle drawing ticket is being randomly selected. I hear Jaden’s name announced as the winner of the gigantic teddy bear in my mother’s office.
I ask Katelyn what novel she read as a sophomore, the class year that The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my school. When she says Fahrenheit 451, I feel like the universe has realigned for me in some cosmic perfection.

But my time is running out, and again I begin to wonder whether she is proving or disproving my theories of media and technology. It’s difficult to compare her life to mine at that age. Katelyn is undoubtedly more focused and mature than any teenager I knew in the ’80s, but this is the stereotype of all millennials today. Despite her many accomplishments, she seems to suppress the hallmark characteristic of her ambitious generation: fanatic self-regard. Finally, I ask her what she thinks her life will be like in 25 years.

“I hope I’ll be married, and probably have kids,” she says decisively. “I see myself in a rural area. Maybe a little bit closer to Bismarck or Fargo. But I’m definitely in North Dakota.”

I tell her that Jaden gave essentially the same answer to the question. Why do you think that is?

“The sense of a small community,” she says, using that word again. “Everyone knows each other. It’s a big family.”"
internet  technology  rexsorgatz  2016  isolation  cv  web  online  culture  distraction  media  film  music  quietude  publishing  writing  worldliness  rural  howwelive  thenandnow  change  community  smalltowns  schools  education  journalism  books  censorship  fahrenheit451  raybradbury  thecatcherintherye  jdsalinger  newspapers  communication  socialmedia  snapchat  facebook  instagram  pinterest  theskimm  news  danahboyd  youtube  ebay  yahoo  twitter  videogames  gaming  subcultures  netflix  teens  youth  connectivity  childhood  college  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral | Hapgood
[Brought back to my attention thanks to Allen:
"@rogre Read this and thought of you and your bookmarks & tumblr:"
https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/720121133102710784 ]

[See also:
https://hapgood.us/2014/06/04/smallest-federated-wiki-as-an-alternate-vision-of-the-web/
https://hapgood.us/2014/11/06/federated-education-new-directions-in-digital-collaboration/
https://hapgood.us/2015/01/08/the-fedwiki-user-innovation-toolkit/
https://hapgood.us/2016/03/03/pre-stocking-the-library/
https://hapgood.us/2016/03/04/bring-your-bookmarks-into-the-hypertext-age/
https://hapgood.us/2016/03/26/intentionally-finding-knowledge-gaps/
https://hapgood.us/2016/04/09/answer-to-leigh-blackall/
http://rainystreets.wikity.cc/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gi9SRsRrE4

https://github.com/federated-wiki
http://fed.wiki.org/
http://journal.hapgood.net/view/federated-wiki
http://wikity.net/
http://wikity.net/?p=link-word&s=journal.hapgood.net ]

"The Garden is an old metaphor associated with hypertext. Those familiar with the history will recognize this. The Garden of Forking Paths from the mid-20th century. The concept of the Wiki Gardener from the 1990s. Mark Bernstein’s 1998 essay Hypertext Gardens.

The Garden is the web as topology. The web as space. It’s the integrative web, the iterative web, the web as an arrangement and rearrangement of things to one another.

Things in the Garden don’t collapse to a single set of relations or canonical sequence, and that’s part of what we mean when we say “the web as topology” or the “web as space”. Every walk through the garden creates new paths, new meanings, and when we add things to the garden we add them in a way that allows many future, unpredicted relationships

We can see this here in this collage of photos of a bridge in Portland’s Japanese Garden. I don’t know if you can see this, but this is the same bridge from different views at different times of year.

The bridge is a bridge is a bridge — a defined thing with given boundaries and a stated purpose. But the multi-linear nature of the garden means that there is no one right view of the bridge, no one correct approach. The architect creates the bridge, but it is the visitors to the park which create the bridge’s meaning. A good bridge supports many approaches, many views, many seasons, maybe many uses, and the meaning of that bridge will even evolve for the architect over time.

