robertogreco + humanity   160

Patricio Guzmán - Capturing Reality
“Our Own Take on Reality

The Great Archive of Humanity

The Battle of Chile: Continuing the Debate

Reality is Chaos

The Battle of Chile: Bringing Order to Chaos

The Music of Everyday Life

The Battle of Chile: Chris Marker to the Rescue”
patricioguzmán  chile  film  filmmaking  documentary  thebattleofchile  reality  humanity  everyday  chrismarker  storytelling  noticing  seeing  attention 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public – @visakanv
"The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public.

I think this is civilisation-specific (ie not an issue for egalitarian hunter-gatherers who live enmeshed lives). And I think appreciating this requires appreciating that civilisation is hierarchical, stratified. The reality of status hierarchies is starker than we articulate.

Nobody introduces you to sexism 101, racism 101 or status hierarchies 101 when you’re a child. This is something you have to learn through fumbling experience and unverified hearsay, the way most people learn about sex.

Circling back. The public isn’t educated to be a good public because it isn’t in the interest(s) of the ruling class, not really. The public is educated to obey, to regulate & be regulated, to work. There are lots of shitty smartbro takes on this, but underlying truth remains

Many (most?) people fantasize about being a king, queen, prince, princess. Many (most?) people secretly know that the public commons is a dumpster fire, and aspire to have enough power to avoid being trampled by the great herd of humanity.

In the short run, for the quarterly report, the public yields the most profits when it is most anxious, fearful, outraged, disgusted. If you advocate for fewer ads, less hyperbole, a better user experience, you’ll probably get replaced by someone else who doesn’t care.

In the earliest conceptualization of “civilised” humanity, there were the rulers and the serfs. The masters and the slaves. The bougies and the proles. The clever trick of late-stage capitalism is selling gold-plated chains as a substitute for liberty.

It’s tempting at this point to point a finger at a mysterious Man who’s Out To Get Us. And maybe some people bear more responsibility than others for kickstarting the profit-seeking hyperdrive. But correcting it will IMO require a planetary effort that has never been coordinated. (Meditations on Moloch feels relevant here.)

I changed my mind about something halfway here. I was going to say “we are all responsible, it’s our collective insecurity” I’m not so sure that’s accurate, apart from in the most superficial sense. The asshole problem is real.

Assholes are the 1% of people that cause 74% of the problems everywhere they go. The challenge is to deal with assholes without becoming an asshole yourself in the process. It’s sadly-funny and true that anti-assholes are some of the worst assholes."
visakanveerasamy  2019  hierarchy  assholes  civilization  society  racism  sexism  inequality  humanism  capitalism  humanity 
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
Isabel Rodríguez on Twitter: "I am more and more convinced that our thinking in education should move away from improving learning to an imperative to respect the rights of children and young people, combat all forms of discrimination and violence agains
"I am more and more convinced that our thinking in education should move away from improving learning to an imperative to respect the rights of children and young people, combat all forms of discrimination and violence against them, and rethink how we organize life and work. 1/

Not that improving learning is not important, but regardless of how we define and measure it, it is secondary to the well-being and status of children and young people in our societies. 2/

As matter of justice, educational results should not be used to justify, normalize and maintain inequality in income and status. Regardless of our education, all human beings are entitled to a life with dignity and to be regarded as equals. 3/

As a matter of justice, educational results should not be used as an excuse to deny a voice to those deemed as uneducated in the matters affecting their lives. 4/

As a matter of justice, education should not be used to normalize the practice of denying consent to those deemed as uneducated and to all marginalized populations in the matters affecting their lives. 5/

As a matter of justice, we must acknowledge that poverty has not much to do with education and much to do with power imbalances and structures of protection and access to land and other resources. 6/

And we must acknowledge that in order to maintain all forms of inequality and violence, they must first be learnt and normalized through the treatment of children at home and at schools.

If you want to learn more about this, you can follow @TobyRollo. 7/

Learning is important, no doubt about it, but it is not everything. At the end of the day, what we need more is about being more humane. Our priorities should be clear. 8/
https://www.holocaustandhumanity.org/about-us/educational-philosophy/

Can we do both? Absolutely, but ultimately, we should be willing to respect the full equality, dignity and consent of those choosing not to learn what we deem as important they should learn. 9/

We should also be willing to respect the full equality, dignity and consent of what kids choose to learn according to their own purposes, interests, rhythms and talents. 10/

And this may seem too far out, but let's think about what this means in terms of how neurodiversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, and disabilities are crushed and disrespected on a routine basis. 11/

Let's think about how interests, needs, rhythms and expressions falling outside of what school requires are punished routinely. 12/

Some people argue that by respecting the consent of children, we risk having them not learn what they need. But this is a slippery slope.... 13/

Once we accept that we can violate the right of children to consent and a differential treatment on an arbitrary basis, we normalize and facilitate the violation of their rights in other scenarios and with the use of arbitrary norms. 14/

Finally, if we are serious about moving away from the abuse of standardized tests and about decoupling education from the needs of markets.... 15/

We must be willing to stop defining accountability in terms of learning measurements and instead define it in terms of how students are treated and the resources and opportunities that are made available to them in order to learn according to their own purposes and needs. 16/

Currently, schools are not accountable to students, families and communities. Students are accountable to teachers and administrators, and teachers and administrators are accountable to authorities and big power brokers who don't have the best interests of students in mind. 17/

In order to transform the world outside school, we must rethink education. Alternatively, in order to rethink education, we must think about how we want to transform the world outside school. Both visions should match. Both visions should be adequate. 18/

And because in the world outside school, poverty is more a result of rights denied, power imbalances, structures of protection and access to land and other resources, and how we organize life and work... 19/

The treatment of children should prioritize the respect of their rights, granting them power, their access to resources, their access to learning according to alternative ways of organizing life and work, etc... 20/

And of course, this is especially important in the case of marginalized population whose oppression is based on the denial of power and resources. Teaching them that poverty is defined by lack of education is abusing and gaslighting them. 21/

A few more things, I almost missed... 22/

If we are serious about decoupling education from the needs of markets, learning should be about no other reason than for our own fun and pleasure as much as it should be about what we need to survive. 23/

And in this sense, the right to an education should be defined in terms of access to resources and opportunities to learn what individuals want and/or deem important according to their own purposes, and not in terms of forcing them to learn according to someone else's agenda. 24/

The erasure of what is not quantifiable and what is deemed as not important by conventional schools serves to maintain the lower status attached to activities performed by those considered as less educated. 25/

Such activities are performed disproportionately by women and marginalized populations. In many cases, within the domestic realm, these activities are not remunerated. 26/

But if we were all regarded as equals, all truly useful activities would be held in a similar status and acknowledged as what makes possible everyone else's jobs. So then again, there's no reason income differences should be so dramatic and justified by education. 27/

And it is the exploitation, discrimination and exclusion of many, that we should be centering in our thinking about education in connection to how we organize life and work. 28/

Enjoying being able to work with our hands and bodies, and enjoying being able to take care of others, should be regarded as a right, not as a sacrifice or as a punishment for losing in the game of school. 29/

Likewise, enjoying working in a science, technology, or in the arts, should also be regarded as a right, as perhaps a lifelong learning opportunity, and not as a reward for eliminating others in the game of school. 30/

Rights within communities where people collaborate and take care of each other, knowledge thought as a public good, not something privatized and individualized... 31/

Individual failures and accomplishments as belonging to the entire community, not rewards and punishments according to a competition where many are excluded, diversity, not standardization.

The end. 32/"
isabelrodríguez  2019  unschooling  education  learning  children  rights  discrimination  violence  children'srights  society  community  dignity  inequality  sorting  standardization  poverty  power  hierarchy  humanism  humanity  equality  consent  purpose  interests  deschooling  economics  schools  schooling  schooliness  communities  accountability  imbalance  diversity  rewards  punishment  competition  collaboration  collectivism  opportunity 
may 2019 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Faustian Economics, by Wendell Berry | Harper's Magazine
"The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily foreseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay, so far, have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such “biofuels” as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that “science will find an answer.” The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

This belief was always indefensible — the real names of global warming are Waste and Greed — and by now it is manifestly foolish. But foolishness on this scale looks disturbingly like a sort of national insanity. We seem to have come to a collective delusion of grandeur, insisting that all of us are “free” to be as conspicuously greedy and wasteful as the most corrupt of kings and queens. (Perhaps by devoting more and more of our already abused cropland to fuel production we will at last cure ourselves of obesity and become fashionably skeletal, hungry but — thank God! — still driving.)"



"The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination — this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.

Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine. Thus an X marked on a paper ballot no longer fulfills our idea of voting. One problem with this state of affairs is that the work now most needing to be done — that of neighborliness and caretaking — cannot be done by remote control with the greatest power on the largest scale. A second problem is that the economic fantasy of limitlessness in a limited world calls fearfully into question the value of our monetary wealth, which does not reliably stand for the real wealth of land, resources, and workmanship but instead wastes and depletes it.

That human limitlessness is a fantasy means, obviously, that its life expectancy is limited. There is now a growing perception, and not just among a few experts, that we are entering a time of inescapable limits. We are not likely to be granted another world to plunder in compensation for our pillage of this one. Nor are we likely to believe much longer in our ability to outsmart, by means of science and technology, our economic stupidity. The hope that we can cure the ills of industrialism by the homeopathy of more technology seems at last to be losing status. We are, in short, coming under pressure to understand ourselves as limited creatures in a limited world.

This constraint, however, is not the condemnation it may seem. On the contrary, it returns us to our real condition and to our human heritage, from which our self-definition as limitless animals has for too long cut us off. Every cultural and religious tradition that I know about, while fully acknowledging our animal nature, defines us specifically as humans — that is, as animals (if the word still applies) capable of living not only within natural limits but also within cultural limits, self-imposed. As earthly creatures, we live, because we must, within natural limits, which we may describe by such names as “earth” or “ecosystem” or “watershed” or “place.” But as humans, we may elect to respond to this necessary placement by the self-restraints implied in neighborliness, stewardship, thrift, temperance, generosity, care, kindness, friendship, loyalty, and love.

In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections."



"And so our cultural tradition is in large part the record of our continuing effort to understand ourselves as beings specifically human: to say that, as humans, we must do certain things and we must not do certain things. We must have limits or we will cease to exist as humans; perhaps we will cease to exist, period. At times, for example, some of us humans have thought that human beings, properly so called, did not make war against civilian populations, or hold prisoners without a fair trial, or use torture for any reason.

Some of us would-be humans have thought too that we should not be free at anybody else’s expense. And yet in the phrase “free market,” the word “free” has come to mean unlimited economic power for some, with the necessary consequence of economic powerlessness for others. Several years ago, after I had spoken at a meeting, two earnest and obviously troubled young veterinarians approached me with a question: How could they practice veterinary medicine without serious economic damage to the farmers who were their clients? Underlying their question was the fact that for a long time veterinary help for a sheep or a pig has been likely to cost more than the animal is worth. I had to answer that, in my opinion, so long as their practice relied heavily on selling patented drugs, they had no choice, since the market for medicinal drugs was entirely controlled by the drug companies, whereas most farmers had no control at all over the market for agricultural products. My questioners were asking in effect if a predatory economy can have a beneficent result. The answer too often is No. And that is because there is an absolute discontinuity between the economy of the seller of medicines and the economy of the buyer, as there is in the health industry as a whole. The drug industry is interested in the survival of patients, we have to suppose, because surviving patients will continue to consume drugs.

Now let us consider a contrary example. Recently, at another meeting, I talked for some time with an elderly, and some would say an old-fashioned, farmer from Nebraska. Unable to farm any longer himself, he had rented his land to a younger farmer on the basis of what he called “crop share” instead of a price paid or owed in advance. Thus, as the old farmer said of his renter, “If he has a good year, I have a good year. If he has a bad year, I have a bad one.” This is what I would call community economics. It is a sharing of fate. It assures an economic continuity and a common interest between the two partners to the trade. This is as far as possible from the economy in which the young veterinarians were caught, in which the powerful are limitlessly “free” to trade, to the disadvantage, and ultimately the ruin, of the powerless.

It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served."



"If the idea of appropriate limitation seems unacceptable to us, that may be because, like Marlowe’s Faustus and Milton’s Satan, we confuse limits with confinement. But that, as I think Marlowe and Milton and others were trying to tell us, is a great and potentially a fatal mistake. Satan’s fault, as Milton understood it and perhaps with some sympathy, was precisely that he could not tolerate his proper limitation; he could not subordinate himself to anything whatever. Faustus’s error was his unwillingness to remain “Faustus, and a man.” In our age of the world it is not rare to find writers, critics, and teachers of literature, as well as scientists and technicians, who regard Satan’s and Faustus’s defiance as salutary and heroic.

On the contrary, our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either. Or … [more]
wendellberry  2008  economics  science  technology  art  limits  limitlessness  arts  ecosystems  limitations  local  humanism  humanity  humility  community  communities  knowledge  power  expansion  growth  interdependence  greed  neighborliness  stewardship  thrift  temperance  christianity  generosity  care  kindness  friendship  loyalty  love  self-restraint  restraint  watershed  land  caring  caretaking  morality  accountability  responsibility  respect  reverence  corruption  capitalism  technosolutionism  fossilfuels  waste 
may 2019 by robertogreco
A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - YouTube
"What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? The Intercept presents a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple.

Set a couple of decades from now, the film is a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This film flips the script. It’s about how, in the nick of time, a critical mass of humanity in the largest economy on earth came to believe that we were actually worth saving. Because, as Ocasio-Cortez says in the film, our future has not been written yet and “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”"

[See also:
https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/green-new-deal-short-film-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/

"The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This skepticism is understandable. The idea that societies could collectively decide to embrace rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more — precisely what is needed to avert climate breakdown — is not something for which most of us have any living reference. We have grown up bombarded with the message that there is no alternative to the crappy system that is destabilizing the planet and hoarding vast wealth at the top. From most economists, we hear that we are fundamentally selfish, gratification-seeking units. From historians, we learn that social change has always been the work of singular great men.

Science fiction hasn’t been much help either. Almost every vision of the future that we get from best-selling novels and big-budget Hollywood films takes some kind of ecological and social apocalypse for granted. It’s almost as if we have collectively stopped believing that the future is going to happen, let alone that it could be better, in many ways, than the present.

The media debates that paint the Green New Deal as either impossibly impractical or a recipe for tyranny just reinforce the sense of futility. But here’s the good news: The old New Deal faced almost precisely the same kinds of opposition — and it didn’t stop it for a minute."]
alexandriaocasio-cortez  2019  mollycrabapple  greennewdeal  speculativefiction  politics  policy  future  climatechange  globalwarming  1988  us  oil  petroleum  fossilfuels  environment  sustainability  puertorico  crisis  change  food  transportation  economics  capitalism  inequality  medicareforall  livingwages  labor  work  infrastructure  trains  masstransit  publictransit  americorps  unions  indigenous  indigeneity  childcare  care  caring  teaching  domesticwork  universalrights  healthcare  humanism  humanity  avilewis  naomiklein  skepticism  imagination  newdeal  fdr  wpa  greatdepression  moonshots  art  artists  collectivism  society 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Notre Dame Fire and the Invisible Tragedy of the Everyday
"Executive director of the World Peace Foundation Alex de Waal says that almost all the famines that occur today are political decisions, a “matter of system” as Kinsella puts it. In the modern world, hunger, homelessness, lack of proper healthcare, and lack of access to education are all political decisions as well. The simple truth is that we can take care of everyone on Earth, but we choose not to."

[See also:
"The Nazis Used It, We Use It: Alex de Waal on the return of famine as a weapon of war"
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n12/alex-de-waal/the-nazis-used-it-we-use-it

"Reaction of the rich to the Notre Dame fire teaches us a lot about the world we live in"
https://www.joe.ie/life-style/notre-dame-feature-665670

"Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/billionaires-raced-to-pledge-money-to-rebuild-notre-dame-then-came-the-backlash/2019/04/18/7133f9a2-617c-11e9-bf24-db4b9fb62aa2_story.html ]
health  suffering  humanity  politics  alexdewaal  hunger  healthcare  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  choices  capitalism  policy  education  2019  notredame  society  via:lukeneff  inequality  shame  famine  tragedy  2017 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Project MUSE - On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales
"Because computers zoom across magnifications, it is easy to conclude that both knowledge and things exist by nature in precision-nested scales. The technical term is “scalable,” the ability to expand without distorting the framework. But it takes hard work to make knowledge and things scalable, and this article shows that ignoring nonscalable effects is a bad idea. People stumbled on scalable projects through the same historical contingencies that such projects set out to deny. They cobbled together ways to make things and data self-contained and static, and thus amenable to expansion. In European New World plantations, the natives were wiped out; coerced and alienated plants and workers came to substitute for them. Profits were made because extermination and slavery could be discounted from the books. Such historically indeterminate encounters formed models for later projects of scalability. This essay explores scalability projects from the perspective of an emergent “nonscalability theory” that pays attention to the mounting pile of ruins that scalability leaves behind. The article concludes that, if the world is still diverse and dynamic, it is because scalability never fulfills its own promises."



"How is scalability created? It is not a necessary feature of the world. People stumbled on scalable projects through historical contingencies. They cobbled together ways to make raw materials (for both goods and knowledge) selfcontained and static, and thus amenable to expansion. In European sugarcane plantations, the natives were wiped out; exotic, coerced, and alienated plants and workers came to substitute for them. Profits were made because the general mess of extermination and slavery could be discounted from the books. Such historically indeterminate encounters formed models for later projects of scalability.

Do we live in a world of scalable nonsocial landscape elements—nonsoels? Yes and no. The great “progress” projects of the last several centuries have built on the legacy of the colonial plantation to make scalability work in business, government, and technology. But scalability has never been complete. In recent years, changes in global capitalism have challenged the assumption of scalability for labor and natural-resource management, and at least some theorists in the social sciences have pointed out the malevolent hegemony of precision. Meanwhile, critics of scalability have raised distress signals about the fate of biological and cultural diversity on earth. It is an important time to develop nonscalability theory as a way to reconceptualize the world—and perhaps rebuild it."

[PDF here: http://www.lasisummerschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Tsing-2012-On-nonscalability.pdf ]

[via:
"I can’t say enough how good Anna Tsing’s essay on nonscalabilty is. “On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales.” Common Knowledge 18, no. 3 (September 19, 2012): 505–24. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/485828/pdf "
https://twitter.com/samplereality/status/1098610615969562626

"Scalability is the enemy of difference. (Page 507)

via:
"On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing"
https://twitter.com/dantaeyoung/status/1108070233670123521 ]

[See also:
"“On Nonscalability” of teaching and learning"
https://www.jonbecker.net/on-nonscalability-of-teaching-and-learning/
annalowenhaupttsing  scale  scalability  slow  small  2012  difference  diversity  capitalism  knowledge  expansion  growth  degrowth  culture  technology  progress  labor  work  biology  humanism  humanity  sustainability  environment  sugar  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  antigrowth 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Justice in America Episode 20: Mariame Kaba and Prison Abolition - The Appeal
"On the last episode of Season 2, Josie and Clint discuss prison abolition with Mariame Kaba, one of the leading organizers in the fight against America’s criminal legal system and a contributing editor for The Appeal. Mariame discusses her own journey into this work, provides perspective on the leaders in this space, and helps us reimagine what the future of this system could look like. Mariame’s way of thinking about this system, and the vision of possibilities she provides, is an excellent send-off to our second season."

[full transcript on page]

"I grew up in New York City and came of age in 1980s. So, um, when I was coming of age in the city, it was kind of the early eighties were a fraught moment for many different kinds of reasons. The tail end of deinstitutionalization. So the first time where we actually started seeing homeless people outside on the streets. Michael Stewart was killed by the police in 1983 which was a very big moment for me. I was 12 years old and that really impacted me. My, um, older siblings were very animated by that fact. Um, crack cocaine is coming into being, this is the time of ACT UP. Um, this is when Reagan comes to power. It was a very tumultuous period and moment of time. So coming of age in that time led me to start organizing for racial justice as a teenager. And I also came of age during the time when there was the Bensonhurst case where a young black man was pursued and then killed by a mob of white young people who were close to my age because he supposedly talked to a white girl in a way that people were not happy about. The Howard Beach incident comes up in 1986. There was a lot happening during my teenagers in the city and I did not have an analysis of the criminal punishment system at that time. I just saw a lot of my friends, I grew up on the Lower East Side, so a lot of my friends ending up in juvie and then in prison and I didn’t, and the cops were always in our neighborhood harassing people and I did not really put all these things together, but I had a frame that was a racial justice frame at a very young age, mainly because of my parents. My mom and my dad. Um, my father, who’d been a socialist in the anti-colonial struggles in Guinea. Like I had a politics at home, but all I understood was like they were coming after black people in multiple different kinds of ways. It wasn’t until I was older and I had come back from college, um, I went to school in Montreal, Canada, came back to the city right after, I was 20 years old when I graduated from college, came back to the city and got a job working in Harlem at the, um, Countee Cullen Library and then ended up teaching in Harlem. And it was there that I found out that all of my students were also getting enmeshed in the criminal punishment system. But I still didn’t have a really, like I didn’t have a politic about it. It wasn’t until a very tragic story that occurred with one of my students who ended up killing another one of my students that I became very clearly aware of the criminal punishment system cause they were going to try to, um, basically try him as an adult. The person who did the killing, he was only 16. And it was that incident that kind of propelled me into trying to learn about what the system was, what it was about. And it concurrently, it was also the time when I started to search for restorative justice because it occurred to me, in watching the family of my student who had been killed react to the situation, that they did not want punishment for the person who killed their daughter. They were, uh, they wanted some accountability and they were also talking about the fact that he did not want him charged as an adult."



"people who are practitioners of restorative justice see restorative justice as a philosophy and ideology, a framework that is much broader than the criminal punishment system. It is about values around how we treat each other in the world. And it’s about an acknowledgement that because we’re human beings, we hurt each other. We cause harm. And what restorative justice proposes is to ask a series of questions. Mostly the three that are kind of advanced by Howard Zehr, who is the person who about 40 years ago popularized the concept of restorative justice in the United States. He talks about since we want to address the violation in the relationships that were broken as a result of violence and harm, that you want to ask a question about who was hurt, that that is important to ask, that you want to ask then what are the obligations? What are the needs that emerge from that hurt? And then you want to ask the question of whose job is it to actually address the harm? And so because of that, those questions of what happened, which in the current adversarial system are incidental really, you know, it’s who did this thing, what rules were broken? How are we going to actually punish the people who broke the rules? And then whose role is it to do that? It’s the state’s. In restorative justice it’s: what happened? Talk about what happened, share what happened, discuss in a, you know, kind of relational sense what happened. And then it’s what are your needs? Would do you need as a result of this? Because harms engender needs that must be met, right? So it asks you to really think that through. And then it says, you know, how do we repair this harm and who needs to be at the table for that to happen. It invites community in. It invites other people who were also harmed because we recognize that the ripples of harm are beyond the two individuals that were involved, it’s also the broader community and the society at large. So that’s what restorative justice, at its base, is really the unit of concern is the broken relationship and the harm. Those are the focus of what we need to be addressing. And through that, that obviously involves the criminal punishment system. In many ways RJ has become co-opted by that system. So people were initially proponents of restorative justice have moved their critique away from using RJ and talking about instead transformative justice. That’s where you see these breakdowns occurring because the system has taken on RJ now as quote unquote “a model for restitution.”"



