robertogreco + india   185

From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues - The New York Times
"Pocketbook items have become the catalysts for popular fury across the globe in recent weeks."

"In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different economic or political demands.

Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy. “This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They want a change.”

Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.

On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in an interview published in The Financial Times.

The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades, eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr. Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”

In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.

Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of “Revolution!”

With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service. Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.

On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging to recover public trust.

Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic, scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades, societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition. In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure that street action is the only way to force change.

But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist.

In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30 percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called staggering.

These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when their demands go unmet. The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.

“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.

“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.

“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting,” he said.

The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce debts.

“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot of other structural issues.”

Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced former separatist leaders to prison.

While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a mistake to lump them together. “People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”

Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.

In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old sectarian or ideological divides.

Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in 2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.

“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible, if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had spent protesting in central Beirut. She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We don’t believe them anymore,” she said.

Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.

But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.

“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”

Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with water pipes, or hookahs. The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom. Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.

If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable. Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly.

Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.

And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived protests. But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray; divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public."
protest  protests  2019  chile  saudiarabia  lebanon  india  algeria  sudan  kazakhstan  czechrepublic  bolivia  spain  españa  iraq  russia  demonstrations  corruption  policy  economics  neoliberalism  inequality  poverty  stagnation  elitism  governance  government  revolution  qualityoflife  youth  ericchenoweth  valinasr  barcelona  santiago  middleeast  authoritarianism  precarity 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Miyawaki Method: A Better Way to Build Forests? | JSTOR Daily
"India’s forest production company is following the tenets of the master Japanese botanist, restoring biodiversity in resource-depleted communities."
forests  plants  india  japan  biodiversity  botany  multispecies  morethanhuman  miyawakimethod  akiramiyawaki  afforestation  timber 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Shipbreakers - YouTube
"This feature documentary profiles a bustling Indian shantytown where 40,000 people live and work in the most primitive conditions."
documentary  video  towatch  india  shipbreaking  nfb  nfbc 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Culture of Professional Colleges Failed Dr Payal Tadvi – Just as It Did Me
[via: https://twitter.com/achakrava/status/1135066908737204224

"I've heard this from Dalit friends in India, from first-generation/low-income/immigrant students and students of color in the US. As a college professor nothing infuriates me quite as much as this. Education is meant to be a path to emancipation not a space for reproducing power."]

"The conversations around Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide, on May 22, 2019, have been quite unsettling. That some have attributed it to work pressure or “cowardliness”, shows a lack of understanding about how caste works or how deeply pervasive it is. I can imagine what could have driven her to end her life – I experienced unapologetic casteism at university too.

I attended one of India’s elite law schools. In these spaces – unlike in medical and engineering colleges – casteism was subtle and intellectualised (perhaps because aspiring lawyers knew how to avoid a penalty under the Prevention of Atrocities Act). I could never really tell what made me feel different, lonely and marginalised.

I sensed that I didn’t think like them, share their fascination with the same cultural icons and activities, and did not behave in a manner deemed appropriate by them. All of which, I later understood through my readings, was shaped by one’s caste background.

In my first year, a faculty member proclaimed that she was Brahmin, and went on to ask other Brahmin students to raise their hands. The same lecturer asked us to make a project on our ancestors. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my ancestry, but I had to – it was to be marked for 20 marks.

The upper caste students didn’t see it as a big deal. For many of them, it was an opportunity to boast of the achievements of their forefathers and their rich ancestries, all somehow related to their social location. Some of us, who had no such histories to tell, felt ashamed when it was our turn.

The casteism of my peers was mostly implicit. Explicit references to caste were mostly stereotypical and prejudiced. Tambrams and Kayasths were the most intelligent, apparently, Rajputs valiant and emotional; Banias shrewd and money-minded, and so on. In groups dominated by savarnas, such remarks were often made, for each other in jest. It made me wonder how they’d refer to me if they knew who I was: a former untouchable.

When I tried to point out that such statements were inherently casteist, they defended themselves, saying they had a right to feel proud of their caste and that I should be proud of mine. Be proud of the fact that people from my caste were routinely humiliated, pushed into bonded labour, and beaten up when they tried to go to school? Okay.

A savarna friend once told me that I was uncultured because I was not trained in any classical dance or music. Another told me she would never forgive people who availed of SC/ST quotas because, if it weren’t for us, she would be in a better law school. Her tone made me feel like I had committed a heinous crime.

Some even rationalised the caste system as a result of genetic differences among the varnas, with Dalits and Adivasis as the most inferior. One boy used this as the reason he was in love with a certain Kshatriya girl, because she was apparently honourable and would give birth to strong children.

One boy didn’t hesitate to let the elevator shut on a boy from the Meena community, saying ”ye Meena log ke saath aise hi hona chahiye’‘. It was that normalised. If you called them out on it, they would brilliantly justify themselves, leaving us feeling like we were just over-reacting.

Classroom discussions on the jurisprudence of reservations were one-sided, usually concluding that reservations must wither away or be provided on economic grounds. The discussions were dominated by UC students; our voices silenced by their loud, assertive ones, confident in their ignorance of the larger social context.

These were all bright, well-meaning, caste-blind students who were extremely thick to the social realities outside of life as they knew it. My confidence and self-esteem were beaten to a pulp by everyday microaggressions. Eventually, it got to me and I succumbed into believing that I deserved to feel that way.

After all, my existence in that university was an anomaly, and I had taken up their space. The assault to my dignity was the price I had to pay for the privilege of studying at such an eminent institution.

Those experiences, coupled with rampant sexism, took a toll on my mental health. I tried to talk to the few people I thought I could, including my parents. But they couldn’t understand what I was going through. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and my world is very different from theirs.

My savarna seniors told me that I was victimising myself, and that law schools are extremely competitive spaces; I had to toughen up or be left behind. I didn’t know how to explain this to my doctor either. She told me I had “low self-esteem and an inferiority complex and that I should only think positively.”

I couldn’t, so I became a recluse. I took up less space, participated less and confined myself mostly to my room, escaping into books and art. I managed to get through five miserable years. I have had enough time since then to process and understand that ordeal.

When I look back now, what bothered me most was my inability to respond in a way that made me feel empowered. Instead, I protested weakly, with the savarnas beating me with their eloquence. I was already gaslighted into believing I was a waste of space in a meritorious institution. I had so deeply internalised their narrative that I couldn’t fight the it within my own self, let alone them.

It wasn’t until I read Ambedkar (conveniently excluded from the law school’s curriculum), Yashica Dutt’s Coming out as Dalit or Christina Thomas Dhanraj’s writings that I could develop the intellectual ammunition to fight the narrative – first with myself and then others.

My colleagues from the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities went through similar experiences. When we enter these privileged spaces, we are very vulnerable and develop various coping mechanisms. Some internalise the dominant campus culture, hiding our identities and trying to emulate them. Some become depressed, even self-destructive.

At my university, we refrained from forming a homogenous group, because some of them were not comfortable with being ‘that quota group’, as one friend put it. Many of us wanted to learn from our savarna peers, even if it meant putting up with their micro-aggressions and gritting our teeth through their thoughtless remarks.

Expecting savarnas to magically unlearn their casteism and make these spaces inclusive would be foolish. It is so central to their lives that they may genuinely not see it, the way fish may be unaware of water. Those of us who were never a part of it, can’t help but see it – we are reminded of it with every interaction.

That’s where our institutions have failed us. Professional institutions – medical, engineering or law – do not encourage any form of student politics. Their students have no safe spaces in which to confidently come to terms with their identities, and assert the same when someone threatens their dignity.

Greater student representation from these communities would also help make these spaces more inclusive. Another institutional-level solution would be to establish mandatory workshops on casteism and sexism every year, so that these spaces don’t churn out even more insensitive professionals, like the ones who killed Dr Payal Tadvi, Rohit Vehmula, Bal Mukund Bharati and others."
caste  education  highered  highereducation  india  2019  emancipation  hierarchy  bias  power  privilege 
june 2019 by robertogreco
These Five Cuisines Are Easier on the Planet - The New York Times
"Can I eat well without wrecking the planet? As a climate reporter and personal chef to a growing, ravenous child, I think about this question a lot. Is there a cuisine somewhere in the world that is healthy both for us and for the planet we live on? And if one exists, would we even want to eat it?

Turns out, there is no magic cuisine to save our species. There are, however, many ways to eat sustainably. They’re built into many traditional cuisines around the world, and we can learn from them.

In any case, we don’t have much choice. To avert the most severe effects of climate change, scientists say, we have to very quickly transform the way we eat. Food production accounts for somewhere between 21 and 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, depending on how you slice the data; food waste accounts for an additional 8 percent, considering that worldwide, we waste a third of the food we produce. Also, with climate change turbocharging droughts and storms, there are new risks to food security for the 800 million people worldwide who don’t have enough to eat.

Eating well doesn’t have to mean eating weirdly, or depriving ourselves, or even breaking the bank. Here are five simple ideas to guide you, whether you’re eating out or cooking at home."
sominisengupta  food  sustainability  venezuela  lebanon  kansas  indigenous  indigeneity  vietnam  vietnamese  india  globalwarming  climatechange 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever | The Walrus
"When adventurers crave “untouched” places and “authentic” peoples, it’s the locals who ultimately pay"



"For what is still missing from this scenario is consent. In its place is a sense of entitlement as extreme as it is commonplace."



"We want what we want when we go abroad, which often is the untouched, the authentic—even as our arrival, by definition, undermines those very qualities in a place or of a culture and contributes to the slow, involuntary conversion of one way of life into another."



"
Respectful pilgrimages rarely make the history books or headlines, which is all the more reason to pay them attention. Consider the 1971 “antiexpedition” of Norwegian eco-philosopher Arne Næss and his friends to Tseringma, also known as Gaurishankar, in Nepal, a then unsummitted 7,181-metre peak sacred to those living in its shadow. In a pointed critique of mountaineering’s culture of conquering, Næss’s team travelled light, consulted with a local lama as to how high on Tseringma they could respectfully go, and invited villagers along not as porters but as colleagues. A few years later, other foreigners would claim the first ascent of Tseringma, but forget them. Remember Næss and team, who climbed to a certain height, took a look at the summit from a distance, and turned back."
travel  observation  consent  authenticity  2019  kateharris  colonization  colonialism  adventure  untouched  imperialism  india  johnallenchau  pilgrimage  nepal  arnenæss  canon 
march 2019 by robertogreco
The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

I do believe that one aspect which characterizes education, development and the production and dissemination of knowledge, in today’s world, is the lack of intellectual honesty. This belief is an outcome of reflecting on my experience during my school and university years and my almost 40 years of work. The dishonesty is connected to the values, which govern the thinking and practice in the fields of education, knowledge and development (mirroring the values in dominant societies and serving mainly the lifestyle of consumerism): control, winning, profit, individualism and competition. Having a syllabus and textbooks, and evaluating and judging people (students, teachers, administrators, and academics) through linear forms of authority and through linear symbolic values (such as arbitrary letters or grades or preferential labels), almost guarantee cheating, lack of honesty, and lack of relevance. (The recent reports that cheating and testing are on the rise in the Maryland and Chicago areas are just one example that came up to the surface. And of course teachers, principles and superintendents were blamed and had to pay the price.) I taught many years and put exams both at the level of classrooms and at the national level, and I labored and spent a lot of time and effort in order to be fair. But, then, I discovered that the problem is not in the intentions or the way we conduct things but, rather, in the values that run societies in general and which are propagated by education, development and knowledge -- among other venues. Thus, the main trouble with knowledge and education, is not so much their irrelevance or process of selection or the issue of power (though these are definitely part of the trouble) as it is with the lack of intellectual honesty in these areas. Giving a number or a letter to measure a human being is dishonest and inhuman; it is a degrading to the human mind and to human beings. Grading, in this sense, is degrading. It is one of the biggest abuses of mathematics in its history! Moreover, as long as the above-mentioned values remain as the governing values, education will continue to be fundamentally an obstacle to learning. Under these conditions, talking about improving or reforming education is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst. At most, it would touch a very small percentage of the student population in any particular region. Of course, we can go on putting our heads in the sand and refusing to see or care. But one main concern I will continue to have is what happens to the 80 some pecent of students whom the “compulsory suit” does not fit. Why imposing the same-size suit on all bodies sounds ridiculous but imposing the same curriculum on all minds does not?! The human mind is definitely more diverse that the human body.

Labeling a child as a “failure” is a criminal act against that child. For a child, who has learned so much from life before entering school, to be labeled a failure, just because s/he doesn’t see any sense in the mostly senseless knowledge we offer in most schools, is unfair – to say the least; it is really outrageous. But few of us around the world seem to be outraged, simply because we usually lose our senses in the process of getting educated. We are like those in Hans Christian Anderson’s story that lost their ability to see and had to be reminded by the little child that the emperor is without clothes.

Most people in the educational world (students, teachers, administrators, scholars, suprintendents, …) are dishonest (often without realizing it) either because we are too lazy to reflect on and see the absurdities in what we are doing (and just give to students what we were given in schools and universities, or during training courses and enrichment seminars!), or because we are simply afraid and need to protect ourselves from punishment or from being judged and labeled as inept or failures. This dishonesty prevails at all levels. I had a friend who was working in a prestigious university in the U.S. and who often went as an educational consultant and expert to countries to “improve and develop” their educational systems. Once, when he was on his way to Egypt as a consultant to help in reforming the educational system there, I asked him, “Have you ever been to Egypt?” He said no. I said, “Don’t you find it strange that you don’t know Egypt but you know what is good for it?!” Obviously, the richness, the wisdom and the depth of that 7000-year civilization is totally ignored by him, or more accurately, cannot be comprehended by him. Or, he may simply believe in what Kipling believed in in relation to India: to be ruled by Britain was India’s right; to rule India was Britain’s duty! In a very real sense, that friend of mine does not only abstract the theories he carries along with him everywhere but also abstracts the people by assuming that they all have the same deficits and, thus, the same solution – and that he has the solution.

Let’s take the term “sustainable development,” for example, which is widely used today and it is used in the concept paper for this conference. If we mean by development what we see in “developed” nations, then sustainable development is a nightmare. If we all start consuming, for example, at the rate at which “developed” nations currently do, then (as a friend of mine from Mexico says) we need at least five planets to provide the needed resources and to provide dumping sites for our waste! If “developing” nations consume natural resources (such as water) at the same rate “developed” nations do, such resources would be depleted in few years! Such “development” would be destructive to the soil of the earth and to the soil of cultures, both of which nurture and sustain human beings and human societies. The price would be very high at the level of the environment and at the level of beautiful relationships among people. Thus, those who believe in sustainable development (in its current conception and practice) are either naïve or dishonest or right out indifferent to what happens to nature, to beautiful relationship among people, and to the joyful harmony within human beings and between them and their surroundings. Nature and relationships among human beings are probably the two most precious treasures in life; the most valuable things human beings have. The survival of human and natural diversity (and even of human communities) are at stake here.

We do not detect dishonesty in the fields of education, knowledge and development because usually we are protected (in scools) from having much contact with life, through stressing verbal, symbolic and technical “knowledge,” through avoiding people’s experiences and surroundings, through the means we follow in evaluating people, and through ignoring history (history of people, of ideas, …). The main connection most school textbooks have with life is through the sections that carry the title “applications” – another instance of dishonesty. During the 1970s, for example, and as the head supervisor of math instruction in all the schools of the West Bank (in Palestine), one question I kept asking children was “is 1=1?” 1=1 is true in schoolbooks and on tests but in real life it has uses, abuses and misuses, but no real instances. We abstract apples in textbooks and make them equal but in real life there is no apple which is exactly equal to another apple. The same is true when we say that Newton discovered gravity. Almost every child by the age of one discovers it. (When my grandson, for example, was 15 months old, I was watching him once pick up pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth. Everytime he lost a piece, he would look for it down, never up!) By teaching that Newton discovered gravity, we do not only lie but also fail to clarify Newton’s real contribution. Similarly with teaching that Columbus discovered America …. Everyone of us can give tens of examples on dishonesty in the way we were taught and the way we teach."



"Second Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education: Lack of Connection with the Lives of the Social Majorities in the World"



"Building Learning Societies

From what has been said so far, two main approaches to knowledge and learning can be identified: (1) learning by doing; i.e. by the person being embedded in life, in one’s cultural soil. In this approach, learning is almost synonymous to living, and (2) the formal approach, which usually starts with ready pre-prepared content (usually fragmented into several subjucts, and usually put together in the absence of the two most important “actors” in learning: teachers and students). This approach also embodies tests and grades."



"Finally, I would like to affirm -- as a form of summary -- certain points, and point out to the need of dismantling others:

1. We need to dismantle the claim that learning can only take place in schools.

2. We need to dismantle the practice of separating students from life For at least 12 years) and still claim that learning is taking place.

3. We need to dismantle the assumption/ myth that teachers can teach what they don’t do.

4. We need to dismantle the myth that education can be improved through professionals and experts.

5. We need to dismantle the hegemony of words like education, development, progress, excellence, and rights and reclaim, instead, words like wisdom, faith, generosity, hope, learning, living, happiness, and duties.

6. We need to affirm that the vast mojority of people go to school not to learn but to get a diploma. We need to create diverse environments of learning.

7. We need to affirm our capacity for doing and learning, not for getting degrees.

8. We need to affirm and regain the concept and practice of “learning from the world,” not “about the world.”

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
february 2019 by robertogreco
SpeculativeEdu | Superflux: Tools and methods for making change
"Anab Jain and Jon Ardern of Superflux (“a studio for the rapidly changing world”) talk to James Auger about their approach, their recent projects, and their educational activities.

Superflux create worlds, stories, and tools that provoke and inspire us to engage with the precarity of our rapidly changing world. Founded by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern in 2009, the Anglo-Indian studio has brought critical design, futures and foresight approaches to new audiences while working for some of the world’s biggest organisations like Microsoft Research, Sony, Samsung and Nokia, and exhibiting work at MoMA New York, the National Museum of China, and the V&A in London. Over the last ten years, the studio has gained critical acclaim for producing work that navigates the entangled wilderness of our technology, politics, culture, and environment to imagine new ways of seeing, being, and acting. The studio’s partners and clients currently include Government of UAE, Innovate UK, Cabinet Office UK, Red Cross, UNDP, Mozilla and Forum for the Future. Anab is also Professor at Design Investigations, University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

[Q] You practice across numerous and diverse fields (education, commercial, gallery). Does your idea of speculative design change for each of these contexts? How do you balance the different expectations of each?

We don’t tend to strictly define our work as “Speculative Design”. Usually we say we are designers or artists or filmmakers. Speculative Design is gaining traction lately, and we might have a client of two who knows the term and might even hire us for that, but usually they come to us because they want to explore a possible future or a different narrative, or investigate a technology. We think our work investigates a potential rather than speculating on a future. Speculation is an undeniable part of the process but it is not the primary motivation behind our work. Our work is an open-ended process of enquiry, whilst speculation can at times feel like a closed loop.

[Q] There is a tendency, in many speculative design works, towards dystopian futures. It seems that as with science fiction, apocalyptic futures are easier to imagine and tell as stories. Focusing on your CCCB installation, Mitigation of Shock, how would you describe this project in terms of its value connotation? What is the purpose of such a project?

For us, Mitigation of Shock is actually not apocalyptic at all, but instead a pragmatic vision of hope, emerging from a dystopian future ravaged by climate change. On a personal level, it can be difficult for people to imagine how an issue like global warming might affect everyday life for our future selves, or generations to come. Our immersive simulation merges the macabre and the mundane as the social and economic consequences of climate change infiltrate the domestic space.

The installation transports people decades into the future (or perhaps even closer on the horizon), into an apartment in London which has been drastically adapted for living with the consequences of climate catastrophe. Familiar, yet alien. A domestic space alive with multispecies inhabitants, surviving and thriving together in an indoor microcosm. Climate projections from the beginning of the century have unfurled into reality, their consequences reverberating across the globe. Climate catastrophes shatter global supply chains. Economic and political fragility, social fragmentation, and food insecurity destabilise society.

Rather than optimistically stick our heads in the sand, or become overwhelmed with fear, we decided to catapult ourselves and others directly into a specific geographical and cultural context to experience the ripple effects of extreme weather conditions. Hope often works best alongside tools for proactively tackling future challenges. Which is why, in this year-long experimental research project, we explored, designed and built an apartment located in a future no one wants, but that may be on the horizon. Not to scare, or overwhelm, but to help people critically reflect upon their actions in the present, and introduce them to potential solutions for living in such a future. The evidence in the apartment may reflect a different future, but all the food apparatus was in fully working condition, no speculation there. We wanted to demonstrate that we have the tools and methods we need to make the change today.

[Q] We are living in complicated times – politically, environmentally, culturally. After several years of speculative and critical design evolution, do you think that it can have a more influential role in shaping futures/alternatives beyond the discussions that typically take place in the design community?

We wrote a little bit about this here: https://medium.com/superfluxstudio/stop-shouting-future-start-doing-it-e036dba17cdc.

[Q] Could it adopt more political or activist role? If so, how could this aspect be incorporated into education?

Yes definitely. Our latest project Trigger Warning explores this very space: https://mod.org.au/exhibits/trigger-warning. And then a completely different project: http://superflux.in/index.php/work/future-of-democracy-algorithmic-power/#temp.

[Anab] Also my students at the Angewandte will be exploring the theme of “futures of democracy” in the upcoming semester.

[Q] Coming from India but educated at the RCA, what was your take on the “privilege” discussion via Design and Violence? More specifically, what can we learn from this debate? How can it push speculative design forwards?

[Anab] I sensed an underlying assumption in that debate that anybody from the West was seen as “privileged” and anyone from any other colonised country is not. Whilst there is a long and troubling history to colonisation in India, I do bear in mind that India was always a battleground for clans and dynasties from other countries long before the West came and colonised it. These issues are very complex, and I think the only way we can attempt to understand them is by avoiding accusations and flamewars, but instead opening up space for everyone’s voice to be heard.

As things stands today, even though I come from India, a lot of people would argue that, within India, I am privileged because I had the opportunity to choose my education path and the person I want to marry. On the other hand, I know lots and lots of people in the West (white/male even) who are disempowered because of systemic privilege within the West. So discussions of race, gender expression and privilege are much more granular than simplistic accusations, and I strongly believe that designers who address complex issues, whilst battling student loans and rents, should be applauded, not condemned.

[Q] How can we resist or overcome the situation where avant-garde design practices, established as a resistance to the dominant system, ultimately become appropriated by the system?

If we successfully overturn capitalism, the rest will follow."
superflux  2019  anabjain  jonardern  jamesauger  design  designfiction  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  capitalism  democracy  climatechange  education  marrtive  film  filmmaking  art  artists  potential  inquiry  open-ended  openendedness  hope  globalwarming  future  politics  activism  india  colonialism  colonization  complexity  privilege  openended 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Overgrowth - e-flux
"Architects and urban practitioners, toiling daily at the coalface of economic expansion, are complicit in the perpetuation of growth. Yet they are also in a unique position to contribute towards a move away from it. As the drivers of growth begin to reveal their inadequacies for sustaining life, we must imagine alternative societal structures that do not incentivize unsustainable resource and energy use, and do not perpetuate inequality. Working on the frontline of capitalism, it is through architecture and urban practice that alternative values, systems, and logics can be manifest in built form and inherited by generations to come.

Editors
Nick Axel
Matthew Dalziel
Phineas Harper
Nikolaus Hirsch
Cecilie Sachs Olsen
Maria Smith

Overgrowth is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Oslo Architecture Triennale within the context of its 2019 edition."

[See also: https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221902/editorial/ ]

[including:

Ateya Khorakiwala: "Architecture's Scaffolds"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221616/architecture-s-scaffolds/
The metaphor of grassroots is apt here. Bamboo is a grass, a rhizomatic plant system that easily tends towards becoming an invasive species in its capacity to spread without seed and fruit. Given the new incursions of the global sustainability regime into third world forests to procure a material aestheticized as eco-friendly, what would it take for the state to render this ubiquitous material into a value added and replicable commodity? On one hand, scaffolding offers the site of forming and performing the subjectivity of the unskilled laborer—if not in making the scaffolding, then certainly in using it. Bamboo poles for scaffolding remain raw commodities, without scope for much value addition; a saturated marketplace where it can only be replaced by steel as building projects increase in complexity. On the other hand, bamboo produces both the cottage industry out of a forest-dwelling subject, on the margins of the state, occupying space into which this market can expand.