In the Garden, to ask what happened first is trivial at best. The question “Did the bridge come after these trees” in a well-designed garden is meaningless historical trivia. The bridge doesn’t reply to the trees or the trees to the bridge. They are related to one another in a relatively timeless way.

This is true of everything in the garden. Each flower, tree, and vine is seen in relation to the whole by the gardener so that the visitors can have unique yet coherent experiences as they find their own paths through the garden. We create the garden as a sort of experience generator, capable of infinite expression and meaning.

The Garden is what I was doing in the wiki as I added the Gun Control articles, building out a network of often conflicting information into a web that can generate insights, iterating it, allowing that to grow into something bigger than a single event, a single narrative, or single meaning.

The Stream is a newer metaphor with old roots. We can think of the”event stream” of programming, the “lifestream” proposed by researchers in the 1990s. More recently, the term stream has been applied to the never ending parade of twitter, news alerts, and Facebook feeds.

In the stream metaphor you don’t experience the Stream by walking around it and looking at it, or following it to its end. You jump in and let it flow past. You feel the force of it hit you as things float by.

It’s not that you are passive in the Stream. You can be active. But your actions in there — your blog posts, @ mentions, forum comments — exist in a context that is collapsed down to a simple timeline of events that together form a narrative.

In other words, the Stream replaces topology with serialization. Rather than imagine a timeless world of connection and multiple paths, the Stream presents us with a single, time ordered path with our experience (and only our experience) at the center.

In many ways the Stream is best seen through the lens of Bakhtin’s idea of the utterance. Bakhtin saw the utterance, the conversational turn of speech, as inextricably tied to context. To understand a statement you must go back to things before, you must find out what it was replying to, you must know the person who wrote it and their speech context. To understand your statement I must reconstruct your entire stream.

And of course since I can’t do that for random utterances, I mostly just stay in the streams I know. If the Garden is exposition, the stream is conversation and rhetoric, for better and worse.

You see this most clearly in things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. But it’s also the notifications panel of your smartphone, it’s also email, it’s also to a large extent blogging. Frankly, it’s everything now.

Whereas the garden is integrative, the Stream is self-assertive. It’s persuasion, it’s argument, it’s advocacy. It’s personal and personalized and immediate. It’s invigorating. And as we may see in a minute it’s also profoundly unsuited to some of the uses we put it to.

The stream is what I do on Twitter and blogging platforms. I take a fact and project it out as another brick in an argument or narrative or persona that I build over time, and recapitulate instead of iterate."



"So what’s the big picture here? Why am I so obsessed with the integrative garden over the personal and self-assertive stream? Blogs killed hypertext — but who cares, Mike?

I think we’ve been stuck in some unuseful binaries over the past years. Or perhaps binaries that have outlived their use.

So what I’m asking you all to do is put aside your favorite binaries for a moment and try out the garden vs. the stream. All binaries are fictions of course, but I think you’ll find the garden vs. the stream is a particularly useful fiction for our present moment.

OER

Let’s start with OER. I’ve been involved with Open Educational Resources many years, and I have to say that I’m shocked and amazed that we still struggle to find materials.

We announced an open textbook initiative at my school the other day, and one of the first people to email me said she taught State and Local Government and she’d love to ditch the textbook.

So I go look for a textbook on State and Local Government. Doesn’t exist. So I grab the syllabus and look at what sorts of things need explaining.

It’s stuff like influence of local subsidies on development. Now if you Google that term, how many sites in the top 50 will you find just offering a clear and balanced treatment of what it is, what the recent trends are with it, and what seems to be driving the trends?

The answer is none. The closest you’ll find is an article from something called the Encyclopedia of Earth which talks about the environmental economics of local energy subsidies.

Everything else is either journal articles or blog posts making an argument about local subsidies. Replying to someone. Building rapport with their audience. Making a specific point about a specific policy. Embedded in specific conversations, specific contexts.

Everybody wants to play in the Stream, but no one wants to build the Garden.

Our traditional binary here is “open vs. closed”. But honestly that’s not the most interesting question to me anymore. I know why textbook companies are closed. They want to make money.