"Restorative justice and transformative justice, people say they’re interchangeable sometimes, they are not. Because transformative justice people say that you cannot actually use the current punishing institutions that exist. Whereas RJ now is being run in prisons, is being run in schools. Institutions that are themselves violently punishing institutions are now taking that on and running that there. And what people who are advocates of transformative justice say is RJ, because of its focus on the individual, the intervention is on individuals, not the system. And what transformative justice, you know, people, advocates and people who have kind of begun to be practitioners in that have said is we have to also transform the conditions that make this thing possible. And restoring is restoring to what? For many people, the situation that occurred prior to the harm had lots of harm in it. So what are we restoring people to? We have to transform those conditions and in order to do that we have to organize, to shift the structures and the systems and that will also be very important beyond the interpersonal relationships that need to be mended."



"I reject the premise of restorative and transformative justice being alternatives to incarceration. I don’t reject the premise that we should prefigure the world in which we want to live and therefore use multiple different kinds of ways to figure out how to address harm. So here’s what I mean, because people are now saying things like the current criminal punishment system is broken, which it is not. It is actually operating exactly as designed. And that’s what abolition has helped us to understand is that the system is actually relentlessly successful at targeting the people it wants and basically getting the outcomes that wants from that. So if you understand that to be the case, then you are in a position of very much understanding that every time we use the term “alternative to incarceration” what comes to your mind?"



"You’re centering the punishing system. When I say alternative to prison, all you hear is prison. And what that does is that it conditions your imagination to think about the prison as the center. And what we’re saying as transformative and restorative justice practitioners is that the prison is actually an outcome of a broader system of violence and harm that has its roots in slavery and before colonization. And here we are in this position where all you then think about is replacing what we currently use prisons for, for the new thing. So what I mean by that is when you think of an alternative in this moment and you’re thinking about prison, you just think of transposing all of the things we currently consider crimes into that new world."



"It has to fit that sphere. But here’s what I, I would like to say lots of crimes are not harmful to anybody."



"And it’s also that we’re in this position where not all crimes are harms and not all harms are actually crimes. And what we are concerned with as people who practice restorative and transformative justice is harm across the board no matter what. So I always tell people when they say like, ‘oh, we’re having an alternative to incarceration or alternative to prison.’ I’m like, okay, what are you decriminalizing first? Do we have a whole list of things? So possession of drugs is a criminal offense right now. I don’t want an alternative to that. I want you to leave people the hell alone."



"Transformative justice calls on us to shatter binaries of all different types. Most of the people who currently are locked up, for example, in our prisons and jails, are people who are victims of crime first. They’ve been harmed and have harmed other people. The “perpetrator,” quote unquote… [more]
mariamekaba  clintsmith  josieduffyrice  prisonindustrialcomplex  prisions  violence  restorativejustice  justice  prisonabolition  punishment  2019  angeladavis  howardzehr  incarceration  community  humans  transformativejustice  harm  racism  responsibility  repair  people  carceralstate  binaries  accountability  police  lawenforcement  jails  coercion  gender  criminalization  humanism  decency  humanity  transformation  survival  bodies  abolition  abolitionists  nilschristie  ruthiegilmore  fayeknopp  presence  absence  systemsthinking  systems  complexity  capitalism  climatechange  climate  globalwarming  livingwage  education  organization  organizing  activism  change  changemaking  exploitation  dehumanization  optimism 
march 2019 by robertogreco
‘Has Any One of Us Wept?’ | by Francisco Cantú | The New York Review of Books
"The dehumanizing tactics and rhetoric of war have transformed the border into a permanent zone of exception, where some of the most vulnerable people on earth face death and disappearance on a daily basis, where children have been torn from their parents to send the message You are not safe here, you are not welcome. The true crisis at the border is not one of surging crossings or growing criminality, but of our own increasing disregard for human life. To describe what we are seeing as a “crisis,” however, is to imply that our current moment is somehow more horrifying than those that have recently set the stage for it—moments that, had we allowed ourselves to see them and be horrified by them, might have prevented our arrival here in the first place.

In an essay examining the omnipresence of modern borders and the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean, British journalist Frances Stonor Saunders argues that documents such as passports and visas are central components to how our society values and recognizes human life.2 “Identity is established by identification,” Saunders writes, “and identification is established by documenting and fixing the socially significant and codifiable information that confirms who you are.” Those who possess such documentation possess a verified self, “an identity, formed through and confirmed by identification, that is attested to be ‘true.’”"



"When the violence of our institutions is revealed, when their dehumanizing design is laid bare, it can be too daunting to imagine that we might change things. But what I have learned from giving myself over to a structure of power, from living within its grim vision and helping to harm the people and places from which I came, is that even the most basic act of decency can serve as the spark that will lead one back toward humanity, and even the most basic individual interaction has the power to upend the idea of the “other.” Heeding even these small impulses can serve as a means of extricating ourselves from systems of thought and policy that perpetuate detachment, even in spite of all the mechanisms that have been devised to make us believe in individual and nationalistic self-interest. As obvious as it might seem, to truly and completely reject a culture of violence, to banish it from our minds, we must first fully refuse to participate in it, and refuse to assist in its normalization. When we consider the border, we might think of our home; when we consider those who cross it, we might think of those we hold dear."
franciscocantú  border  borders  us  mexico  2019  borderpatrol  humanism  humanity  policy  politics  donaldtrump  migration  refugees  violence  vi:sarahpeeden  power  detachment  nationalism  individualism  self-interest  decency 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Dr Fish Philosopher🐟 on Twitter: "1. <Brews some coffee.> <puts on anthropologist hat> <cracks knuckles> So the theft of my wonderful colleague, @kahente's, daughter's name by a non-Indigenous film production raises the issue of how western/euro-americ
[images throughout with screenshots of citations]

"1. <Brews some coffee.> <puts on anthropologist hat> <cracks knuckles>

So the theft of my wonderful colleague, @kahente's, daughter's name by a non-Indigenous film production raises the issue of how western/euro-american folks understand 'culture'+ the erasure of Indigenous laws

2. Western/euro-american folks have employed the notion of 'culture' to describe the 'customs, traditions, languages, social institutions' of The Other for a long while now. Made perhaps famous in anthropology's embrace of this unit of analysis in the last few hundred years.

3. the thing about 'culture' in its emergence as anthro's unit of analysis (vs, say, sociology's also fraught but in different ways study of 'society') is that it was employed through colonial period (+ still) to displace the legal-governance standing of nations of 'The Other'.

4. While Euro nations/the West were deemed to have 'laws', everyone else (the Rest) were deemed to have 'customs'/'traditions'/'culture'. This coincided with vigorous efforts by British/American & other western actors to do everything possible to invalidate the laws of 'The Rest'

5. What happens when 'the Rest' have laws? It means that Euro-American actors ('The West') might actually have reciprocal responsibilities to those nations under emerging international law in colonial period & cannot just steal land and destroy nations without legal consequences.

6.(Interlude --- everything I know about this is from Joanne Barker's fabulous book "Sovereignty Matters" and Sylvia Wynter's crucial, canonical piece "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation--An Argument").

7. As Barker (2005:4) shows us: law matters because this is medium through which nationhood/statehood were recognized+asserted. Both Treaties and Constitutions were mobilized to assert claims over lands/peoples. Genocide was done 'legally' within precepts of euro/american law

8. What happened when euro-american actors entered into treaties with Indigenous nations/confederacies in NA? Euro-american colonizers quickly realized recognition of the laws of the 'Other' meant their claims to lands were vulnerable to international challenge (Barker 2005)

9. So, euro-american colonizers had two handy little tricks up their sleeve: first, invalidate the humanity of those you colonize (Wynter 2003). Place them firmly in the category of the 'fallen flesh'/sinners/'Other' incapable of rational thought (law) ((Wynter 2003: 281-282)

(sorry, this one is a slow burn because I want to make sure I cite sources fairly and generously and provide ample material for folks to consult and check out)

10. This invalidation is helped by the papal bull of 1493, which establishes the 'Doctrine of Discovery' (aka: Spain and Portugal have the right to claim lands they 'find' in the name of God). This is re-asserted in 19th century USA http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Alex06/alex06inter.htm
https://upstanderproject.org/firstlight/doctrine/

11. Second, once you invalidate the humanity of those you colonized, & established that only euro-western/euro-american 'man' can possess rational thought/law, you invalidate the knowledge/being of the other as 'myth/ 'story'/ & 'CULTURE'. Law for the West, Culture for the Rest.

12. This is where the rise of Anthropology is so crucial. It arises at a time when euro-american actors are frantically looking for ways to invalidate the laws, sovereignty, nationhood, self-determination and humanity of everyone they colonized.

13. Just when euro-american actors are looking for ways to legally justify their breaking of treaties they entered into with folks they colonized, anthro trots in with its focus on 'culture'. Culture as embodiment of everything that comprises law without recognizing its authority

14. Once you've established a hierarchy of humanity with white western christian males as the only real '(hu)Man' (see Wynter (2003) and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (2013)), you can set about bracketing out 'the Rest' from your notion of legal and scientific plurality.

15. All of this is crucial. The western 'modern' framing of White Western Christian Men as the only beings capable of rational thought. The anthro fascination w/ 'cultures' of 'The Rest'. (The west/rest framing I borrow from Colin Scott's "Science for the West/TEK for the Rest")

16. This is of course entangled with capitalist expansion. Who can possess things, people, lands is important to expanding claims to property. The designation of subhumanity/de-authorization of laws of The Other are crucial to the violent capitalist white supremacist project.

17. As Christina Sharpe (2016) teaches us: "the history of capital is inextricable from the history of Atlantic chattel slavery".

18. This all comes to matter, anthropologically, because anthro becomes the 'caretaker' of The Other and their de-authorized legal orders, laws, knowing, being. This is the white possessive, as Aileen Moreton-Robinson ((2015) and Moreton-Robinson (2014: 475)) demonstrates:

19. So, when western actors are shocked to discover that they cannot just take things from other nations/societies/confederacies/legal orders, this is because anthro has faithfully done its job as acting as 'caretaker' for the laws/knowing/being of all those nations dispossessed.

20. Remember that the invention/fetishization of small c plural 'cultures' was crucial to the de-authorization of laws, epistemes, ontologies, being of everyone but White European Christian Rational Man. Anthro is basically an epic legal argument against sovereignty of 'The Rest'

21. And this coincided, not innocently, with assertions of racial hierarchies that deemed certain peoples to possess rational law, science, sovereignty, authority. The possession of law coincides with western beliefs in rationality (Wynter 2003).

22. Anthro has a buddy, and that buddy is biology. Biology, as Wynter (2003) demonstrates, mobilizes in the 19th century to develop the notion of Man(2). Man(2) not only has rationality, but he has evolution on his side, justifying his white possessiveness (Wynter 2003: 314-315)

23. So, as long as The West has Law and the Rest has culture, white western actors will continue to dispossess, appropriate, steal,+violate the legal orders of those peoples they colonize, because they believe they have an ontological right to these things (Moreton-Robinson 2015)

24. And anthropology has a lot of answering to do, still, for its role in de-authorizing the legal orders of those colonized by western imperial actors. It is complicit in the re-framing of legal orders, being, and knowing as 'culture', 'myth', 'tradition', and 'custom'.

25. Finally, for an in-depth examination of the ways anthro works to de-authorize Indigenous law, please buy+read Audra Simpson's _Mohawk Interruptus_, which demonstrates how anthro's focus on 'cultures' is used to dispossess Haudenosaunee in North America

26. Please amend tweet 6 to read: Everything I know about this is from Joanne Barker, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Audra Simpson+Sylvia Wynter!!! These 4 thinkers should be among the canon of work taught in Anthro theory courses to help displace its pervasive white possessiveness.

27. So, to wrap up this essay -- the incident this week was the theft of a Kanienkeha name. Audra Simpson (2014) here explains how the concept of 'culture' & western property (il)logics are used to deny Indigenous ownership of lands, knowing, being through white possessiveness:

28. Anthro must contend with this reality that Audra Simpson so clearly lays out in her work: it is built entirely on the denial of Indigenous sovereignty. And Anthro relies on racial hierarchies that emerge with assertion of 'rational' western white christian 'Man' (Wynter 2003)

Important addition to this morning's twitter essay! I cited Colin Scott's 'Science for the West, Myth for the Rest?',but David kindly points me towards the crucial work of Stuart Hall here (which I will now go read!!!) https://uq.rl.talis.com/items/EE89C061-C776-4B52-0BA3-F1D9B2F87212.html https://twitter.com/davidnbparent/status/1074748042845216773 "

[unrolled here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1074624197639487488.html ]
zoetodd  2018  anthropology  cul;ture  sociology  socialsciences  colonialism  decolonization  capitalism  indigeneity  indigenous  law  joannebarker  sylviawynter  power  truth  freedom  treaties  constitutions  humanity  humanism  dehumanization  spain  portugal  españa  invalidation  thewest  hierarchy  hierarchies  colinscott  zakiyyahimanjackson  othering  rationality  biology  dispossession  colonization  audrasimpson  myth  myths  tradition  customs  aileenmoreton-robinson  property  possession  possessiveness  sovereignty  race  racism  stuarthall 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Tawana aka Honeycomb on Twitter: "In my plot to actually undo racism, I find myself thinking about the ways we have allowed the narrative of "privilege" to stagnate antiracism organizing."
"In my plot to actually undo racism, I find myself thinking about the ways we have allowed the narrative of "privilege" to stagnate antiracism organizing.

It reinforces hierarchy. It reinforces Blackness/POC identities as inferior (underprivileged), and it promotes performative testimonials of white guilt and acceptance of hierarchy as a "fact" with a never-ending solution.

What would it mean to actually tell white people that they aren't privileged. That the things that are being claimed as a privilege are basic human rights? How do we get beyond the notion of civil rights, if we make human rights a privilege?

At what point in antiracism organizing do we allow white people to truly look inward at the deficit to their humanity, caused by the notion and system of white supremacy?

It is typically those white people who feel they have failed to live up to the notion of white superiority/system of white supremacy, that we find creating the levels of violence we see in white communities. The very same system that creates violence in Black & POC communities.

It's time for a new conversation. New language. The way we've been doing things has turned into a performance. People still get to go home feeling either superior or inferior.

The way to systemically challenge white supremacy is to call to attention it's need to create an underclass, an othering in order to survive. Without the inferior, there is no superior. Where are the people who truly want to dismantle white supremacy? They aren't allies . . .

They are co-liberators who recognize that their humanity is tied up into dismantling white supremacy as well. They aren't opting in with white privilege testimonials. They are standing up against police brutality, gun violence, etc., because they see the connection.

They aren't entering rooms thinking they are more intellectual than their Black & POC comrades. They recognize that there is a difference between schooling and education. And they respect the expertise that comes from Black & POC communities, about their own experiences.

If we are truly going to systemically struggle against this white supremacist system that is killing us all, we gotta be willing to listen to each other. We have to be willing to admit that we haven't gone deep enough in the struggle against racism.

I don't need to hear another white person perform a privilege testimonial for me. I know that most don't even believe it. I can see it in your faces. I would argue you are right. I would never argue that anti-Black racism isn't a global phenomenon, or that we don't experience

inordinate amounts of blatant racism because of the color of our skin. They translate into policy, police brutality, schooling, etc. However, what I need folks to do is pause and look at the impact in white communities. This is not a comparison, it's a mirror.

None of us are living up to the system or standard of white supremacy. We are literally dying! On our street corners, in schools, in churches, in mosques, in synagogues, in movie theaters, at marches, at marathons . . . I don't have all the answers. I have a bunch of questions.

Somebody gotta start asking them."
privilege  race  humanrights  2018  antiracism  performance  superiority  inferiority  schooling  education  liberation  humanity  humanism  racism  whitesupremacy  guilt  whiteguilt  hierarchy  civilrights 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College: "The Grass-Roots of Democracy" - Open Source with Christopher Lydon
"Our guest, the literary historian Louis Menand, explains that B.M.C. was a philosophical experiment intent on putting the progressive philosopher John Dewey‘s ideas to work in higher education. The college curriculum was unbelievably permissive — but it did ask that students undertake their own formation as citizens of the world by means of creative expression, and hard work, in a community of likeminded people.

The college may not have lived up to its utopian self-image — the scene was frequently riven by interpersonal conflict — but it did serve as a stage-set to some of modern culture’s most interesting personalities and partnerships."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  rutherickson  louismenand  teddreier  theodoredreier  sebastiansmee  taylordavis  williamdavis  2016  robertcreeley  jacoblawrence  josefalbers  robertrauschenberg  annialbers  davidtudor  franzkline  mercecunningham  johncage  charlesolson  buckminsterfuller  johndewey  democracy  art  music  film  poetry  cytwombly  bauhaus  experientiallearning  howwelearn  education  johnandrewrice  unschooling  deschooling  schools  schooling  learning  howelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  christopherlydon  abstractexpressionism  popart  jacksonpollock  arthistory  history  arts  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  leapbeforeyoulook  canon  discovery  conflict  artists  happenings  openness  rural  community  highered  highereducation  curriculum  willemdekooning  small  control  conversation  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  mitmedialab  medialab  chaos  utopia  dicklyons  artschools  davidbowie  experimentation  exploration  humanity  humanism  humility  politics 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @ecomentario: "p.31 ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… p.49 ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… ecoed.wikispaces.co […]"
[on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ecomentario/status/1007269183317512192 ]

[many of the captures come from: "From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy" by Gustavo Esteva, Madhu S. Prakash, and Dana L. Stuchul, which is no longer available online as a standalone PDF (thus the UTexas broken link), but is inside the following document, also linked to in the thread.]

[“Rethinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis" edited by C.A.Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin
https://ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A.+Bowers,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf ]
isabelrodíguez  paulofreire  ivanillich  wendellberry  subcomandantemarcos  gandhi  2018  gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  deschooling  colonialism  future  environment  sustainability  cabowers  frédériqueapffel-marglin  education  campesinos  bolivia  perú  pedagogyoftheoppressed  globalization  marinaarratia  power  authority  hierarchy  horizontality  socialjustice  justice  economics  society  community  cooperation  collaboration  politics  progress  growth  rural  urban  altruism  oppression  participation  marginality  marginalization  karlmarx  socialism  autonomy  local  slow  small  capitalism  consumerism  life  living  well-being  consumption  production  productivity  gustavoterán  indigeneity  work  labor  knowledge  experience  culture  joannamacy  spirituality  buddhism  entanglement  interdependence  interbeing  interexistence  philosophy  being  individualism  chiefseattle  lutherstandingbear  johngrim  ethics  morethanhuman  multispecies  humans  human  posthumnism  transhumanism  competition  marxism  liberation  simplicity  poverty  civilization  greed  p 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78 - The New York Times
"Six months ago, a conservancy official cleaning out an office came across two cardboard boxes that had been sitting around for decades.

Inside were 2,924 color slides, pictures made in parks across New York City’s five boroughs late in the summer of 1978. No one had looked at them for 40 years.

Here are multitudes.



Until now, none of these images have ever been displayed or published. A selection of them are here and in a special print section. More will be on view from May 3 through June 14 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, 830 Fifth Avenue, near 64th Street.

These images were the work of eight staff photographers whose pictures normally ran in The New York Times, but who were idled for nearly three months in 1978 by a strike at the city’s newspapers.

Not long after the strike began that August, a contingent of the photographers — Neal Boenzi, Joyce Dopkeen, D. Gorton, Eddie Hausner, Paul Hosefros, Bob Klein, Larry Morris, and Gary Settle — met with Gordon J. Davis, the city parks commissioner.

They proposed to wander the city and make pictures of the parks and the people in them.

No one holds a smartphone.

Life, uncurated.

“I was skeptical,” Mr. Davis said, “but what they came back with made me cry.”



The city was a financial ruin and stuff was busted and it seemed it would be that way forever.



No one is sure, any more, how long the photographers worked or how much they were paid. Probably not long and not much.

Mr. Davis, then less than a year into his job as commissioner, remembered the emotional jolt of reviewing a few sample frames.
“Then they all disappeared,” he said.

The infamous wretched New York of the 1970s and 1980s can be glimpsed here, true to the pages of outlaw history.

But that version has never been truth enough.

The photos speak a commanding, unwritten narrative of escape and discovery.
“You see that people were not going to the parks just to get away from it all, but also to find other people,” said Jonathan Kuhn, the director of art and antiquities for the department.

From the trove, Mr. Kuhn has selected 65 pictures to mount for the exhibit at the Arsenal Gallery, which is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Like the starlight that travels millions of years before we see it, the four little boys stand in their underpants at Coney Island on an August day in 1978, and it is only now, in a found photograph, that we behold them."
photography  1978  nyc  jimdwyer  parks  publicspace  public  community  humans  connection  cities  urban  urbanism  humanity  people 
april 2018 by robertogreco
So what if we’re doomed? (Down the Dark Mountain) — High Country News
" Kingsnorth embraced Jeffers’ inhumanism, and Tompkins his ideas on beauty. But the immensity of the ecocide demands more. Our grief comes from the takers and their modern machine, which is one of violence and injury. If our sanity is to survive the ecocide, we must address these two pains in tandem: grief for the loss of things to come and the injustices that surround us.

We can do this through beauty and justice, which are closer together than they first appear."



"However, he is also arguing for integrity, which is close to Jeffers’ ideal of beauty: “However ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand / Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history ... for contemplation or in fact ... / Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is / Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.”

Perhaps, then, the way through the ecocide is through the pursuit of integrity, a duty toward rebalancing the whole, toward fairness, in both senses of the word."



"This is no cause for despair; it is a reminder to be meaningful, to be makers instead of takers, to be of service to something — beauty, justice, loved ones, strangers, lilacs, worms."
apocalypse  climatechange  ecology  anthropocene  additivism  2017  briancalvert  paulkingsnorth  environment  environmentalism  california  poetry  justive  beauty  via:kissane  balance  earth  wholeness  integrity  robinsonjeffers  darkmountain  multispecies  posthumanism  morethanhuman  josephcampbell  ecocide  edricketts  davidbrower  sierraclub  johnstainbeck  anseladmas  outdoors  nature  humanity  humanism  edwardabbey  hawks  animals  wildlife  interconnected  inhumanism  elainescarry  community  communities  socialjustice  culture  chile  forests  refugees  violence  douglastompkins  nickbowers  shaunamurray  ta-nehisicoates  humanrights  qigong  interconnectivity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
"In the temperate and tropical regions where it appears that hominids evolved into human beings, the principal food of the species was vegetable. Sixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in those regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food. The mammoth hunters spectacularly occupy the cave wall and the mind, but what we actually did to stay alive and fat was gather seeds, roots, sprouts, shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits, and grains, adding bugs and mollusks and netting or snaring birds, fish, rats, rabbits, and other tuskless small fry to up the protein. And we didn't even work hard at it--much less hard than peasants slaving in somebody else's field after agriculture was invented, much less hard than paid workers since civilization was invented. The average prehistoric person could make a nice living in about a fifteen-hour work week.

Fifteen hours a week for subsistence leaves a lot of time for other things. So much time that maybe the restless ones who didn't have a baby around to enliven their life, or skill in making or cooking or singing, or very interesting thoughts to think, decided to slope off and hunt mammoths. The skillful hunters then would come staggering back with a load of meat, a lot of ivory, and a story. It wasn't the meat that made the difference. It was the story.