Bamboo is a material in flux—what it signifies is not transferable from one scale to another, or from one time to another. In that sense, bamboo challenges how we see the history of materials. In addition to its foundational architectural function as scaffolding, it acts as a metaphorical scaffolding as well: it signifies whatever its wielders might want it to, be it tradition, poverty, sustainability, or a new form of eco-chic luxury. Bamboo acts more as a scaffolding for meaning than a material with physical properties of flexibility and strength. Scaffolding, both materially and metaphorically, is a site of politics; a space that opens up and disappears, one that requires much skill in making.

Edgar Pieterse: "Incorporation and Expulsion"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221603/incorporation-and-expulsion/
However, what is even more important is that these radically localized processes will very quickly demand spatial, planning, and design literacy among urban households and their associations. The public pedagogic work involved in nurturing such literacies, always amidst action, requires a further institutional layer that connects intermediary organizations with grassroots formations. For example, NGOs and applied urban research centers with knowledge from different sites (within a city and across the global South) can provide support to foster these organizational literacies without diminishing the autonomy and leadership of grassroots movements. Intermediary organizations are also well placed to mediate between grassroots associations, public officers, private sector interests, and whoever else impinge on the functioning of a neighborhood. Thinking with the example of Lighthouse suggests that we can think of forms of collective economic practice that connect with the urban imperatives of securing household wellbeing whilst expanding various categories of opportunity. The transformative potential is staggering when one considers the speed with which digital money systems and productive efficiencies have taken off across East Africa during the past five years or so.

There is unprecedented opportunity today to delink the imperatives of just urban planning from conventional tropes about economic modernization that tend to produce acontextual technocracy. We should, therefore, focus our creative energies on defining new forms of collective life, economy, wellbeing, invention, and care. This may even prove a worthwhile approach to re-signify “growth.” Beyond narrow economism there is a vast canvas to populate with alternative meanings: signifiers linked to practices that bring us back to the beauty of discovery, learning, questioning, debate, dissensus, experimentation, strategic consensus, and most importantly, the courage to do and feel things differently.

Ingerid Helsing Almaas: "No app for that"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221609/no-app-for-that/
Conventionally, urban growth is seen in terms of different geometries of expansion. Recent decades have also focused on making existing cities denser, but even this is thought of as a process of addition, inscribed in the conventional idea of growth as a linear process of investments and profits. But the slow process of becoming and disappearance is also a form of growth. Growth as slow and diverse accretion and shedding, layering, gradual loss or restoration; cyclical rather than linear or expansive. Processes driven by opportunity and vision, but also by irritation, by lack, by disappointment. In a city, you see these cyclical processes of accretion and disruption everywhere. We just haven’t worked out how to make them work for us. Instead, we go on expecting stability and predictability; a city with a final, finished form.

Peter Buchanan: "Reweaving Webs of Relationships"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221630/reweaving-webs-of-relationships/

Helena Mattsson and Catharina Gabrielsson: "Pockets and Folds"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221607/pockets-and-folds/
Moments of deregulations are moments when an ideology of incessant growth takes over all sectors of life and politics. Returning to those moments allows us to inquire into other ways of organizing life and architecture while remaining within the sphere of the possible. Through acts of remembrance, we have the opportunity to rewrite the present through the past whereby the pockets and folds of non-markets established in the earlier welfare state come into view as worlds of a new becoming. These pockets carry the potential for new political imaginaries where ideas of degrowth reorganize the very essence of the architectural assemblage and its social impacts. These landscapes of possibilities are constructed through desires of collective spending—dépense—rather than through the grotesque ideas of the wooden brain.

Angelos Varvarousis and Penny Koutrolikou: "Degrowth and the City"
https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/overgrowth/221623/degrowth-and-the-city/
The idea of city of degrowth does not attempt to homogenize, but rather focus on inclusiveness. Heterogeneity and plurality are not contrary to the values of equity, living together and effective sharing of the resources. Difference and plurality are inherent and essential for cities and therefore diverse spatial and social articulations are intrinsic in the production of a city of degrowth. They are also vital for the way such an idea of a city could be governed; possibly through local institutions and assemblies that try to combine forms of direct and delegative democracy.
]
growth  degrowth  architecture  overgrowth  2018  nickaxel  matthewdalziel  phineasharper  nikolaushirsch  ceciliesachsolsen  mariasmith  ateyakhorakiwala  edgarpieterse  ingeridhelsingalmaas  peterbuchanan  helenamattsson  catharinagabrielsson  angelosvarvarousis  pennykoutrolikou  2019  anthropocene  population  sustainability  humans  civilization  economics  policy  capitalism  karlmarx  neoliberalism  systemsthinking  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  urbanization  ecology  consumption  materialism  consumerism  oslo  bymelding  stability  change  predictability  design  africa  southafrica  postcolonialism  ethiopia  nigeria  housing  kenya  collectivism  dissensus  experimentation  future  learning  questioning  debate  discovery  wellbeing  intervention  care  technocracy  modernization  local  grassroots  materials  multiliteracies  ngos  autonomy  shigeruban  mumbai  bamboo  burkinafaso  patrickkeré  vikramadityaprakash  lecorbusier  pierrejeanneret  modernism  shivdattsharma  chandigarh  india  history  charlescorrea  scaffolding 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Jantar Mantar: The Astronomical Observatories of Jai Singh
"Between 1724 and 1730 Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh II of Jaipur constructed five astronomical observatories in north India. The observatories, or "Jantar Mantars" as they are commonly known, incorporate multiple buildings of unique form, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement. These structures with their striking combinations of geometric forms at large scale have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians world wide, yet remain largely unknown to the general public.

jantarmantar.org presents the observatories through a variety of media, making it possible to explore and learn about these historic sites through interactive panoramic tours, time lapse sequences, and 3D models as well as articles, drawings, and historic texts. It is a comprehensive resource for exploring the observatories in depth.

Welcome to the new jantarmantar.org!
The redesigned website was launched in October 2015 - and we are still hard at work refining the content and tweaking the design. As new pages and features are added, they will be announced through our Facebook and Instagram pages, so follow us there!

New to jantarmantar.org is the Learn section, featuring a wealth of information about the observatories and the unique instruments Jai Singh created to observe celestial objects.
But more than that, the Learn section also features projects you can do to learn more about the observatories and sky observation without a telescope."

[via: http://www.ma-tt-er.org/elements/ar/ ]
architecture  astrology  astronomy  india  jaisingh  jantarmantar  observatories  measurement  science 
october 2018 by robertogreco
▶ The Jet Set Breakfast, 1 Sep INTERVIEW - UNSCHOOLING · SAfm - iono.fm
"Further to our previous conversation regarding unschooling and homeschooling, we spoke to Zakiyya Ismael to get a better understanding of this"
zakiyyaismael  2018  unschooling  deschooling  homeschool  johnholt  history  india  southafrica  learning  informallearning  intentionallearning  unintentionallearning  petergray  academia 
september 2018 by robertogreco
In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? – Raiot
"Text of The W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation by Arundhati Roy
5 June 2018, The British Library, London."

[more excerpts coming soon]

"Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, I finished writing my second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but if a novel can have an enemy, then the enemy of this novel is the idea of “One nation, one religion, one language.” As I composed the cover page of my manuscript, in place of the author’s name, I was tempted to write: “Translated from the original(s) by Arundhati Roy.” The Ministry is a novel written in English but imagined in several languages. Translation as a primary form of creation was central to the writing of it (and here I don’t mean the translation of the inchoate and the prelingual into words). Regardless of which language (and in whose mother tongue) The Ministry was written in, this particular narrative about these particular people in this particular universe would had to be imagined in several languages. It is a story that emerges out of an ocean of languages, in which a teeming ecosystem of living creatures—official-language fish, unofficial-dialect mollusks, and flashing shoals of word-fish—swim around, some friendly with each other, some openly hostile, and some outright carnivorous. But they are all nourished by what the ocean provides. And all of them, like the people in The Ministry, have no choice but to coexist, to survive, and to try to understand each other. For them, translation is not a high-end literary art performed by sophisticated polyglots. Translation is daily life, it is street activity, and it’s increasingly a necessary part of ordinary folks’ survival kit. And so, in this novel of many languages, it is not only the author, but the characters themselves who swim around in an ocean of exquisite imperfection, who constantly translate for and to each other, who constantly speak across languages, and who constantly realize that people who speak the same language are not necessarily the ones who understand each other best.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has been—is being—translated into forty-eight languages. Each of those translators has to grapple with a language that is infused with many languages including, if I may coin a word, many kinds of Englishes (sociolects is perhaps the correct word, but I’ll stay with Englishes because it is deliciously worse) and translate it into another language that is infused with many languages. I use the word infused advisedly, because I am not speaking merely of a text that contains a smattering of quotations or words in other languages as a gimmick or a trope, or one that plays the Peter Sellers game of mocking Indian English, but of an attempt to actually create a companionship of languages.

Of the forty-eight translations, two are Urdu and Hindi. As we will soon see, the very fact of having to name Hindi and Urdu as separate languages, and publish them as separate books with separate scripts, contains a history that is folded into the story of The Ministry. Given the setting of the novel, the Hindi and Urdu translations are, in part, a sort of homecoming. I soon learned that this did nothing to ease the task of the translators. To give you an example: The human body and its organs play an important part in The Ministry. We found that Urdu, that most exquisite of languages, which has more words for love than perhaps any other language in the world, has no word for vagina. There are words like the Arabic furj, which is considered to be archaic and more or less obsolete, and there are euphemisms that range in meaning from “hidden part,” “breathing hole,” “vent,” and “path to the uterus.” The most commonly used one is aurat ki sharamgah. A woman’s place of shame. As you can see, we had trouble on our hands. Before we rush to judgment, we must remember that pudenda in Latin means “that whereof one should feel shame.” In Danish, I was told by my translator, the phrase is “lips of shame.” So, Adam and Eve are alive and well, their fig leaves firmly in place.

Although I am tempted to say more about witnessing the pleasures and difficulties of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness being translated into other languages, more than the “post-writing” translations, it is the “pre-writing” translation that I want to talk about today. None of it came from an elaborate, pre-existing plan. I worked purely by instinct. It is only while preparing for this lecture that I began to really see how much it mattered to me to persuade languages to shift around, to make room for each other. Before we dive into the Ocean of Imperfection and get caught up in the eddies and whirlpools of our historic blood feuds and language wars, in order to give you a rough idea of the terrain, I will quickly chart the route by which I arrived at my particular patch of the shoreline."



"So, how shall we answer Pablo Neruda’s question that is the title of this lecture?

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?7

I’d say, without hesitation, in the Language of Translation."
arundhatiroy  language  languages  translation  literature  2018  india  colonialism  nationalism  authenticity  elitism  caste  nativism  identity  culture  society  inbetween  betweenness  multilingual  polyglot  everyday  communication  english  hindi  nationstates  imperialism  urdu  persian  tamil  sinhala  bangladesh  pakistan  srilanka  canon 
july 2018 by robertogreco
A Divinely-Inspired Gender: The Manang Bali Shamans of Sarawak - QueerLapis
"Nestled in the heart of Malaysian Borneo were the manang bali, a group of gender nonconforming shamans from the indigenous Iban tribe. They probably no longer exist due to mass conversions from animism to Christianity. Nevertheless, their historical presence holds present-day Malaysia accountable for its failure to recognise and appreciate its non-cisnormative and non-heteronormative past. The reality that the manang bali existed and were once lauded for their spiritual roles challenges and disrupts today’s state-sanctioned transphobic and homophobic rhetoric.

Spiritual intermediaries – such as shamans, mediums, witch doctors, ritualists and healers – who manifest gender non-conformity reside in many corners of Asia. These include the Ngaju Dayak basir of Indonesian Borneo, the bissu of the Indonesian Bugis people, the nat kadaw of Burma and the hijra of India.

The manang bali were one among many types of manang, albeit a minority group of shamans. They are also referred to as ‘transvestite’ or ‘transformed’ shamans, although Penelope Graham uses the latter term to denote her preference for a more open-ended approach in trying to understand these gender non-conforming individuals. This detail is important to avoid a simplistic and anachronistic interpretation of these shamans as transgender, intersex, genderqueer or cross-dressing individuals. While there were female-bodied manang bali who lived as men, the majority were biological males who lived as women.

According to existing resources, the manang bali receives directives, through dreams, from the transformed petara or deity Menjaya Manang Raja to become shamans. They must obey, or face pain of death or madness. As part of responding to their spiritual calling, male-bodied individuals adopted the mannerisms, attire and lifestyle of women, even taking on male partners as husbands. Against Valerie Mashman’s belief that the manang bali had ‘no gender and both genders at the same time’, I argue that there is every indication to show that the manang bali lived solely as women in accordance with divine imperatives. The gender and sexual transitions that occurred were integral to the initiation process of the shaman, adopting a new personal and social identity in order to serve the community. Due to these extreme requirements, the manang bali occupied the highest ranks of shamanhood.

Like other manang, the manang bali possessed a human body (tuboh). Nevertheless, as exalted beings, they were believed to have the ability to interact directly with the soul (semengat) as well as the ‘plant aspect (ayu or bunga)’ or health dimension of a person, and with spirits or ghosts (antu). Thus, they had the ability to pierce the sebayan or spirit world. The manang bali were most sought after for their healing abilities. They are said to have received this trait from their patron Menjaya Manang Raja who possessed the ‘ubat penyangga nyawa’.

Nevertheless, the manang bali did not experience unanimous acclaim despite their prowess as spiritual mediators. While they were appreciated for their services and well remunerated, they were simultaneously ‘devalued as lacking social prestige and even an object of ridicule in Iban eyes’. Iban social systems are based on strict gender binaries, and gender transitioning would not have been commonplace. Hence, the manang bali would have caused a sense of unease in the Iban communities despite their divinely-inspired gender status.

All too often, Malaysian leadership experiences a convenient amnesia about the historicity of Malaysia’s gendered and sexual diversity. Revisiting the manang bali provides an opportunity to reconnect with what Farish A. Noor refers to as ‘a deconstructive form of political history’. This form of history gives voice to a dimension of Malaysian reality that has hitherto been overlooked or suppressed, often due to – I add – narrow interpretations of religious modernity. Reconnecting with the manang bali calls to question Malaysia’s antagonistic attitudes towards citizens who either self-identify or are labelled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, intersex, mak nyah, wanita keras, lelaki lembut, pengkid, cross-dresser, drag queen and queer in their myriad forms.

Gender nonconformity may not be the norm for early Iban communities. Nevertheless, they were accepting and appreciative of the Manang Bali because they realised that the transformed shamans were an integral part of their communities who had many gifts and talents to offer. What would happen, I wonder, if present-day Malaysians of all gender and sexual persuasions courageously took a leaf out of the history book of the Ibans, and learned ways of living together in mutual respect and appreciation in the midst of persistent and irreconcilable differences?"
gender  malaysia  gendernonconformity  non-binary  history  india  indonesia  borneo  shamans  manangbali  sarawak  transgender  intersex  genderqueer  valeriemashman  josephgoh 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Zarina Bhimji: Yellow Patch
"A film installation entitled "Yellow Patch". This film was shot in India.

I am interested in the spaces, micro details and the light of these distant interiors. The location of light is an element of my composition and becomes just as intricate and important as having a figure in my work. The stillness has a suspension of everyday life and yet narrative is deferred by mood and mystery and incompleteness. So that atmosphere is tactile, moist light. But as I worked further I kept coming back to disconnection and belatedness."

[See also: "Zarina Bhimji's world without people"
http://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/picture-galleries/2012/january/18/zarina-bhimjis-world-without-people/ ]

[via: "Hapticality in the Undercommons, or From Operations Management to Black Ops," by Stefano Harney https://www.academia.edu/6934195/Hapticality_in_the_Undercommons_or_From_Operations_Management_to_Black_Ops

"I want to take just two examples, very different. The first is the performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga. The second is photographer and filmmaker Zarina Bhimji. I don’t intend to read these artists nor to place them in a school or tradition. I want to say instead that they inspire me to think about the line today and its killing rhythm, and to think about the ways this line runs through us, and how it bypasses subject formation at work. But most of all I want to look at their work to think about what Fred calls Black Ops, and the undercommons their work invites us to feel around us.



Empty but not unoccupied, rooms, buildings, and fields, the access in Zarina Bhimji’s aesthetically gorgeous film Yellow Patch at first might seem to be about memory. But memory for the line is a matter of metrics, of not making the same mistake twice. It is useful for improvement. And Bhimji’s camera resists the application of memory to the present for purposes of improvement. Her sound rumbles with labour and logistics, above the empty buildings, echoing in the rooms. But with her we enter a militant preservation, not keeping up, not improving, not looking for productive variance. I would say that old administrative papers stacked on the aging wooden office bookcases, or the yellow shutters cut by blocks of light from outside are aestheticised not to make memory useful through nostalgia, where it can be preserved and sold, or judgement where it can be used for improvement. Instead her film displays a calmness, peace, rest, in history, in contemporary history. Not the de-historicised rest of the meditation industry nor the preservation of the history industry, but a militant rest for history, in history, in struggle, right now. Her rooms, ships, fields, and bays do not leave history to give us preservation or provide us with rest in the struggle. Other lines are right here, the film suggests to me, the undercommons is never elsewhere, its touch is also a reach. Its touch is a rest, a caress. Hapticality occupies these rooms with a tap, tap, stroke rhythm of love."]
zarinabhimji  film  towatch  belatedness  disconnection  2011  haptic  hapticality  tactile  everyday  undercommons  stefanoharney  art  artists  uganda  india 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Gautam Bhan: A bold plan to house 100 million people | TED Talk | TED.com
"Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata -- all the major cities across India have one great thing in common: they welcome people arriving in search of work. But what lies at the other end of such openness and acceptance? Sadly, a shortage of housing for an estimated 100 million people, many of whom end up living in informal settlements. Gautam Bhan, a human settlement expert and researcher, is boldly reimagining a solution to this problem. He shares a new vision of urban India where everyone has a safe, sturdy home. (In Hindi with English subtitles)"

[via: "lovely @GautamBhan80's short, succinct explanation of our cities' relationship with informal housing deserves whatsapp virality"
https://twitter.com/supriyan/status/940453565276987394 ]
urbanization  urban  urbanism  housing  slums  settlements  india  gautambhan  2017  eviction  land  property  homes  place  cities  urbanplanning  planning  thailand  informal  inequality  growth  squatting  class 
december 2017 by robertogreco
There’s a reason many more Indians might want to read the works of Clarice Lispector
"Soul over mind

The “grand witch of Brazilian literature” needs no introduction to readers around the world, and yet she remains – puzzlingly – relatively unknown in India. Readers are often expected, even encouraged, to read “foreign” literature to better understand cultures and people other than their own, but the higher purpose of literature, of any art, is to break down the very idea of the foreign, of revealing the essential and not the contingent human condition. Lispector’s writings force us to plunge into the metaphysics of our soul – as opposed to our minds. This is what makes her a writer uniquely important to the Indian sensibility.

Sometimes, reading between the lines of Lispector’s works, one arrives at a relative mysticism, somewhere between hermetic style and discrete metaphysics. For her, it’s not just one life that is in existence, but many lives. No definitive deity, but the destiny of the soul (dharma for many in India), an unreasonable search for happiness.

How, then, can we not be caught by this delicacy, by these intelligent meanderings to which she invites us? How to resist her? How not to be conquered? How, in short, not to read Clarice Lispector?

The value of incoherence

When reading her, one almost gets the feeling of being suddenly plugged into the supernatural in whose presence reason and pragmatism constantly fails and falters. In this, Lispector’s writing is also marked by an instinctive stand against the European insistence on the sole importance of reason. Lispector was a flamboyant believer in the soul, and her search for the unconscious and the divine have deep resonances with the idea of a transcendental supreme reality found in ancient Indian philosophy.
She preferred incoherence and inconsistency to order, and the death-like calm of Switzerland, which epitomised the European love for reason, bored and terrified her."



"And so, suddenly, while reading her, Rio de Janeiro turns into New Delhi, Macabea becomes a woman from Bihar, sitting with her palms stretched out in front of an astrologer on a sidewalk, G.H. is a woman in an apartment in South Bombay searching for god in her maid’s room, Clarice Lispector is a writer living in an Indian city filled with demons, the occult is everywhere like black magic, and poverty is unbearable.

We nod in recognition of the similar and not the foreign. There is no more foreign."
2017  claricelispector  saudaminideo  india  brasil  brazil  incoherence  spirituality  occult  mysticism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Identities Research Project - The Identities Project
"The Identities research project explores user experiences of identity technology, brought to you by Caribou Digital, Omidyar Network and the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIITB).

About the Identities research
The need for user-centered research in “digital identity” arose out of concerns around top-down identity systems and lack of insights on how these are being understood and used, particularly amongst lower income populations.

Identities research methodology
For our user research, our choice of states was determined by both policy and practical considerations. We started our research in Bengaluru and rural Karnataka as our research team is familiar with the area and have the language skills. However, Bengaluru is also a prime site for research, as the second fastest growing metropolis in India, and highest number of educated immigrants."



"EPISODE 1
Changing details on your ID or using it in a transaction can be a bureaucratic and frustrating experience. Our research team has been hearing directly from users about these frustrations, and how they're working together to solve them.

EPISODE 2
If you're involved in the implementation of a new technology, adoption can seem like a binary issue - people either sign up, or they don't. But the reality is far more complex. In this episode, we're sharing some of the issues and insights about adoption we've learnt from users.

EPISODE 3
We're doing something very different with the Identities Project. Instead of inviting you all to read the report when it's finished, we are sharing our research as it happens via this website, our newsletter and a series of roundtable events in India, the United States and Sweden.

EPISODE 4
So far, The Identities Project has been telling the story of the users who rely on identity systems to manage their lives. As well as interviewing users, our research team have been speaking to officials in urban and rural centers who are at the front line of identity systems. They are the people who have to make the technology and policies actually work on the ground.

EPISODE 5
Some of the most valuable insights from our research have been about vulnerability, privacy and inclusion. Digital identity systems should improve every citizen’s interaction with the state. But they’re not always designed with the needs of every citizen in mind. This episode includes stories about how enrolling can expose vulnerable users to risk, how disabled users can be excluded from digital identity systems, and four insights from our research team on privacy and vulnerability. Finally, our video explores the common myth that poorer communities don’t care about privacy.

EPISODE 6
With our research, we wanted to especially focus on two questions with regard to gender: do women face different challenges to men in obtaining and formalizing their identity? And secondly, once they do have access to "an identity" — does it empower them in some way to ameliorate unequal gender dynamics?

EPISODE 7
Our hypothesis throughout this project is that research reports presented as locked PDFs are increasingly either not read or not acted on. Therefore, within the episodic nature of the way we’ve presented the research (whilst it was still happening) and as we’ve consciously avoided the large conference circuit and focused instead on small, intimate workshop meetings, we hope we’ve been able to present the final research in the most useful and engaging way possible."

[See also: "The ID Question: Who decides who you are in the digital age?"
https://howwegettonext.com/the-id-question-6fb3b56052b5

"Building the Foundation for a More Inclusive, Secure Digital Identity in India"
http://www.omidyar.com/blog/building-foundation-more-inclusive-secure-digital-identity-india ]
identity  bangalore  anjaliramachandran  policy  rural  bengaluru  karnataka  india  technology  digital  digitalidentity  privacy  vulnerability  inclusion  inclusivity  gender 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Felipe Vera - Urbanismo Efimero - YouTube
"Charla en Scola da Cidade sobre ciudades temporales y el Kumbh Mela."