What is harder to understand is how in nearly 25 years of the web, when people have told us what they THINK about local subsidies approximately one kajillion times we can’t find one — ONE! — syllabus-ready treatment of the issue.

You want ethics of networked knowledge? Think about that for a minute — how much time we’ve all spent arguing, promoting our ideas, and how little time we’ve spent contributing to the general pool of knowledge.

Why? Because we’re infatuated with the stream, infatuated with our own voice, with the argument we’re in, the point we’re trying to make, the people in our circle we’re talking to.

People say, well yes, but Wikipedia! Look at Wikipedia!

Yes, let’s talk about Wikipedia. There’s a billion people posting what they think about crap on Facebook.

There’s about 31,000 active wikipedians that hold English Wikipedia together. That’s about the population of Stanford University, students, faculty and staff combined, for the entire English speaking world.

We should be ashamed. We really should."



"And so we come to the question of whether we are at a turning point. Do we see a rebirth of garden technologies in the present day? That’s always a tough call, asking an activist like me to provide a forecast of the future. But let me respond while trying not to slip into wishful analysis.

I think maybe we’re starting to see a shift. In 2015, out of nowhere, we saw web annotation break into the mainstream. This is a garden technology that has risen and fallen so many times, and suddenly people just get it. Suddenly web annotation, which used to be hard to explain, makes sense to people. When that sort of thing happens culturally it’s worth looking closely at.

Github has taught a generation of programmers that copies are good, not bad, and as we noted, it’s copies that are essential to the Garden.

The Wikimedia Education project has been convincing teachers there’s a life beyond student blogging.

David Wiley has outlined a scheme whereby students could create the textbooks of the future, and you can imagine that rather than create discrete textbooks we could engage students in building a grand web of knowledge that could, like Bush’s trails, be reconfigured and duplicated to serve specific classes … [more]
mikecaufield  federatedwiki  web  hypertext  oer  education  edtech  technology  learning  vannevarbush  katebowles  davecormier  wikipedia  memex  dynabook  davidwiley  textbooks  streams  gardens  internet  cv  curation  online  open  dlrn2015  canon  wikis  markbernstein  networks  collaboration  narrative  serialization  context  tumblr  facebook  twitter  pinboard  instagram  blogs  blogging  networkedknowledge  google  search  github  wardcunningham  mikhailbakhtin  ethics  bookmarks  bookmarking 
april 2016 by robertogreco
How Can Scholars Use Snapchat Stories? | jill/txt
"4. What can scholars do?

I haven’t found any scholars on Snapchat yet, at least not sharing stories about their research or about the process or day-to-day experience of being an academic. This might be because:

1. Academics are too old for Snapchat (except all the excellent young scholars…)

2. Academics who get Snapchat actually want to keep it personal.

3. Stories disappear after 24 hours, and academics don’t want to waste their time on something that won’t have lasting value. (But you can save your own story and repost it on your blog or YouTube or something.)

4. Academics see their peers on Facebook and Twitter and so they think everyone important is on Facebook and Twitter.

Snapchat is obviously not a durable archive for scholarship, but its basic premise of immediacy and impermanence shouldn’t frighten us: that’s pretty much what television and radio have always been, right? And yet talking about your research on TV is seen as a big deal when universities measure impact and research dissemination. Academics generally don’t have enough time to be creating intricate daily stories, but short series of videos about what we’re currently working on, interspersed with relevant still images, might not be out of reach. Short reports from conferences or events seem like obvious academic uses of Snapchat. A few seconds of video of a presentation with a line of text explaining it – sure, why not?

A question is who we would be talking to as academics on Snapchat. We could use it like we tend to use Twitter and talk to each other. Or we could think of it as outreach and try to engage young people. Those audiences are pretty different from each other.

I am sure there are zillions of other stories I should be looking at. Please let me know which ones, or send me a snap to tell me! I am jilltxt on Snapchat. I haven’t quite started posting research stories yet, but I plan to give it a go soon. I think my first story will be about the biometrics involved in the selfie lenses. I’ll let you know when I post it!"