It is hard to tell a really gripping tale of how I wrested a wild-oat seed from its husk, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then I scratched my gnat bites, and Ool said something funny, and we went to the creek and got a drink and watched newts for a while, and then I found another patch of oats.... No, it does not compare, it cannot compete with how I thrust my spear deep into the titanic hairy flank white Oob, impaled on one huge sweeping tusk, writhed screaming, and blood spouted everywhere in crimson torrents, and Boob was crushed to jelly when the mammoth fell on him as I shot my unerring arrow straight through eye to brain.

That story not only has Action, it has a Hero. Heroes are powerful. Before you know it, the men and women in the wild-oat patch and their kids and the skills of the makers and the thoughts of the thoughtful and the songs of the singers are all part of it, have all been pressed into service in the tale of the Hero. But it isn't their story. It's his.

When she was planning the book that ended up as Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf wrote a heading in her notebook, "Glossary"; she had thought of reinventing English according to a new plan, in order to tell a different story. One of the entries in this glossary is heroism, defined as "botulism." And hero, in Woolf's dictionary, is "bottle." The hero as bottle, a stringent reevaluation. I now propose the bottle as hero.

Not just the bottle of gin or wine, but bottle in its older sense of container in general, a thing that holds something else.

If you haven't got something to put it in, food will escape you--even something as uncombative and unresourceful as an oat. You put as many as you can into your stomach while they are handy, that being the primary container; but what about tomorrow morning when you wake up and it's cold and raining and wouldn't it be good to have just a few handfuls of oats to chew on and give little Oom to make her shut up, but how do you get more than one stomachful and one handful home? So you get up and go to the damned soggy oat patch in the rain, and wouldn't it be a good thing if you had something to put Baby Oo Oo in so that you could pick the oats with both hands? A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

The first cultural device was probably a recipient .... Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.

So says Elizabeth Fisher in Women's Creation (McGraw-Hill, 1975). But no, this cannot be. Where is that wonderful, big, long, hard thing, a bone, I believe, that the Ape Man first bashed somebody with in the movie and then, grunting with ecstasy at having achieved the first proper murder, flung up into the sky, and whirling there it became a space ship thrusting its way into the cosmos to fertilize it and produce at the end of the movie a lovely fetus, a boy of course, drifting around the Milky Way without (oddly enough) any womb, any matrix at all? I don't know. I don't even care. I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. That is news.

And yet old. Before--once you think about it, surely long before--the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger-- for what's the use of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug ones you can't eat home in--with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

This theory not only explains large areas of theoretical obscurity and avoids large areas of theoretical nonsense (inhabited largely by tigers, foxes, other highly territorial mammals); it also grounds me, personally, in human culture in a way I never felt grounded before. So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had, or wanted, any particular share in it. ("What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization," Lillian Smith observed.) The society, the civilization they were talking about, these theoreticians, was evidently theirs; they owned it, they liked it; they were human, fully human, bashing, sticking, thrusting, killing. Wanting to be human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that's what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all.

That's right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero.

Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again--if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

Not, let it be said at once, an unaggressive or uncombative human being. I am an aging, angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off. However I don't, nor does anybody else, consider myself heroic for doing so. It's just one of those damned things you have to do in order to be able to go on gathering wild oats and telling stories.

It is the story that makes the difference. It is the story that hid my humanity from me, the story the mammoth hunters told about bashing, thrusting, raping, killing, about the Hero. The wonderful, poisonous story of Botulism. The killer story.

It sometimes seems that that story is approaching its end. Lest there be no more telling of stories at all, some of us out here in the wild oats, amid the alien corn, think we'd better start telling another one, which maybe people can go on with when the old one's finished. Maybe. The trouble is, we've all let ourselves become part of the killer story, and so we may get finished along with it. Hence it is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.

It's unfamiliar, it doesn't come easily, thoughtlessly to the lips as the killer story does; but still, "untold" was an exaggeration. People have been telling the life story for ages, in all sorts of words and ways. Myths of creation and transformation, trickster stories, folktales, jokes, novels...

The novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story. Of course the Hero has frequently taken it over, that being his imperial nature and uncontrollable impulse, to take everything over and run it while making stern decrees and laws to control his uncontrollable impulse to kill it. So the Hero has decreed through his mouthpieces the Lawgivers, first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn't any good if he isn't in it.

I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel … [more]
ursulaleguin  1986  marxism  economics  labor  work  capitalism  feminism  writing  stories  storytelling  heroes  virginiawoolf  elziabethfisher  lilliansmith  humans  human  hunter-gatherers  humanity  scifi  sciencefiction  fiction  literature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Antarctica World Passport
"BECOME A WORLD CITIZEN
- To act in favour of sustainable development through simple, daily acts
- To defend natural environments under threat, as a global public resource
- To fight against climate change generated by human activity
- To support humanitarian actions aiding displaced peoples of the world
- To share values of peace and equality
The Antarctica World Passport is a universal passport for a continent without borders, common good of humanity. Climate change has no borders."



"Lucy Orta and Jorge Orta are internationally renowned artists who have been working in partnership at Studio Orta since 1992. Their collaborative practice explores the major concerns that define the 21st century: biodiversity, sustainability, climate change, and exchange among peoples. The artists realise major bodies of work employing drawing, sculpture, photography, video and performances in an endeavour to use art to achieve social justice. Their work is the focus of exhibitions in major contemporary art museums around the world and can be found in international public and private collections."



"ANTARCTICA WORLD PASSEPORT

In 1995, Lucy + Jorge Orta present the Antarctica World Passport concept at the XLVI Biennale di Venezia in Italy. And in 2007, they finally embark on an expedition to Antarctica to install their ephemeral installation Antarctic Village – No Borders and raise the Antarctic Flag, a supranational emblem of human rights.

NO BORDERS

Through the Antarctica project, the artists explore the underlying principles of the of the Antarctic peace treaty, as a symbol of the unification of world citizens. The continent’s immaculate environment the village embodies all the wishes of humanity and spreads a message of hope to future generations.

In 2008, the first printed edition of the Antarctica World Passport was produced for an important survey exhibition of the artist’s work at the Hangar Bicocca centre for contemporary art in Milan, Italy.

Through the worldwide distribution of Antarctica World Passport the artists have created a major socially engaging and participative art project."

[See also:
https://www.studio-orta.com/en/artworks/serie/12/Antarctica
https://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/301/Antarctica-World-Passport
https://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/589/Antarctica-World-Passport-Delivery-Bureau-COP21-Grand-Palais
http://sustainable-fashion.com/blog/antarctica-world-passport/
http://www.antarcticaworldpassport.com/bundles/antarcticafront/pdf/passport.pdf
http://estore.arts.ac.uk/product-catalogue/london-college-of-fashion/centre-for-sustainable-fashion/antarctica-world-passport
passports  art  antarctica  lucyorta  jorgeorta  studioorta  2008  classideas  mibility  global  international  borders  climatechange  sustainability  humans  humanism  universality  humanity  1995  2007  antarctic 
november 2017 by robertogreco
You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring :: Paul Hawken's Commencement Address to the Class of 2009 — YES! Magazine
"When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seat belts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see ifit was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages,campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown — Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a … [more]
paulhawken  humanity  2009  commencementaddresses  environment  sustainability  earth  peace  deforestation  poverty  climatechange  refugees  activism  davidjamesduncan  mercycorps  strangers  abolitionists  grnvilleclark  thomasclarkson  josiahwedgewood  progressives  england  anthropocene  civilization  globalwarming  movement  bodies  humans  morethanhuman  multispecies  interconnected  interdependence  charlesdarwin  janinebanyus  life  science  renewal  restoration  exploitation  capitalism  gdp  economics  maryoliver  adriennerich  ecology  interconnectedness  body  interconnectivity  commencementspeeches 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Isabel Rodríguez on Twitter: "Rather than seeking to equalize educational results, we should seek to equalize access to good food, good housing, adequate health services,… https://t.co/3Q5Ise6emh"
"The central problem in education is not about improving learning. It is about power imbalances and unacknowledged violence and abuse against children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem is: Freeing killer whales and treating them with respect would kill the business."
isabelrodríguez  schools  schooling  education  inequality  compulsory  unschooling  deschooling  curriculum  standardization  policy  learning  lcproject  openstudioproject  libraries  justice  race  socialjustice  racism  colonization  decolonization  obedience  class  freedom  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  diversity  exploitation  children  adultism  ageism  control  power  submission  economics  capitalism  society  privilege  health  healthcare  food  hunger  equality  poverty  conformity  2017  business  businessinterest  corporatism  humanity  humanism 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Great Africanstein Novel | by Namwali Serpell | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"The title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s magisterial first novel, Kintu—first published in Kenya in 2014, then in the US this year by the Oakland-based press Transit Books—is a Luganda word. Luganda is a Bantu language spoken in Uganda; Bantu is a proto-language that just means people; there are languages derived from it all across the African continent. In Zambia, where I’m from, we spell this word chinthu. In both countries, it is pronounced chin-two and it means “thing.” In ancient Buganda mythology, however, Kintu is also the name of the first man, the equivalent to the Judeo-Christian Adam. The implications of this titular oxymoron—a word that means both “thing” and “man”—begin to unfold in the opening pages of Makumbi’s book.

There’s a knock at the door. A woman opens it to four local officials, who rouse her man, Kamu, from sleep and lead him outside for questioning. He assumes they’re there on behalf of a creditor but when they reach a marketplace, they bind his hands. Kamu protests: “Why are you tying me like a thief?” A mob swirls into being like a weather formation, the word thief flying “from here to there, first as a question then as a fact.” Kicks and blows begin to rain down on him, from both the elderly and the young. Arrivals to the scene ask, “‘Is it a thief?’ because Kamu had ceased to be human.” He tries to hold on to his humanity: “Kamu decided he was dreaming. He was Kamu Kintu, human. It was them, bantu. Humans. He would wake up any minute.” He does not.

The account of Kamu’s abrupt, arbitrary death on Monday, January 5, 2004, and the subsequent fate of his corpse in the bureaucratic torpor of Kampala’s morgue, recurs in short fragments at the start of each of the novel’s five sections, which tell the stories of other members of the scattered Kintu clan. First, we jump back three centuries to its first generation, headed by Kintu Kidda, a ppookino, or governor, of the Buddu province in the eighteenth-century Buganda Kingdom. In a moment of irritation, Kintu slaps his adopted son, a Rwandan, and the boy falls down dead. His men bury the body improperly: “the grave was narrow and shallow. They used a stick to measure Kalema’s length, but while the stick fit into the grave, Kalema did not. They crammed him in.” In their haste, the men do not even realize that they have buried the boy beside a burial shrub for dogs. The tragic repercussions of this desecration—“the curse was specific: mental illness, sudden death, and suicide”—ripple across the centuries through the lives of Kintu’s descendants.

Like Charles Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez, Makumbi ranges widely across time and social strata; her knowledge of Ugandan culture seems as precise as a historian’s. We meet Suubi Kintu, a young woman who grows up in a compound, perpetually on the brink of starvation, but is eventually integrated into a middle-class family. Kanani Kintu and his wife, Faisi, members of an evangelical group, the Awakened, bear a twin son and daughter with an uncomfortably close relationship. Isaac Newton Kintu, the product of rape and named for the last lesson his mother learned in school before she dropped out, gets trapped into marriage; when his wife dies, seemingly of AIDS, he anguishes over whether to learn his own HIV status. Miisi Kintu, a writer raised by colonial priests (the “white fathers”) and educated abroad, returns to a postcolonial Kampala still feeling the aftershocks of dictatorship and the bush war of the early Eighties, which killed some of his children. With its progression through generations and its cyclical returns to genetic inheritance—hay fever, twins, madness—Kintu’s structure feels epic.

Kintu continually diverts us from this straightforward path of a curse and its aftermath, however, as well as from our preconceptions about Africa. The polygamous eighteenth-century governor wants nothing more than to be with the woman he loves; the Awakened couple experience their enviably passionate sex life as a torment; the spiritual leader of a ritual cleansing is so “anglicized” that the assembled family members doubt his efficacy. Social class is defined neither by strict stratification nor by upward mobility, but by extreme volatility—economic fates rise and fall almost at random. Servant girls become educated women, sons of professors come to live in slums.

Makumbi’s depiction of local culture also bears little resemblance to standard notions of African “authenticity.” Her Uganda is an unabashed amalgam of Europe and Africa, in everything from cooking to spiritual possession to mental health to sexual mores. As Makumbi said in an interview:
We are both Europeanized and Ugandan. We speak both traditional languages and English. Someone goes to church, but then will go to the traditional healer. Someone is a scientist but will have an intense spiritual life. We have this saying in Uganda: “God help me, but I’m going to run as well.” We think two ways at once.

In the novel, Miisi conjures an image of African postcolonialism that captures this sensibility. He pictures the black torso of the continent but stripped of its limbs, which have been replaced with European ones. “We cannot go back to the operating table and ask for the African limbs,” he writes. “Africa must learn to walk on European legs and work with European arms. As time goes by, children will be born with evolved bodies.” Makumbi’s portmanteau for this Gothic image enacts the very grafting it describes: Africanstein.

Kintu cannot but be in some sense the story of a people, the Ganda, and a nation, Uganda. But its politics are personal. Idi Amin and the bush wars emerge in conversation, in acts of mourning. The ins and outs of the ancient Buganda Kingdom’s secessions and coups seem incidental to the personal tragedy of Kintu Kidda, his wives, and their children. Makumbi has said that she intentionally skipped the nation’s colonial history: “The almost complete lack of colonization was deliberate…. To me colonization was my grandfather’s quarrel.” So, without the usual lenses of class, culture, and colonialism—without “Queen and Country,” so to speak—how are we to read this “African” novel?"



"Oddly enough, despite all this generalizing and pigeonholing, African writers are rarely thought to speak to the universal—in the philosophical sense rather than the platitudinous one. But if, as Makumbi noted at an event in Brooklyn last June, the origin of the human species is probably East Africa, then why can’t Kampala be the center of a profoundly universal inquiry? As its two-faced title—man/thing—suggests, Kintu does in fact have a grand philosophical question in mind. The novel forces us to reckon over and again with what it means to be kintu, to be man, or human. This question plays out across certain boundaries: between men and women, between twins, between life and death, between “mankind” and “animalkind,” between good and evil, between human and supernatural worlds, between foreigners and family, and, of course, between humans and objects."



"Miisi completely loses his grip on reality and starts wearing a Western-style waistcoat and coat over his kanzu. In his dishevelment, he comes to resemble his ancestor with that strange thing/person name, Kintu. Miisi becomes a man “floating in two worlds.” Which two worlds? Boyhood and manhood, past and present, muntu and muzungu, Europe and Africa? “I know who I am,” Miisi tells his daughter, “We are not even Hamites. We are Bantu.” But she thinks, “He is now a different person.” In the end, he is riven by his divisions, “in the middle world between sanity and insanity.”

To survive being human, Kintu suggests, is to hold all these divisions together, gently, to “just be.” This argument about personhood is radical because it rejects a long philosophical tradition of considering “humanity” as a matter of self-containment and integrity, of what the human excludes. It is also radical because Makumbi centers this argument in Uganda. But what better place, with its arbitrarily sketched borders, its pliable myths and cultures, its originary status—cradle of the first human/thing—to stage an interrogation of personhood? As Makumbi has remarked in passing about living as an immigrant in the UK: “Out here you are Ugandan. At home you are just human.”"
jennifernansubugamakumbi  namwaliserpell  books  literature  kintu  kampala  ugnda  africaisnotacountry  2017  toread  universal  universalism  humans  humanism  objects  betweenness  seams  gender  supernatural  middleground  gray  grey  humanity  personhood  integrity  self-containment  borders  identity  myth  culture  sexuality  history  colonialism  postcolonialism  human  colonization  europe  decolonization  frankenstein  africanstein  africa  africans  twins  multispecies  morethanhuman  life  living  philosophy  divisions  interstitial  liminality  liminalspaces  liminalstates  between 
october 2017 by robertogreco
How to Learn Stuff | vextro
"My understanding of a workable, comprehensive goal for education, is something that meets and facilities the needs of students. This has to go beyond surmised vocational preparation. Needs is a semantic to soften the core of education: teaching students survival skills. It’s an obvious mistake to treat kids and students like organic computers for information to be punched into. To condescend is to lose their humanity.

What I mean is, how useful will these menus and tables of arranged factoids be under economic collapse? Or maybe our future is positive: how useful will they be under automation? If the signs can be seen it feels imperative that, in whatever way possible, mentors prepare their mentees for times of crisis. And I think the most crucial element of that is reaffirming their value as a person and an individual, by encouraging and thinking through their perspectives as a collaborative effort. Though not to complicate this rhetoric anymore: anti-capitalist education is anti-hierarchical education.

Honestly I felt a vision of what edutainment together was like playing Learn 100 Words: One at a Time! It’s a deceptively simple game, made for a deviously indulgent glorioustrainwreck’s challenge to make a hundred games. So a microgame per word; play goes rapidfire through a collection of microgames, with various styles of play: quizzes, platformers, find-an-object, each based on vocabulary someone (probably) doesn’t know. It’s good natured and very goofy. Some microgames are obviously jokes, but others are very in earnest, and are surprisingly entertaining!

Lean 100 Words is made in Clickteam software (as GT games often are) and I don’t know what version, or what parts come from official asset packs, but I do recognize the buoyant, iconic clipart-esque sprites. Backgrounds are dark, hard gradients, with chunky buttons, reminiscent of web 1.0 or even a Vasily Zotov game. A wall of retro-futuristic, full bodied synth sounds greet on start up. All of the UX has a pleasant shape and exaggerated proportions, which gets me nostalgic for edutainment games of my childhood, and more oddly, the various online classes I’ve taken in my life.

I think it’s the hardest I’ve laughed at a game in a long time too. The game’s tone is just so innocuous from the get. Like the first word (when playing alphabetically instead of randomly) is aal, and I was like, that’s a word? That’s not a word… is this game about made up words? It is a word though, it’s a really technical term that I don’t really understand. But it’s a word! The hint is, “I couldn’t find a textbook definition,” so I slowly scrolled around and eventually clicked on a textbook, and completed the game. Close enough to the real definition? Honestly, sure!

Whether it’s intentional, or a happy accident of trying to do a lot with whatever means, Learn 100 Words is a genuinely hilarious parody of edutainment games. Instrumental to this are voiceovers done by the developer of every word and accompanied hint. They’re off the cuff, not really rehearsed."



"In Learn 100 Words it’s feels fine to hear misspeak, it’s fine for hints to be somewhat mistaken, or trail off, lose their thread, because it still comes back to learning 100 words. The goofs put me at ease, like, I don’t feel self-conscious about the stuff I don’t know. This is a big contrast to the real methodical approach for a standard edutainment game, games that fuss over whether its textbook blocks are working. No matter how vibrant a game like that manages to be, it’s still cut up by a very rigid, very institution-minded push for absolute legibility. A vague, palpable desperation could be felt over their needy hope that this information is getting through to my swiss cheese brain. In other words, capitalist about its use, and condescending.

Further, Learn 100 Words doesn’t shy from expressing poetic game design, like the former microgame for abaton. Maybe the most successful “mnemonics” are associations formed by emotional impact. Getting someone to care is an obvious step to engagement, but there’s a tendency to overthink, overpolish what generates care. There’s something about candidly, simply, presenting ideas, with personality. Concepts are expressive vehicles and are sometimes better expressed by individualistic interpretations.

I don’t think the process to genuine retention, learning, growing, can be calculated. In my lifetime effective education came from mentors who felt invested in my development and were willing to learn with me. I don’t think there’s a combination of software or even other programs that will magically work. Curriculum, which edutainment is, should be about creating environments that can facilitate positive relationships, that can generate a mutual investment in growth.

The coldness of profit extraction will tinge and undermine self-determination. I remember most of the silly, complicated words I learned from playing Learn 100 Words, while I’ve absolutely struggled through other language software (some from my youth, some from the now). My point isn’t that games need to “learn” from this and try to imitate a casual friendliness, it’s that compassion is done, not imitated."
via:tealtan  games  videogames  seriousgames  gaming  play  edutainment  2017  leeroylewin  sfsh  howwelearn  education  capitalism  self-determination  tcsnmy  compassion  relationships  mentorship  howweteach  curriculum  growth  environment  interpretation  engagement  emotion  learning  humanity  automation  hierarchy  horizontality  microgames 
october 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
Ignite Philly 15: Ariell Johnson - Diversity in Comics - YouTube
[See also:

"An Interview with Ariell Johnson, Founder of Amalgam Comics: “Everyone Has the Right to Have Their Story Told”"
http://blacknerdproblems.com/an-interview-with-ariell-johnson-founder-of-amalgam-comics-everyone-has-the-right-to-have-their-story-told/

"Why Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Owner Ariell Johnson is a Superhero in Her Own Right"
https://www.blacksci-fi.com/why-amalgam-comics-coffeehouse-owner-ariell-johnson-is-a-superhero-in-her-own-right/

"First Black Woman to Open Philly Comic Shop Talks Diversity"
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/first-black-woman-own-east-coast-comic-shop-talks-diversity-n492151

"Meet Ariell Johnson, First Black Female to Open Philly Comic Shop | She's the Boss S3E5"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIE9rEg8uE0

"Shoot the 5: Ariell Johnson"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAW5w3GNXcw

""All The Way Up" Geek Girl Edition"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL6y93N7I0E ]
arielljohnson  comics  diversity  2016  race  religion  stereotypes  humanity  humans  difference  prejudice 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Chris Hadfield on Twitter: "With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look."
[See also: "99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year: Our media feeds are echo chambers. And those echo chambers don’t just reflect our political beliefs; they reflect our feelings about human progress. Bad news is a bubble too."
https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823#.tj7kowhpd

"With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look.

1. The Colombian government and FARC rebels committed to a lasting peace, ending a war that killed or displaced over 7 million people.

2. Sri Lanka spent five years working to exile the world’s deadliest disease from their borders. As of 2016, they are malaria free.

3. The Giant Panda, arguably the world’s second cutest panda, has official been removed from the endangered species list.

4. @astro_timpeake became the first ESA astronaut from the UK, symbolizing a renewed British commitment to space exploration.

5. Tiger numbers around the world are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, with plans to double by 2022.

6. Juno, a piece of future history, successfully flew over 588 million miles and is now sending back unprecedented data from Jupiter.

7. The number of veterans in the US who are homeless has halved in the past half-decade, with a nearly 20% drop in 2016.

8. Malawi lowered its HIV rate by 67%, and in the past decade have seen a shift in public health that has saved over 250,000 lives.

9. Air travel continue to get safer, and 2016 saw the second fewest per capita deaths in aviation of any year on record.

10. India’s dogged commitment to reforestation saw a single day event planting more than 50 million trees, a world record.

11. Measles has been eradicated from the Americas. A 22 year vaccination campaign has led to the elimination of the historic virus.

12. After a century, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves has been proven correct, in a ‘moon shot’ scientific achievement.

13. China has announced a firm date for the end of the ivory trade, as public opinion is becoming more staunchly environmentalist.

14. A solar powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time, highlighting a new era of energy possibilities.

15. Costa Rica’s entire electrical grid ran on renewable energy for over half the year, and their capacity continues to grow.

16. Israeli and US researchers believe they are on the brink of being able to cure radiation sickness, after successful tests this year.

17. The ozone layer has shown that through tackling a problem head on, the world can stem environmental disasters, together.

18. A new treatment for melanoma has seen a 40% survival rate, taking a huge step forward towards long-term cancer survivability.