[1:41:33] "Déjame ver si entendí la pregunta. Me está preguntando cuáles con ls implicancias del urbanismo efímero para el tema patrimonial, en resumen? … Una cosa muy interesante, yo creo, es que nosotros tendemos en pensar en temas de conservación como temas de conservación de lo material. Estos caso del urbanismo efímero, cuando uno lo analiza, se da cuenta que el valor está en la práctica, en la praxis, en la conservación de maneras particulares de o bien reconstruir una ciudad o bien construir un ídolo y llevarlo y botarlo en un lugar para que se disvuelva o bien reformular todos los pasajes y cambiar la funcionalidad de algunos espacios urbanos. Entonces, lo que es interesante, yo creo que es interesante esto, sí ahora para las ciudades permanentes es decir en algún minuto vamos a tener que entender que la preservación arquitectónica no tiene que ver con parar el tiempo y con dejar que las cosas no se muevan, sino que va a tener que ver con como durar el cambio, modular el cambio a través de la memoria. Y en una formulación de ese tipo, pensar en la preservación como una práctica y no como la preservación de la forma y yo creo que nos pueda ayudar a desarollar nuevas estrategias."

[Translation (mine, quickly)]: "Let me see if I understand the question. In summary, you are asking me what are the implications of ephemeral urbanism with regard to cultural heritage? … Something very interesting, I think, is that when we think about conservation we tend to think about it in terms of the material. When you analyze these cases of ephemeral urbanism, you realize that the value is in the practice — the praxis — in the conservation of particular ways of things like rebuilding a city or constructing an idol and taking it and throwing it in a place that will make it dissolve, or reformulating all the passages and changing the function of some urban spaces. Then, what is interesting, I think, is to think about this for permanent cities and how at some time we are going to have to think about architectural preservation not as stopping time or preventing things from moving, but rather how to persist through change, how to manage change through memory. And think about preservation through practice and not the preservation of the form and I think that can help us develop new strategies."]

[More related bookmarks collected here:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:76144fff16c5 ]
felipevera  architecture  2015  ephemerality  ephemeral  kumbhmela  india  praxis  practice  heritage  conservation  preservation  culture  urbanism  urbanplanning  urbandesign  cities  design  process  craft  rahulmehrotra  memory  change 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Geetha Narayanan at Conversations with Namu Kini - YouTube
"Geetha Narayanan, founder of Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology & Mallya Aditi International School tells Namu all about her life, work and philosophies. She has founded institutions, raised funds for movements, taught hundreds, inspired many more - and she doesn't seem to be slowing down!"
geethanarayanan  education  india  2013  interviews  technology  slow  slowness  sfsh  learning  pedagogy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 68: Specific Diseconomy
"ON LONDON: Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked a number of times to reflect on my experience in London. There were the minor details, like how signing for a credit card now feels like the past to me, chip-and-PIN like the present, and contactless still feels like the future (and I’m sad that the utility of contactless is severely compromised in the US because tips aren’t normally included in bills). Between the Brexit referendum fallout, the snap election, the Manchester and London Bridge attacks, and the Grenfell fire, it felt like an eventful and consequential six months in the UK. But what was most striking to me about living in London was how steeped the city is in colonialism and empire.

Most of my days in London were spent on a north-south axis that ran from Somerset House on the bank of the Thames (where I was working with design consultancy Superflux and with collaborators at King's College London), through Holborn where my gym was located, to University College London (established 1826, ending the four-hundred-year duopoly in English higher education held by Oxford and Cambridge, and to which King's was established in response), and the British Library. A friend of mine laughed at this, noting that my stomping grounds would be instantly recognizable to Victorians.

The walk from my gym to Somerset House (built at the end of the 18th century, and the administrative centre of England and its empire during the 19th century) took me past India House, opened in 1930 to house the administration for the subcontinent. It’s decorated with crests for different regions, and I found the one for the North West Frontier Province, where my parents were born and where my father lived until Partition, when his family relocated from newly-formed Pakistan to newly-reconfigured India, as part of what is likely to have been the largest migration in human history. Between my family history and my own life in Canada and the US, I describe myself as a British colonial four times over, which no doubt shaped my perspective. As well as the gorgeous administrative buildings, the Victorian public engineering that Britons take justifiable pride in was paid for out of the coffers of Empire. Bazalgette’s pioneering sewer system for London (built between 1859 and 1865) was an enormous public good paid for with public funds, because of the success of the imperial project, although it was almost more depressing to learn that it's since been privatized as Thames Water. Nearly half of Brits are proud of colonialism and think it was a good thing, and it inarguably was, if you’re British. Estimates by historians suggest that India accounted for about a quarter of the world’s economic output before 1700; a few years after Independence, it had dropped to less than 5%. Even the much-vaunted Indian railroads were primarily a moneymaking scheme for British companies, who maintained ownership and kept the profits, while Indian taxes backed the returns guaranteed to British investors.

I’m most familiar with India, because of my family history, but by far the most telling indicator of how colonialism transferred wealth away from local populations to England is to look at the list of former colonies: with only a few exceptions, the former colonies that are wealthy (like Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand) are the ones where the original inhabitants and societies were largely wiped out and supplanted by Europeans. The rest of the former Empire, the places where descendents of the original residents still comprise the bulk of the population, are desperately poor. Even if you don’t look at any other metric, this is still prima facie evidence for colonialism as an unprecedented transfer of wealth.

[I don’t think I go a day without thinking about how my family moved from one type of colony to the other, how that means that I grew up with all of the benefits of being on the right side of Empire, and that my society is built on a hill of skulls.]

I worked out of the Science Reading Room at the British Library, across the hall from the Asian collection. There was a large sign that read, “Learn more about your ancestors in India!” I was halfway through the small text before I realised, tipped off by the references to baptismal and pension records, that they didn’t mean my ancestors. On the Tube, I’d see ads for Las Vegas, ‘where your accent is an aphrodisiac’ (which is utterly absurd until you realize that it's a vestige of imperial propaganda); for the Crown Jewels, ‘Every stone tells a story’ (Prime Minister David Cameron refused requests to return the Koh i Noor diamond to India, on the grounds that if the UK ‘says yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty’); for Fever Tree tonic water, ‘We go to the ends of the earth’ to find the quinine (tonic water was created in the early 19th century to make the antimalarial palatable to British officials stationed in Africa and India). In front of the Tate Britain, a bollard at the edge of the Thames indicates where ships would tie up to transport prisoners to Australia from Milbank Prison, which was torn down to build the museum. Outside London, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry has an entire floor devoted to ‘Cottonopolis’ and how the industrial production of the region was the source of much of England’s wealth, in which there is literally one sentence about slavery and no mention of the destruction of the Bengali textile industry (nor the larger deindustrialization of India). I posted an excerpt about the word ‘pukka’ from a book about stepwells in India on my Instagram feed, and a stranger demanded to know where Jamie Oliver got the word from if it was Hindi. [While many of my examples are from India, other parts of the world have their own stories.]

If you've followed the links, you'll see that almost all of my citations are UK news outlets; it's not that there aren't lots of people in the UK who understand the full impact of colonialism. It's just that it's hard for me to understand how, if you've ever seen a list of famines in India under British rule, you could ever believe that colonialism was a good thing, or that it should be reflected in ads to sell me tonic water."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:dc6ff8124465

"[M]y society is built on a hill of skulls" is the most visceral expression of this particular truth that I've ever heard. https://twitter.com/debcha/status/911689430347415558 "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911691879799865344

"Of course, my joke cortex goes straight for this: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/things-this-city-was-built-on-besides-rock-n-roll "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911695089134481408 ]" ]
debchachra  2017  london  colonialism  capitalism  india  uk  history  society  inequality  imperialism  england  canada  britain  britishempire  globalization  europe  globalsouth 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Y-Fi
"Experience Loading Animations / Screens in wifi speeds around the world. This website was inspired by this conversation I had on twitter. I was home (Nigeria) for a bit before I started work and was annoyed at how long I had to look at loading animations. I wondered how long people wanted to wait around the world screaming.

Notes / How this works

• Data about wifi speeds is from: Akamai's State of the Internet / Connectivity Report.

• I chose countries based on what suprised me and to get diversity across speeds.

• To get most data about loading times, I used a combination of Firefox DevTools and the Network Panel on Chrome DevTools. For Gmail I used this article on Gmail's Storage Quota.

• The wifi speeds and sizes of resources are hard-coded in so you can see them and the rest of the code at the repo.

• Any other questions / thoughts? Hit me up on twitter!"

[via: https://twitter.com/YellzHeard/status/890990574827851777 via @senongo]
omayeliarenyeka  internet  webdev  webdesign  wifi  broadband  nigeria  loading  speed  diversity  accessibility  paraguay  egypt  namibia  iran  morocco  argentina  india  southafrica  saudiarabia  mexico  china  chile  greece  ue  france  australia  russia  kenya  israel  thailand  uk  us  taiwan  japan  singapore  hongkong  noray  southkorea  perú 
july 2017 by robertogreco
A Field Guide to 'jobs that don't exist yet' - Long View on Education
"Perhaps most importantly, the Future of Jobs relies on the perspective of CEOs to suggest that Capital has lacked input into the shape and direction of education. Ironically, the first person I found to make the claim about the future of jobs – Devereux C. Josephs – was both Businessman of the Year (1958) and the chair of Eisenhower’s President’s Committee on Education Beyond High School. More tellingly, in his historical context, Josephs was able to imagine a more equitable future where we shared in prosperity rather than competed against the world’s underprivileged on a ‘flat’ field.

The Political Shift that Happened

While the claim is often presented as a new and alarming fact or prediction about the future, Devereux C. Josephs said much the same in 1957 during a Conference on the American High School at the University of Chicago on October 28, less than a month after the Soviets launched Sputnik. If Friedman and his ‘flat’ earth followers were writing then, they would have been up in arms about the technological superiority of the Soviets, just like they now raise the alarm about the rise of India and China. Josephs was a past president of the Carnegie Corporation, and at the time served as Chairman of the Board of the New York Life Insurance Company.

While critics of the American education system erupted after the launch of Sputnik with calls to go back to basics, much as they would again decades later with A Nation at Risk (1983), Josephs was instead a “besieged defender” of education according to Okhee Lee and Michael Salwen. Here’s how Joseph’s talked about the future of work:
“We are too much inclined to think of careers and opportunities as if the oncoming generations were growing up to fill the jobs that are now held by their seniors. This is not true. Our young people will fill many jobs that do not now exist. They will invent products that will need new skills. Old-fashioned mercantilism and the nineteenth-century theory in which one man’s gain was another man’s loss, are being replaced by a dynamism in which the new ideas of a lot of people become the gains for many, many more.”4

Josephs’ claim brims with optimism about a new future, striking a tone which contrasts sharply with the Shift Happens video and its competitive fear of The Other and decline of Empire. We must recognize this shift that happens between then and now as an erasure of politics – a deletion of the opportunity to make a choice about how the abundant wealth created by automation – and perhaps more often by offshoring to cheap labor – would be shared.

The agentless construction in the Shift Happens version – “technologies that haven’t been invented yet” – contrasts with Josephs’ vision where today’s youth invent those technologies. More importantly, Josephs imagines a more equitable socio-technical future, marked not by competition, but where gains are shared. It should go without saying that this has not come to pass. As productivity shot up since the 1950’s, worker compensation has stagnated since around 1973.

In other words, the problem is not that Capital lacks a say in education, but that corporations and the 0.1% are reaping all the rewards and need to explain why. Too often, this explanation comes in the form of the zombie idea of a ‘skills gap’, which persists though it keeps being debunked. What else are CEOs going to say – and the skills gap is almost always based on an opinion survey  – when they are asked to explain stagnating wages?5

Josephs’ essay echoes John Maynard Keynes’ (1930) in his hope that the “average family” by 1977 “may take some of the [economic] gain in the form of leisure”; the dynamism of new ideas should have created gains for ‘many, many more’ people. Instead, the compensation for CEOs soared as the profit was privatized even though most of the risk for innovation was socialized by US government investment through programs such as DARPA.6"



"Audrey Watters has written about how futurists and gurus have figured out that “The best way to invent the future is to issue a press release.” Proponents of the ‘skills agenda’ like the OECD have essentially figured out how to make “the political more pedagogical”, to borrow a phrase from Henry Giroux. In their book, Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and billionaire Ted Dintersmith warn us that “if you can’t invent (and reinvent) your own job and distinctive competencies, you risk chronic underemployment.” Their movie, of the same title, repeats the hollow claim about ‘jobs that haven’t been invented yet’. Ironically, though Wagner tells us that “knowledge today is a free commodity”, you can only see the film in private screenings.

I don’t want to idealize Josephs, but revisiting his context helps us understand something about the debate about education and the future, not because he was a radical in his times, but because our times are radical.

In an interview at CUNY (2015), Gillian Tett asks Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman what policy initiatives they would propose to deal with globalization, technology, and inequality.9 After Sachs and Krugman propose regulating finance, expanding aid to disadvantaged children, creating a robust social safety net, reforming the tax system to eliminate privilege for the 0.1%, redistributing profits, raising wages, and strengthening the position of labor, Tett recounts a story:
“Back in January I actually moderated quite a similar event in Davos with a group of CEOs and general luminaries very much not just the 1% but probably the 0.1% and I asked them the same question. And what they came back with was education, education, and a bit of digital inclusion.”

Krugman, slightly lost for words, replies: “Arguing that education is the thing is … Gosh… That’s so 1990s… even then it wasn’t really true.”

For CEOs and futurists who say that disruption is the answer to practically everything, arguing that the answer lies in education and skills is actually the least disruptive response to the problems we face. Krugman argues that education emerges as the popular answer because “It’s not intrusive. It doesn’t require that we have higher taxes. It doesn’t require that CEOs have to deal with unions again.” Sachs adds, “Obviously, it’s the easy answer for that group [the 0.1%].”

The kind of complex thinking we deserve about education won’t come in factoids or bullet-point lists of skills of the future. In fact, that kind of complex thinking is already out there, waiting."



"Stay tuned for the tangled history of the claim if you're into that sort of thing..."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  inequality  education  credentialing  productivity  economics  society  statistics  audreywatters  billclinton  democrats  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  capitalism  johndewey  andreasschleicher  kerifacer  lindadarling-hammond  worldeconomicforum  oecd  labor  work  futurism  future  scottmcleod  karlfisch  richardriley  ianjukes  freetrade  competition  andrewold  michaelberman  thomasfriedman  devereuxjosephs  anationatrisk  sputnik  coldwar  okheelee  michaelsalwen  ussr  sovietunion  fear  india  china  russia  johnmaynardkeynes  leisure  robots  robotics  rodneybrooks  doughenwood  jobs  cwrightmills  henrygiroux  paulkrugman  gilliantett  jeffreysachs  policy  politics  globalization  technology  schools  curriculum  teddintersmith  tonywagner  mostlikelytosuccess  success  pedagogy  cathydavidson  jimcarroll  edtech 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Sabyasachi Mukherjee (@sabyasachiofficial) • Fotos y vídeos de Instagram
"Sabyasachi Mukherjee Official page to the world of Sabyasachi. Sabyasachi Flagship In Calcutta, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. customerservice@sabyasachi.com www.sabyasachi.com "
instagrams  fashion  india  photography  sabyasachimukherjee 
july 2017 by robertogreco
TOMORROW WE DISAPPEAR
"When their land is sold to developers, the magicians, acrobats, and puppeteers of Kathputli Colony must find a way to unite --
or splinter apart forever.

Tomorrow We Disappear is a feature length documentary about the last days of Kathputli, a hand-built artist colony hidden away in the alleyways of New Delhi. Spanning three years, the film follows Puran the Puppeteer, Rahman the Magician, and Maya the Acrobat as they approach their looming eviction."
film  documentary  towatch  india  kathputli  puppetry  artists  newdelhi  magicians  acobats  evicition  development 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Earth Timelapse
[via: "Watch The Movements Of Every Refugee On Earth Since The Year 2000: The story we tell ourselves about the refugee crisis is very different from the reality."
https://www.fastcompany.com/40423720/watch-the-movements-of-every-refugee-on-earth-since-the-year-2000

"In 2016, more refugees arrived in Uganda–including nearly half a million people from South Sudan alone–than crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. While the numbers in Africa are increasing, the situation isn’t new: As the world continues to focus on the European refugee crisis, an equally large crisis has been unfolding in Africa.

A new visualization shows the flow of refugees around the world from 2000 to 2015, and makes the lesser-known story in Africa–and in places like Sri Lanka in 2006 or Colombia in 2007–as obvious as what has been happening more recently in Syria. Each yellow dot represents 17 refugees leaving a country, and each red dot represents refugees arriving somewhere else. (The full version of the map, too large to display here, represents every single refugee in the world with a dot.)

Here’s some of what you’re seeing: In 2001, tens of thousands of refugees fled conflict in Afghanistan, while others fled civil war in Sudan (including the “Lost Boys,” orphans who in some cases were resettled in the U.S.). By 2003, the genocide in Darfur pushed even more people from Sudan. In 2006, war drove Lebanese citizens to Syria; Sri Lankans fleeing civil war went to India. In 2007, as conflict worsened in Colombia, refugees fled to nearby countries such as Venezuela. After leading demonstrations in Burma against dictatorial rule, Buddhist monks and others fled to Thailand. In 2008, a surge of Tibetan refugees fled to India, while Afghan, Iraqi, and Somali refugees continued to leave their home countries in large numbers. By 2009, Germany was taking in large numbers of refugees from countries such as Iraq. In 2010, another surge of refugees left Burma, while others left Cuba. By 2012, the civil war in Syria pushed huge numbers of refugees into countries such as Jordan. Ukrainian refugees began to flee unrest in 2013, and in greater numbers by 2014.

By 2015, the greatest number of refugees were coming from Syria, though mass movement from African countries such as South Sudan also continued–and because most of those refugees went to neighboring countries rather than Europe, the migration received less media attention. In 2015, the U.S. resettled 69,933 refugees; Uganda, with a population roughly eight times smaller, took in more than 100,000 people. Developing countries host nearly 90% of the world’s refugees.

“Often the debates we have in society start with emotion and extreme thoughts, like, ‘Oh, refugees are invading the U.S.,'” says Illah Nourbakhsh, director of the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, the lab that developed the technology used create the new visualization. “You can’t get past that–you can’t build common ground for people to actually talk about real issues and how to solve them.”

Showing people data in an animated, interactive visualization, he says, is “an interesting shortcut into your brain, where the visual evidence is more rhetorically compelling than any graph or chart that I show you. That visual evidence often moves you from somebody who’s questioning the data to somebody who can see the data. And now they want to talk about what to do about it.”

The lab began working on its Explorables project, a platform designed to help make sense of big data, four years ago. To make big data–with billions of data points, dozens of different fields of information, changing over time–easier to explore, the platform layers animations over maps.

The team has also used systems like Google Earth to explore big data, but even it can only display a few hundred markers, and it requires installation on computers. The researchers realized that they could use a graphics processor in someone’s computer directly, in the same way that a video game does. “What’s kind of cool is that the video game revolution has changed the computer’s architecture over the last decade,” he says. “So the computers have this amazing ability to very quickly render on the screen.” That technology is combined with an ability to display only the resolution needed for the data you’re zoomed in on, making it possible to share massive amounts of data."]
timelines  maps  mapping  refugees  migration  afghanistan  sudan  darfur  lebanon  syria  venezuela  colombia  burma  india  srilanka  southsudan  uganda  africa  europe  jordan  ukraine  cuba  tibet  somalia  thailand  germany  iraq 
june 2017 by robertogreco
1947 Partition Archive
"An archive that helps you record & share oral histories of the world's largest mass refugee crisis - 1947 India/Pakistan Partition."

"We are concerned global citizens committed to preserving this chapter of our collective history. We come from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, nationalities, and professions. It is our view that a strong foundation in history will pave the way for a more enlightened future for the subcontinent and hence the world. At the moment our team consists of 100% volunteer based staff, interns, advisers and experts who are passionate about preserving the people's history of Partition."

[See also: https://twitter.com/1947Partition ]
refugees  pakistan  india  1947  oralhistory  via:navalang  witness  migration 
april 2017 by robertogreco
A Boom Interview: Mike Davis in conversation with Jennifer Wolch and Dana Cuff – Boom California
"Dana Cuff: You told us that you get asked about City of Quartz too often, so let’s take a different tack. As one of California’s great urban storytellers, what is missing from our understanding of Los Angeles?

Mike Davis: The economic logic of real estate and land development. This has always been the master key to understanding spatial and racial politics in Southern California. As the late-nineteenth century’s most influential radical thinker—I’m thinking of San Francisco’s Henry George not Karl Marx—explained rather magnificently, you cannot reform urban space without controlling land values. Zoning and city planning—the Progressive tools for creating the City Beautiful—either have been totally co-opted to serve the market or died the death of a thousand cuts, that is to say by variances. I was briefly an urban design commissioner in Pasadena in the mid-1990s and saw how easily state-of-the-art design standards and community plans were pushed aside by campaign contributors and big developers.

If you don’t intervene in the operation of land markets, you’ll usually end up producing the opposite result from what you intended. Over time, for instance, improvements in urban public space raise home values and tend to become amenity subsidies for wealthier people. In dynamic land markets and central locations, nonprofits can’t afford to buy land for low-income housing. Struggling artists and hipsters inadvertently become the shock troops of gentrification and soon can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods and warehouse districts they invigorated. Affordable housing and jobs move inexorably further apart and the inner-city crisis ends up in places like San Bernardino.

If you concede that the stabilization of land values is the precondition for long-term democratic planning, there are two major nonrevolutionary solutions. George’s was the most straightforward: execute land monopolists and profiteers with a single tax of 100 percent on increases in unimproved land values. The other alternative is not as radical but has been successfully implemented in other advanced capitalist countries: municipalize strategic parts of the land inventory for affordable housing, parks and form-giving greenbelts.

The use of eminent domain for redevelopment, we should recall, was originally intended to transform privately owned slums into publicly owned housing. At the end of the Second World War, when progressives were a majority in city government, Los Angeles adopted truly visionary plans for both public housing and rational suburban growth. What then happened is well known: a municipal counter-revolution engineered by the LA Times. As a result, local governments continued to use eminent domain but mainly to transfer land from small owners to corporations and banks.

Fast-forward to the 1980s. A new opportunity emerged. Downtown redevelopment was devouring hundreds of millions of dollars of diverted taxes, but its future was bleak. A few years before, Reyner Banham had proclaimed that Downtown was dead or at least irrelevant. If the Bradley administration had had the will, it could have municipalized the Spring-Main Street corridor at rock-bottom market prices. Perhaps ten million square feet would have become available for family apartments, immigrant small businesses, public markets, and the like, at permanently controlled affordable rents.

I once asked Kurt Meyer, a corporate architect who had been chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, about this. He lived up Beachwood Canyon below the Hollywood Sign. We used to meet for breakfast because he enjoyed yarning about power and property in LA, and this made him a unique source for my research at the time. He told me that downtown elites were horrified by the unexpected revitalization of the Broadway corridor by Mexican businesses and shoppers, and the last thing they wanted was a populist downtown.

He also answered a question that long vexed me. “Kurt, why this desperate, all-consuming priority to have the middle class live downtown?” “Mike, do you know anything about leasing space in high-rise buildings?” “Not really.” “Well, the hardest part to rent is the ground floor: to extract the highest value, you need a resident population. You can’t just have office workers going for breakfast and lunch; you need night time, twenty-four hour traffic.” I don’t know whether this was really an adequate explanation but it certainly convinced me that planners and activists need a much deeper understanding of the game.

In the event, the middle class has finally come downtown but only to bring suburbia with them. The hipsters think they’re living in the real thing, but this is purely faux urbanism, a residential mall. Downtown is not the heart of the city, it’s a luxury lifestyle pod for the same people who claim Silverlake is the “Eastside” or that Venice is still bohemian.

Cuff: Why do you call it suburbia?

Davis: Because the return to the center expresses the desire for urban space and crowds without allowing democratic variety or equal access. It’s fool’s gold, and gentrification has taken the place of urban renewal in displacing the poor. Take Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris’s pioneering study of the privatization of space on the top of Bunker Hill. Of course, your museum patron or condo resident feels at home, but if you’re a Salvadorian skateboarder, man, you’re probably headed to Juvenile Hall."



"Jennifer Wolch: Absolutely. However it’s an important question particularly for the humanities students, the issue of subjectivity makes them reticent to make proposals.