[Will add subsequent posts here when I remember:

"What kinds of narrative are Snapchat stories?"
http://jilltxt.net/?p=4432

"Snapchat Research Stories: A Daily Challenge for April"
http://jilltxt.net/?p=4428 ]
snapchat  jillwalkerrettberg  2016  education  highered  highereducation  facebook  academia  scholars  immediacy  archives  impermanence  storytelling  multiliteracies 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Angola’s Wikipedia Pirates Are Exposing the Problems With Digital Colonialism | Motherboard
"That brings us to what’s going on in Angola. Enterprising Angolans have used two free services—Facebook Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero—to share pirated movies, music, television shows, anime, and games on Wikipedia. And no one knows what to do about it.

Because the data is completely free, Angolans are hiding large files in Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia site (Angola is a former Portuguese colony)—sometimes concealing movies in JPEG or PDF files. They’re then using a Facebook group to direct people to those files, creating a robust, completely free file sharing network. A description for a Facebook group with 2,700 members reads: “created with the objective of sharing music, movies, pictures, and ANIMES via Wikimedia.” I was not admitted into the Facebook group and none of its administrators responded to my messages for an interview.

Wikipedia’s old guard, however, are concerned with this development. Wikipedia has very strict copyright guidelines and some editors of the site say they’re tired of playing whack-a-mole.

“I am reporting a possible misuse of Wikimedia projects and Wikipedia Zero to violate copyright,” one editor wrote on a Wiki discussion forum. “I am not sure if users are doing it in bad faith, but they have been warned and keep doing it. I don't think that Wikipedia Zero should stop existing there of course, but maybe something could be done, like preventing them from uploading large files or by previously instructing them in local language about what they can or [can] not do.”

In several cases, wide swaths of IP addresses suspected to belong to Angolans using Wikipedia Zero have been banned from editing stories on Wikipedia, which has had the side effect of blocking Angolans who are using Wikipedia Zero to contribute to Wikipedia in a more traditional way. (In one case, IPs were unblocked because a Portuguese Wikipedia editor decided that an Angolan amateur photographer’s photos were “of immense value.”)

In an email thread on the Wikimedia-L listserv and on Wikipedia talk pages, users in the developed world are trying to find a compromise."



"Many on the listserv are framing Angola’s Wikipedia pirates as bad actors who need to be dealt with in some way so that more responsible editors aren’t punished for their actions. This line of thinking inherently assumes that what Angola’s pirates are doing is bad for Wikipedia and that they must be assimilated to the already regulated norms of Wikipedia’s community. If the developing world wants to use our internet, they must play by our rules, the thinking goes.

But people in developing countries have always had to be more creative than those for whom access to information has always been a given. In Cuba, for instance, movies, music, news, and games are traded on USB drives that are smuggled into the country every week. A 20-year-old developer in Paraguay found a vulnerability in Facebook Messenger that allowed people to use Free Basics to tunnel through to the “real” internet. Legal questions aside (Angola has more lax copyright laws than much of the world), Angola’s pirates are furthering Wikipedia’s mission of spreading information in a real and substantial way.

“When users are faced with a choice of partial access to internet services but not to the entire internet, they might come up with ways to use that partial internet in creative ways that might negatively affect the entity giving it to them,” Josh Levy, advocacy director at Access Now, told me. Facebook Free Basics was criticized widely, but Access Now is one of the few groups that has said Wikipedia Zero is a bad idea because it creates a tiered internet.

While the “misuse” of zero rated systems is a new problem, it closely mirrors ones that have been going on in the wider internet for decades, and the smart money is on allowing Angola’s burgeoning internet community to develop without our interference, even if it means growing pains for Wikipedia. Proposed copyright protection laws such as the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have censored sites that hosted pirated content, was widely believed to be one that could have fundamentally ruined the internet; limiting how Angolans (or anyone else using Wikipedia Zero) access the site could have detrimental impacts.