19. An Ebola vaccine was developed by Canadian researchers with 100% efficacy. Humans eradicated horror, together.

20. British Columbia protected 85% of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, in a landmark environmental agreement.

21. 2016 saw the designation of more than 40 new marine sanctuaries in 20 countries, covering an area larger than the United States.

22. These marine reserves include Malaysia’s 13 year struggle to complete a million hectare park, completed this year.

23. This also includes the largest marine reserve in history, created in Antarctica via an unprecedented agreement by 24 nations.

24. Atmospheric acid pollution, once a gloomy reality, has been tackled to the point of being almost back to pre-industrial levels.

25. Major diseases are in decline. The US saw a 50% mortality drop in colon cancer; lower heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.

26. Uruguay successfully fought tobacco companies to create a precedent for small countries looking to introduce health-focused legislation.

27. World hunger has reached its lowest point in 25 years, and with poverty levels dropping worldwide, seems likely to continue.

28. The A.U. made strides to become more unified, launching an all-Africa passport meant to allow for visa-free travel for all citizens.

29. Fossil fuel emissions flatlined in 2016, with the Paris agreement becoming the fastest UN treaty to become international law.

30. China announced a ban on new coal mines, with renewed targets to increase electrical capacity through renewables by 2020.

31. One third of Dutch prison cells are empty as the crime rate shrank by more than 25% in the last eight years, continuing to drop.

32. In August went to the high Arctic with some incredible young artists. They helped open my eyes to the promise of the next generation.

33. Science, economics, and environmentalism saw a reversal in the overfishing trends of the United States this year.

34. @BoyanSlat successfully tested his Ocean Cleanup prototype, and aims to clean up to 40% of ocean-borne plastics starting this year.

35. Israel now produces 55% of its freshwater, turning what is one of the driest countries on earth into an agricultural heartland.

36. The Italian government made it harder to waste food, creating laws that provided impetus to collect, share and donate excess meals.

37. People pouring ice on their head amusingly provided the ALS foundation with enough funding to isolate a genetic cause of the disease.

38. Manatees, arguably the most enjoyable animal to meet when swimming, are no longer endangered.

39. Grizzlies, arguable the least enjoyable animal to meet while swimming, no longer require federal protection in US national parks.

40. Global aid increased 7%, with money being designated to helping the world’s 65 million refugees doubling.

41. 2016 was the most charitable year in American history. China’s donations have increased more than ten times since a decade ago.

42. The Gates Foundation announced another 5 billion dollars towards eradicating poverty and disease in Africa.

43. Individual Canadians were so welcoming that the country set a world standard for how to privately sponsor and resettle refugees.

44. Teenage birth rates in the United States have never been lower, while at the same time graduation rates have never been higher.

45. SpaceX made history by landing a rocket upright after returning from space, potentially opening a new era of space exploration.

46. Finally - The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, giving hope to Maple Leafs fans everywhere. Happy New Year.

There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last."
chrishadfield  optimism  2016  improvement  trends  humanity  earth  environment  economics  health  poverty  refugees  crime  news  imprisonment  incarceration  prisons  us  canada  india  reforestation  forests  vaccinations  measles  manatees  tigers  giantpandas  wildlife  animals  multispecies  endangeredanimals  change  progress  oceans  pollutions  peace  war  colombia  government  srilanka  space  science  pacificocean  china  energy  sustainability  costarica  electricity  reneableenergy  britishcolumbia  ebola  ozone  africa  uruguay  smoking  disease  healthcare  dementia  mortality  environmentalism  italy  italia  bears  grizzlybears  spacex  gatesfoundation  angusharvey 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Leopold Kohr - Breakdown of Nations
"As the physicists of our time have tried to elaborate an integrated single theory, capable of explaining not only some but all phenomena of the physical universe, so I have tried on a different plane to develop a single theory through which not only some but all phenomena of the social universe can be reduced to a common denominator. The result is a new and unified political philosophy centering on the theory of size. It suggests that there seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness...

There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Oversimplified as this may seem, we shall find the idea more easily acceptable if we consider that bigness, or oversize, is really much more than just a social problem. It appears to be the one and only problem permeating all creation. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.  And if the body of a people becomes diseased with the fever of aggression, brutality, collectivism, or massive idiocy, it is not because it has fallen victim to bad leadership or mental derangement. It is because human beings, so charming as individuals or in small aggregations have been welded onto overconcentrated social units. That is when they begin to slide into uncontrollable catastrophe. For social problems, to paraphrase the population doctrine of Thomas Malthus, have the unfortunate tendency to grow at a geometric ratio with the growth of the organism of which they are part, while the ability of man to cope with them, if it can be extended at all, grows only at an arithmetic ratio. Which means that, if a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them.

Hence it is always bigness, and only bigness, which is the problem of existence. The problem is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer: not union but division. 

"A small-state world would not only solve the problems of social brutality and war; it would solve the problems of oppression and tyranny. It would solve all problems arising from power.""
small  smallness  growth  bigness  leopoldkohr  division  union  breakdonofnations  thomsmalthus  society  leadership  power  aggression  brutality  collectivism  humanism  humanity  economics  bioregionalism 
december 2016 by robertogreco
An Airborne Village of Stacking Vertical Homes at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum | Colossal
"Sky Villages, designed by James Paulius, is an interactive installation at the SPARK Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The play center features several stackable modules that can be rearranged as expanding homes—wooden dwellings floating between clouds in an aquamarine sky. The imaginative play area aims to educate children about our planet’s constantly evolving population, offering a space for airborne ideas.

“As Earth’s population increases, we may look to the atmosphere for inhabitable space,” said Paulius. “Sky Villages presents the possibility to dwell in the sky in modular architecture that can be added or removed as populations increase or decrease. Dwelling units are prefabricated with the intent of reuse rather than discardment. When a unit no longer fits the particular needs of its location, it can be moved elsewhere for a new family to reside in. Constantly evolving, these structures accommodate the ever-changing tendencies of humanity and nature.”

The toy homes for Sky Villages were fabricated from wood reclaimed from water towers in Manhattan. You can see more of Paulius’ block-based projects on his portfolio site and Instagram."
sfsh  play  toys  blocks  jamespaulius  modular  evolvinglogos  humanity  nature  cities  architecture  design 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Watch Goings On About Town | Alvin Ailey’s Enduring Vision | The New Yorker Video | CNE
"Robert Battle, the artistic director of Ailey’s namesake dance company, speaks about the historical role of the arts and finding our common humanity."
robertbattle  alvinailey  dance  art  2016  history  humanity 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Will Self: Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories? | Books | The Guardian
"Neuroscientists who insist technology is changing our brains may have it wrong. What if we are switching from books to digital entertainment because of a change in our need to communicate?"



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there is something vicious about all that book learning, especially when it had to be done by rote. There’s something vicious as well about the baby boomer generation, which, not content to dominate the cultural landscape, also demands that everyone younger than us survey it in the same way. For the past five years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels that aim to map the connections between technological change, warfare and human psychopathology, so obviously I’m attempting to respond to the zeitgeist using this increasingly obsolete art form. My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at … [more]
willself  communication  digital  writing  howwewrite  entertainment  books  socialmedia  neuroscience  2016  marshallmcluhan  gutenbergminds  print  change  singularity  videogames  gaming  games  poetry  novels  susangreenfield  rote  rotelearning  twitter  knowledge  education  brain  wayfinding  memory  location  narration  navigation  vladimirnabokov  proust  janeausten  film  video  attention  editing  reading  howweread  visualizationhypothesis  visualization  text  imagery  images  cognition  literacy  multiliteracies  memories  nietzsche  booklearning  technology  mobile  phones  mentalillness  ptsd  humans  humanity  digitalmedia  richardbrautigan  narrative  storytelling 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Review: David Sax’s The Revenge of Analog extols the superiority of ‘real things’ - The Globe and Mail
"The key change wrought by digital is that, where scarcity was once the norm, surfeit is now our default. Digital thus represents a kind of inversion. Once, more was better: Technology was improved by more features, knowledge increased with ever more facts and greater choice. Now, it is subtraction that in fact adds to a scenario. The best digital services are those that constrain in some fashion. Netflix and Spotify have both succeeded because they have figured out how to recommend small numbers of titles from thousands of choices.

In his book, Sax outlines the many ways in which analog tech bests digital because of what it does not do. Your paperback novel cannot interrupt your reading to tell you the weather, your newspaper has a start and a finish, and your analog recording studio forces you to make decisions and just cut a track, rather than the malleability of digitally creating “a moving target of unachievable perfection.” In the face of such endlessness, it is subtraction, boundaries – less – that is the strategy for survival in the digital era.

For many, though, this upending of Western thought also represents a world gone topsy-turvy. Sax echoes Sullivan’s complaints about the relentless pace of digital, and its related psychological effects. These are real issues, not to be dismissed lightly. At this early stage of the digital era, we are still stuck on how to achieve balance, particularly now that our technology and the flood of information it brings is with us all the time. When Sax cites the tendency of even young millennials to prefer print, it is because they, like we, are seeking relief. Digital as a tool or medium seems primed to plug most directly into our receptors for pleasure, for the dopamine and serotonin centres that thrive on novelty, lust or conflict, and the unending flow can quickly turn to excess. In contradistinction to that torrent, it is the tactile, physical nature of analog that is its saving grace – its seeming permanence, it’s there-ness, its tendency, quite unlike digital, to be in one place at one time doing one thing. In his book, Sax’s lively, evocative prose conjures reminders of the physical world: Record presses spit and heave, cameras satisfyingly click, and paper crinkles and smells in ways pleasingly familiar.

But the neat line separating digital from analog is more fuzzy than it might appear. Sullivan, Sax, and I – all part of a generation who spent their formative years before the Internet and their adult ones completely saturated with it – have also grown up with plastic Nintendo controllers, button-filled digital cameras, and DVD players armed with an array of LED lights. My own home is littered with the tactile remains of no end of technology, and the chubby, reassuring thickness of the first iPhone I still keep tucked in a drawer has already taken on the same sheen of nostalgia I reserve for old school notebooks or sweaters.

As Sullivan’s piece spoke of a return from the seductive screens, Sax’s constantly extols the superiority of what the text calls “real things.” It is, however, a world cleaved neatly into two neat spheres, digital and analog – so much so that near the end of the book, Sax claims that “digital is not reality. It never was and never will be.” It’s a claim that one might generously characterize as nonsense. To assert that the almost unfathomable explosion of human creativity that fills the Internet sits somehow lower on a hierarchy of ontological realness is absurd.

It is this needless, false dualism that should make one skeptical of claims not only of the superiority of analog, but that such a neat distinction exists at all. In The Revenge of Analog, the alluring material quality of objects is always highlighted, but ignores the fetishism that has led us to revalue it, skipping over the more simple fact that analog has become appealing for the same reason you can’t put your phone down: novelty. Similarly, when speaking of Silicon Valley’s tendency to use lots of paper, Sax’s claim that “analog proves the most efficient way to run a business,” simply isn’t true. One would hardly be better served by doing one’s accounting or inventory using a pen and paper. What works better is finding the right balance between analog and digital – largely because at this moment, that is the only choice there is.

***

The Revenge of Analog is at its core a business book, each chapter the revenge of a new sector – retail, print, film – and is thus a work meant to uncover entrepreneurial opportunities lying in wait. It works best as polemic, as an interjection into a world that has too eagerly assumed digital is in some simple sense better, and perhaps ignored that the limitations of analog are more vital than ever. But in the eagerness to sell a marketable idea, Sax mistakes the fact that digital things cannot be touched for the fact that they are insubstantial.

It is what can be held that enthralls Sax, however, and he is most transfixed by Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, a thing he calls “exhibit A in analog’s revenge.” Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, created the Cool Tools book as an homage to the Whole Earth Catalogue, a kind of how-to guide for life from the late sixties that told you how to grow food or build a home – and the sort of thing rendered quite obsolete by the Internet. Cool Tools began as a blog, and started out simply reviewing tools that you need for a dizzying array of practical endeavours – everything from milling your own grains to ways to increase the WiFi signal in your home. Kelly then made the decision to create the book, which quickly sold out on its first run.

For Sax, the book highlights what is best about analog. It lends itself to idle browsing, drawing in anyone who happens to pick it up, its catalogue of useful things evoking the possibility of a life better lived. But beyond its obvious digital origins, or even the inevitability of its creation on and through computers, Cool Tools reveals a world forever changed by the digital landscape. The book’s non-linear mishmash of ideas, the serendipity of their discovery, is a function of its digital past, now formalized by the analog. The two spheres are inextricable, indivisible, not simply in practical terms (each review has a QR code leading to an online store) but in ideological, epistemological ones, too. We cannot help but read the book from our moment in the present where there is no offline and online, but only what scholar J. Sage Elwell calls “onlife”: an existence that is always both digital and analog at once, and irrevocably so. For now, we may struggle to pay attention, but this is our lot. It is already too late for analog’s revenge – the thing to do is figure out how to be human after digital’s victory. There is no going back."
navneetalang  2016  davidsax  kevinkelly  andrewsullivan  digital  analog  less  subtraction  louismenand  jsageelwell  humans  humanity  boundaries 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Werner Herzog Taps into the Humanity of the Internet
"At this point, it seems like Herzog has to be knowingly participating in his own memes of production. He’s certainly aware of people using him in memes: in a video over at The Daily Beast in which he analyzes Kanye West’s “Famous,” he observes that “there’s a lot of doppelgängers pretending to be me, trying to speak in my accent, my voice, answering things on Facebook, on Twitter. It’s all impostors.” In that same video, he describes storytelling as the art of telling one narrative while simultaneously in pursuit of a “parallel story that only occurs in the collective mind of the audience.” The parallel story I found myself faced with while watching Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, Herzog’s most recent documentary, was one of taking a subject readily dismissed with memetic shorthand (the internet) and exploring its deeper, weirder truths. As in many of his other films, the subject matter is paradoxically both crucial and incidental: Lo and Behold is a film about the internet in the same way that Fitzcarraldo is about an opera house, or Grizzly Man is about some guy who really liked bears. Herzog makes films about humans trying to actualize dreams — about people in pursuit of something far greater than themselves, and the contradictions and calamities endured in that pursuit.

In Lo and Behold, he at times goes for breadth over depth, providing fairly superficial context for topics as far-flung as internet history, radiation sickness, game addiction, artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare, and the Internet of Things. Herzog treats his interview subjects (who range from legends of internet history to recovering gaming addicts to cosmologists studying deep space) to disarmingly intimate questions about the ambitions of technology, such as “Does the internet dream of itself?” Intermittently he ruminates on malevolent dwarves and fantasizes about a Chicago emptied of humans by a successful SpaceX mission to Mars (a sequence that made me long for a Herzog documentary about the internet that veers deeper into the kind of illuminating absurdity he pulled off so beautifully in Lessons of Darkness — what would a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi history of the internet look and sound like, and could anyone but Herzog pull it off?).

It’s in the midst of these weird ruminations, as well as the more polished invective, that it’s hard to believe Herzog isn’t in on the joke of his own memeification. There is little in this world as satisfying as listening to Werner Herzog express disgust at or disdain for something — and little as unnerving, as his loathing often suggests a way of living few are capable of pulling off. When Herzog declares the hallways of UCLA’s Boelter Hall “repulsive” before entering the college’s weird shrine to the “birthplace of the internet,” the audience doesn’t laugh because the hallway is perfectly fine — we laugh because we have no better way to contend with the idea of living a life in such uncompromising pursuit of what Herzog calls “ecstatic truth” that an uninspiring hallway can inspire revulsion. It’s also, frankly, far easier and more entertaining to formulaically imitate Herzogian disgust than Herzogian joy: just insert the words “agony,” “murder,” or “unbearable cruelty of the universe” into a sentence, deliver with flat Bavarian intensity, and boom! You’ve invoked all the signifiers of Herzog without having to contend with the actual strangeness or complexity of his oeuvre (she typed, after renewing the domain name wernerherzogvalentines.com).

Some of the most compelling aspects of Lo and Behold aren’t Herzog providing tweetable, nihilistic soundbites, however; they’re moments that showcase the deep generosity and compassion that the filmmaker affords many of his subjects. For example, the victims of radio sensitivity (people made physically ill by cell phone and wifi signals) that Herzog meets in the National Radio Quiet Zone are granted a degree of dignity and kindness that, it’s clear in interviews, they were rarely offered while living in our hypermediated world. Herzog even elicits compassion for figures I might otherwise have been hard-pressed to find redeeming. In one sequence, he juxtaposes astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz’s devastating critique of Mars exploration with an immediate cut to a silent, sullen-looking Elon Musk. It would have been easy to let that zinger stand, but instead, after a long silence, the tech billionaire and SpaceX founder proceeds to respond to an unheard question about his dreams, confessing that he “only remembers the nightmares.” In that moment, Musk briefly ceases to be the cartoonish Bond villain I typically take him for and reveals himself as just another vulnerable, terrified man trying to build something greater than himself in a world that he clearly suspects is too far gone for salvation.

There are a few chapters of the film that touch on doomsday anxieties and depression at the cruelties of humanity — a story about the unspeakable cruelty of online mobs, discussion of the possibility of a solar flare destroying all human communication systems, a look at the threats of cyber warfare and the inherent insecurity of the network — but they’re presented not as cautions against a networked world so much as the grave realities of it. We continue to live in and build a networked world in spite of all those harms and threats — in spite of not knowing what benefits actually emerge from, say, building football-playing robots capable of defeating a FIFA World Cup champion. When Herzog asks Joydeep Biswas, the Carnegie Mellon student working on those football-playing robots, if he loves one of the particularly talented machines, Biswas’s sincere, enthusiastic “yes” isn’t really played for laughs, any more than the film’s closing sequence of residents in the National Radio Quiet Zone enjoying the simpler pleasures of their offline community. It’s by diving into that very human in spite of that Herzog reminds me why his disdainful bon mots are more hopeful and more generous than he’s often given credit for, and where the film offers some of its more compelling observations."
wernerherzog  internet  film  2016  ingridburrington  documentary  dignity  kindness  elonmusk  humanity  humans 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Eyeo 2016 – Charlie Loyd on Vimeo
"Far and Smooth – “Popadantsy” is what Russian fandom calls accidental travelers in time and space. On the internet, we’re all popadantsy, and one of the wormholes is satellite imagery – a way of seeing that’s gone from top secret to our phones in a generation. Charlie Loyd has been working with satellite images, and this talk is partly a report on how weird they are. From there he cruises around themes of distance and familiarity, continuity and resolution, and obviously frogs."
charlieloyd  2016  eyeo  chrishatfield  photography  imagery  seeing  frogs  familiarity  overvieweffect  popadantsy  websurfing  earth  aerialimagery  space  satelliteimagery  humanism  humanity  poetry  art  canon  eyeo2016  classideas 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The oppression of silence
"And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the center of the universe."
politics  humanity  eliewiesel  neutrality  science  persecution  oppression  complicity  2016  bystanders  race  religion  dignity  humanism  via:lukeneff 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Prof Carla Rinaldi on 'Reclaiming Childhood' - YouTube
[For a quick taste, go to 52:15 https://youtu.be/dqgvW-IRXKg?t=3135:

"Schools, in general, they are considered as a place to learn to read, to learn to write, to be disciplined. Especially the schools for the youngest, they are the famous place to pre-: to pre-pare for the future, to pre-pare for life, to pre- pre- pre-. Pre-school, pre-reading, pre-writing. To take children to pre-ordained outcomes. Pre-, pre-. It’s time to really cancel pre- because school is not a preparation for life, but life. It is a real, deep important part of your life. […] School is life. […] Life itself is school, but for sure, school is life. And the question becomes more urgent nowadays because we are talking about the role of school in contemporary society. Contemporary that is a digital era, e-learning, everything. And somebody says maybe it's time to cancel schools. Why do we continue to build schools? Why does a society looking at the future have to continue to have a school? […] I think the answers still continues to be that we need to have good schools because they are a fundamental place of education of the citizen and communities. […] Not only a place to transmit culture, but nowadays more than ever a place to construct culture and values. Culture of childhood and culture from childhood. That means that the children are bearers and constructors of elements that can renew the culture. They are our best source for our renewing culture. […] The way in which they approach life is not something that we observe without them in our life, it is an amazing source for renewing our questions and our way of approaching life. They are the source for creativity, for creative thinking. They can be the source for changing the concept of ecological approach, holistic approach. We have to explain [these] to each other. Children know exactly what it means. […] We continue to talk about teaching nature to children. Children *are* nature."
carlarinaldi  2013  education  schools  teaching  sfsh  childhood  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  reggioemilia  children  agesegregation  aborigines  australia  pedagogy  inclusivity  accessibility  competence  life  living  meaning  meaningmaking  beauty  humanism  humanity  humans  humannature  self-discipline  thewhy  creativity  trust  parenting  unschooling  deschooling  listening  respect  knowing  relationships  joy  canon  otherness  howeteach  makingvisible  ethnography  welcome  reciprocity  community  interdependence  negotiation  rights  nature  culture  culturemaking  responsibility  duty  duties  authority  rule  freedom  co-constuction 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Werner-Herzog comenta en I am Werner Herzog, the filmmaker. AMA.
"Q: You’ve covered everything from the prehistoric Chauvet Cave to the impending overthrow of not-so-far-off futuristic artificial intelligence. What about humankind's history/capability terrifies you the most?

A: It's a difficult question, because it encompasses almost all of human history so far. What is interesting about this paleolithic cave is that we see with our own eyes the origins, the beginning of the modern human soul. These people were like us, and what their concept of art was, we do not really comprehend fully. We can only guess.

And of course now today, we are into almost futuristic moments where we create artificial intelligence and we may not even need other human beings anymore as companions. We can have fluffy robots, and we can have assistants who brew the coffee for us and serve us to the bed, and all these things. So we have to be very careful and should understand what basic things, what makes us human, what essentially makes us into what we are. And once we understand that, we can make our educated choices, and we can use our inner filters, our conceptual filters. How far would we use artificial intelligence? How far would we trust, for example into the logic of a self-driving car? Will it crash or not if we don't look after the steering wheel ourselves?

So, we should make a clear choice, what we would like to preserve as human beings, and for that, for these kinds of conceptual answers, I always advise to read books. Read read read read read! And I say that not only to filmmakers, I say that to everyone. People do not read enough, and that's how you create critical thinking, conceptual thinking. You create a way of how to shape your life. Although, it seems to elude us into a pseudo-life, into a synthetic life out there in cyberspace, out there in social media. So it's good that we are using Facebook, but use it wisely."
via:savasavasava  wernerherzog  2016  reading  ai  artificialintelligence  humanity  humans  humanism  criticalthinking  coneptualithinking  thinking  howwething  howwelearn  socialmedia  cyberspace  redditama 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Transcript: George W. Bush's Remarks at Dallas Memorial Service | US News
"But none of us were prepared, or could be prepared, for an ambush by hatred and malice. The shock of this evil still has not faded. At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization.

Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this is …

And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values.

We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.

And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens and finding our better selves in the process.

At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on Earth and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity.

At our best, we know we have one country, one future, one destiny. We do not want the unity of grief, nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose.

We know that the kind of just, humane country we want to build, that we have seen in our best dreams, is made possible when men and women in uniform stand guard. At their best, when they’re trained and trusted and accountable, they free us from fear."