Davis: But, they have skills. Narrative is an important part of creating communities. People’s stories are key, especially about their routines. It seems to me that there are important social science skills, but the humanities are important particularly because of stories. I also think a choreographer would be a great analyst of space and kind of an imagineer for using space.

I had a long talk with Richard Louv one day about his Last Child in the Woods, one of the most profound books of our time, a meditation on what it means for kids to lose contact with nature, with free nomadic unorganized play and adventure. A generation of mothers consigned to be fulltime chauffeurs, ferrying kids from one commercial distraction or over-organized play date to another. I grew up in eastern San Diego County, on the very edge of the back country, and once you did your chores (a serious business in those days), you could hop on your bike and set off like Huck Finn. There was a nudist colony in Harbison Canyon about twelve miles away, and we’d take our bikes, push them uphill for hours and hours in the hope of peeking through the fence. Like all my friends, I got a .22 (rifle) when I turned twelve. We did bad things to animals, I must confess, but we were free spirits, hated school, didn’t worry about grades, kept our parents off our backs with part-time jobs and yard work, and relished each crazy adventure and misdemeanor. Since I moved back to San Diego in 2002, I have annual reunions with the five or six guys I’ve known since second grade in 1953. Despite huge differences in political beliefs and religion, we’re still the same old gang.

And gangs were what kept you safe and why mothers didn’t have to worry about play dates or child molesters. I remember even in kindergarten—we lived in the City Heights area of San Diego at that time—we had a gang that walked to school together and played every afternoon. Just this wild group of little boys and girls, seven or eight of us, roaming around, begging pennies to buy gum at the corner store. Today the idea of unsupervised gangs of children or teenagers sounds like a law-and-order problem. But it’s how communities used to work and might still work. Aside from Louv, I warmly recommend The Child in the City by the English anarchist Colin Ward. A chief purpose of architecture, he argues, should be to design environments for unprogrammed fun and discovery."



"Wolch: We have one last question, about your young adult novels. Whenever we assign something from City of Quartz or another of your disheartening pieces about LA, it’s hard not to worry that the students will leave the class and jump off of a cliff! But your young adult novels seem to capture some amount of an alternative hopeful future.

Davis: Gee, you shouldn’t be disheartened by my books on LA. They’re just impassioned polemics on the necessity of the urban left. And my third LA book, Magical Urbanism, literally glows with optimism about the grassroots renaissance going on in our immigrant neighborhoods. But to return to the two adolescent “science adventure” novels I wrote for Viggo Mortensen’s wonderful Perceval Press. Above all they’re expressions of longing for my oldest son after his mother moved him back to her native Ireland. The heroes are three real kids: my son, his step-brother, and the daughter of our best friends when I taught at Stony Brook on Long Island. Her name is Julia Monk, and she’s now a wildlife biologist doing a Ph.D. at Yale on pumas in the Andes. I’m very proud that I made her the warrior-scientist heroine of the novels, because it was an intuition about her character that she’s made real in every way—just a remarkable young person."
mikedavis  2016  interviews  economics  california  sanfrancisco  losangeles  henrygeorge  urbanism  urban  suburbia  suburbs  jenniferolch  danacuff  fauxurbanism  hipsters  downtown  property  ownership  housing  populism  progressive  progressivism  reynerbanham  planning  urbanplanning  citybeautiful  gentrification  cities  homeless  homelessness  michaelrotundi  frankgehry  richardlouv  gangs  sandiego  friendship  colinward  thechildinthecity  architecture  fun  discovery  informal  unprogrammed  freedom  capitalism  china  india  england  ireland  famine  optimism  juliamonk  children  teens  youth  development  realestate  zoning  sanbernardino  sciarc 
january 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
Reclaiming Paper and Textiles | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"Newsworthy is a wallpaper made of recycled newspaper and nylon filament. It is designed by New York-based textile designer Lori Weitzner and is woven in India on traditional handlooms using the coiled newsprint for the weft and nylon filaments as the warp. After the paper is woven, it is shipped back to the United States where it is paper backed to facilitate being pasted to the wall. The weaving process is handled by Xylem Papercraft, a design studio in Noida outside of Delhi, India, that manufactures and exports handmade paper for stationery products distributed globally. The company won the UNESCO seal of Excellence in 2006 for its innovative and sustainable approach, working mostly with paper waste and other reclaimed materials.

Xylem has also produced the one-of-a-kind covers of the newly published book Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse. In the spirit of the book’s content dedicated to recovering textile waste, the covers are done of hand block-printing textile padding cloths. Traditionally hand block-printing is made on a padded table covered with a muslin backing cloth called achada in Indian. With each impression, ink is deposited on the textile, but also bleeds through the padded surface below. Over time, fragments of a variety of patterns and colors accumulate on the backing cloth, which must be changed every few days. These discarded achada were used for the cover of Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse."
fashion  textiles  cooper-hewitt  recycling  glvo  loriweitzer  delhi  india  xylem  design  achada 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Life of a Jamdani | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"Jamdani is a Persian term for the extremely fine handwoven figured muslins made in India and Bangladesh. Thicker cotton threads laid individually into the weft produce the illusion of a suspended pattern on the surface of an almost transparent cloth. Intricate color motifs seem to float on the cloth. Jamdani is generally thought to have derived from jam-daar, a Persian weaving term for floral art in cotton thread, there are other possible sources, including jama, the Bengali word for dress.

The system of production, from dyeing thread to setting up the loom, is determined by the length of jamdani’s most marketable end-product, a sari. Looms are set up with warps eleven meters long, each warp yielding two saris, 5.5 meters in length. The patterns in these two saris will not be repeated again by the weaver.

Producing jamdani is very labor intensive with specialties divided amongst workers by religion, village and especially gender. Pit looms are still used and the original throw shuttle has been replaced by a more mechanical technique using a fly shuttle, which is faster and more efficient, but still depends upon the hand for guidance. The best quality jamdani is produced from locally grown fine cotton and is always woven during the monsoon season when the humid air prevents the fine threads from becoming brittle and breaking. Traditionally the plain weave background was white, off-white or grey, though today, colors are chosen from a vibrant array.

In fall of 2001, Christina Kim, founder of the clothing and accessories line dosa, attended a handloom fair in Ahmedabad, India where she was inspired by the transparency and unusual mix of colors and bold patterns of jamdani fabrics. Working within the eleven-meter format and tied to the idiosyncrasies of the individual weaver, Kim began to use jamdani in her designs for dosa.

Since 2003 she has used 11,000 meters of jamdani. The cloth is shipped to Los Angeles (the headquarters of dosa), where it is cut and sewn into garments. Remnants from this clothing production have been collected from the cutting room to make shopping bags, and since 2007 are inventoried, catalogued, and sorted by size and color to make new running yardage. The scraps for the new fabrics are reassembled in Gujarat, India.

This recycled panel is made of large remnants of plain, pattern-less jamdani, joined to make a four-meter base cloth onto which smaller, patterned scraps are positioned and basted into place. Hand appliqué adds another layer of texture to the patchwork cloth. Representing ideas of sustainability, longevity, and preciousness, Christine Kim’s jamdanis give new life to pieces of cloth."
textiles  design  persia  india  bangladesh  christinakim  jamdani  recycling  appliqué  cloth  longevity  sustainability  preciousness  fabrics  glvo  cooper-hewitt  matildamcquaid 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Janwaar Castle Our Principles - Janwaar Castle
"Janwaar Castle is a sandbox project for which the principles are clearly defined (without being taught or said) and inside this sandbox everything is possible. It is up to the children what we take forward. The options are manifold. Our principles are simple:

Systems over objects
We believe in networks and we think in networks. Janwaar Castle is a network based model. Therefore we put systems over objects and constantly ask ourselves how do we responsibly participate in the village and the area around us.

Emergence over authorities
We don’t tell the children what to do. We let them do, observe and then guide them in the things they’ve chosen to do. It’s not on us to decide what will be done or what is right or wrong. And they don’t need to ask for permission. They can simply go ahead and do.

Pull over push
Janwaar Castle pulls from the network as it needs it rather than keep everything in stock. We are agile. Resources one considers as assets actually become liabilities when one wants to be agile.

Resilience over strength
It is not the fittest or strongest who keeps Janwaar Castle running, it’s the one who is ready to go the long distance if needed and to achieve balance within the Janwaar Castle ecosystem.

Disobedience over compliance
This is a tough one for India. You don’t win Nobel prizes for doing what you’re told. We need to create environments that are resilient to the automatization of the world, and that require disobedience and encourage to ask questions. A lot of civics is about disobedience.

Compasses over maps
At Janwaar Castle it’s much more important to navigate and find your own way in life than following a pre-defined path or a standardized curriculum.

Learning over education
Education is something what you do to others. Learning is what you do to yourself. And this is what Janwaar Castle is all about.

Practice over theory
We do. We build stuff. We fail. We do it again differently. We might fail again. Then we do it again. And we learn by doing so. We succeed. This way the kids for instance have learnt to fix their skateboards, to use their tablets and to skateboard. Without instruction. What they’ve learnt will stay with them.

We over me
Janwaar Castle is community oriented, it doesn’t focus on the individual. This is a natural outcome of the network and the system thinking we’ve embraced."

[See also:
"Why A German Woman Built A Skatepark In Rural Madhya Pradesh"
http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/08/23/why-a-german-woman-built-a-skatepark-for-rural-children-in-madhy/

"The first hurdle was bringing the children from the Adivasi and Yadav communities together.

"In the village we have Adivasis and Yadavs -- they are strictly separated in their houses. First the Yadav kids came to the skatepark, they were 'pushing out' the Adivasis," she said.

The Adivasi and the Yadav children wouldn't skate together. They had different timings.

But, slowly, things changed. "Now the skatepark has a mix of Adivasi and Yadav, boys and girls, and all age groups," she said.

Recalling an incident, she said, "A key moment in this was in one of our morning sessions. There was a little Adivasi girl standing in the middle of our circle. She was dirty like hell, no one wanted to give her the hand and include her in the circle. So, I did. A few seconds later a Yadav boy took the other hand and she was included."" ]
janwaarcastle  education  learning  resilience  systemsthinking  systems  emergence  emergentcurrciulum  sfsh  disobedience  compliance  democracy  practice  theory  praxis  skateboarding  skating  skateparks  lcproject  openstudioproject  children  empowerment  standardization  curriculum  via:willrichardson  standards  community  individualism  networks  india  madhyapradesh  inclusion  inclusivity  skateboards 
september 2016 by robertogreco
61 Glimpses of the Future — Today’s Office — Medium
"1. If you want to understand how our planet will turn out this century, spend time in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil.

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

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

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

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

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

10. Borders are permeable.

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

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

14. Pretentious people are inherently less curious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38. Tibetan monks prefer iOS over Android.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

60. The difference between 2.5G and 3G? In the words of a smartphone wielding GBAO teenager on the day 3G data was switched on her town, “I can breathe”."
janchipchase  2016  travel  technology  borders  authenticity  pretension  curiosity  china  tibet  japan  eligion  culture  capitalism  wechat  facebook  android  ios  tokyo  chengdu  future  past  communication  tea  greentea  certainty  monks  translation  nature  indonesia  nigeria  brasil  brazil  india  shoes  connectivity  internet  mobile  phones  smartphones  sharingeconomy  economics  negotiation  touchid  cities  urban  urbanism  location  risk  relationships  consumers  terrorism  truckers  oppo  siliconvalley  wealth  nouveauriche  comparison  generations 
july 2016 by robertogreco
My Struggle with American Small Talk - The New Yorker
"“How’s it going?” I ask the barista. “How’s your day been?”

“Ah, not too busy. What are you up to?”

“Not much. Just reading.”

This, I have learned, is one of the key rituals of American life. It has taken me only a decade to master.

I immigrated to the United States in 2001, for college. I brought only my Indian experience in dealing with shopkeepers and tea sellers. In Delhi, where I grew up, commerce is brusque. You don’t ask each other how your day has been. You might not even smile. I’m not saying this is ideal—it’s how it is. You’re tied together by a transaction. The customer doesn’t tremble before complaining about how cold his food is. Each side believes the other will cheat him, and each remains alert. Tips are not required.

“God, Mahajan, you’re so rude to waiters!” Tom, an American friend, said, laughing, after he watched me ordering food at a restaurant, in the West Village, years ago. Considering myself a mild and friendly person, I was surprised. “You’re ingratiating!” I countered. Tom always asked servers how they were doing or complimented their shirts or cracked jokes about the menu. At the time, this seemed intellectually dishonest to me. Did he really care what they were wearing? Wasn’t he just expressing his discomfort about being richer than the person serving him? If you did this little number with everyone, was it genuine?

American life is based on a reassurance that we like one another but won’t violate one another’s privacies. This makes it a land of small talk. Two people greet each other happily, with friendliness, but might know each other for years before venturing basic questions about each other’s backgrounds. The opposite is true of Indians. At least three people I’ve sat next to on planes to and from India have asked me, within minutes, how much I earn as a writer (only to turn away in disappointment when I tell them). In the East, I’ve heard it said, there’s intimacy without friendship; in the West, there’s friendship without intimacy.

So, for years in America, I would shudder when reporting to the front lines to order coffee. It felt like a performance. I had a thick accent and people didn’t understand me and I was ashamed and I fumbled. I radiated an uncertain energy; sometimes baristas sensed this and wouldn’t try to talk to me, and then an insecure voice in my head would cry, “He’s racist!”

During these years in the small-talk wilderness, I also wondered why Americans valued friendliness with commerce so much. Was handing over cash the sacred rite of American capitalism—and of American life? On a day that I don’t spend money in America, I feel oddly depressed. It’s my main form of social interaction—as it is for millions of Americans who live alone or away from their families.

Everything is subject to analysis until it becomes second nature to you. Living in Brooklyn and then in Austin, Texas, I made coffee shops the loci of my movements. Meeting the same baristas day after day bred context, and I got practice. People no longer heard my name as “Kevin” or “Carmen,” though they still misheard “to go” as “to stay” and vice versa. I was beginning to assimilate. It felt good and didn’t seem fake anymore.

Still, sometimes, when I make small talk at cash registers, I am reminded of a passage from a novel called “The Inscrutable Americans,” which was popular in India in the nineteen-nineties. In the opening of the book, the scion of a hair-oil empire, Gopal, comes to the U.S. for college. When an immigration agent at J.F.K. asks, “How is it going?” Gopal replies the only way he knows:
I am telling him fully and frankly about all problems and hopes, even though you may feel that as American he may be too selfish to bother about decline in price of hair oil in Jajau town. But, brother, he is listening very quietly with eyes on me for ten minutes and then we are having friendly talk about nuts and he is wanting me to go.
"
communication  culture  smalltalk  2016  karanmahajan  commerce  capitalism  india  performance  society  customs  friendliness  honesty  intimacy  friendship 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The burning issue in Banksy’s Graffiti — Medium
"Over half term Banksy broke into Bridge Farm Primary School in Bristol and drew a giant image of a girl rolling a burning tyre away from a distant school house. Media coverage of this event has, perhaps inevitably, gravitated towards the price of the art work and the disciplinary implications of Banksy’s letter to the children telling them that it’s “always easier to get forgiveness than permission”. What is less covered, and what is perhaps more worthy of a national discussion, are the subversive criticisms of the state of formal education and the lives of children in the UK and around the world which are evident in Banksy’s latest piece of work.

Banksy’s painting depicts a 14 foot stick figure girl with her back to a school house. The school, also drawn in simple lines, appears small and insignificant in the background. Its windows are barred. The one element of the painting that appears vivid and real is the burning tyre, with smoke billowing up into the air. The girl holds a stick in her hand and is pushing the tyre along, away from the school and towards a solitary flower. Her expression is blank and somewhat confused. The game she is playing is hoop rolling, where children use a stick to tap a hoop or tyre along, rolling it forward and preventing it from toppling over. Children used to play it on the streets of England as early as the 15th century, though you are unlikely to encounter a hoop roller on the streets today. Children in many parts of the world, especially in less economically developed countries, can still be seen rolling and racing tyres down the road for fun. The difference in Banksy’s image is that the tyre is billowing in flames.

One’s initial instinct upon seeing the image may be concern for the child. The fire appears large and out of control and the girl is blindly ploughing forward pushing it away from the seemingly safe space of the school building. Does the tyre represent the world outside the school walls? Have we created a world that is so hostile to children that we have to keep them cocooned in schools for 13 years of their lives before they are equipped enough to survive it? Is this why we have created schools that compartmentalize and pre-package the world into safe and “useful” learning parcels rather than letting children learn and be inspired first hand?

Education and learning have always been around in one form or another, yet the ways in which we learned in the past were more diverse, local, contextual, culturally and ecologically sound. However mass compulsory schooling, the idea that every child must spend a vast chunk of their lives in an institution, is a very new idea. It originated in Prussia in the 19th century in order to produce obedient and disciplined soldiers following Prussia’s defeat in the Napoleonic wars. Men did not know how to fight, or perhaps did not want to fight, so they were bred to fight. The model worked well for the industrial revolution as well, freeing parents from childcare in order to work in the factories, and breeding children with basic skills and literacy who would follow in their parents’ footsteps, working for others. During the colonial era, education was used intentionally to wipe out indigenous cultures and create subservient clerks for the colonial administration. As Thomas Macaulay, who was largely responsible for the development of modern schooling in India put it, schools needed to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. Today, we imagine that schools are more liberating and have a broader curriculum, but perhaps we need to look again.

I have a vested interest in the different ways formal schooling has been designed and accessed around the world. In 2004, fresh out of university, I went to work in Yemen, on the island of Socotra. I had visited the island in 1997 on a school trip from the capital, Sanaa, and it had left a deep impact on my learning. Socotra is an island of extreme botanical diversity and natural beauty, and one where traditional environmental management systems had maintained harmony between human needs and the balance of the ecosystems which sustained them. When I arrived, Socotra was going through its first real boom in development. An airport had been built, tourists were starting to arrive, and villagers and nomads were settling in towns and sending their children to schools. The schools that were being built were of two types: government schools that promised students a path towards a secure government or private sector job, or faith schools that promised parents and children a route towards a secure religious identity. Both types of schools removed children from the land, the forests, the streams and the beaches they used to roam, play on and learn from. Slowly, children who used to know the names of all the plants and their uses and who used to follow generations old customs to preserve the unique diversity of the island forgot the names of the plants, they forgot how to scramble up the mountains and dive for seashells, and they happily started driving their 4x4s, playing loud music and chucking litter out the windows. The new environmental management system for the island then had to be imported, with computers, international experts, degrees from western universities, and more 4x4s.

My experience watching this transformation in Socotra has remained with me. Since then, I’ve worked and visited schools in other parts of Yemen, in Jordan, in Morocco, in Chad, in India, in the UK and in refugee camps from Algeria to Palestine. Around the world, a similar story can be seen. A story where children’s connection to place and to community is being replaced by a connection to a very narrow idea of what success and happiness looks like. A vision of identity and status being linked to consumption, where learning “useful” knowledge is done in classrooms and not in the real world.

Children in schools today wear school uniforms, blazers, suits and ties. We teach them that in order to be successful they must sit behind a desk and use a computer. School children don’t wear dungarees as uniforms. Most don’t learn that they can be happy being woodworkers or growing food or fixing bikes. They by and large don’t get the chance to learn about deciduous forests by being in them, smelling them, feeling them and playing in them. They learn about deciduous forests by reading about them and answering exam questions about them. When we took a group of year 11 students from my school in London to the south coast, one of them looked at the English channel and asked “is that the river?” One in four of the children in my Modern Foreign Languages class had never seen the River Thames, despite living within a half hour’s walk from it. These children attend a school that sets very high expectations and cares incredibly about the wellbeing of its students. The same children would go on to achieve GCSE results which place them in the top 10% in the country. They are highly successful students.

Schools have discipline and authority. Some schools may have active student councils, but by no stretch of the imagination are our schools democratic structures. We tell our children that we live in a democracy but children know fully well that they have no power to change the status quo, or to challenge authority. I understood this very quickly teaching in London. The school rules stated that “I do as I’m asked the first time I’m asked”. There was no room for negotiation, it was for the greater good of maintaining discipline and not “disrupting learning”. The unwritten rules were even more disconcerting. I quickly learnt that as a teacher, if I were to witness a dispute between a teacher and a student, it was my job to back my colleagues regardless of the situation. It was for the greater good of maintaining discipline. Perhaps we need to look at these dynamics to understand why Britain is struggling to get its youth to vote in the European referendum.

We give lessons about sustainability, and some schools may even have recycling bins and green clubs, but the environmental footprint of schools from construction to transport, energy and water has a long way to go to meet sustainability parameters. Seeing the smoke billowing out of Banky’s tyre, one cannot but think of environmental damage, pollution and global warming. Does the tyre represent the environmental destruction that we as humans are creating? Does it represent the mindset that we instill in our children during their schooling where we are inherently taught to blindly plough forward, producing waste and consuming fossil fuels, because that is the path to growth?

In the international development agenda, the goal of ‘Education for All’ is inseparable from the development path of nations. Children have to learn their Maths and their English. They forget about traditional knowledge systems, local food sources, water resources, languages and community cohesion. The world is a competitive place and they must learn the skills to allow them to move to cities where they too will consume and fuel our endless growth and our endless piles of burning tyres. It is also clear that a lot of very well intentioned work is being done. For example, when I worked on education in refugee camps in Jordan, people were thinking about psychosocial care for children affected by trauma, on creating safe spaces and child friendly spaces for children and on equipping them with the skills they would need to move on after devastating conflict. All of this is important and invaluable work, but where are these learning models coming from? How do they connect to local identities, and what vision of a happy, successful and ecologically sound future do they aspire to?

Maybe Banksy was being kind by sending us a note along with his art. He gave us a red herring to tend to our sensibilities, in case we are not quite ready to face the art. But perhaps one can hope that, … [more]
education  unschooling  deschooling  rowansalim  colonialism  happiness  success  community  children  learning  culture  place  experience  2016  banksy  environment  development  summerhill  asneill  shikshantar  highered  highereducation  compulsory  schooling  schooliness  via:carolblack  society  nature  knowledge  ater  food  jordan  yemen  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  discipline  authority  negotiation  socotra  morocco  chad  india  uk  algeria  palestine  identity  status  consumption  economics  sanaa  thomasmacaulay  liberation  curriculum  sfsh 
june 2016 by robertogreco
What History Teaches Us About Walls - The New York Times
"It is lost to history whether Hadrian, Qin Shi Huang or Nikita Khrushchev ever uttered, “I will build a wall.”

But build they did, and what happened? The history of walls — to keep people out or in — is also the history of people managing to get around, over and under them. Some come tumbling down.

The classic example is the Great Wall of China. Imposing and remarkably durable, yes, yet it didn’t block various nomadic tribes from the north. History is full of examples of engineering thwarted by goal-oriented rank amateurs. But Donald Trump has promised to build a wall on the United States-Mexican border that he says will be big, beautiful, tall and strong, and he says Mexico will pay for it.

Here’s some more historical perspective on walls."
walls  borders  border  us  mexico  israel  palestine  germany  history  2016  photography  donaldtrump  china  spain  españa  morocco  melilla  hadrian'swall  england  moscow  russia  vaticancity  korea  southkorea  northkorea  romania  roma  warsaw  poland  india  bangladesh  cyprus  ireland  northernireland  mauritania 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Identity 2016: 'Global citizenship' rising, poll suggests - BBC News
"People are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens, according to a BBC World Service poll.

The trend is particularly marked in emerging economies, where people see themselves as outward looking and internationally minded.

However, in Germany fewer people say they feel like global citizens now, compared with 2001.

Pollsters GlobeScan questioned more than 20,000 people in 18 countries.

More than half of those asked (56%) in emerging economies saw themselves first and foremost as global citizens rather than national citizens.

In Nigeria (73%), China (71%), Peru (70%) and India (67%) the data is particularly marked.
By contrast, the trend in the industrialised nations seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

In these richer nations, the concept of global citizenship appears to have taken a serious hit after the financial crash of 2008. In Germany, for example, only 30% of respondents see themselves as global citizens."