The Wikimedia Foundation, for its part, seems to have good intentions with its wait-and-see approach. The foundation gives no money to Unitel as part of the program; a good solution here, probably, would be cheaper or free access to the entire internet. While Wikipedia editors in Portugual can simply go to another website to download or share pirated files, Angolans don’t really have that option

“This is the type of thing that reflects larger battles that have gone on about the internet overall,” Charles Duan, a copyright expert at Public Knowledge, told me. “In general, it’s better to allow people more openness and freedom to use Internet tools because you never know what ends up being useful.”

Angolan’s pirates are learning how to organize online, they’re learning how to cover their tracks, they are learning how to direct people toward information and how to hide and share files. Many of these skills are the same ones that would come in handy for a dissident or a protestor or an activist. Considering that Angola has had an autocratic leader in power for more than 35 years, well, those are skills that might come in handy one day."
angola  colonialism  digital  digitalcolonialism  facebook  web  internet  online  2016  jasonkoebler  wikimediazero  digitaldivide  zerorating  freebasics  designimperialism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Future of Chat Isn’t AI — Medium
"So if not AI, then what? What will bots let you do that was never possible before?

We think the answer is actually quite simple: For the first time ever, bots will let you instantly interact with the world around you. This is best illustrated through something that I experienced recently.

During last year’s baseball playoffs, I went to a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. I was running late, so I went straight to my seat to catch as much of the game as I could. But when I got there, I realized I was the only one of my friends without a beer. So, with no beer guy in sight, I turned back to go get a beer. After 10 minutes of waiting in line, I finally got back to my seat. I had missed two home runs.

But good news! In the future, this will never have to happen again. The stadium is developing an app that will let you order from your seat. So next time, I won’t have to miss a beat — I’ll just order through the app. It will be great. Or will it?

Imagine I had sat down and found that there was a sticker on the back of the chair in front of me that said, “Want a beer? Download our app!” Sounds great! I’d unlock my phone, go to the App Store, search for the app, put in my password, wait for it to download, create an account, enter my credit card details, figure out where in the app I actually order from, figure out how to input how many beers I want and of what type, enter my seat number, and then finally my beer would be on its way.

Actually, I would have been better off just waiting in line.

And yet there are so many of these types of apps: apps to order train tickets at stations; apps to order food at restaurants; and apps to order movie tickets at theatres. Everyone wants you to just “download our app!” And yet, after spending millions of dollars developing them, how many people actually use them? My guess: not a lot.

But imagine the stadium one more time, except now instead of spending millions to develop an app, the stadium had spent thousands to develop a simple, text-based bot. I’d sit down and see a similar sticker: “Want a beer? Chat with us!” with a chat code beside it. I’d unlock my phone, open my chat app, and scan the code. Instantly, I’d be chatting with the stadium bot, and it’d ask me how many beers I wanted: “1, 2, 3, or 4.” It’d ask me what type: “Bud, Coors, or Corona.” And then it’d ask me how I wanted to pay: Credit card already on file (**** 0345), or a new card.

Chat app > Scan > 2 > Bud > **** 0345. Done."



"To be clear, this is just the beginning of the bots era, and there are many developments to come. The leaders in this space — Kik, WeChat, Line, Facebook, Slack, and Telegram — all have their own ideas about how this is all going to play out. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that chat is going to be the world’s next great operating system: a Bot OS (or, as we like to call it, BOS).

These developments open up new and giant opportunities for consumers, developers, and businesses. Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet."
chat  ai  artificialintelligence  2016  tedlivingston  kik  slack  telegram  facebook  ui  ux  interface  api  wechat  bots  qrcodes 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Clay Shirky on the why's behind current US Presidential Election cycle - Loose Leaves
[Now available here too: http://civichall.org/civicist/clay-shirky-on-the-whys-behind-current-us-presidential-election-cycle/ ]

"I started writing about both parties becoming host bodies for 3rd party candidates. Instead of an essay, it turned into 50 tweets. Here goes

Social media is breaking the political 'Overton Window' -- the ability of elites to determine the outside edges of acceptable conversation.