[See also: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/george-w-bush-dallas-shooting-225429 ]
georgewbush  tolerance  us  police  trust  lawenforcement  2016  dallas  fear  understanding  unity  disagreement  intentions  empathy  humanism  humanity  division  values 
july 2016 by robertogreco
welcome to the future – Fredrik deBoer
"For several decades, neoliberal politicians worked tirelessly to remove any checks to our systems of financial speculation, causing the inflation of massive bubbles, driven by elite greed. They simultaneously shredded the social safety nets that would allow the lower classes to better endure the consequences of the inevitable collapse of those bubbles. The bubbles did collapse. The lower classes were devastated with unemployment, instability, and economic hopelessness. Those same elites responded by insisting that the only path forward was deeper austerity, even more vicious cuts to our already-tattered redistributive systems. Anger, naturally, grew. Nativist, nationalist demagogues responded by seizing on this anger, telling ignored and marginalized people that their problems were the fault of even-more-marginalized minorities, migrants, and refugees. Their political adversaries, rather than appealing to those angry people by offering them an economic platform that works for them and by arguing that their best interests are also the best interests of those minorities, migrants, and refugees, have doubled down on austerity politics and have dismissed those voters as deluded racists who are not fit to be appealed to. In general, liberals have entrenched deeper and deeper into geographical and social bubbles that permit them to ignore vast swaths of increasingly-embittered voters. They thus ensure that those many among the angry people who are not in fact incorrigible racists but who could be convinced to join forces for a political movement of shared prosperity never do so. The worst people appeal to the desperate, while their political opponents dismiss that desperation, and the outcome is predictable.

This is the future of the West: a contest between elitist greed and populist proto-fascism. On one side, the limitless self-interest of a financial and social elite that has created not only an economic system that siphons more and more money into their own pockets but also a bizarre, jury-rigged ideology of cultural liberalism divorced from any foundations in economic egalitarianism which argues that anyone who opposes the neoliberal order is not worthy even of trying to convince. On the other side, an increasingly-unhinged movement of racist grievance-mongering and fear-stoking populist demagoguery, which utilizes the age-old tactic of pitting different groups of poor people against each other to powerful effect, helped immensely by the corruption and callousness of the pro-austerity class. These sides share nothing except for an absolute commitment to preventing the kind of robustly redistributive platform of economic and social justice that could unite the needs of all suffering people into a formidable political bloc that is devoted to opposing austerity, inequality, racism, sexism, nativism, nationalism, and the rest of humanity’s political ills.

The choice humanity had was between socialism and barbarism. Decades of neoliberalism have ensured that we’ve chosen the latter. The choice ahead is less substantive and more aesthetic: which would you prefer crushing down on your neck, the combat boot of a fascist or the business shoe of a plutocrat?"
freddiedeboer  politics  neoliberalism  history  2016  policy  us  humanity  socialism  barbarism  bubbles  economics  greed  elitism  socialsafetynet  inequality  class  classism  marginalization  austertity  brexit  fascism  corruption  finance  capitalism  self-interest  eglitarianism  socialjustice  racism  sexism  nativism  nationalism  plutocracy  desperation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
In Praise of Impractical Movements | Dissent Magazine
"Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign has opened up a debate about how social change happens in our society. The official version of how progress is won—currently voiced by mainstream pundits and members of a spooked Democratic Party establishment—goes something like this: politics is a tricky business, gains coming through the work of pragmatic insiders who know how to maneuver within the system. In order to get things done, you have to play the game, be realistic, and accept the established limits of debate in Washington, D.C.

A recent article in the Atlantic summed up this perspective with the tagline, “At this polarized moment, it’s incremental change or nothing.” This view, however, leaves out a critical driver of social transformation. It fails to account for what might be the most important engine of progress: grassroots movements by citizens demanding change.

Social change is seldom either as incremental or predictable as many insiders suggest. Every once in a while, an outburst of resistance seems to break open a world of possibility, creating unforeseen opportunities for transformation. Indeed, according to that leading theorist of disruptive power, Frances Fox Piven, the “great moments of equalizing reform in American political history”—securing labor rights, expanding the vote, or creating a social safety net—have been directly related to surges of widespread defiance.

Unlike elected officials who preoccupy themselves with policies considered practical and attainable within the political climate of the moment, social movements change the political weather. They turn issues and demands considered both unrealistic and politically inconvenient into matters that can no longer be ignored; they succeed, that is, by championing the impractical.

Such movements, of course, face immense barriers, but that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging their importance and highlighting the key role played by moments of mass defiance in shaping our world. Outbreaks of hope and determined impracticality provide an important rebuttal to the politics of accommodation, to the idea that the minor tweaking of the status quo is the best we can expect in our lifetimes.

Here, then, are three moments when the world broke open—and two when it still might."
socialchange  politics  policy  society  revolution  civilrightsmovement  us  bosnia  serbia  otpor  gaymarriage  markengler  paulengler  2016  environment  immigration  economics  humanity  evanwolfson  marcsolomon  egypt  resistance  protest  nonviolence  martinlutherkingjr  history  incrementalism  francesfoxpiven  berniesanders  grassroots  polarization  disruption  statusquo  laborrights  defiance  mlk 
june 2016 by robertogreco
12 | March | 2016 | visual/method/culture: remembering Doreen
"I’m writing this short post after reading an email from OU colleague Steve Pile confirming that Doreen Massey did indeed pass away on the afternoon of Friday 11 March 2016. I saw earlier tweets to the same effect and tweeted myself, and now it’s for sure.

Doreen has accompanied all of my academic life. I read her book Spatial Divisions of Labour as an undergraduate (still an outstandingly important text, in my view). She examined my PhD thesis (and told me I needed to write a methods section at the end of it….). I met her on and off as I worked on feminist and cultural geographies in London and Edinburgh after my PhD. I joined The Open University in 1999 and in the following years I worked with her on an OU geography module on globalisation and on a small research project on public art in Milton Keynes. And even after she retired, for some time anyway, she often was in her OU office just down the corridor from mine, working on talks and projects and politics, always ready to discuss and engage.

She wasn’t always an easy person to work with. She could be very critical; she could insist on things being done her way; she didn’t like any kind of admin. She could also, far more often, be incredibly warm – to everyone and anyone, absolutely – and she was one of the most charismatic speakers I have ever heard. I remember her tiny frame absolutely filling one enormous lecture hall with energy and passion, extemporising from handwritten notes, intensifying the entire space. I can hear her voice now, and her laughter.

Some of her ideas – spatial divisions of labour, relationality, a global sense of place, throwntogetherness – have transformed huge swathes of human geography and beyond. So many of us simply would not be doing what we do and how we do it without her work, even if many of us are doing different things from her. Her work transformed human geography’s ideas, but she also transformed many scholars as people, supporting them, pushing them, inspiring them. And that’s not even to start on her political work, from the Greater London Council to the Kilburn Manifesto.

I think it’s that massive humanity – including its flaws – that made me realise, this morning, after reading those tweets, that it had literally never crossed my mind, even though I knew she was ill, that she might die. Her energy, commitment, the sheer intensity and consistency of her engagement, somehow made such an outcome an impossibility. But it’s happened and I feel a massive absence now, a silence.

My tweet said RIP. But actually, now, I don’t want to think of her resting in peace. I much prefer to think of her arguing on, being thoughtful and awkward and sometimes difficult, never ever taking things for granted, always thinking towards openness and a different kind of future."
doreenmassey  2016  obituaries  via:anne  argement  openness  future  relationality  geography  gillianrose  humanism  humanity  flaws  intensity  criticalthinking  criticism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I... | OLIVIA C.
"After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
Questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost."

—Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.” I think this poem may be making the rounds, this week, but that’s as it should be. "
community  humanity  poetry  poems  naomishihabnye  sacraments  food  cookies  plants  communing  traditions  travel  language  communication  alburquerque 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The invention of farming
"Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history's biggest fraud."
humanity  civilization  history  agriculture  yuvalnoahharari  food  work  labor  life  economics  inequality  via:lukeneff  hunter-gatherers 
february 2016 by robertogreco
A Flag for No Nations | booktwo.org
"This is the moment at which our ideas of technology as a series of waymarks on the universal march of human progress falter and fall apart. A single technology – the vacuum-deposition of metal vapour onto a thin film substrate – makes its consecutive and multiple appearances at times of stress and trial: at the dawn of the space age, in orbit and on other planets, at the scene of athletic feats of endurance, in defence and offence in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, on the beaches of the European archipelago. These are moments of hope as well as failure; moments when, properly utilised, technological progress enables us to achieve something which was beyond our capabilities before. And yet: we are still pulling bodies from the water wrapped in material which was meant to send us into space."



"Technologies are stories we tell ourselves – often unconsciously – about who we are and what we are capable of. By analysing their traces we may divine the progress they are capable of assisting, but they are not in and of themselves future-producing, magical, or separate from human agency. They are a guide and a hope. The reality of these technologies and the place of their deployment shows us plainly that another world is not only possible, but coming into being, should we choose to recognise and participate in it. Technology alone will not achieve such change, merely reflect back our failure to capitalise upon it. Its proper use is not as a bandage for the present, but as a banner for the future."
jamesbridle  techology  humanism  humanity  nasa  space  skylab  refugees  skylab2  1973  jackkinzler  josephkerwin  nationalmetallizing  jerryross  1988  hubbletelescope  spaceblankets  heatsheets  afghanistan  rubenpeter  2011  2013  2005  pakistan  lesbos  greece  lampedusa  2014  2015  2016  mediterranean  migration  chios  hope  flags  kimstanleyrobinson  technology 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Do You Read Differently Online and in Print?
"The Internet may cause our minds to wander off, and yet a quick look at the history of books suggests that we have been wandering off all along. When we read, the eye does not progress steadily along the line of text; it alternates between saccades—little jumps—and brief stops, not unlike the movement of the mouse’s cursor across a screen of hypertext. From the invention of papyrus around 3000 B.C., until about 300 A.D., most written documents were scrolls, which had to be rolled up by one hand as they were unrolled by the other: a truly linear presentation. Since then, though, most reading has involved codices, bound books or pamphlets, a major advantage of which (at least compared to the scroll) is that you can jump around in them, from chapter to chapter (the table of contents had been around since roughly the first century B.C.); from text to marginal gloss, and, later, to footnote."



"Comprehension matters, but so does pleasure. In Proust and the Squid, Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, observes that the brain’s limbic system, the seat of our emotions, comes into play as we learn to read fluently; our feelings of pleasure, disgust, horror and excitement guide our attention to the stories we can’t put down. Novelists have known this for a long time, and digital writers know it, too. It’s no coincidence that many of the best early digital narratives took the form of games, in which the reader traverses an imaginary world while solving puzzles, sometimes fiendishly difficult ones. Considered in terms of cognitive load, these texts are head-bangingly difficult; considered in terms of pleasure, they’re hard to beat.

A new generation of digital writers is building on video games, incorporating their interactive features—and cognitive sparks—into novelistic narratives that embrace the capabilities of our screens and tablets. Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannizzaro’s 2014 iPad novella, Pry, tells the story of a demolitions expert returned home from the first Gulf War, whose past and present collide, as his vision fails. The story is told in text, photographs, video clips, and audio. It uses an interface that allows you to follow the action and shift between levels of awareness. As you read text on the screen, describing characters and plot, you draw your fingers apart and see a photograph of the protagonist, his eyes opening on the world. Pinch your fingers shut and you visit his troubled unconscious; words and images race by, as if you are inside his memory. Pry is the opposite of a shallow work; its whole play is between the surface and the depths of the human mind. Reading it is exhilarating.

There’s no question when you read (or play) Pry that you’re doing something your brain isn’t quite wired for. The interface creates a feeling of simultaneity, and also of having to make choices in real time, that no book could reproduce. It asks you to use your fingers to do more than just turn the page. It communicates the experience of slipping in and out of a story, in and out of a dream, or nightmare. It uses the affordances of your phone or tablet to do what literature is always trying to do: give you new things to think about, to expand the world behind your eyes. It’s stressful, at first. How are you supposed to know if you’re reading it right? What if you miss something? But if you play (or read) it long enough, you can almost feel your brain begin to adapt.

Most of the Web is not like Pry—not yet, anyway. But the history of reading suggests that what we’re presently experiencing is probably not the end times of human thought. It’s more like an interregnum, or the crouch before a leap. Wolf points out that when it comes to reading, what we get out is largely what we put in. “The reading brain circuit reflects the affordances of what it reads,” she notes: affordances being the built-in opportunities for interaction. The more we skim, the more we’re likely to keep skimming; on the other hand, the more we plunge into a text, the more we’re likely to keep plunging. “We’re in a digital culture,” Wolf says. “It’s not a question of making peace. We have to be discerning, vigilant, developmentally savvy.” And of course we have to be surprised, delighted, puzzled, even disturbed. We have to enjoy ourselves. If we can do that, digital reading will expand the already vast interior space of our humanity."
howweread  readin  albertomanguel  technology  reading  digital  internet  paullafarge  maryannewolf  web  online  staugustine  ambrose  nicholascarr  socrates  brain  agostinoramelli  history  attention  digitalmedia  rolfengelsing  rakefetackerman  morrisgoldsmith  johannesnaumann  dianadestefano  jo-annelefevre  hypertext  michaelwenger  davidpayne  comprehension  engagement  enjoyment  talyarkoni  nicolespeer  jeffreyzacks  psychology  memory  linearity  footnotes  marginalia  bookfuturism  information  wandering  cognitiveload  games  gaming  videogames  samanthagorman  dannycannizzaro  ipad  pry  interiority  affordances  interface  linear  awareness  immersion  skimming  cv  humanity  interregnum  interactivity  interaction 
january 2016 by robertogreco
What's in the UN Paris Climate Deal? - The Atlantic
"In some ways, the most hopeful news out of Paris—the new 1.5 degree goal—is also the least realistic. Recent science has indicated that warming to two degrees, still the stated international red line, might be catastrophic, creating mega-hurricanes and possibly halting the temperate jet stream which waters American and European farmland.

From that perspective, 1.5 degrees is an encouraging, ambitious goal. But it’s also a promise that costs negotiators nothing while indicating great moral seriousness.

Because here’s the thing: The math still doesn’t work. 2015 is the hottest year on measure. Because of the delay between when carbon enters the atmosphere and when it traps heat, we are nearly locked into nearly 1.5 degrees of warming already. Many thought the world would abandon the two degree target at Paris due to its impracticality.

In order to slide under the 1.5-degree target, global emissions have to peak in the next five or six years. (Emissions slowed this year, mostly due to China’s economic downturn, but they are expected to rise again soon as India adds industrial capacity.) The world has to completely stop emitting carbon around 2060. Can it be done?

Now we find out. If climate change worries you, think about not only how you vote, but also how you spend your civic attention and how you communicate your concern to policy-makers. Think too about how you’re supporting those already affected by it.

To my mind, climate is our great story. No other narrative envelopes all of humanity in quite the same way, forcing answers about the ethics of food, of oil, of technology, of economic security, of democratic republics and command capitalism, of colonialism and indigenous peoples, of who in the world is rich and who in the world is poor.

We live in the middle of history. Nations still bicker over borders, flaunt weapons of mass death, and abhor refugees in their midst. Today they tried, miraculously and inadequately, to care for their common good."
robinsonmeyer  climatechange  climate  policy  2015  capitalism  economics  oli  energy  borders  weapons  refugees  humanity  anthropocene  colonialism  decolonization  hope 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Josephine | Home cooked food from your community.
"Our Values

Be more human.
We're building technology to cultivate meaningful human connections, not replace them, and to do that we need to be ruthlessly empathetic. Whether it's with our coworkers or the Josephine community, we strive to never lose sight of the people and lives our work touches.

Serve the many, the small.
The food industry has been defined by massive corporations. We believe the world would be better served by a more inclusive food system, where passionate individuals can more easily serve their communities. Civic service is a moral imperative that drives us both as a company and as individuals.

Give boldly, give first.
We believe in the power of altruism as a way of paying things forward and a foundation for building trust. For our mission to propagate we need to not only lead by example, but to do so in such a way that it inspires others to follow suit.

Measure feelings, not things.
Metrics are a core component of any successful business. But the emotions and relationships that validate our work are less easily measured. Creating more meaningful interactions will help us build not only a successful business, but a brighter world to live in.

Details are everything.
Our obsessive attention to detail is what differentiates our experience and delights our community. It's the source of pride in our work. For us, success is measured in pride, not in credit.

Cultivate self reliance.
Long term self-reliance requires time and effort, but it is the only sustainable way to improve and grow. We see our culture of transparency and education as an investment in ourselves and those we work with - be it our cooks, customers, partners, or employees. We’re here to teach ‘em how to fish.



Our Story

Our story started when Tal flew to LA for work. A friend who'd grown up there told him he had to meet two people: his college friend Charley, and his mom, a lovely woman by the name of Josephine.

Josephine kindly hosted Tal at the family home and when it came time for him to leave LA, he cooked a big thank-you dinner for Josephine, her family, and Charley.

Over dinner, Tal and Charley discussed how fortunate they were to have grown up in households where dinner was cooked every night. The conversation continued for months until they decided to try to find a way to bring home cooking back into people's lives. So they moved up to the Bay, rented a house in Oakland, and began cooking meals out of it and inviting everyone they knew.

A year later, Josephine has developed into a loving community of cooks, families, friends, and neighbors. But this is just the beginning of our story."

[via: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/the-food-delivery-start-up-you-havent-heard-of/414540/ ]
josephine  food  values  feelings  lcproject  openstudioproject  self-reliance  decentralization  relationships  metrics  emotions  altruism  humanism  community  humanity 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Quit Ordering From Uber-for-Food Start-Ups - The Atlantic
[This is Josephine: https://josephine.com/ ]

"I work some days from a small office in San Francisco, and every day, I gotta eat. For a stretch of several weeks this year, I obtained my lunch from an iPhone app called Sprig.

It’s a beautiful piece of software. A trompe l’oeil table offers a compact slate of choices for lunch and dinner, all photographed beautifully from above. On the day I’m writing this, I can get a Caesar salad ($11), blackened chicken with broccoli ($11), a lamb-kofta wrap ($11), a tequila-lime shrimp salad ($13), or a kimchi veggie bowl ($10). Everything is organic, with sources all specified. The chicken comes from Petaluma.

* * *

I work some days from my apartment in Berkeley, and every day, I gotta eat. Two or three times a month, I obtain lunch or dinner from a network called Josephine.

The first time I encountered Josephine, its website was a bare page that instructed you to enter your phone number and “join our SMS list.” The design is only slightly more elaborate today; there’s still no iPhone app.

Josephine doesn’t prepare any meals itself. Instead, it screens home cooks and takes orders on their behalf. On the day I’m writing this, I can get carrot soup ($11) from Lisa in Oakland or pho ($13) from Hai in Emeryville. That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, there’s chicken and dumplings ($11) from Suzie in Albany or veggie enchiladas ($8) from Afiba in Fruitvale. The menu extends out two weeks; Josephine is less “I’m hungry now” and more “I expect to be hungry on Thursday, so I’d better line something up.” The photography is rough-and-ready, Etsy-caliber, and the dishes are described by the cooks themselves.

* * *

Sprig sells on speed: From selection to delivery, it’s twenty minutes. The experience is identical to an order from Seamless or GrubHub. A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.

Meals from Sprig arrive reliably deflated from their in-app depictions: soggier, less composed. The quality of the food ranges, in my experience, from “sure, I can eat this” to very good indeed. It’s approximately equivalent to what you’d get in a nice cafeteria; better than Kaiser Permanente’s, not as good as Facebook’s.

“Gotta eat” is a rumble in the belly, a business opportunity, and a public-health crisis all rolled into one, and to address it, Sprig is building the biggest, nicest cafeteria ever. The ambition is clear: Sprig in every city, with longer menus, better ingredients, faster delivery. I can see them: the drones dropping lamb kofta from the sky.

But there’s more to any cafeteria than the serving line, and Sprig’s app offers no photograph of that other part. This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.

I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.

What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?

* * *

Meals from Josephine are not available for delivery.

On the day of your order, a text message arrives bearing a street address. You ride over on your bicycle and spot a Josephine sign taped to the front door, which is ajar. You step inside; the feeling is both clandestine and transgressive. In the kitchen, the cook—your neighbor—is working. Maybe another customer—also your neighbor—is lingering. You announce yourself, say hello, receive your meal. Chat a bit, if you like. Carry it home in a bag dangling from your handlebars.

It definitely takes more than twenty minutes.

But I will tell you that my Josephine pickups have been utterly reliable generators of smiles and warm feelings. I look forward to them, not just because “gotta eat,” but because they unlock my neighborhood, fill in the blank spaces on my mental map. And of course, it’s always fun to see the insides of other people’s houses.

The seriousness of Josephine’s cooks ranges widely. Some are clearly demi-professionals, as polished and efficient as Airbnb hosts; others seem surprised to have people in their kitchen. Some offer fat slices of cornbread as impulse buys; others seem happy to have finished their soup in time.

What unites them is this: They are your neighbors; they have cooked a dish of their own design; they have invited you into their home.

I flaked on a Josephine meal once, and as the pick-up window was closing, my phone rang. It was the cook. “I can leave it out for you,” she offered. I demurred. “Oh, okay,” she said. Her voice betrayed her disappointment. I felt bad all night.

* * *

Sprig started in 2013. Its four founders have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $50 million so far. (It is safe to assume the words "Uber for food" were uttered along the way.) Currently, you can order in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago—the last of which is clearly the test case for national expansion. The Sprig careers page advertises openings in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, and Austin.

Josephine started in 2014. Its two founders also have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $600,000 so far. Mark Bittman recently joined its board of directors. Josephine’s home cooks are mainly scattered around Oakland and Berkeley. In October, the company listed its first batch of meals for San Francisco; on the day I’m writing, there are three home cooks in the city.

If Sprig projects an Amazon-like relentlessness, Josephine feels tenuous; some days, it seems almost too good for this world, too “eat your vegetables,” literally and figuratively. It’s convenient, but not THAT convenient. When it needs more cooks, it can’t simply hire them. Its viability in neighborhoods beyond the Bay Area will depend on instruments subtler than a war chest and an expansion playbook.

* * *

We are alive at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?

It’s like this:

Sprig-type operations drain agency and expertise out of the world. They centralize, aiming to build huge hubs with small spokes; their innermost mechanisms are hidden. They depend on humans behaving as interchangeable units of labor.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Sprig, no one cooks who is not employed by this kind of company.

Josephine cultivates agency and expertise. It decentralizes, aims to build a dense mesh, neighborhood-scale; its mechanisms are public. It depends on humans developing their specific, idiosyncratic tastes and skills.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Josephine, many people don’t cook, but some people cook a lot more, and better, than ever before, and all of us, cooks and non-cooks, derive pleasure from that. We meet on the sidewalk carrying warm veggie enchiladas.

What kills me is the plausibility of the Josephine future. This isn’t some utopian vision; there’s a scale model working in the East Bay today. Neighborhoods everywhere are full of cooks, or would-be cooks; the talent and the desire is thick on the ground.

Josephine employs the most basic tools of telecommunications to make a market and match “gotta eat” with “wanna cook.” This could be the system! The rumble in the belly, the business opportunity, the public-health crisis: The answer to all of it might be waiting next door.

We make these choices, bit by bit. I stopped ordering from Sprig back in the spring, because (a) I don’t like that future and (b) they sent me a truly sub-par chicken sandwich.