[See also: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/people-increasingly-identify-as-globalnot-nationalcitizens ]
identity  cosmopolitanism  nigeria  china  perú  india  spain  españa  kenya  uk  greece  brazil  brasil  canada  pakistan  ghana  indonesia  us  mexico  chile  germany  russia  ethnicty  citizenships  globalization 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Life at an Incredible Height - The Morning News
"In Mumbai, paltry regulation means hundreds of new skyscrapers bring more lows than highs.

Photographs of new construction, with titles named after the buildings’ advertising slogans.

Alicja Dobrucka is a Polish photographer interested in the passage of time, cultural identity, and how one culture influences or appropriates elements of another. Alicja’s work has appeared in exhibitions in various cities, including Lisbon, Venice, Poznan, and her current base London. While visiting Mumbai, Alicja observed how a lucrative real estate sector and poorly regulated construction are pushing the skyline to grow taller and taller and transforming the city into a hazard for people and the environment. Her series “Life is on a high” confronts this explosive construction by juxtaposing photos of the buildings with the ad copy promising a life of luxury for their future occupants.

Studio-X Mumbai will exhibit selections from “Life is on a high” in the latter half of 2014."

[photographs with captions]

"The Morning News:
What brought you to Mumbai in the first place?

Alicja Dobrucka:
I first came to Mumbai at the end of 2011 for a residency and an exhibition, and honestly I didn’t dare pull out my camera. I find India is rather difficult to photograph, as it’s just too photogenic. I kept coming back to the city, and it wasn’t until two years later, in 2013, that this series actually came about.

TMN:
Tell us about the trickiest part of making these images.

AD:
Shooting the series was not an easy task, considering that I chose to execute it with a large format camera, so the process became much slower. The most demanding, trickiest, and time-consuming part was actually receiving permission as each building has a guard downstairs. It is not a problem to walk around with any digital equipment, but as soon as you pull out a tripod the problem starts.
There are some areas, like Worli Naka, where people are very aware of photographers and are requested to report anyone taking pictures to the police. It’s an aftermath of the 2008 attacks as there were white photographers doing mapping for Pakistani bombers.

TMN:
What surprised you during the process?

AD:
My assistant Omrita Nandi and I had many adventures while shooting. Mumbai is a place where as a woman you cannot go many places alone. Once when we visited an inhabited building and while asking for permission to photograph, the man we were speaking to—the head of security of that building—unzipped his fly. I wasn’t quite sure whether that really was happening as we did feel we weren’t alone there. We ran a floor down and, in panic, tried to ask the family who were living there who was the secretary. Each building in Mumbai has someone like a director of the decision-making panel, called the secretary. The people refused to speak to us.

This was not the only case of such behavior, which is actually more shocking rather than surprising.

TMN:
Could you replicate this series in another city? Let’s say, in London where you live?

AD:
Yes, that would definitely be possible in many developing Asian cities. I have recently visited Hong Kong and Istanbul, where I saw some amazingly horrendous construction, and I’m sure I would have a lot of joy capturing them. I’m not sure about London, as the system of centralized urban planning is highly organized there.

TMN:
The writer George Saunders, discussing the art of fiction, said art starts with intention and “our intention is to crack life open for just a second.” In what ways have you experienced this through photography?

AD:
Ha! I think for me this happens in the process: research, experimenting, and when it all starts coming together. It has to do with the vulnerability caused by the uncertainly of whether it’s going to work out.

TMN:
What will this city look like in 10 years?

AD:
I’m very interested to know that. I presume that the photographed buildings will look much worse once they have lived a little in the moist Mumbai climate.

Mumbai is definitely becoming a vertical city slaved to the car and in which the pavements are bound to disappear. The island city is rapidly expanding onto the mainland.

The way things look like at the moment is that if the small number of people who are aware of the world heritage of the city fail to protect it, all the charming post-colonial architectural leftovers will have disappeared and be replaced by the modern structures with more chain restaurants and coffee shops.

TMN:
Where are you taking your camera next?

AD:
Just got back from a residency in Sivas, Turkey, organized by the Tandem program participants: Kasia Sobucka, Merja Briñón, Talat Alkan, and Serra Özhan Yüksel. I was working with the local crafts people, as well as on sculptures and paintings and with a local musician on a video piece.

When it comes to photography, the next destinations are Turkey and India. But who knows, things may change. I like to keep an element of spontaneity."
mumbai  india  construction  architecture  photography  alicjadobrucka  urban  cities  skyscrapers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
A Too-Perfect Picture - The New York Times
"You know a Steve McCurry picture when you see one. His portrait of an Afghan girl with vivid green eyes, printed on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, is one of the iconic images of the 20th century. McCurry’s work is stark and direct, with strong colors, a clear emotional appeal and crisp composition. His most recent volume of photographs, “India,” is a compendium of the pictures he took in that country between 1978 and 2014, and it also gives us the essential McCurry. There are Hindu festivals, men in turbans, women in saris, red-robed monks, long mustaches, large beards, preternaturally soulful children and people in rudimentary canoes against dramatic landscapes.

In McCurry’s portraits, the subject looks directly at the camera, wide-eyed and usually marked by some peculiar­ity, like pale irises, face paint or a snake around the neck. And when he shoots a wider scene, the result feels like a certain ideal of photography: the rule of thirds, a neat counterpoise of foreground and background and an obvious point of primary interest, placed just so. Here’s an old-timer with a dyed beard. Here’s a doe-eyed child in a head scarf. The pictures are staged or shot to look as if they were. They are astonishingly boring.

Boring, but also extremely popular: McCurry’s photographs adorn calendars and books, and command vertiginous prices at auction. He has more than a million followers on Instagram. This popularity does not come about merely because of the technical finesse of his pictures. The photographs in “India,” all taken in the last 40 years, are popular in part because they evoke an earlier time in Indian history, as well as old ideas of what photographs of Indians should look like, what the accouterments of their lives should be: umbrellas, looms, sewing machines; not laptops, wireless printers, escalators. In a single photograph, taken in Agra in 1983, the Taj Mahal is in the background, a steam train is in the foreground and two men ride in front of the engine, one of them crouched, white-bearded and wearing a white cap, the other in a loosefitting brown uniform and a red turban. The men are real, of course, but they have also been chosen for how well they work as types.

A defender of McCurry’s work might suggest that he is interested in exploring vanishing cultures. After all, even in the 21st century, not all Indians go to malls or fly in planes. Should he not be celebrated for seeking out the picturesque and using it to show us quintessential India? What is wrong with showing a culture in its most authentic form? The problem is that the uniqueness of any given country is a mixture not only of its indigenous practices and borrowed customs but also of its past and its present. Any given photograph encloses only a section of the world within its borders. A sequence of photographs, taken over many years and carefully arranged, however, reveals a worldview. To consider a place largely from the perspective of a permanent anthropological past, to settle on a notion of authenticity that edits out the present day, is not simply to present an alternative truth: It is to indulge in fantasy.

What a relief it is to move from Steve McCurry’s work to that of someone like Raghubir Singh. Singh worked from the late ’60s until his untimely death in 1999, traveling all over India to create a series of powerful books about his homeland. His work shares formal content with McCurry’s: the subcontinental terrain, the eye-popping color, the human presence. Within these shared parameters, however, Singh gives us photographs charged with life: not only beautiful experiences or painful scenes but also those in-between moments of drift that make up most of our days. Singh had a democratic eye, and he took pictures of everything: cities, towns, villages, shops, rivers, worshipers, workers, construction sites, motorbikes, statues, modern furniture, balconies, suits, dresses and, sure, turbans and saris.

The power of Singh’s pictures lies in part in their capacious content. But it also lies in their composition, which rises well beyond mere competence, as he demonstrated in books like “River of Colour,” “The Ganges” and “Bombay: Gateway of India.” Singh has cited Edgar Degas and the American photographer Helen Levitt as influences, and you can see what he has learned from their highly sophisticated approaches (Degas’s casual grace, Levitt’s sympathetic view of urban oddity and the way both of them let in messiness at the edges of their images — a messiness that reminds us of the life happening outside the frame as well as within it). A photograph like the one Singh made of a crowded intersection in Kolkata in 1987 draws a breathtaking coherence out of the chaos of the everyday. The image, of which the key elements are a green door, a distant statue, an arm and a bus, is slightly surreal. But everything is in its right place. It reads as a moment of truth snipped from the flow of life.

I love even more a photograph Singh made in Mumbai a couple of years later. Taken in a busy shopping district called Kemps Corner, this photograph has less-obvious charms. The picture is divided into four vertical parts by the glass frontage of a leather-goods shop and its open glass door, and within this grid is a scatter of incident. The main figure, if we can call her that, is a woman past middle age who wears a red blouse and a dark floral skirt and carries a cloth bag on a string. She is seen in profile and looks tired. Beyond her and behind are various other walkers in the city, going about their serious business. An overpass cuts across the picture horizontally. The foreground, red with dust, is curiously open, a potential space for people not yet in the picture. The glass on the left is a display of handbags for sale, and the peculiar lighting of the bags indicates that Singh used flash in taking the shot. The image, unforgettable because it stretches compositional coherence nearly to its snapping point, reminds me of Degas’s painting “Place de la Concorde,” another picture in which easy, classically balanced composition is jettisoned for something more exciting and discomfiting and grounded.

How do we know when a photographer caters to life and not to some previous prejudice? One clue is when the picture evades compositional cliché. But there is also the question of what the photograph is for, what role it plays within the economic circulation of images. Some photographs, like Singh’s, are freer of the censorship of the market. Others are taken only to elicit particular conventional responses — images that masquerade as art but fully inhabit the vocabulary of advertising. As Justice Potter Stewart said when pressed to define hard-core pornography in 1964, “I know it when I see it.”

I saw “it” when I recently watched the video for Coldplay’s “Hymn for the Weekend.” The song is typical Coldplay, written for vague uplift but resistant to sense (“You said, ‘Drink from me, drink from me’/When I was so thirsty/Poured on a symphony/Now I just can’t get enough”). Filmed in India, with a cameo by Beyoncé, the video is a kind of exotification bingo, and almost like a live-action version of Steve McCurry’s vision: peacocks, holy men, painted children, incense. Almost nothing in the video allows true contemporaneity to Indians. They seem to have been placed there as a colorful backdrop to the fantasies of Western visitors. A fantasy withers in the sunlight of realism. But as long as realism is held at bay, the fantasy can remain satisfying to an enormous audience. More than a hundred million people have watched the Coldplay video since it was posted at the end of January.

Are we then to cry “appropriation” whenever a Westerner approaches a non-Western subject? Quite the contrary: Some of the most insightful stories about any place can be told by outsiders. I have, for instance, seen few documentary series as moving and humane as “Phantom India,” released in 1969 by the French auteur Louis Malle. Mary Ellen Mark, not Indian herself, did extraordinary work photographing prostitutes in Mumbai. Non-Indians have made images that capture aspects of the endlessly complicated Indian experience, just as have Indian photographers like Ketaki Sheth, Sooni Taraporevala, Raghu Rai and Richard Bartholomew.

Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories. And it is ferociously difficult when those others are tangled up in your history and you are tangled up in theirs. What honors those we look at, those whose stories we try to tell, is work that acknowledges their complex sense of their own reality. Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way. For this reason, it outlives the moment that occasions it. Weaker photography delivers a quick message — sweetness, pathos, humor — but fails to do more. But more is what we are."
tejucole  photography  2016  stevemccurry  appropriation  india  culture  authenticity  raghubirsingh  drift  betweeness  democracy  diversity  composition  edgardegas  prejudice  censorship  markets  popularity  nationalgeographic  exotification  realism  outsiders  louismalle  maryellenmark  mumbai  katakisheth  soonitaraporevala  raghurai  richardbartholomew  complexity  reality  sweetness  pathos  humor 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Unless you speak English, the Internet doesn’t care about you | Fusion
"The internet is global but it is also regional. Cats are to the U.S. and Japan what goats are to Brazil and Uganda. If you speak an uncommon language, the internet can feel downright rural. The problem isn’t just getting online, but whether there will be anything for people who get online to actually do.

“What’s critical to understand is that, with the next billion users coming online, we’re going to see a wide variety of new languages represented online,” said An Xiao Mina, a co-founder of the Civic Beat and a technologist at Meedan working to build a platform to translate social media. “We live in a world of many internets, where even if you reduce the limits of geography, censorship and connectivity, language prevents large swaths of people from connecting with each other.”

But it’s not just ‘obscure’ languages that are discriminated against on the web.

Even use of Arabic—the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world and the fourth most common language among internet users—was until recently limited on many mobile phones. In some places on the internet, it still is. To cope, Arabic speak­ers developed “Arabizi”, a combination of Roman letters and numbers that make it easier to chat. Arabizi is a essentially a transliteration of Arabic into English characters, using numbers to stand in for some of the letters that don’t have direct counterparts in sound, like 7 for ح (ha), which sounds a bit like a guttural “h.”

It’s an ingenious solution, but one that shouldn’t have to exist. When emoji exploded in popularity, developers across all platforms worked quickly to make it easily usable on their devices. Why so slow with Arabic?

Arabic Wikipedia, by the way, has just 400,000 articles. A language spoken by more than 400 million people is less represented than Swedish, a language spoken by just 9 million. The demographics of the internet have historically been very different from that of the offline world, and those colonization effects are dramatic.

Recent research has shown that speaking English is a significant factor in determining whether someone adopts use of the web. Some languages are not well represented online, but others, like Tibetan, are completely invisible, unusable on browsers, operating systems, and keyboards.

The Tibetan blogger Dechen Pemba recently wrote about the frustrations of not being able to access the Tibetan language on a phone. Google, he wrote, failed to develop a Tibetan language interface and only recently incorporated the Tibetan language font on some Android phones. (That’s one way for Apple, which does support Tibetan, to win customers from Android.)

“Given that the Tibetan literary tradition goes back to the 7th century … my pet hate is when Tibetan language is described as ‘obscure,'” he wrote. “I wonder how it is possible that the language of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists, comprising of as many as 60 million people, can be wilfully left behind in terms of modern technology?”

Facebook’s Free Basics program was controversial in India in large part because it limited the internet resources the digitally disadvantaged would have access to. Would it include access to domestic violence protection programs, or would it be a walled ghetto devoted to social media and online shopping? Language barriers can also force internet users into digital ghettos, or force them to forsake their mother tongue (and its culture) to escape them.

“The fact that a lot of groups have very little local-language content is problematic because it can contribute to a global homogenization of ideas and culture, and perhaps even knowledge itself,” said Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Graham predicts negative impacts on cultural diversity if the Internet’s language is predominantly English, Chinese, and Spanish. A version of this, for example, is happening right now in Iceland, where the packaging on so many imported goods is in English that it’s becoming more common than Icelandic in every day life.

A linguistically divided internet can also lead to the creation of monocultural bubbles. Wikipedia provides a good example: one study showed that most content on Wikipedia is available in exclusively one language. Even English Wikipedia only has articles that correspond with about half the topics of German Wikipedia.

“The Chinese internet is a good example of this,” Graham said. “There are more Chinese internet users online than internet users from any other country. So, this has meant that there is a lot of content out there in Chinese. Which, in turn, means that it is easy for Chinese internet users to exist in their own ‘filter bubble’—not really exposed to different content on the broader Web.”

Mina pointed out that the web’s prioritization of mainstream languages also leaves many tools for political organization and speaking out off-limits to marginalized groups.

“If you don’t speak a top ten language, the internet you have access to is extremely limited,” Mina told me. “Imagine going to a Chinese restaurant and just trying to order based on pictures.”

Graham told me he’d like to see more online spaces like Wikipedia that are digital commons where users can contribute content in any language they like, allowing local internet users to essential built their own web. But getting those digital commons filled with content first requires creating incentives to get people online in the first place. And part of that means making content that is already out there accessible across the boundaries of language. Mina is interested in chipping away at those boundaries by creating technology that translates social media content from one language to another. Scott Hale, a data scientist focused on bilingualism at the Oxford Internet Institute, told me that user interfaces could help break down language barriers by allowing users to interact with them in multiple languages at once. Most online interfaces—Google and Facebook among them— are designed with monolingual users in mind, only surfacing content in one language at a time. Allowing people to easily toggle between languages is one way to break down the linguistic silos that online life creates.

“You can’t just put a bunch of people in the network and expect that they connect,” Mina said.

The internet was supposed to be the thing that made all of our differences irrelevant, that erased borders and boundaries by translating everything into 1s and 0s. But online borders definitely exist with language boundaries that can be impenetrable."
internet  language  languages  web  online  anxiaomina  kristenbrown  wikipedia  arabic  english  translation  homogenization  culture  swedish  freebasics  arabizi  india  iceland  technology  socialmedia  politics  chinese  spanish  español  diversity 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Women Touching Women, on Screen | Broadly
"Despite the obvious cultural markers of Indian society, you can place Parched, culturally, anywhere. Yadav has a unique ability to evoke the very deep sensibilities of womanhood and female sexuality: The trapped secrets of infidelity or desire, and abuse; the realities we rarely are allowed to share. Of all the people Yadav based characters on, she says the woman who inspired Rani was particularly compelling to her: "She cooked all day for us. We talked and laughed. She was needling and then, at one point, she turned to me and said, 'I haven't been touched in 17 years. Do you know what that means?'" Moved and inspired, Yadav felt that her specific story had to be shared with an international audience. "That's something I really wanted to explore: The necessity of touch. I wanted to capture that energy, that soul in the film."

Yadav says she struggled, at first, with telling these stories: How could she weave in a tale about the lightheartedness of these women but also their sadness? She felt it was important for her to balance both their strength and their day-to-day struggles with internalized misogyny, while also juxtaposing it with the genuine happiness they found in their friendships, or the small pleasures of their lives. Parched is not a story of anguish. It's a story of resilience in light of pain. "I did post-production in LA and I would be in the cutting room all day," Yadav says. "After a couple of days I felt like I was going mad. Not being near people, not touching people—it was suffocating. I stopped eating food because I couldn't eat it with my hands. So I wanted to really explore that a lot with Rani and Lajjo: The meaning of touch for the both of them." What would touch mean to two women who had never been loved by the men they were with?

At one point in the film, after Manoj beats up Lajjo—again—Rani comes to her aid. Lajjo has collapsed and is incapable of moving, so Rani nurses her wounds, slowly removing her top to get to the bruises, exposing Lajjo's breasts. It's subtle, a shot filmed with fragility and tenderness. As Rani begins to caress Lajjo's breasts, the experience looks more familiar than sexual, erotic only due to its earnestness. It's a loaded and nuanced moment. "It's a scene that makes a lot of people uncomfortable because they call it a lesbian scene, but in fact it's a mother-daughter scene, or a friends scene—it takes on every role between two women," Yadav explains.

Women touch each other—sometimes sexually, sometimes non-sexually. Female relationships encapsulate the diversity and the multitude of dimensions and roles that women exist in; we can be maternal to each other, romantic, or even sexual. Women explore themselves through their relationships with other women. In that sense, female friendships are far more varied than male relationships. Although the scene with Rani and Lajjo may seem simply sexual, the moment shows their desire for care as Rani's fingers linger on Lajjo's nipples. It reveals the desire to be validated through sensory feeling.

A stereotype exists about people never discussing sex in India. Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai has famously never kissed one of her onscreen co-stars—presumably because sex, and the depiction of it, is still a contentious issue in India. In 1998, after the release of Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta's Fire, many prominent Indian politicians called the film immoral, pornographic, and against Indian tradition and culture. They then claimed the film's depiction of lesbianism was "not a part of Indian history or culture." (Fire is a film about two sister-in-laws, Sita and Radha, who live in the same house and fall in love with each other.) Members of the far-right political party, Shiv Sena, ransacked theaters across India, smashing glass panes and attempting to shut down screenings of the film. A lot of this, I presume, was backlash towards the audacity that women choose their sexual outlet, removing men from the equation of pleasure.

As Yadav reminded the audience in a panel after the screening of Parched, "India is the land of [the] Kama Sutra." Conversations about sex, however, seem to be confined to the kitchen, or enclaves of women, and not as much on the pop-cultural forefront. This is why films like Parched matter, why Yadav's frankness about sex is simply revolutionary for all women. It's about demanding more for both women and men.

At the same screening of Parched, a white man stood up and said he hoped people would see this film particularly for the scene where Lajjo has sex with a shaman-esque man of great spirit. The scene, which is erotic and highly charged, illustrates Lajjo's growing self awareness through sex. It's portrayed as an odyssey of deep arousal, both sexual and spiritual; for the first time, Lajjo finally learns sex is supposed to be pleasurable. The man in the audience followed his observation with the wry question: "How many men in the West know anything about the act of making love?" The room, which was full of women of all demographics, laughed raucously at his response.

In many ways, Parched tells a universal story; it reflects the stories of all women because women around the world have a lot in common. "When I shared this script with friends around the world, they would send me their stories," Yadav says, her eyes big, warm, and watery. "Nobody interacted with it like a script, so that's why I made the characters symbolic of something more, symbolic of issues that I wanted to highlight."

What's so profound about Parched—beyond the superb storytelling and its universality—is its critique of the patriarchy, which, obviously, is also universal: Although the women in this film grapple with systemic misogyny, Yadav emphasizes how that happens outside India. "With this movie in particular I get, 'I didn't know things were so bad in India!' a lot, and I think to myself, Are you kidding me?" she says. "People forget it happens on every level. If an audience isn't perceptive, they sit on their high horse and judge—like, 'Oh poor things, is this what happens?' If they are really receptive they'll understand it's happening in their backyard.""



"The last question during the Q&A came from a man who stood up to thank Yadav. His voice, bellowing with passion, kept breaking. It almost seemed as though Yadav had saved his life. Her partner, and well-known producer, Aseem Bajaj, told the man that this movie completely floored him as well. "It's changed me," he said. "It's completely changed the way I interact with women." Mahesh Balraj, who plays Manoj, agreed: "I'm different now when I look at women. I think of them differently." Yadav just smiled in response, her head down, hands crossed over.

As I watched and followed her offstage, she was met with a flurry of thank yous. I walked behind her all the way through the cinema, more people coming towards her as we made our way through the aisles and out into the foyer, where I was met with her publicist. I wanted to say something that wouldn't sound cliché; unlike everyone else in the theater, I didn't know how to say thank you or express how much this film meant to me. Everything felt embarrassing. She turned to me, and I could only say, "Hey, I'll be interviewing you tomorrow." She said, "Hey," too, smiled, and turned away from me. Soon after her publicist walked her to a meeting. I stood for a few seconds longer, feeling truly blissed.

I couldn't say to her how, as a woman, as a South Asian woman, and as a woman invested in the lives of the many other women who are abused and harassed for their gender, this film is not just necessary. It is life-affirming. At our interview, Yadav reticently describes how her position as an artist is always undermined by her sex first, her race second. "In this industry people want to constantly remind me, and call me, a woman director, but I'm a director," she says. "Nobody would ever call a male director a male director.""
touch  film  gender  women  fariharóisín  2015  leenayadav  sexuality  misogyny  friendship  india 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Facebook the Colonial Empire - The Atlantic
[See also: https://backchannel.com/how-india-pierced-facebook-s-free-internet-program-6ae3f9ffd1b4#.lywam4h52 ]

"The kerfuffle elicited a torrent of criticism for Andreessen, but the connection he made—between Facebook’s global expansion and colonialism—is nothing new. Which probably helps explain why Zuckerberg felt the need to step in, and which brings us back to Free Basics. The platform, billed by Facebook as a way to help people connect to the Internet for the first time, offers a stripped-down version of the mobile web that people can use without it counting toward their data-usage limit.

“I’m loath to toss around words like colonialism but it’s hard to ignore the family resemblances and recognizable DNA, to wit,” said Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies. In an email, Bahri summed up those similarities in list form:

1. ride in like the savior

2. bandy about words like equality, democracy, basic rights

3. mask the long-term profit motive (see 2 above)

4. justify the logic of partial dissemination as better than nothing

5. partner with local elites and vested interests

6. accuse the critics of ingratitude

“In the end,” she told me, “if it isn’t a duck, it shouldn’t quack like a duck.”