The Overton Window was imagined as a limit on public opinion, but in politics, it's the limit on what politicians will express in public.

Politically acceptable discourse is limited by supply, not demand. The public is hungry for more than politicians are willing to discuss.

This is especially important in the U.S., because our two-party system creates ideologically unstable parties by design.

In order to preserve inherently unstable coalitions, party elites & press had to put some issues into the 'Don't Mention X' category.

These limits were enforced by party discipline, and mass media whose economics meant political centrism was the best way to make money.

This was BC: Before Cable. One or two newspapers per town, three TV stations; all centrist, white, pro-business, respectful of authority.

Cable changed things, allowing outsiders to campaign more easily. In '92, Ross Perot, 3rd party candidate, campaigned through infomercials.

That year, the GOP's 'Don't Mention X' issue was the weakness of Reaganomics. Party orthodoxy said reducing tax rates would raise revenues.

Perot's ads attacked GOP management of the economy head on. He was the first candidate to purchase national attention at market rates.

Post-Perot, cable became outside candidates' tool for jailbreaking Don't Mention X: Buchanan on culture war, Nader on consumer protection.

After Cable but Before Web lasted only a dozen years. Cable added a new stream of media access. The web added a torrent.

What's special about After Web -- now -- is that politicians talking about "Don't mention X" issues are doing so from inside the parties.

This started with Howard Dean (the OG) in '03. Poverty was the mother of invention; Dean didn't have enough $ to buy ads, even on cable.

But his team had Meetup & blogs and their candidate believed something many voters did too, something actively Not Being Mentioned.

In '03, All Serious People (aka DC insiders) agreed the U.S. had to invade Iraq. Opposition to the war was not to be a campaign issue.

Dean didn't care. In February of 2003, he said "If the war lasts more than a few weeks, the danger of humanitarian disaster is high."

Dean said "Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and large quantities of arms."

Dean said "There is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror."

For All Serious People, this was crazy talk. (Dean was, of course, completely correct.) This was also tonic to a passionate set of voters.

Mentioning X became Dean's hallmark. Far from marginalizing him, it got him tons of free news coverage. Trump is just biting those rhymes.

After webifying Perot's media tactics, Dean pioneered online fundraising. Unfortunately for him, his Get Out The Vote operation didn't.

That took Obama. Obama was less of an outsider than Dean (though still regarded as unelectable in '07) but used most of Dean's playbook.

Besides charisma, he had two advantages Dean didn't have. First, the anti-war position had gone from principled oppositon to common sense.

Obama could campaign not just on being prescient (as Dean also was) but on having been proved right years earlier.

The second advantage was that Obama's voter mobilization strategy--the crown jewels--was superior to that of the Democratic Party itself.

This was the last piece. Perot adopted non-centrist media, Dean distributed fundraising, Obama non-party voter mobilization.

Social media is at the heart of all of this. Meetup and Myspace meant Dean and Obama didn't have to be billionaires to get a message out.

Online fundraising let outsiders raise funds, and it became a symbol of purity. Anyone not raising money at $25 a pop is now a plutocrat.

And then there was vote-getting. Facebook and MyBarackObama let the Obama campaign run their own vote-getting machine out of Chicago.

McLuhan famously said "The medium is the message." This is often regarded as inscrutably gnomic, but he explained it perfectly clearly.

The personal and social consequences of any medium result from the new scale introduced into our affairs by any new technology.

The new scale Facebook introduces into politics is this: all registered American voters, ~150M people, are now a medium-sized group.

All voters' used to be a big number. Now it's <10% of FB's audience. "A million users isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion users."

Reaching & persuading even a fraction of the electorate used to be so daunting that only two national orgs could do it. Now dozens can.

This set up the current catastrophe for the parties. They no longer control any essential resource, and can no longer censor wedge issues.

Each party has an unmentionable Issue X that divide its voters. Each overestimated their ability to keep X out of the campaign.