Every couple of weeks, or whenever I think of it, I check Josephine for something nearby. The food is always good, at least friend-cooking-dinner good and often better, but honestly, the future is what sells it."
robinsloan  systems  systemsthinking  2015  amazon  sprig  uber  efficiency  josephine  markbittman  decentralization  civics  society  neighborhoods  community  humanity  future  food  cooking  eating  slow  slowness  relentlessness  neighbors  neighborliness  dystopia  technosolutionism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry on Climate Change: To Save the Future, Live in the Present by Wendell Berry — YES! Magazine
"What we must not do in our efforts of provision is to waste or permanently destroy anything of value. History informs us that the things we waste or destroy today may be needed on the morrow. This obviously prohibits the “creative destruction” of the industrialists and industrial economists, who think that evil is permissible today for the sake of greater good tomorrow. There is no rational argument for compromise with soil erosion or toxic pollution.

For me—and most people are like me in this respect—“climate change” is an issue of faith; I must either trust or distrust the scientific experts who predict the future of the climate. I know from my experience, from the memories of my elders, from certain features of my home landscape, from reading history, that over the last 150 years or so the weather has changed and is changing. I know without doubt that to change is the nature of weather.

Just so, I know from as many reasons that the alleged causes of climate change—waste and pollution—are wrong. The right thing to do today, as always, is to stop, or start stopping, our habit of wasting and poisoning the good and beautiful things of the world, which once were called “divine gifts” and now are called “natural resources.” I always suppose that experts may be wrong. But even if they are wrong about the alleged human causes of climate change, we have nothing to lose, and much to gain, by trusting them.

Even so, we are not dummies, and we can see that for all of us to stop, or start stopping, our waste and destruction today would be difficult. And so we chase our thoughts off into the morrow where we can resign ourselves to “the end of life as we know it” and come to rest, or start devising heroic methods and technologies for coping with a changed climate. The technologies will help, if not us, then the corporations that will sell them to us at a profit.

I have let the preceding paragraph rest for two days to see if I think it is fair. I think it is fair. As evidence, I will mention only that, while the theme of climate change grows ever more famous and fearful, land abuse is growing worse, noticed by almost nobody."



"It is true that changes in governmental policy, if the changes were made according to the right principles, would have to be rated as big solutions. Such big solutions surely would help, and a number of times I have tramped the streets to promote them, but just as surely they would fail if not accompanied by small solutions. And here we come to the reassuring difference between changes in policy and changes in principle. The needed policy changes, though addressed to present evils, wait upon the future, and so are presently nonexistent. But changes in principle can be made now, by so few as just one of us. Changes in principle, carried into practice, are necessarily small changes made at home by one of us or a few of us. Innumerable small solutions emerge as the changed principles are adapted to unique lives in unique small places. Such small solutions do not wait upon the future. Insofar as they are possible now, exist now, are actual and exemplary now, they give hope. Hope, I concede, is for the future. Our nature seems to require us to hope that our life and the world’s life will continue into the future. Even so, the future offers no validation of this hope. That validation is to be found only in the knowledge, the history, the good work, and the good examples that are now at hand.

There is in fact much at hand and in reach that is good, useful, encouraging, and full of promise, although we seem less and less inclined to attend to or value what is at hand. We are always ready to set aside our present life, even our present happiness, to peruse the menu of future exterminations. If the future is threatened by the present, which it undoubtedly is, then the present is more threatened, and often is annihilated, by the future. “Oh, oh, oh,” cry the funerary experts, looking ahead through their black veils. “Life as we know it soon will end. If the governments don’t stop us, we’re going to destroy the world. The time is coming when we will have to do something to save the world. The time is coming when it will be too late to save the world. Oh, oh, oh.” If that is the way our minds are afflicted, we and our world are dead already. The present is going by and we are not in it. Maybe when the present is past, we will enjoy sitting in dark rooms and looking at pictures of it, even as the present keeps arriving in our absence.

Or maybe we could give up saving the world and start to live savingly in it. If using less energy would be a good idea for the future, that is because it is a good idea. The government could enforce such a saving by rationing fuels, citing the many good reasons, as it did during World War II. If the government should do something so sensible, I would respect it much more than I do. But to wish for good sense from the government only displaces good sense into the future, where it is of no use to anybody and is soon overcome by prophesies of doom. On the contrary, so few as just one of us can save energy right now by self-control, careful thought, and remembering the lost virtue of frugality. Spending less, burning less, traveling less may be a relief. A cooler, slower life may make us happier, more present to ourselves, and to others who need us to be present. Because of such rewards, a large problem may be effectively addressed by the many small solutions that, after all, are necessary, no matter what the government might do. The government might even do the right thing at last by imitating the people."
slow  small  present  now  frugality  via:steelemaley  wendellberry  2015  climatechange  future  policy  government  nature  farming  environment  sustainability  goodness  futurism  predictions  provisions  landscape  history  past  humanity  christianity  agriculture 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Hayao Miyazaki - The Essence of Humanity - YouTube
broken, try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTq_D5aFy-M ]

[via: http://kottke.org/15/10/what-makes-a-miyazaki-film-a-miyazaki-film

"Lewis Bond takes a look at the work of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and what sets him apart from other makers of animated movies, including his work’s realism and empathy."]
animation  hayaomiyazaki  humanism  humanity  filmmaking  storytelling  lewisbond  empathy  realism  emotions  reality  unpredicatablity  subtlety  anime  manga  expressiveness  expressions 
october 2015 by robertogreco
It Doesn't Know What You Want Until You Teach It
"So, I just got home from Tel Aviv, which, while I happened to be there, was hit by a massive sandstorm that swept across from Syria.

Now, sandstorms, or at least the one I saw, do not work like the ones in Mad Max. I woke up in my little hotel cocoon, threw back the blackout curtains and saw … nothing. Because that’s what sandstorms do: they make landscape into nothing. They disappear buildings and the sea and the horizon and even the sun. Beyond half a mile, everything fades into white-yellow nothing.

I went for a run up the beach until I got to an old crumbling stone jetty. An old shirtless man with a huge belly was fishing from it. All I could see was a few big hotels behind me rising into dust and this jetty with the man in front of me. And it was possible to imagine that this was all the world, that this little narrow spit of land was all that was left.

That’s the dystopian story.

But, at the same time, I could snap a photo of the sea and the sky and send it to my wife across the world and have her send me back a picture of our son. And I could go look up the sandstorm and see it from a NASA satellite. And Apple would put out a new version of their phone, and just down the road, hundreds of Israeli startups were building new things in the world. And as I wandered around Tel Aviv, the strange light of the sandstorm making every photo look as if it were taken in a dream, I thought to myself: there are so many futures happening at once.

When we imagine a utopia or dystopia, both represent a hope that human lives will somehow be less messy and complex in the future than they are now. Because, good or bad, that’s the most comforting lie we can tell ourselves about what’s going to come: that we might be able to process and understand it more easily than we do our own short moment.

It's good to be back."
alexismadrigal  sandstorms  future  futures  humanity  life  messiness  complexity  technology  2015  communication  photography  perception  utopia  dystopia  understanding  presence 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The pope's climate change message is really about rethinking what it means to be human - Vox
"Critics will (and do) argue that the pope does little to grapple with the tension between the economic growth and development that has allowed billions to escape dire poverty — development fueled, literally, by the same polluting technologies Francis sharply criticizes and would see curtailed — and the pope's call for all to share in the very benefits that such growth and development has made possible. For all its problems, the fact that the global economy has lifted billions out of the worst poverty must count for something. Would the pope have us hamstring the engine of economic development for the sake of environmental conservation? And if so, how are the poor to receive the incredible benefits that our modern economy has made possible?

The pope's answer, it seems, is that the material benefits of our modern economy might not be quite so wondrous as we like to think. In a poorer world, a world less able to afford self-reliance, solidarity between people will be all the more important. As he writes toward the end of the encyclical:
Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that "less is more."

This may be rather shocking to some, perhaps even most. So let me suggest a way to understand how the "pope of the poor" can, essentially, advocate for a poorer world. Francis is a man who understands that abject poverty grinds men down and crushes their human dignity. It is inhumane and unjust, a source of scandal and a cause for moral outrage. But the pope is also a man who understands that there is a kind of relative poverty in which basic material needs are met but there is limited room for luxury and no room for waste.

This kind of poverty can provide detachment from material things, allowing us to enjoy them for what they are — gifts from a generous and loving God. This understanding of poverty — which has deep Christian roots going back to the Gospel itself — is far from an unqualified evil. In fact, it's a virtue. And for Pope Francis — a man who long ago took his own vow of poverty, and took as his namesake a man of profound poverty, Francis of Assisi — this understanding provides a crucial insight into the way human beings relate to the world around us and to one another.

Like I said, the pope's views on climate change aren't what make this a radical document."
laudatosi'  popefrancis  2015  environment  climatechange  human  anthropocene  humanity  via:anne  technology  science  economics  inequality  poverty  detachment  consumerism  capitalism  stephenwhite  christianity  catholicism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Sights Unseen: On Willful Blindness to Education’s Higher Purpose | EdConteXts
"As an educator, parent, and citizen, I fear that we as a society or even collection of societies put ourselves at risk if we fail to question and put a halt to this instrumentalist type of reasoning with regards to education. The rhetoric of brutal global competition is eroding our capacity to focus on asking what truly matters in providing our children and grandchildren with what they will need for their futures besides jobs and income. In all of our lip service to “21st Century Skills” we still pay more homage to the holy grail of what our offspring may earn rather than to how well equipped they will be to avert environmental, financial and/or social disaster by adopting and practicing those skills. We say that we want them to be critical thinkers and adept problem solvers while assuming, consciously or not, that their greatest challenge will likely be finding a job that pays well enough to free them from thousands of dollars of crushing student debt. “To get a good job” would appear to be our society’s best answer to the question “why school?” if we ever dared to pose it."



"I agree. Our schools need a higher purpose than merely feeding the global economic machine. Without questioning the prevailing ethos of competition, of celebrating winners while blaming the losers, our schools will not improve. Our schools will not become nourishing places for children until our societies decide that children are more than future members of the workforce. Our societies will not prosper unless we educate our children to understand and appreciate that nations constitute much more than their gross domestic product.

Author Peter Block captures best what I would wish for in reinventing education systems which nurture and sustain us as a society rather than squeeze us for a designated output. Speaking about the ways in which our thinking in terms of the exclusively practical and doable ( the how?) tends to hamper our willingness to engage on questions of larger purpose and general well-being, he writes:
Whatever our destination, it is letting go of the practical imperative that is most likely to guide us to a larger sense of where we want to go and what values we want to embody in getting there. What matters is the experience of being human and all that this entails. What will matter most to us, upon deeper reflection, is the quality of the experience we create in the world, not the quantity.

(bold: Block’s) Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes. Berret-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002, p. 37.)

As members of results-driven societies, we appreciate the certitude that quantification appears to provide. As humans, however, we search doggedly for precisely those qualities of life which defy objective measurement: meaning, belonging, purpose, autonomy, happiness, to name a few possibilities. That our education systems strive to become more human rather than less rings true both as my deepest wish and our mounting challenge."
sherrispelic  education  competition  purpose  2015  capitalism  neoliberalism  humanity  humanism  inequality  danhaesler  testing  standardizedtesting  rankings  dianeravitch  loisweiner  wendybrown  hansrollman  peterblock  deschooling  unschooling  schools 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Why Are We Here?
"We spend a lot of time in tech inventing and building new things. Some people are perfectly happy doing so without needing a deeper reason — some simply want success, others wealth, and many are excited about the potential to make the world a better place. Still I am struck by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction even among people who have accomplished a lot. I attribute that to the lack of a deeper purpose. Few people in tech seem to accept an easy religious answer to the question of why we are here. I have struggled with that myself but feel comfortable with what I believe now.

If you have followed my blog for a while you know that I have written about personal change in the past. Part of that exploration for me has been reading key works in Hinduism and Buddhism. One of the foundational precepts of Buddhism is that everything is ephemeral. Human pain comes from our failure to accept this impermanence. We become attached to people or things and when they inevitably disappear we suffer. I have found this to be a profound insight with powerful consequences for everyday life. Letting go of attachments is the way to overcome most if not all of our fears of the future and regrets of the past.

Yet I also believe that there is an important exception: human knowledge. I have previously argued that knowledge is the information that we as humans choose to replicate over time. It thus includes historical accounts, scientific knowledge and cultural artifacts (including literature, music, art, etc). Knowledge is unique to humans at least here on our planet. Other species don’t have externalized information that outlives them individually (I say externalized to contrast knowledge with DNA).

Human knowledge in principle has the potential to be eternal. It could exist as long as the universe does (and as far as I know we aren’t sure yet whether that will come to an end). Knowledge could even outlive humanity and still be maintained and developed further by some artificial or alien intelligence that succeeds us. Although I would prefer for the contributors to include future generations of humans.

For me the very existence and possibility of human knowledge provides the answer to the question of why we are here and what we should try to accomplish in life. We should endeavor to contribute to knowledge. Given my definition this can mean a great many things, including teaching and making music and taking care of others. Anything that either adds to or reproduces knowledge is, so far, a uniquely human activity and why we are here (“adding” includes questioning or even invalidating existing knowledge).

Once our basic needs are taken care of I believe we should devote much of our time to knowledge. We can still do things like create new products or start new companies (or invest in them). But we shouldn’t be mindless consumers of stuff or information. And we should focus on products or services that either contribute directly to knowledge or help others do so including by helping take care of basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, health, transportation, connectivity). This is also why I support the idea of a universal basic income.

Now at first blush the focus on knowledge sounds value free. What if you are inventing the nuclear bomb or worse? I have written about how values are important to guide what systems we build. I am convinced that many (and maybe all) of the values I believe in can be derived from the foundational value of knowledge, including, for example, conservation of the environment. I will write more on that in future posts.

This view of the meaning of life is what works for me personally and I am sharing it because it might work for others also. In doing so I am being consistent with the very belief I am describing. If these ideas have merit they will get replicated by others and carried forward over time and have a chance to become part of knowledge itself.

It is also likely that others have thought of this approach to the meaning of life before me. Knowledge is far vaster than what any one person can possibly know. And so as always when writing, I look forward to comments that point me to related work and people."
albertwenger  religion  purpose  meaning  via:willrichardson  2015  knowledge  buddhism  hinduism  humans  humanity  universalbasicincome  values  legacy  meaningoflife  satisfaction  ephemeral  ephemerality  attachment  everyday  suffering  presence  ubi 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Monster — The Message — Medium
"Personal beliefs do not trump human rights. This is how we create and live together in a civil society."



"We taught him Humanities, and somehow, at least for one crucial moment, he lost his humanity.

Saying anything positive about a terrorist is impossible. You’re a sympathizer. You’re Hitler. You wanted people to die. You’re as repulsive as the person who committed the crime. How could you? But we aren’t born monsters. Dzhokhar is still all of the moments leading up to that monstrous one and many moments afterward. He’s a young man who destroyed lives. He’s a young man who lost his brother. He’s a young man who was once a child who went to school and was surrounded by people who cared. He’s a young man who used and betrayed his friends. He’s a young man who fell through the cracks. He’s a young man who is sentenced to death.

Humanity and inhumanity are actions. They are choices we make daily in our treatment of others and in how we respond to the way we are treated. In the jury’s forced choice, everyone walked to the same corner, and they have no option of changing their minds.

Calling Dzhokhar a monster dehumanizes him and is the only way to justify killing him. If he is not a person, we are not depriving him of personhood.

As adults in his life, we failed to show Dzhokhar that human life is precious. In sentencing him to death, we become monsters ourselves."
aninditasempere  boston  ethics  terrorism  deathpenalty  humanity  humanism  2015  justice  education  humanrights  teaching  society  personhood 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Abandon hope (summer is coming) | k-punk
"So it was to be a re-run of 1992, after all. It seems that even elections are subject to retromania, now. Except, this time, it is 1992 without Jungle. It’s Ed Sheeran and Rudimental rather than Rufige Kru. Always ignore the polls, wrote Jeremy Gilbert late on election night. “You get a better sense of what’s going on in the electorate by sniffing the wind, sensing the affective shifts, the molecular currents, the alterations in the structures of feeling. Listen to the music, watch the TV, go to the the pubs and ride the tube. Cultural Studies trumps psephology every time.”

Contemporary English popular culture, with its superannuated PoMo laddishness, its smirking blokishness (anyone fancy a pint with Nigel?), its poverty porn, its craven cult of big business, has become like some gigantic Poundbury Village simulation, in which nothing new happens, forever … while ubiquitous “Keep Calm” messages, ostensibly quirky-ironic, actually function as They Live commands, containing the panic and the desperation …

England is a country in which every last space where conviviality might flourish has been colonised by a commercial imperative …. supermarket check-out operatives replaced by crap robots… unexpected item in bagging area… every surface plastered with corporate graffiti and haranguing hashtags … no trick missed to screw every last penny out of people… exorbitant parking charges in NHS hospitals (exact amount only, no change given), all the profits going to private providers …

Everything seen through a downer haze… “Mostly you self-medicate” … comfort eating and bitter drinking …. What’s your poison?"



"Blogs and social media have allowed us to talk to ourselves (but not to reach out beyond the left bubbles); they have also generated pathological behaviours and forms of subjectivity which not only generate misery and anger – they waste time and energy, our most crucial resources. Email and handhelds, meanwhile, have produced new forms of isolation and loneliness: the fact that we can receive communications from work anywhere and anytime means we are exposed to work’s order-words when we are alone, without the possibility of support from fellow workers.

In sum, the obsession with the web, its monopolisation of any idea of the new, has served capitalist realism rather than undermined it. Which does not mean, naturally, that we should abandon the web, only that we should find out how to develop a more instrumental relationship with it. Put simply, we should use it – as a means of dissemination, communication and distribution – but not live inside it. The problem is that this goes against the tendencies of handhelds. We all recognise the by now cliched image of a train carriage full of people pecking at their tiny screens, but have we really registered how miserable this really is, and how much it suits capital for these pockets of socialisation to be closed down?"



"The problem is that, in order to struggle against time poverty, the main resource we require is time – a nasty vicious circle that capital, with its malevolent genius, now has … This problem is absolutely immanent – writing this and the other posts I have completed this week has meant that I have fallen enormously behind on my work, which is storing up stress for the next week or so.

The first thing we must do in response to all this is to put into practice what I outlined above: try not to blame ourselves. #it’snotyourfault We must try to do everything we can to politicise time poverty rather than accept blame as individuals for failing to complete our work on time. The reason we feel overwhelmed is that we are overwhelmed – it isn’t an individual failing of ours; it isn’t because we haven’t “managed our time” properly. However, we can use the scarce resources we already have more effectively if we work together to codify practices of collective re-habituation (setting new rules for our engagement with social media and capitalist cyberspace in general for example).

Any way, here goes:

1. Talk to fellow workers about how we feel This will re-introduce care and affection into spaces where we are supposed to be competitive and isolated. It will also start to break down the difference between (paid) work and social reproduction on which capitalism depends.

2. Talk to opponents Most people who vote Tory and UKIP are not monsters, much as we might like to think they are. It’s important that we understand why they voted as they did. Also, they may not have been exposed to an alternative view. Remember that people are more likely to be persuaded if defensive character armour is not triggered.

3. Create knowledge exchange labs This follows from what I argued a few days ago. Lack of knowledge about economics seems to me an especially pressing problem to address, but we could also do with more of us knowing about law, I suspect.

4. Create social spaces Create times and spaces specifically dedicated to attending to one another: not (yet more) conferences, but sessions where people can share their feelings and ideas. I would suggest restricting use of handhelds in these spaces: not everything has to be live tweeted or archived! Those with access to educational or art spaces could open these up for this purpose.

5. Use social media pro-actively, not reactively Use social media to publicise, to spread memes, and to constitute a counter-media. Social media can provide emotional support during miserable events like Thursday. But we should try to use social media as resource rather than living inside it at all times. Facebook can be useful for discussions and trying out new ideas, but attempting to debate on Twitter is absurd and makes us feel more stressed. (He says, thinking of the time when, sitting on a National Express coach, perched over his handheld, he tried to intervene in an intricate discussion about Spinoza’s philosophy – all conducted in 140 characters.)

6. Generate new figures of loathing in our propaganda Again, this follows up from what I argued in the Communist Realism post. Capitalist realism was established by constituting the figure of the lazy, feckless scrounger as a populist scapegoat. We must float a new figure of the parasite: landlords milking the state through housing benefit, “entrepreneurs” exploring cheap labour, etc.

7. Engage in forms of activism aimed at logistical disruption Capital has to be seriously inconvenienced and to fear before it yields any territory or resources. It can just wait out most protests,but it will take notice when its logistical operations are threatened. We must be prepared for them cutting up very rough once we start doing this – using anti-terrorist legislation to justify practically any form of repression. They won’t play fair, but it’s not a game of cricket – they know it’s class war, and we should never forget it either.

8. Develop Hub struggles Some struggles will be more strategically and symbolically significant than others – for instance, the Miners’ Strike was a hub struggle for capitalist realism. We might not be able to identify in advance what these struggles are, but we must be ready to swarm in and intensify them when they do occur.

Summer is coming

The Lannisters won on Thursday, but their gold has already run out, and summer is coming. What we saw in the debates dominated by Nicola Sturgeon was not a mirage – it is a rising tide, an international movement, a movement of history, which has not yet reached an England sandbagged in misery and mediocrity. Comrades, I hope (ha!) for the sake of your mental health and your blood pressures that you didn’t see the right wing tabloids over the weekend (tw for class hatred): middle England crowing over its “humiliation” of “Red” Ed. Well if they think Ed was Red, wait until they see the coming Red Swarm. Outer England has been sedated, but it is waking from its long slumber, carrying new weapons …."

[via: http://stml.tumblr.com/post/118858720560/contemporary-english-popular-culture-with-its ]
uk  politics  2015  1992  care  activism  labor  government  money  capitalism  communism  resistance  conviviality  affection  time  timepoverty  work  neoliberalism  collectivism  popculture  media  power  humanity  humanism  socialization  social  society  k-punk  commercialism  automation  malaise  blogs  socialmedia  behavior  behavio  subjectivity  filterbibbles  markfisher 
may 2015 by robertogreco
7 billion Others
"In 2003, after The Earth seen from the Sky, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, with Sybille d’Orgeval and Baptiste Rouget-Luchaire, launched the 7 billion Others project. 6,000 interviews were filmed in 84 countries by about twenty directors who went in search of the Others. From a Brazilian fisherman to a Chinese shopkeeper, from a German performer to an Afghan farmer, all answered the same questions about their fears, dreams, ordeals, hopes: What have you learnt from your parents? What do you want to pass on to your children? What difficult circumstances have you been through? What does love mean to you?

Forty-five questions that help us to find out what separates and what unites us. These portraits of humanity today are accessible on this website. The heart of the project, which is to show everything that unites us, links us and differentiates us, is found in the films which include the topics discussed during these thousands of hours of interviews.

These testimonies are also presented during exhibitions in France and around the world (Belgium, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Russia ...), and on other media such as book, DVD or on TV."