In India, where Free Basics has been the subject of a long, public debate, plenty of people already rejected the platform precisely because of its colonialist overtones. “We’ve been stupid with the East India Company,” one Reddit user said in a forum about Free Basics last year, referring to the British Raj. “Never again brother, Never again!”"



"Well, here’s the other side of the argument: When mobile-network operators allow some companies to offer access to their sites without charging people for data use, it gives those companies an unfair advantage. Free Basics makes Facebook a gatekeeper with too much leverage—so much that it conflicts with the foundational principles of the open web. Those principles, and what people mean when they talk about net neutrality, can be summed up this way: Internet service providers should treat all content equally, without favoring certain sites or platforms over others.

And doesn’t the fact that so many people upgrade to the full Internet so soon after trying Free Basics dismantle the claim that Facebook isn’t looking at the platform as a way to expand its global user base? People may start with an ad-free version of the site, but they quickly graduate to regular old ad-peppered, data-gathering Facebook.

All this raises a question about who Free Basics is actually for, which may further hint at Facebook’s motivations. Sumanth Raghavendra, an app developer and startup founder in India, points to this commercial for Free Basics—from back when it was still branded under the larger umbrella of Facebook’s Internet.org project—as representative of the local marketing for the platform.

“If you are awestruck by how cool India’s ‘poorest’ folks seem to be, don’t be …because these folks, the target audience for Free Basics, are far from being India’s poor!” Raghavendra wrote in an essay for Medium. “As is plainly obvious, the original target audience of Free Basics was not India’s poorest who have never come online but far more so, students and millennials to whom the hook was about surfing for free.”

As of October, one of India’s biggest mobile carriers said 1 million people had signed up for Free Basics. But only about 20 percent of Free Basics users weren’t previously using the Internet, Facebook told the Press Trust of India, the country’s largest news agency. (Facebook didn’t immediately respond to my request for comment and more recent numbers.) In other words, the vast majority of the people who used Free Basics already had Internet connections.

“Free Basics was hardly something aimed at poor people and even less so, targeted at people who have ‘no connectivity,’” Raghavendra wrote. “This entire narrative painting it as a choice between some connectivity and no connectivity is false and disingenuous.”

“There is absolutely no need to offer a condescending promise based on altruism to bring these folks online,” he added. “They will do so on their own time and at their own pace with or without any external help or artificial incentive.”

Zuckerman, from MIT, is even more pointed: “When Zuckerberg or Andreessen face criticism, they argue that their critics are being elitist and inhumane—after all, who could be against helping India develop? The rhetoric is rich with the White Man’s Burden.”

Some of the colonialist subtext in all this evokes what the writer Courtney Martin calls the “reductive seduction” of Americans wanting to save the world, and the hubris that underscores this kind of supposed problem solving. “There is real fallout when well-intentioned people attempt to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity,” Martin wrote.

Representations of colonialism have long been present in digital landscapes. (“Even Super Mario Brothers,” the video game designer Steven Fox told me last year. “You run through the landscape, stomp on everything, and raise your flag at the end.”) But web-based colonialism is not an abstraction. The online forces that shape a new kind of imperialism go beyond Facebook.

Consider, for example, digitization projects that focus primarily on English-language literature. If the web is meant to be humanity’s new Library of Alexandria, a living repository for all of humanity’s knowledge, this is a problem. So is the fact that the vast majority of Wikipedia pages are about a relatively tiny square of the planet. For instance, 14 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, but less than 3 percent of the world’s geotagged Wikipedia articles originate there, according to a 2014 Oxford Internet Institute report.

“This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions,” the researchers of that report wrote. “It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”

Consider, too, the dominant business models online. Companies commodify people as users, mining them for data and personally targeting them with advertising. “In digital capitalism—another stage of imperialism?—capital and corporation underwrite free-ness,” Bahri, the Emory professor, told me. “That’s why Facebook can claim to be always free.”

Incidentally, “users” is a term that Facebook now discourages, favoring “people” instead. Though “users” was, at least, an improvement over “dumb fucks,” which is what Zuckerberg called the people who signed up for Facebook when it was new, according to online chat transcripts that emerged as part of a lawsuit several years ago.

In 2010, Zuckerberg told The New Yorker he had “grown and learned a lot” since then. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said at the time.

A lot of people, in 2010, meant Facebook’s 400 million users. Since then, that number has quadrupled to 1.6 billion people—the vast majority of them connecting to the site via mobile. Last year, Facebook’s market cap crossed the $300 billion threshold. Earnings statements show it made more than $5.8 billion in ad revenue in 2015, with more than 80 percent of that money—some $4.6 billion—coming from mobile ads.

Facebook is already, it is often said, eating the Internet. So it’s easy to see why Internet.org was rebranded as Free Basics. The old name sounded too much like a reflection of what Facebook actually is: a dominant and possibly unstoppable force, a private company exerting enormous influence on public access to the web. “The great social network of the early 21st century is laying the groundwork,” Austin Carr wrote for Fast Company in 2014, “for a platform that could make Facebook a part of just about every social interaction that takes place around the world.”

Free Basics might be stoppable. But is Facebook?

“It is an uncomfortable truth that, in emerging economies, Facebook had already won the Internet well before Internet.org and the FreeBasics campaign began,” Steve Song, a telecommunications policy activist, wrote in a blog post this week. “Facebook became the de facto Internet for many people because it did the most profoundly useful thing the Internet can do: Connect people.”"
facebook  colonialism  imperialism  india  freebasics  internet  2016  adriennelafrance  markzuckerberg  marcandreessen  class  whiteman'sburden  ethanzuckerman  web  online  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
february 2016 by robertogreco
'Mobile reading revolution' takes off in developing world | Books | The Guardian
"Unesco study reports huge growth in adults and children reading books on phones in Africa and the Indian subcontinent"



"Unesco is pointing to a "mobile reading revolution" in developing countries after a year-long study found that adults and children are increasingly reading multiple books and stories on their phones.

Nearly 5,000 people in seven countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – took part in the research, the largest study of its kind to date, which found that 62% of respondents are reading more, now they can read on their mobile phones. One in three said they read to children from their mobile phones, and 90% of respondents said they would be spending more time reading on their mobile phones in the next year.

The study, says Unesco in its report, found that "people read more when they read on mobile devices, that they enjoy reading more, and that people commonly read books and stories to children from mobile devices".

"The study shows that mobile reading represents a promising, if still underutilised, pathway to text," says the report, for which Unesco partnered with Worldreader – a global not-for-profit organisation that works to bring digital books to readers around the world – and Nokia. "It is not hyperbole to suggest that if every person on the planet understood that his or her mobile phone could be transformed – easily and cheaply – into a library brimming with books, access to text would cease to be such a daunting hurdle to literacy."

The report's author Mark West said that the key conclusion from the study was that "mobile devices can help people develop, sustain and enhance their literacy skills".

"This is important because literacy opens the door to life-changing opportunities and benefits," said West.

Reasons given by respondents for reading on mobiles were convenience, affordability and lack of access to books. In Zimbabwe, for example, Unesco said the cost of reading a book on a mobile was between 5 and 6 cents, while a paperback bestseller would cost around $12 (£7); in Nigeria, a mobile book would cost around 1 or 2 cents, based on a mobile broadband rate of $13 per 500 MB of data, while a child's book would cost between $1 and $5.

Unesco pointed to data from the UN, which shows that of the seven billion people on earth, more than six billion now have access to a working mobile phone. "Collectively, mobile devices are the most ubiquitous information and communication technology in history," says Unesco. "More to the point, they are plentiful in places where books are scarce."

The most popular genre for readers was romance, the survey found, with the "romance" icon on Worldreader Mobile receiving 17% of all 730,787 clicks during the research period. Nineteen of the top 40 books read during the study period were romance novels, with Ravinder Singh's Can Love Happen Twice? the most popular book, followed by the Mills & Boon title The Price of Royal Duty in second, and the Bible in third.

Kwame Nkrumah's The Great African and Nnedi Okorafor's The Girl with the Magic Hands were also among the most read books between April and June 2013, with the most popular search terms over the period "sex", "Bible" and "biology". Chinua Achebe came in fourth, with "Things fall apart", ahead of "love" in fifth. Religion was the second most popular genre, said Unesco.

The survey also found that mobile reading is a "huge tool of empowerment for women", said Worldreader's Nadja Borovac. While 77% of mobile readers in developing countries are male, women spend an average of 207 minutes per month reading on their mobile phones, compared to men's 33 minutes. Unesco's report points out that in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman is 23% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, with the gap widening in the case of data-enabled phones. "Men use mobiles for reading most, but the most active readers are women," said Borovac.

Almost two-thirds (60%) of respondents cited lack of content as the primary barrier to mobile reading, and a third said they were keen to read to their children from their mobiles if there were more child-friendly material available.

One respondent, Charles, a teacher in Zimbabwe, said he reads to his class from his mobile, and cited lack of printed content as his main reason for turning to his phone. "We live in a remote area where there are no libraries, and the books I have in my own small library are the ones which I have already read. So this is now giving me a chance to choose from a variety of fiction titles," he said.

Borovac said that mobile reading was "not a future phenomenon, but something which is happening today".

"It can really change people's lives," she said. "We work in countries where there is a serious shortage of books but where cell phones are plentiful ... We are hoping people will realise the potential of mobile reading [as a result of the report], and that governments and partners will get behind not only us but other organisations using mobile technology to help provide learning and books, and help improve literacy skills.""
mobile  reading  2014  africa  asia  india  ehtiopia  ghana  kenya  nigeria  pakistan  zimbabwe  unesco  ebooks  publishing 
january 2016 by robertogreco
When Television Is More Than an “Idiot Box” — The Development Set — Medium
"Around the world, TV educates while it entertains. It can teach the internet a few things, too."



"When it comes to education and technology, it is not television but the internet that is hot and wired. The United Nation’s Broadband Commission, packed with luminaries from Mexico’s Carlos Slim to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, suggests that the internet can “enhance learning opportunities, transform the teaching and learning environment… and ultimately rethink and transform” education systems.

At first glance, the internet could be a very attractive tool to overcome a global learning crisis. At the turn of the 21st century, the World Bank reported that about seven percent of the world’s population was online. Last year, it had reached 41 percent.

But it turns out just giving kids access to the web doesn’t do much for educational outcomes. Across countries that take part in the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA), children who use computers more intensively do worse on tests. One Laptop Per Child, which distributes cheap computers in developing countries, has been beset by failure. In Peru, they had no impact on math and language test scores. Similar findings emerged in Nepal. Likewise, extending access to broadband in schools in Portugal led to lower grades — although the impact was reduced if YouTube was blocked.

There is a simple explanation. When you give kids a computer, they’re not suddenly more excited by math and social studies. Children are, for the most part, more interested in the medium’s entertainment capabilities."



"Under some circumstances, television can be at least as effective as traditional instruction. Mexico’s Telesecundaria programming broadcasts six hours of lessons a day to children in remote areas of the country where there is no secondary school.

For the most part, though, television has remained an adjunct in the classroom, rather than a replacement for teachers. But as a more holistic tool for learning outside the classroom, it has had a massive impact — particularly when it serves its primary function to entertain and not educate.

Recent research suggests there can be a considerable upside to hours “wasting time” in front of the television screen. Take Chitrahaar and Rangoli. Illiterate school kids who watched the shows were more than twice as likely to be functionally literate five years later than kids who didn’t watch the shows. The effect was particularly noticeable for girls. Given the reach of these two programs, it’s possible that millions of Indian kids became literate largely thanks to the simple and very cheap approach of same-language subtitling.

Perhaps the most well known form of educational entertainment, or “edutainment,” for children is Sesame Street, which is now broadcast in more than thirty countries around the world. In the US, children who grew up in areas where the television signal was stronger — and so had better access to Sesame Street — were much less likely to have to repeat a grade in school. In Mexico, viewers of Plaza Sesamo do better in literacy and mathematics tests. The results are the same in Turkey (Susam Sokagi), Portugal (Rua Sesamo), Russia (Ulitsa Sezam) and Bangladesh (Sisimpur), to name but a few.

elevision’s educational power extends beyond childhood, and beyond skills traditionally learned in a classroom. As cable access rolled out across India, for example, viewers of all ages started watching shows where comparatively strong women characters had financial and social independence. Women in villages with cable access reported more power over making decisions and less acceptance of wife beating. These villages also began to see declining birth rates and rapidly rising school enrollment for girls.

Similar effects have been observed around the world. In Brazil, as the Rede Globo channel extended across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, parents began to have fewer children, perhaps mimicking the characters on their favorite soaps. Recent research in Nigeria finds that areas where the TV signal is stronger see parents wanting fewer children and using contraceptives more, alongside lower rates of female genital cutting. In South Africa, World Bank researchers found that viewers of one locally produced soap opera, “Scandal”, which was specifically developed to incorporate plot lines dealing with financial responsibility, were almost twice as likely to borrow from formal sources of credit like banks rather than informal sources. They were also less likely to engage in gambling.

When soap opera characters are relatable and believable, audiences begin to associate with them. If a beloved character stands up for herself in front of her husband, or gets in over their head in debt, or gets pregnant by accident, viewers learn from that experience. And that knowledge translates into changed behavior: more control within the household, less informal debt, fewer children.

Heavy-handed public service messages on television, like condescending “the more you know” spots, may impart information but rarely engage viewers. The same may well be true of the internet. For most children in particular, it is primarily used as a source of fun and not education.

Pioneers around the world are already experimenting with internet-based edutainment for kids. Sites like ABC Mouse, among countless others, produce educational games for children. Pratham, an Indian NGO, has developed a program combining math questions with an arcade game. Children who used it for two hours a week saw their math test scores considerably improve. Given the internet’s interactive nature, perhaps the impact of well-designed web edutainment will end up being even greater than the broadcast variety.

Edutainment will never be able to replace teachers in a classroom. But well-designed programming — whether it arrives by broadcast or broadband — can have a dramatic impact at low cost."
charleskenny  television  tv  education  learning  howwelearn  2016  olpc  entertainment  mexico  turkey  russia  portugal  bangladesh  india  sesamestreet  literacy  math  mathematics 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Free Basics may not be totally on the Mark but don’t trash it - TOI Blogs
"Before I begin this, let me confess I am a bit of a Mark Zuckerberg fan. Who wouldn’t be? Harvard dropout creates internet startup, makes it one of the most valuable companies in the world. Facebook has a billion-and-a-half-plus active subscribers. People are addicted to FB. where they spend hours daily tracking their friends’ lives. Mark changed the world in the coolest way ever. He never forced anyone. Yet, he attracted everyone to his creation. He became a billionaire. Then, he did something even cooler. He pledged 99% of his $45-billion wealth to charity. It’s a staggering amount (around Rs 300,000 crore) to give away. All this, and Mark is only 31. I think, for all practical purposes, he is the coolest person alive.

Why is this important? It is because Mark is backing an initiative called Free Basics (earlier known as internet.org), supposedly to connect more people in the world to the net. Free Basics involves collaboration with existing telecom companies in developing countries, where internet penetration is still low. Telecom companies already connect people with voice services on the phone. Many such people cannot afford data services, so they are cut off from the world of the internet. A quick way to connect them is to offer them free internet, customized to a few chosen sites, which will be designed for lower bandwidth. The telecom companies and site owners will work out between them how the subsidy is absorbed.

So far so good. Who can argue with poor people being given free internet access? Even if it is slower, at least it’s better than nothing, right? Even if Free Basics just allows you to visit only a few sites, isn’t it better than visiting no sites? And this is where it gets tricky. This limited range of sites is at the core of the opposition to Free Basics. Which are those sites (FB is the main one, of course)? Who will be the gatekeeper for selecting those sites (FB seems to be the one)? If only a few sites are allowed, won’t owners of excluded sites suffer as they would have a smaller user base? Won’t the new netizens be denied competitive choices too — online retail options and media content, for instance?

These are real issues. Thankfully, the internet so far has not been regulated in terms of which site will be allowed which customers. Imagine Google being asked by regulators to pay up for every net user they reach in India. Just like spectrum, what if internet user access begins to get sold? It is possible. But it will kill the internet as we know it. Right now, any small startup can hope to create a killer website and reach the entire world (Facebook did exactly that). If governments or corporations regulate user access, only the big players will dominate the internet. They still do, but it isn’t forced. You choose Facebook, and that’s what makes it cool. Free Basics, even though cool in its intentions of connecting the world, lacks coolness when it restricts the sites available to users. It also sets a dangerous precedent, for soon it will be okay to have only a certain part of the Internet available to a certain set of users (based on pricing, country location etc).

Free Basics proponents counter this with: how does limited access matter when we are providing the internet for free? Those who want the full range of sites (essentially, the entire internet) can always take a paid plan. Access to a few sites will only whet the appetite for more internet, and a user is likely to buy a data plan sooner rather than later. Also, in a free market, if Facebook or any other company tries a monopolistic stunt, it will be exposed. These are valid arguments too.

Overall, Free Basics has issues. However, to throw it away altogether also doesn’t seem to make sense. A lack of understanding of what is a complex issue has led to Free Basics opponents painting Mark as a control freak and Facebook as the evil MNC empire. Its PR blitz (somewhat over the top with expensive ads featuring poor farmers) alone has created detractors. “Such expensive ads show there must be an ulterior motive” is not really a logical statement. There are win-win situations in life, and one can trust Mark more than many other businessmen out there.

We do need to welcome Free Basics as a concept, but bring out the concerns as well. Given the huge societal welfare along with business opportunity, a great solution can be hammered out. Facebook should feel secure that even with universal access, people will spend most of their time on it. We citizens need to accept that if Facebook is leading the initiative, they deserve to get some reasonable benefits out of it.

Our government is not able to provide services to the extent desired. Involving the private sector is thus necessary and inevitable. From public transport apps to free internet providers, we should welcome such initiatives and not paint them as villains. We must also, however, iron out any concerns. Free Basics is welcome, Mark, but only with a bit of free, basic common sense."
freebasics  india  facebook  2016  internet  online  web 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Can’t give it away | The Economist
"“WHO could possibly be against this?”, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s boss, asked in an editorial in the Times of India on December 28th. The “this” in question is “Free Basics”, a programme that gives its users free access to Facebook and a handful of other online services on their smartphones in 36 poor countries. According to Mr Zuckerberg, Free Basics acts as a gateway drug to the internet: half of those who first experience going online through the service start paying for full internet access within a month. Though the programme is promoted by Facebook, its costs are borne by the mobile-telecoms operators it works with—in the case of India, Reliance Communications, the country’s fourth-largest.

As it turns out, plenty of people are against Free Basics. They include everyone from India’s internet-and-mobile-industry body (of which Facebook is itself a member) to a ragtag group of volunteer activists who mustered almost 400,000 people to write to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as part of a public consultation on whether mobile operators should be allowed to charge different amounts for different forms of data. At stake is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing internet markets outside China, which bars foreign digital services such as Facebook from entering. Around a quarter of the Indian population—or 300m people—were online at the end of 2014, and the number is expected to double by 2020.

Critics of the programme say that Facebook’s generosity is cover for a landgrab. They argue that Free Basics is a walled garden of Facebook-approved content, that it breaches consumer privacy by sucking up all the data generated by users of the service, and that it is anticompetitive to boot. Moreover, critics fear that if new internet users are merely Facebook users, other online businesses will have no choice but to operate within Facebook’s world. Nandan Nilekani, an Indian tech luminary opposed to Free Basics, suggests that, instead, the government subsidise a monthly allowance of free mobile data for each user.

Facebook counters that the programme is open to all-comers that meet certain technical requirements, that user data are stored for only 90 days, and that there is no profit motive: the service does not include advertising. As for suppressing local competition, Facebook argues, “there is no greater threat to local innovation than leaving people offline.” If, as Mr Zuckerberg says, Free Basics users quickly graduate to paying for full internet service, India’s ferociously competitive mobile operators should provide it cheaply. And if Free Basics proved popular there would be little to stop India’s big media and e-commerce groups from creating rival services to attract new surfers to their web offerings.

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has run an extensive campaign with full-page ads in Indian newspapers touting Free Basics. Newspapers, blogs and television channels have presented arguments and counterarguments every day. Even All India Bakchod, a popular comedy collective, got into the act. The group’s video arguing against Free Basics has been watched 800,000 times on YouTube—and another 350,000 on Facebook itself.

Activists in India won early victories in 2015, leading Facebook to change the name of its service from internet.org, which they said was misleading, and forcing the company to accept more services than those it handpicks. In December the TRAI suspended Free Basics in India pending the results of its consultation. The TRAI has received 1.4m notes of support for Free Basics as part of this process, driven largely by an automated response tool Facebook used to gather support from its Indian users. But the regulator says it may have to disregard them, since they do not answer the question it is asking. The TRAI itself will deliver its verdict at the end of this month."
facebook  freebasics  india  2016  internet  web  netneutrality  online  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The fanatic, fraudulent Mother Teresa.
"I think it was Macaulay who said that the Roman Catholic Church deserved great credit for, and owed its longevity to, its ability to handle and contain fanaticism. This rather oblique compliment belongs to a more serious age. What is so striking about the "beatification" of the woman who styled herself "Mother" Teresa is the abject surrender, on the part of the church, to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism.

It's the sheer tawdriness that strikes the eye first of all. It used to be that a person could not even be nominated for "beatification," the first step to "sainthood," until five years after his or her death. This was to guard against local or popular enthusiasm in the promotion of dubious characters. The pope nominated MT a year after her death in 1997. It also used to be that an apparatus of inquiry was set in train, including the scrutiny of an advocatus diaboli or "devil's advocate," to test any extraordinary claims. The pope has abolished this office and has created more instant saints than all his predecessors combined as far back as the 16th century.

As for the "miracle" that had to be attested, what can one say? Surely any respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery. A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of MT, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumor. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn't have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. Was he interviewed by the Vatican's investigators? No. (As it happens, I myself was interviewed by them but only in the most perfunctory way. The procedure still does demand a show of consultation with doubters, and a show of consultation was what, in this case, it got.)

According to an uncontradicted report in the Italian paper L'Eco di Bergamo, the Vatican's secretary of state sent a letter to senior cardinals in June, asking on behalf of the pope whether they favored making MT a saint right away. The pope's clear intention has been to speed the process up in order to perform the ceremony in his own lifetime. The response was in the negative, according to Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who has acted as postulator or advocate for the "canonization." But the damage, to such integrity as the process possesses, has already been done.

During the deliberations over the Second Vatican Council, under the stewardship of Pope John XXIII, MT was to the fore in opposing all suggestions of reform. What was needed, she maintained, was more work and more faith, not doctrinal revision. Her position was ultra-reactionary and fundamentalist even in orthodox Catholic terms. Believers are indeed enjoined to abhor and eschew abortion, but they are not required to affirm that abortion is "the greatest destroyer of peace," as MT fantastically asserted to a dumbfounded audience when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.* Believers are likewise enjoined to abhor and eschew divorce, but they are not required to insist that a ban on divorce and remarriage be a part of the state constitution, as MT demanded in a referendum in Ireland (which her side narrowly lost) in 1996. Later in that same year, she told Ladies’ Home Journal that she was pleased by the divorce of her friend Princess Diana, because the marriage had so obviously been an unhappy one …

This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?

The rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for "the poorest of the poor." People do not like to admit that they have been gulled or conned, so a vested interest in the myth was permitted to arise, and a lazy media never bothered to ask any follow-up questions. Many volunteers who went to Calcutta came back abruptly disillusioned by the stern ideology and poverty-loving practice of the "Missionaries of Charity," but they had no audience for their story. George Orwell's admonition in his essay on Gandhi—that saints should always be presumed guilty until proved innocent—was drowned in a Niagara of soft-hearted, soft-headed, and uninquiring propaganda.

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions."
2003  motherteresa  christopherhitchens  poverty  catholicism  cotholicchurch  religion  sainthood  popejohnpaullii  beatification  india  corruption  biography 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The City of the Global South and its Insurrections: Algiers, Cairo, Gaza, Chandigarh, and Kowloon | THE FUNAMBULIST MAGAZINE
"On November 10th, I was invited by friend Meriem Chabani to give a small lecture in Paris in the context of the exhibition New South that she curated around six architecture students’ thesis projects engaging cities of the Global South in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Morocco and the Canaries. I started writing a digest of this presentation here the next day but the Nov. 13 attacks occurred and I am profoundly sadden to announce that, Amine Ibnolmobarak, the brilliant and kind author of the project for Mecca in this exhibition, was killed in the shootings. Despite the shock of this news and the difficulty to mourn in the maddening noise of the journalistic and political state of emergency, his friends gathered around his family, and remembered with emotion his life in the great hall of the Beaux Arts school last Friday.