Jeb(!) Bush, who advocates religious litmus tests for immigrants, has to attack Trump's anti-immigrant stance, because it went too far.

Clinton can't say "Break out the pitchforks", because Democratic consensus says "We've done as much to banks as our donors will allow."

In '15, a 3rd party candidate challenging her on those issues from inside the party was inconceivable.("I don't think that word means...")

So here we are, with quasi-parlimentarianism. We now have four medium-sized and considerably more coherent voter blocs.

2 rump establishment parties, Trump representing 'racist welfare state' voters, and Sanders representing people who want a Nordic system.

Trump is RINO, Sanders not even a Dem. That either one could become their party's nominee is amazing. Both would mark the end of an era.

We will know by March 15th whether a major party's apparatus can be hijacked by mere voters. (Last time it was: McGovern.)

But the social media piece, and growing expertise around it, means that this is now a long-term challenge to our two-party system.

Over-large party coalitions require discipline to prevent people from taking an impassioned 30% of the base in order to win the primaries.

The old defense against this by the parties was "You and what army?" No third party has been anything other than a spoiler in a century.

The answer to that question this year, from both Trump and Sanders, is "Me and this army I can mobilize without your help."

Who needs a third party when the existing two parties have become powerless to stop insurgencies from within?"
clayshirky  politics  us  rossperot  berniesanders  2016  politicalparties  cable  marshallmcluhan  themediumisthemessage  media  television  control  messaging  facebook  fundraising  platforms  discipline  issues  division  donaldtrump  jebbush  barackobama  hillaryclinton  democrats  republicans  coaitions  thirdpartycandidates  howarddean  2003  meetup  internet  web  socialmedia  1992  getoutthevote  myspace  money  campaigns  campaigning  mybarackobama  rino  georgemcgovern  elections 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Vale Umberto Eco | Overland literary journal
"I still consider it his main contribution to our culture: that of demystifying and modernising the role of the intellectual; of making it more accessible, more contemporary, more relevant. He wasn’t a radical like, say, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Michel Foucault, and never viewed himself as part of a struggle, be it political or existential. He never operated outside of the establishment, either, embracing rather a role of international academic superstar that saw him bouncing for two decades between Italy and the United States. Yet he also helped create lasting institutions, like the modern field of semiotics and the university faculty known as DAMS, in Bologna, where one could survey new phenomena such as mass communications and culture through very old means, reaching as far back as the scholastic philosophy of his beloved Thomas Aquinas, and from there further back to Aristotle. At the time when I went to university, in 1990, this was still an almost singular exception in an academia that clung for dear life to its pre-war methods, structures and concerns.

Then, at the age of forty-eight, Eco became a novelist. Later he revealed that he had come to hate The Name of the Rose, which he regarded as his worst work of fiction but, with all due respect, it’s a silly assessment. That first novel, his best, reflects his approach to intellectual work in that it’s a superficially difficult book, delving at length into obscure theological and philosophical questions, that manages nonetheless to be highly enjoyable and readable. Its themes are the same themes that preoccupied him at the time, chiefly the problem of interpretation. I think we are beyond spoiling the plot, but in the simplest of terms, in The Name of the Rose an occasional murderer becomes a serial one in order to fulfil the plot that the detective has come up with in order to explain the original killings: therefore his subsequent murders are effectively inspired by the fervid imagination of the detective. Like his semiotic work Lector in fabula, which he had just finished writing, The Name of the Rose is about the role of the reader in making sense of a text, only in a literal and essentially comic fashion. As Eco explains in the postscript to the second edition, he had been fascinated by an attempt by the French writers of Oulipo to produce a matrix of all possible murder stories, whose conclusion was that they had all been written save perhaps for one in which the murderer was the reader. That was the paradox, or joke, at the root of it all.