[Saw this at MOPA: http://www.mopa.org/7billionOthers

"A ground breaking, multimedia exhibition, 7 billion Others brings voices and compelling video portraits from more than 6,000 individual interviews filmed in 84 countries by nearly 20 directors. For its premiere in the United States, the 30-week presentation will allow visitors to identify what separates and unites us by giving direct access to individuals as diverse as a Brazilian fisherman, a Chinese shopkeeper, a German performer and an Afghan farmer. These interviews touch on our most visceral emotions and pose many thought-provoking questions and answers that speak to the human condition." ]
yannarthus-bertrand  interviews  international  global  humans  humanity  sybilled’orgeval  baptisterouget-luchaire  video  film  documentary  installation 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Eduardo Galeano: 'My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia' | Books | The Guardian
"Most mornings it's the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before. "Mine are always stupid," says Galeano. "Usually I don't remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams."

One night she dreamt they were at an airport where all the passengers were carrying the pillows they had slept on the night before. Before they could board officials would run their pillows into a machine that would extract the dreams from the night before and make sure there was nothing subversive in them. When she told him he was embarrassed about the banality of his own. "It's shaming, really."

There is not much magical about Galeano's realism. But there is nothing shaming in it either. This septuagenarian journalist turned author has become the poet laureate of the anti-globalisation movement by adding a laconic, poetic voice to non-fiction. When the late Hugo Chávez pressed a copy of Galeano's 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent into the hands of Barack Obama before the world's press in 2009, it leapt from 54,295th on Amazon's rankings to second in just a day. When Galeano's impending journey to Chicago was announced at a reading in March by Arundhati Roy, the crowd cheered. When Galeano came in May it was sold out, as was most of his tour.

"There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently. "I don't agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world."

Those realities appear bleak. "This world is not democratic at all," he says. "The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture."

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano's work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy. While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations. "These were young people who believed in what they were doing," he said. "It's not easy to find that in political fields. I'm really grateful for them."

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. "Don't worry," Galeano replied. "It's like making love. It's infinite while it's alive. It doesn't matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year."

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles, exactly, but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil. When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: "It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic." I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor. Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon. He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. "History never really says goodbye," he says. "History says, see you later."

He is anything but simplistic. A strident critic of Obama's foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama's election with few illusions. "I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism." He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people's blood be used for transfusions for whites. "In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama's victory was worth celebrating."

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities. What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply. "In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela's name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years." He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: "In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America."

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama's receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are "times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified." Galeano writes: "Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as 'not only necessary but morally justified'."

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit. His desire, he says, is to refurbish what he calls the "human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky," he insists. "But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people."

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory. "My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated."

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US's founding fathers to free his slaves. "For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion."

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? "It's not a person," he explains. "It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.""
eduardogaleano  garyyounge  2013  memory  amnesia  latinamerica  history  dreams  globalization  journalism  writing  literature  realism  reality  despair  melancholy  activism  revolution  resistance  protest  pessimism  optimism  economics  foreignpolicy  us  uruguay  racism  politics  military  war  peace  context  present  past  nelsonmandela  terrorism  christophercolombus  humanism  humanity  compassion  machismo  collectivememory  small  canon  collectiveamnesia  robertcarteriii  forgetfulness  power  beauty 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Spreadsheets of power: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate | The Monthly
[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/587013934143574016 ]

"Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

“We want you to put a dollar value on the life of a dead mother,” said the lawyer. “We are suing a doctor for medical negligence, and the insurance company wants to value her life at zero because she wasn’t working. She had no future earning potential. Can you estimate the value of the housework she would have performed?”

I still feel sad when I think about it: for the family, for myself, and for a society in which asking such a question is not only acceptable but also necessary. The dilemma for the widower and the lawyer, and for me, was that if someone didn’t put a dollar value on the love and care that a mother gives her children, the father would wind up with even less money to care for the kids he would be bringing up by himself.

Of course, economists have no real way to value love and affection, so I valued ironing, laundry and child care instead. I got my hands on data about how mothers with three kids use their time. I found data on the price of buying individual household services like ironing, and the price of live-in maids and nannies. I forecast the age at which the kids would leave home. My forecast was based on a meaningless average of kids who do go to uni and kids who don’t. My spreadsheets were huge, complex, scrupulously referenced and entirely meaningless. Like all good forecasters I estimated the “value” of her life to the cent, and as happens in all good negotiations, the lawyers ultimately settled for a nice round number. The only good thing about the number was that it was bigger than zero.

The topsy-turvy “morality” of economics is built in to models that politicians, lawyers, economists and lobby groups use to persuade the public, in all parts of public life: models that say, for instance, that we can’t afford a price on carbon; that life-saving medicine for some people is “too expensive”; or that the loss of an entire species is justifiable if woodchip prices remain above $100 per tonne.

Everyone who uses economic models to excuse the inexcusable wants you to believe that the models are boring. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention.

***

Many economists have calculated that it will be cheaper for the world to endure climate change than to prevent it. The models they use to draw this bizarre conclusion are built on thousands of assumptions about everything from the value of human life to the willingness of consumers to buy smaller cars if petrol becomes more expensive. If any one of those assumptions is wrong, the answer will be wrong. If hundreds of the assumptions are out, the answer becomes meaningless. (Some economists then argue that if hundreds of the assumptions are wrong then the errors might cancel each other out. Seriously.)

Imagine you were asked to model the costs of dangerous climate change. Imagine you were in possession of the likely number of people who will die as a result of storms, floods and droughts. Imagine you knew what countries they would die in, and how many years into the future. Would you value all of their lives equally? Would you assume that a Bangladeshi and an American life were “worth” the same? Would you think that the death of a child in 20 years’ time was worth as much as the death of a child in 50 years’ time?

In our democracy, these ethical questions are usually answered by economists, to two decimal places.

Most economic modellers do not assume that all human lives are equal. Bjorn Lomborg, for example, one of the world’s most famous climate sceptics, uses modelling that assumes the lives of people in developing countries are worth a lot less than the lives of Australians or Americans. While the US Declaration of Independence may declare that all men are created equal, most economic models assume that all men (and women) are worth a figure based on the GDP per capita of their country.

Late last year, Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.

When we met, Lomborg proceeded to explain how his team of economists at the Copenhagen Consensus Center had decided that a number of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals weren’t worth pursuing. His tool of choice for defending such a position? Economic modelling.



You probably didn’t know economists had an assumption about humanity’s primary goal, did you? No wonder developing countries think that the developed countries don’t really care about their suffering as much as our inconvenience. We don’t.

Assumptions such as those made by Summers sit at the heart of the economic models that are regularly used to oppose carbon taxes, support free trade agreements and prevent the introduction of environmental regulations or more generous welfare safety nets.

Much of the power of economists is based on the public’s (understandable) lack of desire to read reports written in algebra. That’s why we like to use algebra.



In 2011, Denmark’s general election saw its centre-right government tossed out of power, to be replaced by a minority centre-left coalition led by the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center was one of the first casualties of the change of government. When it was announced that its more than $1 million in funding would be cut, Lomborg visited the new prime minister, urging her to reconsider the government’s decision. “I’d love to show you how the Copenhagen Consensus is a good idea,” he was reported as telling her.

“I think that probably might be right, Bjorn,” she reportedly responded to the sceptical environmentalist. “But I will just get so much more mileage out of criticising you.”

Costs and benefits can be calculated any number of ways, and the modeller’s assumptions are crucial to the end result. Lomborg had confidently assumed that the Danish taxpayer would continue to fund his work. His cost–benefit analyses had found that more effort should be put into free trade and less money spent on tackling poverty and climate change. But, as with all such efforts, garbage in, garbage out.

There is a role for economists, and economic modelling, in public debate. Its role should not be to limit the menu of democratic choices. Instead it should be to help explain the trade-offs.

Good modellers aren’t afraid of explaining their assumptions. The clients who pay best, however, don’t want the best modellers. They want people who can write a fat report to slam on the fucking table."
economics  power  democracy  control  2015  economists  ideology  modeling  morality  politics  policy  lobbyists  persuasion  climatechange  justification  capitalism  larrysummers  worldbank  welfare  humanism  humanity  ethics  neoliberalism  richarddenniss  bjornlomborg  copenhagenconsensuscenter  riotinton  consensus  petercostello  joehockey  australia  inequality  poverty  representation  environment  pollution 
april 2015 by robertogreco
454 W 23rd St New York, NY 10011—2157
"Anonymous asked: do you want to be famous?

In 1928 the architect Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to design a pavilion representing Weimar Germany at the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona. The building ended up becoming justly famous as the most eloquent definition of what was later gathered into Modernism. This definition would be something like, ‘Not only doing way more with way less, but becoming so good at it that you could thread a way out of the bewilderment and perversity which gnaw at modern lives of otherwise unparalleled bounty and convenience.’

The pavillion was designed to be doorless and mostly made of glass. In almost every way a building could be optimistic for the century it wanted to predict, this one was. The evidence for class oppression that great houses bear, like backstairs and basement kitchens are gone. Blank walls on which evidence of wealth could be displayed have been replaced by windows. Reality is the thing that transparent walls force your attention to confront. The pavillion even does away with the convention of a ‘front’ or a ‘back.’ Without a face on which to project how we want to be seen, duplicity becomes more difficult than simply being honest. The building hopes that without anything to hide behind, the very ideas of secrecy and guile will become too cumbersome to survive.

But in the very temple of delight. There was one place in the pavillion that showed a terrible shadow on the 20th century. Beyond the main room there was a reflecting pool. In the middle of the pool stood a statue of a nude woman. This choice to place a statue at a remove from anyone who would look at it is as elegant a definition as anything else in the building, but what is being defined is hideous. The fact that a statue has been taken out of the round and put in a position that allows only one point of view is an example of something our era has done on an industrial scale—the reduction of volumes to images. A statue by definition fills a volume, but limiting our perspective makes it flat. An image.

The act of reducing the freedom to see from whichever perspective suits you, down to only one, is as old as the allegory of the cave, where statues were reduced to their shadows. But the pavillion predicts that this process will come to dominate everything the statue represents: Art, diversion, beauty, and eventually, people themselves. All of us will buy, favor, love and appreciate from across an impassable distance. We will be segregated from everything we admire and from everything we want, because images are all we are presented with and flatness cannot be embraced.

Over and above every other example of this process is fame. If we are tricked by advertising into buying a phantom, wanting to be famous is wanting to become the phantom. It’s a desire that mistakes isolation for rarity, loneliness for exceptionality, and distance for height. The popular desire for fame is the crowning achievement of a hundred year campaign to iron out any aspect of being alive that calls for a complex and irreducible expression of humanity.

So no."
2012  via:robinsloan  game  humanity  complexity  freedom  reality  advertising  miesvanderrohe  modernism  duplicity  honesty  images  imagery  perspective  pointofview  power  control  flatness  art  diversion  beauty  distance  phantoms 
february 2015 by robertogreco
A “Twilight Zone” for the Digital Age
"But, in even the most perverse installments, there’s a delicacy, a humane concern at how easily our private desires can be mined in the pursuit of profit. The worlds can be cartoonish, but the characters are not."



"The story is ugly and hilarious and beautifully paced, but, like all of “Black Mirror,” it works because it’s not cynical about emotion. The Prime Minister’s abject terror is the story’s engine, along with the impact on his wife, who obsessively reads the YouTube comments. “Everyone is laughing at us,” she tells him. “It’s already happening in their heads.” Cunningly, the camera returns, repeatedly, to shots of viewers watching the news: a couple in bed, interns in a hospital, employees at a pub. They grimace and make smutty cracks; they talk pretentiously about Dogme 95. They’re sad and angry, but of course they’re also titillated—who wouldn’t be? None of this is purely realistic, but it pinpoints something repellent about our appetites, the way that even the photographs from Abu Ghraib became, within weeks, a dirty joke. In the final scenes, Brooker makes an uncompromising move: rather than play coy about the outcome, he forces us to be the audience. In an excruciating sequence, we watch the Prime Minister enter a room with a pig, lower his pants, and begin the act, and then we watch as Britain watches, the camera lingering on a diversity of faces, their varied expressions crumpling into united despair. Subtlety would have been the wrong approach for this type of story. In an era of ironized jabs, there’s something refreshing about a creator who’s willing to underline his point in furious black marker."
blackmirror  emilynussbaum  2015  monetization  capitalism  profit  storytelling  humanism  humanity  society 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Sarah Churchwell: why the humanities matter | Opinion | Times Higher Education
"The renowned scientist E. O. Wilson recently described the humanities as “the natural history of culture, and our most private and precious heritage”. The humanities are the study of what makes us human, of what it means to be human. As they penetrate every aspect of existence, they can, and should, intersect with the natural and social sciences, but literature, history, art, music, languages, theatre, film – and yes, television and computer games – are the stories and ideas through which we express our humanity.

We understand ourselves and our world through the telling of stories. Visual dramas teach us sympathy, empathy, pity, encouraging us to break out of our solipsistic shells. They explore ethical issues, ask challenging questions, inform the way we view each other. Today we live in a culture more defined by images and stories than ever before. Given this, it is vital that we approach the media, advertising and marketing discourses that influence and often manipulate us with critical thinking. We need improved communication skills; no one is born with them, and just chatting with your family and friends does not teach the precision of language needed to negotiate and reframe our complicated world. In a global age, we need to understand other societies. Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that different phrases can prompt new perspectives and open our eyes to cultural values; studying foreign languages also improves mastery of our own. This rule holds by analogy more generally: when we learn about other people, we also learn about ourselves.

The politicians and corporations telling us that the humanities do not matter are, by no coincidence, the same people who think of us only as workers and consumers, not as citizens or individuals, and who strip away our human rights, one by one. It is the wealthy who insist that we should seek only to work: we don’t need the humanities, they tell us, all we need is to labour in a marketplace that will enrich them, not us.

If we agree that the humanities do not matter, or fail to challenge this assessment, we are colluding in the very practices that reduce our humanity, that impinge upon all the other ways in which we can enrich our lives, our abilities to express our creative individuality. Until we reconsider what it means to lead a truly satisfying life, what the ancient Greeks considered the “good life” – who are by no coincidence the people who invented the study of the humanities – we should not be surprised if we have the politicians and plutocrats we deserve. Why should any politician seek to challenge the source of his (rarely her) power?

The humanities conserve and safeguard those aspects of our being that intersect with the meanings of human existence beyond industry. A certain playwright was said to love humanity as a concept but to have less time for human beings. The same can be said of our so-called leaders, whose lofty rhetoric in support of humanity is belied by their contempt for the study of the humanities. That said, as the historian James Truslow Adams wrote some years ago, it is absurd to think that the powerful will abandon their power “to become spiritual leaders of a democracy that despises spiritual things”.

There is a story that may be apocryphal but is illustrative. Supposedly, Richard Dawkins was once visiting an art gallery in Florence, and as he left was heard to ask, “But what’s all this art for?” Regardless of whether Dawkins actually said it, this question articulates a widely held view among the instrumentalists and technocrats who decide our society’s priorities. Last year it was revealed that scientific studies had “proven” that reading made people more empathetic. At last, some book lovers cried, what we always knew has been proven: book lovers are better people! Anyone who has spent time in a literature department might challenge this jolly notion, but I agree with the critic Lee Siegel, who responded by defending his right to love books regardless of whether they “improved” him. Let me answer the question: what’s all this art for? It’s for us.

When we stopped being citizens and began to think of ourselves – or rather, each other – only as consumers, we relinquished thousands of years of human development. How can we sustain our civilisation if we don’t understand how it works? How can we interpret Magna Carta and defend our rights if no one reads Latin? How will we protect our own laws? How can we hope for transcendence in a secular age if we give up on beauty? Even in instrumentalist terms, the humanities represent 5,000 years of free research and development in what it means to be human. I think we should make use of that.

The humanities are where we locate our own lives, our own meanings; they embrace thinking, curiosity, creation, psychology, emotion. The humanities teach us not only what art is for, but what life might be for, what this strange existence might mean. What kind of humans would think that the humanities don’t matter? We need the advanced study of humanities so that we might, some day, become advanced humans."
humanities  2014  sarahchurchwell  eowilson  humanity  culture  literature  art  history  language  languages  stories  storytelling  theater  film  music  socialsciences  videogames  tv  television  humans  capitalism  policy  politics  markets  richarddawkins  technocracy  technocrats  instrumentalists  leesiegel  secularism  thinking  criticalthinking  thewhy  why  existence  existentialism  purpose 
december 2014 by robertogreco
xkcd: Where Do Birds Go
""Where do birds go when it rains?" is my new favorite Google search. It gives the answer, but also shows you an endless torrent of other people asking the same question. Pages and pages of them across regions and cultures. I love the idea that somehow this is the universal question, the thing that unites us. When it rains, we wonder where the birds go. And hope they're staying dry."
birds  xkcd  beauty  humanity  humanism  2014  twitter  search  online  internet  wonder  wondering  posthumanism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Ello | dymaxion - Creatures of the Network
"In the interests of thinking in public, this is the talk I submitted yesterday to CCC (well, the interesting one -- there's also one on threat modeling for organizations, which should be a good, functional talk, but it's pushing few intellectual boundaries for me). I'm not sure if I know how to give it yet, but I think I can get there between now and then, which is exactly where I want to be:

Creatures of the Network

Our tools change us in fundamental ways. When we learned to cook food, our brains grew in size and made us the humans we are now. As we organized into more complex social groups and now as we've built tools that can act on our behalf, we have been and will continue to be changed by these tools. In the meantime, we live in a world that we haven't completely caught up with. There are four big fractures between our bodies and our lives right now: trust, agency, tempo, and scale.

Each one of these fractures causes a host of problems, touching everything from security failure modes in our global network to the damage venture capital is doing to the future of humanity. Solving these problems means building prostheses for our brains while we wait for our bodies to catch up. In this talk, I'll share some of the prostheses we've found.

We are at a juncture in the story of humanity. The decisions we make and the systems we build in the next twenty years will determine not just whether we live free from the boot of repressive dictatorships, but whether we live at all. The way out lies through hope, empathy, and learning to think like our systems -- through becoming creatures of the network."
eleanorsaitta  future  futures  humanity  2014  tools  society  systems  systemsthinking  systemsbuilding  networks  learning  empathy  hope  agency  trust  tempo  scale 
september 2014 by robertogreco
In Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem | e-flux
"HUO: You have written a lot on life, not survival. What is the difference?

RV: Survival is budgeted life. The system of exploitation of nature and man, starting in the Middle Neolithic with intensive farming, caused an involution in which creativity—a quality specific to humans—was supplanted by work, by the production of a covetous power. Creative life, as had begun to unfold during the Paleolithic, declined and gave way to a brutish struggle for subsistence. From then on, predation, which defines animal behavior, became the generator of all economic mechanisms.

HUO: Today, more than forty years after May ‘68, how do you feel life and society have evolved?

RV: We are witnessing the collapse of financial capitalism. This was easily predictable. Even among economists, where one finds even more idiots than in the political sphere, a number had been sounding the alarm for a decade or so. Our situation is paradoxical: never in Europe have the forces of repression been so weakened, yet never have the exploited masses been so passive. Still, insurrectional consciousness always sleeps with one eye open. The arrogance, incompetence, and powerlessness of the governing classes will eventually rouse it from its slumber, as will the progression in hearts and minds of what was most radical about May 1968."



"RV: The moralization of profit is an illusion and a fraud. There must be a decisive break with an economic system that has consistently spread ruin and destruction while pretending, amidst constant destitution, to deliver a most hypothetical well-being. Human relations must supersede and cancel out commercial relations. Civil disobedience means disregarding the decisions of a government that embezzles from its citizens to support the embezzlements of financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to the bankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug the sinkhole of corruption, when we could allocate them instead to the self-management of free power networks in every local community? The direct democracy of self-managed councils has every right to ignore the decrees of corrupt parliamentary democracy. Civil disobedience towards a state that is plundering us is a right. It is up to us to capitalize on this epochal shift to create communities where desire for life overwhelms the tyranny of money and power. We need concern ourselves neither with government debt, which covers up a massive defrauding of the public interest, nor with that contrivance of profit they call “growth.” From now on, the aim of local communities should be to produce for themselves and by themselves all goods of social value, meeting the needs of all—authentic needs, that is, not needs prefabricated by consumerist propaganda."



"RV: The crisis of the ‘30s was an economic crisis. What we are facing today is an implosion of the economy as a management system. It is the collapse of market civilization and the emergence of human civilization. The current turmoil signals a deep shift: the reference points of the old patriarchal world are vanishing. Percolating instead, still just barely and confusedly, are the early markers of a lifestyle that is genuinely human, an alliance with nature that puts an end to its exploitation, rape, and plundering. The worst would be the unawareness of life, the absence of sentient intelligence, violence without conscience. Nothing is more profitable to the racketeering mafias than chaos, despair, suicidal rebellion, and the nihilism that is spread by mercenary greed, in which money, even devalued in a panic, remains the only value."



"HUO: My interviews often focus on the connections between art and architecture/urbanism, or literature and architecture/urbanism. Could you tell me about the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism?

RV: That was an idea more than a project. It was about the urgency of rebuilding our social fabric, so damaged by the stranglehold of the market. Such a rebuilding effort goes hand in hand with the rebuilding by individuals of their own daily existence. That is what psychogeography is really about: a passionate and critical deciphering of what in our environment needs to be destroyed, subjected to détournement, rebuilt.

HUO: In your view there is no such thing as urbanism?

RV: Urbanism is the ideological gridding and control of individuals and society by an economic system that exploits man and Earth and transforms life into a commodity. The danger in the self-built housing movement that is growing today would be to pay more attention to saving money than to the poetry of a new style of life.

HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You call Oarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?

RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future."



"HUO: Will museums be abolished? Could you discuss the amphitheater of memory? A protestation against oblivion?

RV: The museum suffers from being a closed space in which works waste away. Painting, sculpture, music belong to the street, like the façades that contemplate us and come back to life when we greet them. Like life and love, learning is a continuous flow that enjoys the privilege of irrigating and fertilizing our sentient intelligence. Nothing is more contagious than creation. But the past also carries with it all the dross of our inhumanity. What should we do with it? A museum of horrors, of the barbarism of the past? I attempted to answer the question of the “duty of memory” in Ni pardon, ni talion [Neither Forgiveness Nor Retribution]"

[long quote]

HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?

RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.

HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?

RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.

HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).

RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of."
raoulvaneigem  art  politics  economics  life  living  situationist  humans  consumerism  learning  education  unschooling  deschooling  curiosity  power  anarchism  anarchy  totalitarianism  creativity  johncage  détournement  psychogeography  models  derive  servitude  love  oarystis  humanity  everyday  boredom  productivity  efficiency  time  temporality  money  desire  chaos  solidarity  networks  guydebord  freedom  freeness  museums  culture  hansulrichobrist  2009  nomadiclearning  lcproject  openstudioproject  work  labor  artleisure  leisure  leisurearts  artwork  profiteering  explodingschool  cityasclassroom  flow  universallearning  cedricprice  thinkbelts  dérive  shrequest1 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Have you ever come across a description of someone and thought, "If I could do ANY thing, be ANY way, this is it"? - what what
"EB White, writer of what are almost certainly the best pig stories ever put to paper*, was once described as exemplifying “eloquence without affectation, profundity without pomposity, and wit without frivolity or hostility” - as well as “creative, humane and graceful.”

I don’t know that it gets any better than this.

* Death of a Pig (1948) and Charlotte’s Web (1952)"
ebwhite  writing  pigs  affectation  eloquence  profundity  pomposity  wit  frivolity  hostility  grace  humanity  creativity  aspiration  annegalloway  2013 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The Wapping Project: our obsession with house prices will turn our cities into cultural deserts | Society | The Observer
"It is impossible to legislate for all possible outbreaks of human obnoxiousness. Nonetheless, a useful job for the mayor of London, and the leaders of other cities, would be to see if laws can be framed that in urban areas shift the balance of rights away from rare individual complainants to institutions that serve the common good. Even better, but probably legally impossible, would be a law preventing people from objecting, except in extreme cases, to any business that was there before them.