The City of the Global South and its Insurrections: Algiers, Cairo, Gaza, Chandigarh, and Kowloon ///

This presentation constitutes a rather shallow examination of five cities’ reciprocal influence between their urban fabric and their insurrections and counter-insurrections operations. In order to make the presentation clearer, I produced a few new maps and thus propose to include my slides here, as well as a few notes to explain them."



"CONCLUSION ///

The criminalizing discourses that took the Kowloon Walled City for object as well as its inhabitants, even if based, to a certain degree on a actual facts, is common to all neighborhoods presented here. These discourses construct an imaginary of these neighborhoods that prepares the policed and/or militarized interventions against the urban fabric and its inhabitants. The insurrections evoked throughout this presentation are sometimes less the historical accomplishment of their inhabitants than a narrative forced upon them in order to (re)gain the full political control of these urban formations. As described in another recent article, the rhetorical use of “bastions” or “strongholds” to talk about these neighborhoods or other similar ones, contributes (more often than not, deliberately) to their transformation or demolition orchestrated by the State, sometimes including the very lives of their inhabitants (like in the case of Gaza)."
algiers  algeria  cairo  egypt  gaza  palestine  chandigahr  india  kowloon  hongkong  china  northafrica  asia  globalsouth  léopoldlambert  cartography  history  cities  urban  urbanism  architecture  design  insurrection  colonialism  decolonization  colonization  lecorbusier  battleofalgiers  alilapointe  tahrir  tahrirsquare  militarization 
december 2015 by robertogreco
A mother's appeal: Pollution in Delhi is not just an elite concern
"Come winter, most children, irrespective of whether they live in plush Jorbagh or downmarket Jahangirpuri, will be prone to asthma attacks."

"Over the 20 years in which I have been working on environmental issues, one thing has remained constant – most policy makers in India feel that pollution is a concern of the elite. The country needs to deal with other urgent issues before it considers tackling pollution, they believe. Take the example of Delhi’s worsening air quality. Most policy makers feel that it is a concern for only the affluent folks of South Delhi. I do live in South Delhi, but doesn’t a child living in a slum colony breathe the same toxic fumes that my child does?

According to a 2010 study by the health department, 43% of children in Delhi have impaired lung capacity. This means that, come winter, most children, irrespective of whether they live in plush Jorbagh or downmarket Jahangirpuri, will be prone to asthma attacks. On Diwali night, when the pollution levels rose up to 40 times the permissible limits, all of us breathed the same toxic air. Many of us experienced ashtma attacks. The only difference being that the ones in Jorbagh managed to be able to rush their kids, in their own cars, to a nearby private hospital. The policy makers too breathe the same smoke-filled air. It makes wonder why they don’t take any concrete steps in their own selfish interest.

While we can keep discussing the numbers and the data but most specialists would agree that vehicles are responsible for around 40% of air pollution in Delhi. Large part of this is coming from an ever-increasing number of diesel vehicles in Delhi. We are perhaps the only country in the world that subsidises diesel so that rich can drive SUVs on this cheap fuel. My tax money is used to underwrite diesel that is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a class 1 carcinogen. Can it get more bizarre than this?

Who is influencing regressive policy making? Surely not the auto makers who are investing heavily in reducing pollution from their vehicles. But then these low-emission, BS VI standard, vehicles are meant for Europe, a continent with First World countries. Lungs in a Third World nation like ours can withstand more pollution and hence we allow the automakers to sell cars with a lesser standard, the BS IV, here.

However, this is not an anomaly for the policy makers who repeat their favourite story ad nauseam – the west too was very polluted once; pollution is a necessary evil for growth. This is old economics of the Kuznet curve era; ‘when a nation grows and becomes rich, it has resources to clean up its environment’. Now with better science, we know that climate change is irreversible so we can’t continue to pollute and then clean up later. With better technology, we can leap frog too. We don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Hunger, poverty and homelessness are urgent issues that we need to address here in India. But it is not a case of either/ or. Pollution impacts the poor and the rich and clean air is as fundamental and needs to be addressed now."
delhi  india  pollution  airquality  2015  reenagupta  policy  environment  health  airpollution 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Indian Summers | Programs | Masterpiece | PBS
"Set in a subtropical paradise during the twilight era of the British Empire, Indian Summers explores the collision of the ruling class English with their Indian subjects, and the intricate game of power, politics, and passion that ensues. Julie Walters (Harry Potter, Oscar® nominee for Billy Elliot and Educating Rita) stars as Cynthia Coffin, the glamorous doyenne of an English social club, and is joined by Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jemima West, Nikesh Patel, Roshan Seth, and Lillete Dubey.

Told from both the English and Indian perspectives, the drama of Indian Summers unfolds as illicit agreements, romance, and revolution abound. Though the English socialites are having the time of their lives in Simla, the local Indians have started to call for national independence, a path which is quickly rendering the world’s greatest empire helpless. As pressure builds, the two sides alternately clash and merge in a passionate and dangerous game.

Indian Summers airs in nine sweeping episodes, and premieres on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS."
via:rinku  india  uk  towatch 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The world wants more 'porous' cities – so why don't we build them? | Cities | The Guardian
"People of all classes, races and religions come and go in intense and complex Nehru Place. But while Delhi’s electronics market is every urbanist’s dream, it is not the sort of space most cities are building"



"Recently I tried to buy an iPhone in Nehru Place, an open-air electronics market in Delhi where goods that “happen to fall off a truck” are sold for 30%, 40% or 70% discounts – whatever cash you have handy. My iPhone turned out to a damaged dud, but I didn’t really care; the experience of going to Nehru Place was eye-opening. It’s a completely porous spot in the city, people of all castes, classes, races and religions coming and going, doing deals or gossiping about the small tech start-ups in the low offices which line the square; you can also worship at a small shrine if you’re so minded, or find a sari, or just lounge about drinking tea.

Nehru Place is every urbanist’s dream: intense, mixed, complex. If it’s the sort of place we want to make, it’s not the sort of space most cities are building. Instead, the dominant forms of urban growth are mono-functional, like shopping centres where you are welcome to shop but there’s no place to pray. These sorts of places tend to be isolated in space, as in the offices “campuses” built on the edge of cities, or towers in a city’s centre which, as in London’s current crop of architectural monsters, are sealed off at the base from their surroundings. It’s not just evil developers who want things this way: according to Setha Low, the most popular form of residential housing, world-wide, is the gated community.

Is it worth trying to turn the dream of the porous city into a pervasive reality? I wondered in Nehru Place about the social side of this question, since Indian cities have been swept from time to time by waves of ethnic and religious violence. Could porous places tamp down that threat, by mixing people together in everyday activities? Evidence from western cities answers both yes and no.

In Dresden, last year’s Pegida demonstrations against the Muslim presence in Germany turned out to be by people who don’t live anywhere near Muslims in the city; indeed, who know no Muslims. There again, in a study of several US cities, the American social scientist Robert Putnam’s researchers found that the farther away white Americans live from African Americans, the more tolerant they become.

Against this latter logic of separation stands Paris. The Islamic banlieus of Paris are separated from the centre by the ceinture, the ever-clogged ring-road around the inner city; so, too, in Brussel’s Molenbeek district, from which many terrorists come, is a disconnected island space. As the sociologist Willlaim Julius Wilson has shown, such physical islands breed an inward-looking mentality in which fantasy about others takes the place of fact bred of actual contact – as true, Wilson argues, of the black ghetto as it is of Christian Pegida.

I am uncomfortable about debates over separation and inclusion which move almost seamlessly to citing violent, extreme behaviour as evidence for or against. Which is why Nehru Place is a better example to think about this issue than Molenbeek. Everyday people are going about their business with others unlike themselves, people they don’t know or perhaps don’t like. There is what might be called the democracy of crime here, as Hindus and Muslims both sell illegal electronics; a wave of violence would clear off customers for both. Getting along in this way isn’t particular to India, or to open-air markets. Numerous studies show that in offices or factories that adults of different religions and races work perfectly well together, and the reason is not far to seek.

Work is not about affirming your identity; it’s about getting things done. The complexity of city life tends, in fact, to breed many identities for its citizens as workers, but also as spectators at sports events, as parents concerned about schooling or patients suffering from NHS cuts. Urban identities are porous in the sense that we are going in and out of lots of different experiences, in different places, with people we don’t know, in the course of a day. When pundits opine on the difficulty of difference, they flatten identity into a single image, just one experience. The modern economy can flatten identity when it sells people on the idea that gated, homogeneous communities are safe, (not true in fact), builds shopping centres only for shopping, or constructs office campuses and towers whose workers are sealed off from the city.

If the public comes to demand it, urbanists can easily design a porous city on the model of Nehru Place; indeed, many of the architects and planners at the Urban Age events now unfolding in London have made proposals to “porosify” the city. Like Nehru Place, these larger visions entail opening up and blurring the edges of spaces so that people are drawn in rather than repulsed; they emphasise true mixed use of public and private functions, schools and clinics amid Tesco or Pret; they explore the making of loose-fit spaces which can shift in shape as people’s lives change.

I don’t believe in design determinism, but I do believe that the physical environment should nurture the complexity of identity. That’s an abstract way to say that we know how to make the porous city; the time has come to make it."
cities  richardsennett  2015  urban  urbanism  porosity  nehruplace  delhi  india  complexity  sethalow  dresden  roberputnam  sociology  paris  brussels  molenbeek  williamjuliuswilson  christianpegida  race  religion  design  urbandesign  london  publicspace  flexibility  change  adaptability  crosspollination  diversity  markets  community 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Martin Roemers - Metropolis | LensCulture
"Dutch photographer Martin Roemers won the 1st prize in the LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2015 for his series, Metropolis, which documents street life in "mega-cities", defined as urban areas that are home to more than 10 million inhabitants. Here we present an extended slideshow of this project, as well as an interview with the photographer."

[via: http://globalvoices.tumblr.com/post/133898896954/archatlas-metropolis-martin-roemers ]
martinroemers  photography  streetphotography  2015  cities  urban  urbanism  global  kolkata  lagos  pakistan  bangladesh  cairo  nigeria  egypt  karachi  dhaka  mumbai  india  guangzhou  china  istanbul  turkey  jakarta  indonesia  buenosaires  argentina  manila  philippines  basil  brazil  riodejaneiro  mexicocity  mexicodf  mexico  nyc  sãopaulo  london  tokyo  japan  df 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Facebook starts '2G Tuesdays' so employees can see what speeds are like in India
"To develop apps and services for emerging markets, it helps to understand what users go through. To that end, Facebook is launching a new internal program called ‘2G Tuesdays.’

The initiative forces employees to use Facebook apps like Messenger and — well, Facebook — on a much slower connection than they enjoy stateside.

Facebook’s engineering director Tom Alison tells Business Insider the difference was jarring at first. “It definitely tested my patience — it felt like parts of the product were just broken.” He also says engineers will “see the places that we need to improve our product, but they’re also going to see the places where we have made a lot of progress.”

The program doesn’t last all day, and is opt-in. If Facebook employees choose to give 2G a shot, it’s only for the first hour or so they’re logged in.

It’s a smart move for Facebook, which also has its internet.org program to help bring connectivity to more of the world. Even with a connection, the chances emerging markets like rural India will see LTE anytime soon are very slim."
bandwidth  india  facebook  webdev  2g  webdesign 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Skateboarding in Pine Ridge - The South Dakota Build Documentary - YouTube
"We joined the Stronghold Society and Grindline Skate Parks and went to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to finish one skate park and build another in the neighboring town of Manderson."

[Also at: https://vimeo.com/142320599 ]

[Related:

"Skateboarding in Oakland - Town Park Documentary"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdYahLP1tH4

"In the Fall of 2014, Levi's Skateboarding (http://www.levi.com/skateboarding) partnered with Keith "K-Dub" Williams in West Oakland to revamp the existing Town Park Skate Park. Along the way a documentary was shot to tell a story of K-Dub, Town Park, West Oakland, and those who skate there. This documentary highlights the importance of skate parks for communities and the youth."

Skateboarding in India Full Length Documentary (UNCENSORED)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0C0A9vCInc

"We joined the Holystoked skateboarding crew from Bangalore and the 2er building crew from Hannover, along with 24 skateboarders and skatepark builders from around the world to build the first, free public use skate park in India.

Pro skateboarders Chet Childress, Al Partanen, Stefan Janoski, Omar Salazar, Lennie Burmeister, and Rob Smith all joined in on the build of the skatepark before skating the finished project."

SKATEBOARDING IN LA PAZ (Full-length Documentary)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0ZKykvnEoM

"In April of 2014, Levi's® Skateboarding joined Bolivian skater Milton Arellano in reuniting with the endboss projects crew from Hannover, along with over a 100 skateboarders and skatepark builders from around the world, to build a public skatepark in La Paz, Bolivia.

See pro skateboarders Marius Syvanen, David Gravette, Josh Matthews, Joey Pepper, Chet Childress, and Al Partanen live, work, and skate the Pura Pura skatepark three miles up in the sky."

"Skateboarding in Johannesburg"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba4TjXlwse4

"Led by Jamie O'Brien of Woodie's Skate Ramps, Levi's® Skateboarding South Africa helped revitalize a local skatepark in the Johannesburg suburb of Edenvale. Check out the skateboarding video to learn more."]
skateboarding  southdakota  india  bolivia  lapaz  oakland  film  documentary  skating  skateboards 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Designing a better umbrella | Caterina.net
"Umbrellas, as we know, blow inside out in the wind, and require the person holding it to sacrifice the use of one of their hands. Shouldn’t we all be using Knups? Knups are made from banana leaves lashed to a frame of bamboo. They are worn rather than carried, which allows you to use your hands. And if you lean into the wind, they won’t blow inside out, or away.

So often traditional designs are superior to modern designs. Knups are the traditional umbrellas of Northern India, and are here being used in the wettest place on earth, Mawsynram, which has over 38 feet of rain a year."

[See also: http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/meghalaya-the-wettest-place-on-earth/100797/ ]
umbrellas  india  knups  design  caterinafake  2015  wearable  wearables 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Race to renewable: five developing countries ditching fossil fuels | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
"Costa Rica, Afghanistan, China, India and Albania are all embracing renewable energy sources – five experts give their opinion on what the future holds"
costarica  afghanistan  china  india  albania  energy  climatechange  fossilfuels  2015  environment  sustainability 
october 2015 by robertogreco
The Classrooms Hidden in Mumbai’s Seams — Bright — Medium
"Educators are bringing the classroom to the thousands of Mumbai’s children out of school — in school buses, treehouses, and beyond."



"Educating children in a city of more than 18 million people — of which at least 1.7 million are children under 6 years old, according to the national census — is a daunting task. Mumbai, India’s financial hub, is a dense metropolis of almost inconceivable disparity, where multi-story homes of business tycoons cast shadows over tiny fishermen communities and crowded informal settlements stretching to absorb thousands of new migrants every week. About 40 percent of the city’s families live in slums, defined as compact, congested areas with poor hygiene and infrastructure.

Mumbai’s education system has fallen gravely short of absorbing its children. Only 400,000 children were enrolled in municipal schools in 2014, according to a report by Praja, a non-partisan research and advocacy organization. That number actually dropped 11 percent since 2009, despite increased government spending on education.

That leaves more than half of the children in Mumbai either out of school or learning in private institutions. At least 37,000 kids in Mumbai live on the streets and work with their parents to earn a few cents a day, according to advocacy organization Action Aid.

In response, community members, activists, and educators have carved out classrooms between the hidden folds and seams of the city. They offer safe and regular learning spaces to students who can easily fall throughout the gaps. Some you have to literally climb into to access, while others are built on wheels. For thousands of students across Mumbai, these classrooms have become tiny oases, a place to call their own for a few hours every day.

Manasvi Khasle walked up and down a narrow aisle. She called out even numbers and waited for her class to say the next one. The 22-year-old teacher knows how to command the attention of the 20 students sitting in neat rows in her unusual classroom: a yellow school bus parked near a smoky crossroad of factories and railway tracks in south Mumbai.

“In the beginning I had to go to their homes and call them to class,” she said. “Now they see the bus pull up and just come.”

Khasle has been teaching for eight years with Door Step, an organization founded in 1988 that runs classes for more than 10,000 students, in school buses and tiny community centers. The buses can only hold 20 students, most of them between six and twelve years old, without much space to wiggle around or store books. But they have unique benefits — like their ability to reach many of Mumbai’s poorest migrants who live on illegal plots of land where schools can’t be built.

The students who come to Door Step are as mobile as their classrooms. Many of them work during the evenings or weekend, walking miles down busy roads to peddle toys or newspapers. Most are the first in their families to receive any type of education.

“I like coming here because we sing songs, we study things,” said Gopal, an 11-year-old who attends class in one of the buses parked close to his home in the Byculla neighborhood. His family migrated to Mumbai from rural Maharashtra. He has yet to be enrolled in a local school full time. “On weekends I walk to the temple and sell lemons. Here I can play.”

***

To get to one learning center at the southern end of Mumbai, you have to walk through a maze of narrow pathways filled with open drains, women scrubbing laundry, and jumbled electrical wires that hang between buildings like knotted shoelaces. Then you climb two ladders — one wooden and painted blue, the other metal — to find a small entryway in the ceiling, which leads to an open platform surrounded by railings and trees.

This is the journey that Kirthna Rai, a volunteer teacher, and her 18 students — mostly slight, lanky teenagers — make five days a week to learn spoken English, math, and general knowledge. It is also the uppermost floor of the home of one student, Harsha Vade. Rai’s organization, a small non-profit called Down to Earth, rents the rooftop by the hour.

“We like it that the kids are so close by,” said Arti Bharat Vade, Harsha’s mother, as she filled buckets of water from a communal pipe. “We want them to do well and make a name for themselves.”

Vade said the center has made a powerful impact on her daughter, who had recently scored strong grades on her tenth grade exams — the make-or-break year in the Indian school system — making her eligible to go to a mainstream college. Harsha’s English is fluid and confident, and Rai has guided her through tough exams and career decisions.

When asked if it was hard to concentrate in this treehouse-like classroom during Mumbai’s scorching summer or heavy monsoon season, the students looked around quizzically before Rai, their teacher, eventually spoke up: “This is just like their homes, it’s what they’re used to.”

***

Some miles north of the Down to Earth Center, a different tiny classroom was buzzing. The Dharavi Art Room was started by educator Himanshu S. in a particularly entrepreneurial neighborhood called Dharavi. The area is home to over 600,000 people — about the same as Baltimore — packed into less than one square mile.

Dharavi Art Room is not yet a registered non-profit, but has been operating with community support and donations from friends to teach painting, drawing and other mediums of expression to children in the area. On one sunny summer Sunday, there were trays of paint and paper strewn along the floor. Fifteen students intently focused on depicting their family, or copying a painting from the famed Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

“It used to be hard for me to paint because I didn’t know how, but now it’s not so hard,” said 12-year-old Lovesh Chilveri, a student at the center, as he carefully shaded a window he was drawing.

Himanshu said the art room is particularly important in Dharavi, where young people are caught in the aggressive atmosphere that can pervade the neighborhood. Sitting on the floor near a student, a book of small paintings by his side, he said the room gives them a relaxed and free space they might not otherwise access.

“Some kids just like to come sit here,” he said. “This is a space where they can be themselves.”

***

"For many of the educators in these informal classrooms, creating a comfortable place is as important as what they teach. Many low-income children in Mumbai deal with very harsh realities of life — going to bed hungry, falling sick from the rain, helping their parents make ends meet — and a classroom can become like a second home.

“Education has to be holistic approach,” said Vrushali Naik, a program coordinator with Mumbai Mobile Creches, a non-profit organization that has reached more than 100,000 children by building temporary education and daycare centers near the construction sites where migrant laborers live.

One center in eastern Mumbai is housed in the same corrugated metal sheds where the migrant families live in neat, Spartan rows. There are three rooms for the children — ranging from infants to teenagers — and educators who teach, play, and help distribute meals throughout the day.

Food is an important part of many of these classrooms. The Action Aid study found that 25 percent of the children in poor Mumbai neighborhoods skipped meals due to lack of money.

At Mumbai Mobile Creches the children eat eggs, lentils and milk, and at Angel Xpress the students line up for packages of sandwiches and snacks at the end of their tutoring sessions.

“We have to look at the bigger picture — do children feel safe, are they understood? Are their stomachs full?” said Reshma Agarwal, an education specialist with UNICEF. “I don’t think these programs have come because of a shortage of classrooms in Mumbai — these programs have come in for specific needs.”

Even so, Agarwal said, the classrooms cannot replace the school system in the city, however weak it may. Most programs agree. Door Step buses, for example, drive kids to municipality schools after they’re admitted. And teachers like Rai help students tackle the exams and papers to get through the critical years of school.

For now, though, the teachers continue to climb ladders, board school buses, and cut through the howling winds of the Mumbai monsoon. And thousands of students willingly follow.

“We don’t walk here,” said 10-year-old Kerketta, referring to Angel Xpress. “We run.”"
mumbai  nkitarao  education  schools  popupschools  interstitialplaces  cityasclassroom  2015  dharavi  mobile  mobility  mobileschools  wherestudentsare  teaching  howweteach  india  mumbaimobilecreches  unicef  resgmaagarwal  doorstep  manasvikhasle  bandra  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  cv 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Transforming the Fight Against Poverty in India - The New York Times
"Transferring cash to poor families, on the condition that their kids attend school and get vaccinations, has been shown to be an effective way to reduce poverty and improve human health and well-being. Latin America is widely recognized as the pioneer of large-scale conditional transfer programs, starting with Mexico in the late 1990s and expanding across Brazil over the past decade.

Now these programs have the potential for making a serious dent in poverty in India. Under the acronym JAM — Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile — a quiet revolution of social welfare policy is unfolding. Jan Dhan is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship program to give poor people access to financial services, including bank accounts, credit and insurance. Aadhaar is the initiative to issue unique biometric identification cards to all Indians. Together with mobile money platforms, they will enable the state to transfer cash directly to those in need — without the money going through intermediaries that might take a cut.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is also the world’s largest poor country. The legitimacy of any elected government turns on its ability to provide for the poor. As such, both our federal and state governments subsidize a wide range of products and services with the expressed intention of making them affordable for the poor: rice, wheat, pulses, sugar, kerosene, cooking gas, naphtha, water, electricity, fertilizer, railways. The cost of these subsidies is about 4.2 percent of India’s gross domestic product, which is more than enough to raise the consumption level of every poor Indian household above the poverty line.

Sadly, government provision of these subsidies is associated with significant leakages. For example, as much as 41 percent of subsidized kerosene, which poor families use to light their homes, is “unaccounted for” and is probably lost to the black market. Dealers sell it on the side to middlemen who mix diesel into fuel and resell it, which is bad for both health and the environment.

Furthermore, some subsidies benefit those who do not need them. Power subsidies, for example, favor the (generally wealthier) two-thirds of India who have access to regular grid-provided electricity, and, in particular, wealthier households, which consume more power.

Why, then, do product subsidies form such a central part of the Indian government’s antipoverty policies? Subsidies are a way for states that lack implementation capacity to help the poor; it is easier to sell kerosene and food at subsidized prices than to run effective schools and public health systems.

The three elements of JAM are a potential game-changer. Consider the mind-boggling scale of each element. Nearly 118 million bank accounts have been opened through Jan Dhan. Nearly one billion citizens have a biometrically authenticated unique identity card through Aadhaar. And about half of Indians now have a cellphone (while only 3.7 percent have land lines).

Here’s one example of how these three elements can be put to work.