Another way of summarising the plot of The Name of the Rose would be that a deranged monk becomes a killer in order to prevent the recovery of the lost last book of Aristotle’s Poetics, the one on comedy. Therefore the novel is another dramatisation of the struggle between apocalyptic and integrated intellectuals, between deadly seriousness and life-giving irony. Foucault’s Pendulum picks up on the same themes, but with a little more of an edge. The fanatic conspiracists at its centre bear a striking resemblance to contemporary flat earthers and 9/11 truthers, and as a result the book still reads very well: Eco’s concern with textual interpretation, if anything, has become more relevant and more political now that everyone writes as well as reading.

I suggested recently in an Overland article that we are all Umberto Eco now, by which I meant that the internet gives everyone an opportunity to be a published – therefore public – intellectual, such as was afforded to Eco for a mainstream national audience only at the height of his career. The inverse of this observation is that Umberto Eco was Umberto Eco first. That is to say, he exhibited the kind of encyclopaedic intellectual interest that is almost a default, standard setting of the current reader/writer, covering the most disparate of topics like a one-man Twitter or Facebook timeline.

This may be why, in spite of neither being a great admirer of his fiction nor a follower of his semiotic theories, over the years I have found myself drawn to Eco time and again. I think it was his voraciousness, that medieval appetite for universal knowledge that is nonetheless truly modern, his prodigious curiosity, and the obvious enjoyment he derived from intellectual work and was able to transmit to the reader. Of some of his work, in the fold of that vast output, I am truly fond. Like his heroic translation into Italian of Raymond Queneau’s devilish Exercices de style (a one-page narrative about a chance encounter on the bus is re-told in ninety-nine different styles); his introduction to the work of one of my favourite writers, Achille Campanile; his recent, inexhaustible book on the passion for lists in Western thought; and above all so many of his columns, too many to count.

There will be many obituaries, and I’d like to conclude this one with a nod to the one he wrote for the great illustrator, designer and author Bruno Manari, with whom he had long worked at Bompiani on technical and other non-fiction work. In this brief piece for a magazine after Munari’s death, in 1998, Eco recalled his friend’s great talent for sketching complex book layouts with a few strokes of the pencil, equal only to his ability to argue and immediately show that any alternative suggestions would simply not work on the page. It was a little lesson on the craft of publishing that obviously stayed with him: he remembered it four decades later, and it has stayed with me for two decades more. Deep thinking about book design is a form of deep thinking about culture, which is also ultimately the sum of all of our crafts. Eco was above all this: a devoted and joyous practitioner of the art of being interested in things."
umbertoeco  giovannitiso  interestedness  2016  obituaries  publishing  bookdesign  books  culture  brunomunari  semiotics  interpretation  intellectuals  thomasaquinas  pierpaolopasolini  michelfoucault  readwriteweb  publicintellectuals  twitter  facebook  socialmedia  web  online  internet  foucault  interested 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Education Outrage: Now it is Facebook's turn to be stupid about AI
"What could Facebook be thinking here? We read stories to our children for many reasons. These are read because they have been around a long time, which is not a great reason. The reason to read frightening stories to children has never ben clear to me. The only value I saw in doing this sort of thing as a parent was to begin a discussion with the child about the story which might lead somewhere interesting. Now my particular children had been living in the real world at the time so they had some way to relate to the story because of their own fears, or because of experiences they might have had.

Facebook’s AI will be able to relate to these stories by matching words it has seen before. Oh good. It will not learn anything from the stories because it cannot learn anything from any story. Learning from stories means mapping your experiences (your own stories) to the new story and finding some commonalities and some differences. It also entails discussing those commonalties and differences with someone who is willing to have that conversation with you. In order to do that you have to be able to construct sentences on your own and be able to interpret your own experiences through conversations with your friends and family.

Facebook’s “AI” will not be doing this because it can’t. It has had no experiences. Apparently its experience is loading lots of text and counting patterns. Too bad there isn’t a children’s story about that.

Facebook hasn’t a clue about AI, but it will continue to spend money and accomplish nothing until AI is declared to have failed again,"
rogerschank  2016  facebook  ai  artificialintelligence  algorithms  via:audreywatters  context  experience  understanding  stories  storytelling 
february 2016 by robertogreco
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