But the real problem is more fundamental, which is that we live in a country besotted with residential property and its price. It is the main instrument for reviving the economy. It is the only commodity where inflation is seen as a good thing – when prices level or fall, which is probably a healthy market correction, it is seen as a crisis, to be fixed with emergency measures. Every aspect of life – social, cultural, personal, political, economic – is coloured. The role of housing bubbles in the 2008 crisis has changed nothing.

There is nothing inevitable about this, it's the result of the policy of successive governments, going back to Margaret Thatcher's first speech as Conservative party leader, when she declared her faith in a property-owning democracy. In Wapping and elsewhere, it is no longer democracy but tyranny, or oligarchy – rule by the few. It is time for a new definition of freedom, not of owners, but of a city-dwelling democracy."
cities  housing  london  noise  property  ownership  2013  humanity  economics  capitalism  democracy  urbanism  urban  rownmoore 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Messages The City Wants Us To Hear – The New Inquiry
"Some excerpts from Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s Speedology (2002)

1. The Fastest Way to Adventure is to Stand Still

Boredom is an illusion. Boredom is the continuous state of not noticing that the unexpected is constantly arriving while the anticipated is never showing up. Boredom is anti-cruise propaganda.

2. The City as Autobiography

We are not visitors, tourists, nor inhabitants of New York City; we are New York City. The city is our moving self-portrait and a living art installation carved out on an island of rock, even the cracks of the sidewalk are crying out on the topic of our lives. The city is a profound opportunity to understand ourselves.

3. This is No Time for Historical Accuracy

Nothing I say can possibly be defended. I am not interested in being right or wrong; my priority is to be joyous.

As a tour guide, I approach history the same way Charlie Parker would approach a jazz standard. I am not here to recapitulate the notes exactly as they were composed but to find myself within the notes and collaborate with what has been before me to chase after everything I could ever be. My study of history is mostly an attempt to impress women.

4. Fear is Joy Paralyzed

Society— the greatest self-hatred the earth has ever witnessed— is a mediocre improv comedy piece we’re all living despite ourselves, one that would be impossible without fear effectively taking on ingenious disguises throughout the adventure of each and every day […] We do not have agendas, agendas have us.

5. Gregariousness is Great

New York City is a summoning of souls and a tribal ceremony of collected ancient agonies and conflicts brought to a new landscape for healing. A New Yorker is someone who runs wild with healing.

6. The Soul is the Only Landmark

Salvation is seeing everything as it already is.

7. Being Alive is Sexy

The world is an involuntary orgy.

8. What is Created is Destroyed

Many decry the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, the great beaux arts railroad terminal that was knocked down and replaced by the fourth Madison Square Garden. They ask, “If the city is a great teacher, why would it destroy a great building and put a lousy one in its place?” the answer: Pennsylvania station was too beautiful. The anecdote may be a catastrophe from a preservationist’s point of view, but it is a masterpiece from a dramatist’s. It’s just the way Tennessee Williams would have written it. Many will then ask, “Why is the city issuing forth these dramas?” The answer: the city wants to entertain us.

9. The Most Significant Thing About Suffering is That We’re All Doing It

[…]

10. Our True Selves Are the Greatest Parties Ever Thrown

You are a better party than you have ever been to. […] To live in a city is to realize that life is a procession of different versions of ourselves that we meet over time. Evolving is the meeting between who you were and who you just became.

11. Having Faith in Humanity is Supposed to be Fun

Fun is active faith. Faith is the celebration of “I don’t know.” The city is a bravely unfolding movie entertaining us so effectively we are hypnotized by it. The movie is a comedy about mammals in a movie taking the movie seriously and deciding it is a tragedy.

12. I Am Not Getting Laid

I want to make it clear, from the beginning, that I am not currently getting laid as I write this and this fact colors everything I say. It’s the one statement that makes perfect sense of Nietzsche’s work.

Bennett Miller’s 1998 documentary, The Cruise is one of the greatest films ever made about New York City."
boredom  cities  nyc  history  accuracy  fear  joy  society  life  living  2010  timothylevitch  speedology  2002  suffering  humanity  faith  nietzsche  bennettmiller  destruction  creativity 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Let's Stop Focusing on Shiny Gadgets and Start Using Tech to Empower People | Wired Opinion | Wired.com
"Even though Red Burns was one of the most influential figures in the tech industry over the past 30 years — most famous for co-founding the groundbreaking Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU, and in a sense, the beginnings of interaction design — it’s not uncommon for technophiles to have never heard her name. Two weeks ago, she passed away. But much more needs to be said about one of the smartest, gutsiest women I ever knew, and about what she thought about education, technology, design … and life.

Red wasn’t particularly interested in IPOs or the latest tech fetish, even though she was always exceptionally proud of her students and their accomplishments. She knew that technology was a means to an end — and that the end was people.

In that simple reframing from technology to empowerment of people, I believe there’s something everyone one of us — whether designer, programmer, entrepreneur, investor, teacher, student, parent, or child — can learn from Red. Especially in a world where we tend to focus on teaching kids to code, debating the flatness of the latest iOS, or discussing the newest and shiniest device still searching for a meaningful application.



But Red wasn’t that interested in technology per se; she saw it as something you needed to get to the real work: improving people’s lives, making them feel more connected, bringing delight in big and small ways, and empowering them to affect change.

When Red co-founded ITP in 1971, most people were aspiring to get to color TV, but she was dreaming of ways to turn the media ecosystem upside down. Among her many projects was two-way television for and by senior citizens — one of the first Teletext field trials in the United States. She was passionate about turning “consumers” into creators, and her work and philosophies foretold of some of the most successful products of the digital age: YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

“I’m not going to teach you any software programs. Software changes. Technology changes. You are here to learn how to learn.” Those are the first words I recall hearing from Red in my very first class at ITP.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Red created ITP inside NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts rather than the computer science department; she wanted the program to be filled with dreamers, inventors, artists, and change-makers. She questioned the status quo and continued to do so as an educator and industry provocateur.

Today, the program Red co-founded represents the most innovative higher ed laboratory for what design, technology, and art can do when brought together in new and inventive ways. When I attended ITP in the mid 1990s — on the eve of the explosion of the commercial web and the birth of New York’s Silicon Alley tech scene — my class was filled with an unlikely cohort.

Many students, including myself, had little experience with technology. There were teachers, artists, filmmakers, policy experts, lawyers, musicians, and even a sword swallower from the Coney Island sideshow. Red relished finding people from every corner of the globe, and from every background and walk of life you could imagine.

This deep, abiding belief in the importance of diversity in the collaborative process is one of the many values I inherited from Red. When it came to finding students for that next class at ITP, she was less interested in the answers people brought to the table; instead it was all about the questions.

Red could have filled her classes with cookie-cutter 4.0 students with pedigrees from the elite undergraduate institutions of the world, and to be clear, there were some of those. She was famous for saying it was harder to get into ITP than it was to get into medical school. But Red was much more interested in the level of curiosity and passion an individual brought to the ITP community, and she knew there were many different ways to be “smart”.

Imagine what would happen if more schools, companies, and organizations thought this way, and the new kinds of engagement, learning, and invention that might take place.

Red had a strong belief that important concepts were discovered through play. This is a common notion in modern preschool education, but certainly isn’t the norm inside most companies, where efficiency and the bottom line rule the day and new ideas suffocate before they get a chance to catch on. It’s perhaps even less of a norm within most university settings, where supporting professors’ work and bringing prestige to the educational institution itself is paramount, so students often get lost in the mix.

Just one walk down ITP’s halls during a spring or fall student show reveals that it’s like no other educational environment in the world. The shows are more than the average tech “demo days” that tend to attract hungry entrepreneurs, recruiters, and investors. They draw in people from every walk of life — toddlers and grandparents, businessmen and artists, dreamers and doers — and the projects represent a diversity of ideas that open the mind to new possibilities.

I sometimes describe ITP to those not familiar with it as “Kindergarten for grownups”, but also love another description I once heard: “Engineering for poets.” Both of those convey the wonderfully fuzzy space between art and technology where so many new and important ideas are born. In this way, Red and her educational philosophies developed both the right and left sides of the brain by teaching artists to code and engineers to empathize.

There is much to be learned from Red’s teaching philosophies — really, a way of thinking. Not just for programs looking to replicate the magic of ITP, but for companies and other organizations and individuals, too. There’s a certain shorthand of understanding that takes place whenever ITP alums encounter each other, as I have during my time working at Google and Facebook. We may not know exactly what background or hard skills each brings to the table, but we know we are likely dealing with an open, curious spirit; a great collaborator; and someone who is human-centered in the way he or she approaches problem solving."
redburns  technology  design  criticism  criticaldesign  margaretstewart  itp  2013  diversity  humanism  humanity  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  lifelongkindergarten  reggioemilia  poetry  accessibility  computersareforpeople 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Wendell E. Berry Lecture | National Endowment for the Humanities
[via: https://twitter.com/dirtystylus/status/384660397238026240 ]

"“Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth.
E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910)1"



"The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago, was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers. The American Tobacco Company was the work of James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City, who, disregarding any other consideration, followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.

My effort to make sense of this memory and its encompassing history has depended on a pair of terms used by my teacher, Wallace Stegner. He thought rightly that we Americans, by inclination at least, have been divided into two kinds: “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers, he said, are “those who pillage and run,” who want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,” whereas stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.”2 “Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope.

The boomer is motivated by greed, the desire for money, property, and therefore power. James B. Duke was a boomer, if we can extend the definition to include pillage in absentia. He went, or sent, wherever the getting was good, and he got as much as he could take.

Stickers on the contrary are motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it. Of my grandfather I need to say only that he shared in the virtues and the faults of his kind and time, one of his virtues being that he was a sticker. He belonged to a family who had come to Kentucky from Virginia, and who intended to go no farther. He was the third in his paternal line to live in the neighborhood of our little town of Port Royal, and he was the second to own the farm where he was born in 1864 and where he died in 1946."



"Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood, I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it. I am fairly literally flesh of its flesh. It is present in me, and to me, wherever I go. This undoubtedly accounts for my sense of shock when, on my first visit to Duke University, and by surprise, I came face-to-face with James B. Duke in his dignity, his glory perhaps, as the founder of that university. He stands imperially in bronze in front of a Methodist chapel aspiring to be a cathedral. He holds between two fingers of his left hand a bronze cigar. On one side of his pedestal is the legend: INDUSTRIALIST. On the other side is another single word: PHILANTHROPIST. The man thus commemorated seemed to me terrifyingly ignorant, even terrifyingly innocent, of the connection between his industry and his philanthropy. But I did know the connection. I felt it instantly and physically. The connection was my grandparents and thousands of others more or less like them. If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, then you may dispense the grand charity of “philanthropy.”

After my encounter with the statue, the story of my grandfather’s 1906 tobacco crop slowly took on a new dimension and clarity in my mind. I still remembered my grandfather as himself, of course, but I began to think of him also as a kind of man standing in thematic opposition to a man of an entirely different kind. And I could see finally that between these two kinds there was a failure of imagination that was ruinous, that belongs indelibly to our history, and that has continued, growing worse, into our own time."



"It may seem plausible to suppose that the head of the American Tobacco Company would have imagined at least that a dependable supply of raw material to his industry would depend upon a stable, reasonably thriving population of farmers and upon the continuing fertility of their farms. But he imagined no such thing. In this he was like apparently all agribusiness executives. They don’t imagine farms or farmers. They imagine perhaps nothing at all, their minds being filled to capacity by numbers leading to the bottom line. Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies. The selfishness of the fossil fuel industries by nature is self-annihilating; but so, always, has been the selfishness of the agribusiness corporations. Land, as Wes Jackson has said, has thus been made as exhaustible as oil or coal."



"In such modest joy in a modest holding is the promise of a stable, democratic society, a promise not to be found in “mobility”: our forlorn modern progress toward something indefinitely, and often unrealizably, better. A principled dissatisfaction with whatever one has promises nothing or worse.

James B. Duke would not necessarily have thought so far of the small growers as even to hold them in contempt. The Duke trust exerted an oppression that was purely economic, involving a mechanical indifference, the indifference of a grinder to what it grinds. It was not, that is to say, a political oppression. It did not intend to victimize its victims. It simply followed its single purpose of the highest possible profit, and ignored the “side effects.” Confronting that purpose, any small farmer is only one, and one lost, among a great multitude of others, whose work can be quickly transformed into a great multitude of dollars."



"Statistical knowledge once was rare. It was a property of the minds of great rulers, conquerors, and generals, people who succeeded or failed by the manipulation of large quantities that remained, to them, unimagined because unimaginable: merely accountable quantities of land, treasure, people, soldiers, and workers. This is the sort of knowledge we now call “data” or “facts” or “information.” Or we call it “objective knowledge,” supposedly untainted by personal attachment, but nonetheless available for industrial and commercial exploitation. By means of such knowledge a category assumes dominion over its parts or members. With the coming of industrialism, the great industrialists, like kings and conquerors, become exploiters of statistical knowledge. And finally virtually all of us, in order to participate and survive in their system, have had to agree to their substitution of statistical knowledge for personal knowledge. Virtually all of us now share with the most powerful industrialists their remoteness from actual experience of the actual world. Like them, we participate in an absentee economy, which makes us effectively absent even from our own dwelling places. Though most of us have little wealth and perhaps no power, we consumer–citizens are more like James B. Duke than we are like my grandfather. By economic proxies thoughtlessly given, by thoughtless consumption of goods ignorantly purchased, now we all are boomers."



"In this age so abstracted and bewildered by technological magnifications of power, people who stray beyond the limits of their mental competence typically find no guide except for the supposed authority of market price. “The market” thus assumes the standing of ultimate reality. But market value is an illusion, as is proven by its frequent changes; it is determined solely by the buyer’s ability and willingness to pay."



"By now all thoughtful people have begun to feel our eligibility to be instructed by ecological disaster and mortal need. But we endangered ourselves first of all by dismissing affection as an honorable and necessary motive. Our decision in the middle of the last century to reduce the farm population, eliminating the allegedly “inefficient” small farmers, was enabled by the discounting of affection. As a result, we now have barely enough farmers to keep the land in production, with the help of increasingly expensive industrial technology and at an increasing ecological and social cost. Far from the plain citizens and members of the land-community, as Aldo Leopold wished them to be, farmers are now too likely to be merely the land’s exploiters."



"In thinking about the importance of affection, and of its increasing importance in our present world, I have been guided most directly by E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End, published in 1910. By then, Forster was aware of the implications of “rural decay,”10 and in this novel he spoke, with some reason, of his fear that “the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town. . . . and those who care for the earth with sincerity may wait long ere the pendulum swings back to her again.”"



"“The light within,” I think, means affection, affection as motive and guide. Knowledge without affection leads us astray every time. Affection leads, by way of good work, to authentic hope. The factual knowledge, in which we seem more and more to be placing our trust, leads only to hope of the discovery, endlessly deferrable, of an ultimate fact or smallest particle that at last will explain everything."



"No doubt there always will be some people … [more]
wendellberry  capitalism  corporations  economy  imagination  stickers  boomers  2012  economics  land  place  memory  industrialists  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  culture  art  liberalarts  humanism  humanity  rural  farming  history  debt  affection  knowledge  materialism  howardsend  emforster  ruraldecay  agriculture  aldoleopold  environmentalism  environment  sustainability  destruction  destructiveness  local  scale  mobility  change  adaptability  adaptation  evolution  ecology  technology  machines  alberthoward  wesjackson  johnlukacs  growth  data  quantification  wealth  remoteness  jamesbduke  industialism  power  greed  consumerism  plannedobsolescence  nature  corporatism  allentate  property  ownership  effectiveownership  human  humans  limits  limitations  modesty  democracy  wallacestegner  via:markllobrera  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  babyboomers  control 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Anguish beyond whirrs | Wrong Dreams
"Written in response to an essay on the New Sincerity, this offhand comment on poetry blog htmlgiant seems to express a fundamental anxiety around what we consider to be authentic, sincere and true in a world where automated programmes are increasingly responsible for both writing and distributing text. This tweet captures a similar sentiment, one that resonates across online space:

[embedded image]

that mistakes are more human, less bot and conversely, that well-written, grammatically correct statements are more contrived and mediated, because they point to the intrusion of automated technology.

Put another way- only a human decides to leave something uncorrected. Word helpfully underlines your mistakes, Skype makes its own adjustments as you type and the iPhone’s hilariously potty-mouthed corrections are regularly shared on Damn You Auto Correct (presumably it picks up words like fuckweasel, butthole and jizz off its owners?)

Keeping the mistakes becomes, therefore, a gesture of asserting human agency, making visible an active choice on the part of a human author in defiance of the ‘correct’ version a bot is programmed to deliver. Or, in its imperfection a ‘badly spelled sext’ (or other message) conveys an urgency, immediacy and therefore sincerity; scribbled in a hurry and sent off before second thoughts/ regret sets in, it becomes a display of vulnerability, fallibility and ultimately humanity.

Badly spelt and punctuated writing also quietly rebels against the slick, well-considered and crafted copy employed by corporate entities, in their slogans, email bulletins and adverts. It communicates a willingness to relinquish image-management and show your ‘real’ self, letting your image slip in a way that no brand would- unless of course it was calculated to come across as more ‘authentic’ (coming to a billboard near you, Coke/ Nike/ Converse ads with crap spelling…just you wait).

What it amounts to is a suspicion that if it’s well written, some non-human agent was involved, which points to the either corporate or technological mediation.

Sincerity effects

As an artistic strategy, keeping the mistakes in has a similar ‘sincerity effect’, suggesting an intimacy and vulnerability that Tracey Emin and to a lesser, funnier extent Laure Provost and doubtless many others have (intentionally or not) made use of. AD Jameson argues (again on htmlgiant) that in Steve Roggenbuck’s work, “persistent typos signal that the work has been written quickly, spontaneously, and is therefore less revised” and “more earnest.” He shows how contemporary poets- many, like Steve Roeggenbuck and Tao Lin, associated with the New Sincerity- are experimenting with ways of writing that can “create the illusion of transparency, of direct communication”, pointing out the irony that they use devices, or methods- which are a kind of artifice- in order to seemingly go beyond artifice and set up a ‘direct’, unmediated connection between poet and reader.

Devices include emulating the meandering flow of a G-chat through broken, stilted conversation, time elisions and slack, no-caps grammar; or channeling the ‘20 open tabs’ mentality of online drift by absent-mindedly switching between ‘deep’ shit (life/ death/ whatever) and inconsequential observations about the colour of the sky:

[poem]

Another tactic is oscillating between different levels of intimacy, which reflects the juggling of simultaneous conversations with mothers, employers and lovers all on the same device; as Senthorun Raj points out in an piece about Grindr, users must calibrate their tone depending on whether they’re texting Mr Right or Mr Right Now, which requires demanding emotional labour."
writing  bots  ericscourti  human  humans  sincerity  vulnerability  2013  flaws  seams  spelling  social  newsincerity  grammar  errors  mistakes  autocorrect  fallibility  humanity  punctuation  mediation  authenticity  squishynotslick  copywriting 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Was America’s Economic Prosperity Just a Historical Accident?
"What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?"



“There are many ways in which you can interpret this economic model, but the most lasting—the reason, perhaps, for the public notoriety it has brought its author—has little to do with economics at all. It is the suggestion that we have not understood how lucky we have been. The whole of American cultural memory, the period since World War II, has taken place within the greatest expansion of opportunity in the history of human civilization. Perhaps it isn’t that our success is a product of the way we structured our society. The shape of our society may be far more conditional, a consequence of our success. Embedded in Gordon’s data is an inquiry into entitlement: How much do we owe, culturally and politically, to this singular experience of economic growth, and what will happen if it goes away?”



“TED’s audience is so primed for optimism about the future that Gordon… knew before he began that he’d [Gordon] lost the room.”



“Brynjolfsson let a long beat elapse. “Growth is not dead,” he said casually, and then he grinned a little bit, and the audience laughed, and the tension that had lingered after Gordon’s pessimism dissipated. Brynjolfsson had the aspirational TED inflection down cold: “Technology is not destiny,” he said. “We shape our destiny.””



"In 2007, Mexicans stopped emigrating to the United States. The change was not very big at first, and so for a few years it seemed like it might be a blip. But it wasn’t. In 2000, 770,000 Mexicans had come across the Rio Grande, but by 2007 less than 300,000 did, and by 2010, even though violence in Mexico seemed ceaseless, there were fewer than 150,000 migrants. Some think that more Mexicans are now leaving the United States than are coming to it. “We’re never going to get back to the numbers we had in the late nineties,” says Wayne Cornelius, a political scientist at UC–San Diego who has spent the past 40 years studying this cross-border movement. A small part of this story is the increase in border protection, but the dominant engine has been the economic shifts on both sides of the border—it has become easier for poor Mexicans to improve their quality of life in Mexico and harder to do so in the United States. Because migrants from a particular Mexican village often settle in the same American place, they provide a fast conduit of economic information back home: There are no jobs in construction or housing. Don’t come. The Pew Hispanic Center has traced the migration patterns to economic performance in real time: a spike of migration during 1999 and 2000, at the height of the boom; a brief downturn in border crossing after the 2001 stock-market crash followed by a plateau; then the dramatic emptying out after the housing industry gave way in 2006. We think of the desire to be American as a form of idealism, and sometimes it is. But it also has something to do with economic growth. We are a nation of immigrants to the extent that we can make immigrants rich."
cyborgs  economics  humanity  jobs  progress  sustainability  history  technosolutionism  benjaminwallace-wells  2013  robertgordon  ted  tedtalsk  optimism  pessimism  erikbrynjolfsson  labor  prosperity  wealthdistribution  industrialrevolution  capitalism  growth  demographics  immigration  migration  us  mexico  society  socialchange  upwardmobility  classmobility  future 
july 2013 by robertogreco
The Decline and Fall of the English Major - NYTimes.com
"They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.

That kind of writing — clear, direct, humane — and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language."



"A technical narrowness, the kind of specialization and theoretical emphasis you might find in a graduate course, has crept into the undergraduate curriculum. That narrowness sometimes reflects the tight focus of a professor’s research, but it can also reflect a persistent doubt about the humanistic enterprise. It often leaves undergraduates wondering, as I know from my conversations with them, just what they’ve been studying and why.

STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale.

There is a certain literal-mindedness in the recent shift away from the humanities. It suggests a number of things. One, the rush to make education pay off presupposes that only the most immediately applicable skills are worth acquiring (though that doesn’t explain the current popularity of political science). Two, the humanities often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter. And three, the humanities often do a bad job of teaching the humanities. You don’t have to choose only one of these explanations. All three apply.

What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.

Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. Whenever I teach older students, whether they’re undergraduates, graduate students or junior faculty, I find a vivid, pressing sense of how much they need the skill they didn’t acquire earlier in life. They don’t call that skill the humanities. They don’t call it literature. They call it writing — the ability to distribute their thinking in the kinds of sentences that have a merit, even a literary merit, of their own.

Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.

No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance."
writing  humanities  communication  literacy  specialization  literature  verlynklinkenborg  narrowness  highered  highereducation  learning  living  humanity  language 
june 2013 by robertogreco
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