The Indian government subsidizes households’ purchases of cooking gas; these subsidies amounted to about $8 billion last year. Until recently, subsidies were provided by selling cylinders to beneficiaries at below-market prices. Now, prices have been deregulated, and the subsidy is delivered by depositing cash directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts, which are linked to cellphones, so that only eligible beneficiaries — not “ghost” intermediaries — receive transfers.

Under the previous arrangement, the large gap between subsidized and unsubsidized prices created a thriving black market, where distributors diverted subsidized gas away from households to businesses for a premium. In new research with Prabhat Barnwal, an economist at Columbia University, we find that cash transfers reduced these “leakages,” resulting in estimated fiscal savings of about $2 billion.

The scope for extending these benefits is enormous. Imagine the possibility of rolling all subsidies into a single lump-sum cash transfer to households, an idea mooted decades ago by the economist Milton Friedman as the holy grail of efficient and equitable welfare policy. JAM makes this possible.

To realize the full benefits of JAM, the government needs — and has begun — to address both “first-mile” and “last-mile” challenges.

The “first-mile” challenges are identifying eligible beneficiaries and coordinating between states and government departments. To deliver means-tested benefits via cash transfers, the government will need a way of identifying the poor and linking beneficiaries to their bank accounts. Further, eligibility criteria and beneficiary rosters vary, and technology platforms, where they exist, may not be seamlessly interoperable. Hence the need for an extensive coordination exercise under the national government, which can incentivize states to come on board by potentially sharing fiscal savings with the states.

The “last-mile” challenge arises because cash transfer programs risk excluding genuine beneficiaries if they do not have bank accounts. Indeed, even if they have an account, they may live so far away from a bank — India has only 40,000 rural bank branches to serve 600,000 villages — that collecting benefits is arduous. Extending financial inclusion to reach the remotest and poorest will require nurturing banks that facilitate payments via mobile networks, which has achieved great success in countries such as Kenya. India can then leapfrog from a bank-less society to a cashless one just as it went from being phoneless to cellphone- saturated.

Over all, JAM offers substantial benefits for government, the economy and especially the poor. Government finances will be improved because of the reduced subsidy burden; at the same time, government will also be legitimized and strengthened because it can transfer resources to citizens faster and more reliably. Experimental evidence from the world’s largest workfare program — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — found that delivering wages via a biometrically authenticated payment system reduced corruption and enabled workers to receive salaries faster. With the poor protected, market forces can be allowed to allocate resources with enormous benefits for economywide efficiency and productivity enhancement. The chief beneficiaries will be India’s poor; cash transfers are not a panacea for eliminating their hardship, but can go a long way to improving their lives."
india  2015  economics  poverty  policy  cashtransfers  universalbasicincome  latinamerica  brazil  brasil  mexico  leakages  blackmarket  subsidies  government  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
How 50 reporters exposed the World Bank’s broken promises | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
"At a military camp in a violence-stained region of Central America, a Honduran Army officer informed Sasha Chavkin that he knew the reporter’s itinerary – where Chavkin was going and the people he planned to interview. When Chavkin asked how he had acquired this information, the colonel said simply: “Yo soy un militar.” (“I am a military man.”)

In Kenya’s western highlands, rifle-toting officers from the Kenya Forest Service confronted Anthony Langat and Jacob Kushner as the Nairobi-based reporters tried to interview indigenous peoples who claimed forest rangers had burned them out of their homes. The officers questioned the reporters for nearly an hour, refusing to say whether they were under arrest.

Along the Gulf of Kutch, a manager for one of India’s largest coal-powered plants, flanked by security guards, confronted Barry Yeoman, a freelance magazine journalist: Who was he and what was he doing at the fishing settlement near the plant? When Yeoman tried to sidestep the questions, one of the guards said they already knew who he was: “Aren’t you with ICIJ?”

These kinds of encounters aren’t unusual when it comes to boots-in-the-mud foreign reporting. What’s different is that all these journalists were working together, on the same story, as a part of a reporting partnership involving more than 50 journalists led by ICIJ, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Their subject: How power plants, dams and other big projects bankrolled by the World Bank can harm people and the environment.

Over the course of a decade, the reporting team found, projects financed by the World Bank physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people. These vulnerable people, often among the poorest in their societies, were forced from their homes, lost land or other assets or saw their livelihoods damaged. During this period, the investigation found, the bank regularly failed to follow its own rules for protecting the people living in the path of development.

To show the human consequences of the bank’s investments, reporters from ICIJ, The Huffington Post and more than 20 other ICIJ media partners reported on the ground in 14 countries. They traveled to isolated villages and urban slums in the Balkans, Asia, Africa and Latin America. They entered areas bloodied by civil conflicts. And they asked tough questions in places where journalists are often watched, questioned and, in some instances, targeted for violence or arrest.

“What connects a lot of the work on the investigation is that people were reporting in places where the local authorities are heavily invested in controversial projects,” says Ben Hallman, an editor and reporter for HuffPost who traveled to the mountains of Peru as a part of the investigation. “These places tend to have weak rule of law, and essentially the system that exists is opposed to you getting out the story. There’s definitely a chilling effect.”

ICIJ is a non-profit news organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. We have a full-time staff of 11 in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and 190 member journalists in 65 countries who team with us on cross-border reporting collaborations.

At ICIJ, we operate on the principle that many stories are too big, too complicated and too global for a lone-wolf muckraker – or even a single news organization – to tackle.

That’s certainly the case with the reporting team’s World Bank Group investigation, which focuses on a sprawling organization with more than 10,000 employees and a PR operation that works hard to deflect negative coverage.

The World Bank Group is owned by 188 member countries, with the U.S. and a few other Western nations holding much of the voting power. It funnels money to governments and corporations with the goal, it says, of ending extreme poverty.

Its push to end poverty is complicated by the reality that dams and other game-changing projects can make things worse rather than better for people nearby. People forced to resettle because of big projects often end up poorer than before. Some face hunger and disease. Even when people aren’t evicted from their homes, projects can destroy or damage their livelihoods. A dam that changes a river flow, for example, can drastically reduce catches for fishing communities.

The World Bank’s “safeguard” rules are supposed to protect people whose lives are disrupted by its investments. Families pushed from their homes must be provided new homes. People whose ability to earn a living has been damaged must get help to restore or replace their livelihoods.

The bank often fails to enforce these rules. In some cases, the World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp., have financed governments or companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture.

In Kenya, for example, indigenous people claim they have been burned out of their homes and evicted from ancestral forests by a World Bank-funded forest conservation program.

“I don’t understand why they chase us like this,” Selly Rotich, a mother of five, told Langat and Kushner in September as she sat outside her scorched home in Kenya’s Embobut Forest."
worldbank  development  kenya  india  honduras  sashachavkin  anthonylangat  jacobkushner  barryyeoman  journalism  balkans  latinamerica  asia  africa  investment  economics  policy  politics  finance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Does M.I.A.'s New 'Broader Than A Border' Video Feature Côte d’Ivoire's Best Dancer? Okayafrica.
"In May, M.I.A. made headlines for claiming that she couldn’t put out a forthcoming video of a dancer in Côte d’Ivoire due to issues with cultural appropriation. “I’ve been told I can’t put out a video because it’s shot in Africa,” the 39-year-old artist, born in London of Sri Lankan Tamil heritage, Tweeted at the time. According to M.I.A., the clip was to be a one-take shot of a male dancer who she says she spent two years trying to locate.What do you think?

After posting a few teasers last week, M.I.A.’s new audiovisual project, released today through Apple Music, may very well feature some of this footage. Titled “Matahdatah Scroll 01 Broader Than a Border,” the project includes two songs (“Swords” from the upcoming LP Matahdatah and “Warriors” from the 2013 LP Matangi) plus an accompanying short film, Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Boarder.” Directed by M.I.A., the clip was shot in West India and what we presume is Côte d’Ivoire (see Les Éléphants jersey at 3:55 for additional evidence of this). It’s still not clear if this is the video M.I.A. was previously referring to her in tweets.What do you think?

Watch via Apple Music."

[See also: https://itunes.apple.com/us/post/idsa.e62049a2-297b-11e5-8564-dbb405c2dc2a
http://www.idolator.com/7600286/mia-swords-video-matahdatah-broader-than-a-border

Previously: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAYPacrJnyQ
using footage from Dragon Girls: https://vimeo.com/69101024 ]
mia  2015  culturalappropriation  appropriation  culture  music  video  india  ivorycoast  côted’ivoire 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Indo-Bangla border: 70k people in 'no man's land' keep IB porous
"Neelabh Srivastava Zero Point (Indo-Bangla border), Jun 3 (PTI) Not covered by the historic Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, about 260 Indian villages with a total of 70,000 residents which lie in the 'no man's land' between the two countries continue to pose a vexed challenge for troops looking to secure the border against smuggling and influx of fake currency.

While the LBA provides for the activation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh agreement for exchange of 161 border enclaves adversely-held by the the two neighbours, an exact solution to the vexed status of these villages situated just ahead of the International Border (IB) fence remains hanging fire.

"There are villages which are located ahead of the border fence and are different from the areas which are covered under the LBA.

Shifting these villages inside the IB will be very useful.

We have taken up the matter a number of times with the authorities but there has been no progress.

"The population living in these villages is vulnerable to a number of unlawful acts and attempts from the other side," BSF Inspector General (South Bengal Frontier), Sandeep Salunke, said at his headquarters in Kolkata.

BSF troops deployed along the 'first main pillar' of the Indo-Bangladesh border at Panitar here showed PTI how the meandering IB leads to a unique situation wherein two adjoining houses, separated by a mere 10-metres between them, come under the jurisdiction of either country.

Along this 4,096-km long border, BSF officials say, there are about 260 villages with about 70,000 men, women and children living in them.

In the South Bengal corridor alone — comprising the border crime prone areas of North 24 and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda districts — there are 54 such villages with a population of 30,074 living in 4,749 houses.

"This is like living on no man's land.

The problem is historic and border-guarding troops face some unique challenges for which we have deployed dynamic strategies like maintaining photographic registers and regularly identifying and updating data to know who is new to the area," BSF Commanding Officer Ratnesh Kumar said after undertaking a routine tour of Chakpanitar village.

IG Salunke said that as the number of these villages is "not very big", a lasting solution for effective border management would be to bring them inside the border fence.

"This has been our repeated request, but there has been no solution.. The people who live in these villages do not want to shift elsewhere as they have their life-long investments here.

Incidents of smuggling and crime are serious concerns in these areas," he said.

BSF troops and officers say they detect several instances every day of smuggling of basic food items, cigarettes and household goods in these areas with the women and children living in these villages made to act as couriers for such activities."
2015  borders  india  bangladesh 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The phone app challenging violence against women in a Mumbai slum | KumKum Dasgupta | Global development | The Guardian
"Domestic abuse is rife in Dharavi slum, but a new project uses a smartphone app and trained community workers to improve the reporting of violence"



"The app, SNEHA believes, encourages increased reporting of violence, lets community members know what assistance is available, and helps NGOs understand more about the prevalence of violence in Dharavi. The interaction is two-way: sometimes sanginis come to know about a case and approach the survivor; at other times, survivors seek out sanginis to report incidents.

“Our volunteers are trained to advise survivors on [the] availability of medical help and also on how to approach the police.” Once cases are brought to SNEHA’s centre, counsellors help survivors file police reports and offer legal support, says Daruwalla.

Earlier this year, SNEHA promoted its work at the inaugural Dharavi biennale. Using scrap denim pieces and discarded objects, sanginis created an art project called Mapping the Hurt, an innovative visualisation of gender violence in the slum.

But if tracking and reporting violence is one part of the challenge, the next big hurdle is getting the police to act.

“Whenever we go to the police to report on domestic violence, they are reluctant to file a case. They say such issues should be settled at home,” explains Bhanuben. Even if a case is lodged, low conviction rates strengthen the impression that there is little point in reporting the crime. Further, a lack of understanding of gender issues, violence and entrenched views about women’s status among lawyers and judges often encourages outcomes that favour reconciliations, overlooking a woman’s needs and demands.

Data collected from July to December last year by SNEHA showed that of the 345 cases analysed, only 19% were reported to the police."
dharavi  violence  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  2015  india  sneha  mumbai 
june 2015 by robertogreco
What Self-Directed Learning Can Look Like for Underprivileged Children in Asia | MindShift | KQED News
"Unlike at Summerhill, children at Moo Baan Dek have work responsibilities (such as working in the center’s rice fields), but these are freely chosen, and there is a lot of discretion in how they are carried out (e.g., children are encouraged to listen to their bodies if they need a break). Children also collaborate with houseparents on menus and shopping, learning about home economics in the process.

“Once they trust the adults, the adults can help them to do something,” one of the founders, Rajani Dongchai, told Gribble. But after developing this bond, the adults step back so the children can learn to believe in the inherent value of the activities, rather than simply obeying their elders. They step in only when children appear to need help, and then offer it with compassion.

Many of Moo Baan Dek’s students have gone on to higher education and gainful work in occupations that run the gamut from hospital staff to auto mechanics and sales."



"Street Children Apply Themselves to Have an “Education for Life”

Children who work and/or live on New Delhi’s streets struggle to survive, picking up small jobs such as collecting rags, carrying bags, or selling food, while coping with police beatings, predatory adults, and motorists that don’t even brake for them, reflecting their extremely low status in that society.

Social worker Rita Panicker was dismayed that most organizations trying to help these children treated them merely as passive recipients of charity and offered them conventional lessons that did little to help them overcome their specific challenges, instead of empowering them with “education for life.” To offer an alternative, she started the Butterflies program in 1989; its name evokes her desire to help these eight- to 15-year-old children develop wings to fly in freedom wherever they chose.

Its core guiding principle is children’s participation. So the Butterflies educators began by spending weeks on the streets, getting to know the children who wanted to talk, asking them what they wanted to do, and in what areas they wanted help. The program’s distinguishing operating elements include a Children’s Council with decision-making power (which extends to the ability to dismiss staff) and a requirement that the children pay a modest fee for services. The educators relate to the children as friends and colleagues and are affectionately called Elder Brother and Elder Sister.

Most of the children have never even held a pencil when they begin interacting with the program, but Gribble notes that literacy should not be confused with education. In some senses, these children are already highly educated and mature, because they manage to survive on their own and handle complicated, real-life situations on a regular basis. Therefore the Butterflies curriculum “can’t be childish,” he says. Moreover, he explains in “Lifelines,” although the program is accredited through the equivalent of eighth grade, and the children have opportunities to learn subjects such as math, science, Hindi and English, “formal education is not the priority. The priority is to make each child feel trusted, secure and precious. Only then can formal learning take place.”

Educators meet the children at popular contact points around the city (such as the railway station) at mutually agreed times. They offer activities that help the children analyze and question and find things out for themselves. They also bring tin trunks with materials such as exercise books, discussion-provoking cards, and games. The children decide how much, or whether, to engage, and can work on whatever they choose. Anyone is welcome to join in, and some 1,500 children have taken up the offer. Older street children often lead the activities, with the staff remaining in the background, offering assistance as needed.

Many choose to study because no one is requiring them to, Gribble says. He observed children working together “enthusiastically and seriously,” he writes, with a “dignity and purposefulness that perhaps is in part a result of not suffering the humiliation of being obliged to accept charity. … It is moving almost to the point of tears to see a twelve-year-old boy totally committing himself to sounding out letters or practising basic addition.”

The educators also cover subjects that “touch the children emotionally, because those are the subjects that children really want to talk and write about,” Gribble explains. For instance, they may present realistic case studies (e.g., a runaway girl confides that she’s been sexually abused, but the police don’t want to file a report) and ask the children to demonstrate possible responses through dramatic arts.

Success isn’t measured in test scores or the attainment of formal qualifications. It’s considered success if the children trust the adults; learn to read and write (about 60 percent of the children who participate for six months learn to read and write within that time); accomplish personal projects; or go on to high school and find sustaining work. It is also considered success if they become aware of their rights and develop skills that enable them to protect themselves from being cheated and to negotiate for better wages."
asia  education  learning  children  self-directed  self-directedlearning  davidgribble  thailand  bankok  sumerhill  democratic  democracy  democraticschools  streetchildren  nedelhi  moobaandek  lubavangelova  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  schools  ritapaniker  butterflies  india 
may 2015 by robertogreco
India-Bangla land swap: was the world's strangest border created by a game of chess?
"India and Bangladesh will swap hundreds of enclaves, ending a problem that arose 300 years ago as the Mughals tried to conquer Cooch Behar in north Bengal."

[Don't miss the diagram: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/ULJUH/media/Dahala-3.png.html

via: https://twitter.com/prasanto/status/596518116508573696 ]
borders  india  bangladesh  shoaibdaniyal  2015  dahliakhagrabari 
may 2015 by robertogreco
How to Grow a Forest Really, Really Fast — TED Fellows — Medium
"A forest planted by humans, then left to nature’s own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. What if we could make the process happen ten times faster? Eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma’s figured out a way of growing native, self-sustaining forests anywhere in the world, with the efficiency of industrial processes. He tells us how.

*****

Back in 2008, I was an industrial engineer at Toyota in India, helping prepare assembly lines and dispatch systems for car manufacture. One day, a scientist named Akira Miyawaki came to the factory to plant a forest on Toyota’s campus. He gave a presentation on his methods, and I became so fascinated that I decided I wanted to learn how to plant a forest myself.

Miyawaki is quite famous, and very old; he’s now 87. He has planted around 40 million trees all over the world, and in 2006, he won the Blue Planet Prize, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the environmental field. His method’s based on what’s called “potential natural vegetation”— a theory that if a piece of land is free from human intervention, a forest will naturally self-seed and take over that land within a period of around 600 to 1,000 years, with the species that would be native and robust, and that would require no maintenance. Miyawaki’s methodology amplifies that growth process to establish a mature, native forest in ten years — ten times the normal rate of forests planted by humans.

Intrigued, I volunteered with Miyawaki and studied his methodologies, and then planted a forest of 300 trees of 42 species in a 93-square-meter plot in my back garden. It was such a success that I decided to quit the car industry to start Afforestt, a for-profit company devoted to planting native forests for all kinds of clients, from farmers to corporations to city governments.

Here’s how it works. It takes six steps.

1. First, you start with soil. We identify what nutrition the soil lacks.

2. Then we identify what species we should be growing in this soil, depending on climate.

3. We then identify locally abundant biomass available in that region to give the soil whatever nourishment it needs. This is typically an agricultural or industrial byproduct — like chicken manure or press mud, a byproduct of sugar production — but it can be almost anything. We’ve made a rule that it must come from within 50 kilometers of the site, which means we have to be flexible.

4. Once we’ve amended the soil to a depth of one meter, we plant saplings that are up to 80 centimeters high, packing them in very densely — three to five saplings per square meter.

5. The forest itself must cover a 100-square-meter minimum area. This grows into a forest so dense that after eight months, sunlight can’t reach the ground. At this point, every drop of rain that falls is conserved, and every leaf that falls is converted into humus. The more the forest grows, the more it generates nutrients for itself, accelerating further growth. This density also means that individual trees begin competing for sunlight — another reason these forests grow so fast.

6. The forest needs to be watered and weeded for the first two or three years, at which point it becomes self-sustaining. After that, it’s best to disturb the forest as little as possible to allow its ecosystem, including animals, to become established."

[via: https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/590778628419485698 ]
trees  forests  agriculture  environment  2015  plants  kareneng  shubhendusharma  rewilding  afforestation  geoengineering  afforestt  akiramiyawaki  india  toyota 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious - The Washington Post
"Indian food, with its hodgepodge of ingredients and intoxicating aromas, is coveted around the world. The labor-intensive cuisine and its mix of spices is more often than not a revelation for those who sit down to eat it for the first time. Heavy doses of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other flavors can overwhelm an unfamiliar palate. Together, they help form the pillars of what tastes so good to so many people.

But behind the appeal of Indian food — what makes it so novel and so delicious — is also a stranger and subtler truth. In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.""



"Researchers at the Indian Institute for Technology in Jodhpur crunched data on several thousand recipes from a popular online recipe site called TarlaDalal.com. They broke each dish down to its ingredients, and then compared how often and heavily ingredients share flavor compounds.

The answer? Not too often.

Here's an easy way to make sense of what they did, through the lens of a single, theoretical dish. Say you have a dish with 4 different ingredients, like the one below:

[image]

Each one of those ingredients has its own list of flavor compounds. And any two of those ingredients' lists might have some overlap. Take the coconut and onion, for instance. We can all agree that these two things are pretty different, but we can also see (in the Venn diagram below) that there's some overlap in their flavor make-up. (Ignore the math symbols.)

[image]

You could create the same diagram for all the ingredients with overlapping flavor compounds, as in this diagram. There are six that have overlap. (Again, ignore the math.)

[image]

The researchers did this for each of the several thousand recipes, which used a total of 200 ingredients. They examined how much the underlying flavor compounds overlapped in single dishes and discovered something very different from Western cuisines. Indian cuisine tended to mix ingredients whose flavors don't overlap at all.

"We found that average flavor sharing in Indian cuisine was significantly lesser than expected," the researchers wrote.

In other words, the more overlap two ingredients have in flavor, the less likely they are to appear in the same Indian dish.

The unique makeup of Indian cuisine can be seen in some dishes more than others, and it seems to be tied to the use of specific ingredients. Spices usually indicate dishes with flavors that have no chemical common ground.

More specifically, many Indian recipes contain cayenne, the basis of curry powder that is in just about any Indian curry. And when a dish contains cayenne, the researchers found, it's unlikely to have other ingredients that share similar flavors. The same can be said of green bell pepper, coriander and garam masala, which are nearly as ubiquitous in Indian cuisine."
food  indian  india  2015  flavor  taste  cooking 
march 2015 by robertogreco
25 maps that explain the English language - Vox
"English is the language of Shakespeare and the language of Chaucer. It's spoken in dozens of countries around the world, from the United States to a tiny island named Tristan da Cunha. It reflects the influences of centuries of international exchange, including conquest and colonization, from the Vikings through the 21st century. Here are 25 maps and charts that explain how English got started and evolved into the differently accented languages spoken today."
english  maps  mapping  language  history  change  accents  migration  immigration  colonization  international  australia  us  india  europe  wikipedia  words  vocabulary  dialects  regionalisms 
march 2015 by robertogreco
‘An African’s Message for America’ - NYTimes.com
"A volunteer trip abroad has become almost a rite of passage for a certain set of Americans, particularly students. This Op-Doc video profiles a Kenyan activist who has one simple question for them: “Why?”

Nearly one million people from America volunteer abroad each year. They are mostly young, mostly affluent and overwhelmingly white. It made me wonder: when we look to do community service, why do so many — particularly the privileged among us — look to places so far from home?

I followed the Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi as he spoke with American college students to get to the core of why it can be more appealing to “save” Africans like him than to address social inequalities on their own soil.

As Americans, we’re inundated with images of hungry African children, but what about the plight of children in this country? Our child poverty rate is at its highest level in 20 years, with nearly one in four children living in homes without enough food. Among our homeless population, there are nearly 2.5 million children. Mr. Mwangi points particularly to the racial inequality in this country, highlighting the staggering rate of incarceration for African-American men, which is nearly six times the rate for white men.

Mr. Mwangi and his peers are not suggesting that Westerners simply stay home or disengage with Africans. They are pushing them to take an honest look at their motives for helping overseas versus at home, think about how their efforts could potentially diminish or supplant African-grown initiatives and consider a more respectful connection between equals.

As Mr. Mwangi said to a group of students at Duke University: “If you want to come and help me, first ask me what I want… Then we can work together.”"

[via: https://twitter.com/okayafrica/status/552615456092463106
"A Kenyan activist asks American student volunteers: "Why do you want to help us? Help your own country." @nytimes http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/06/opinion/an-africans-message-for-america.html …"]

[See also: https://twitter.com/bonifacemwangi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boniface_Mwangi
http://www.bonifacemwangi.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_wVLyyCmsk
http://www.ted.com/profiles/525864/fellow ]
africa  us  poverty  activism  bonifacemwangi  inequality  society  humanitarianism  servicelearning  race  volunteers  india  volunteering  interventionism  cassandraherrman  international  oversees  pawa254  communityservice  whitesaviors  imperialism  canon  cv  hypocrisy  voluntourism  savingafrica 
january 2015 by robertogreco
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