robertogreco + isolation   93

Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian
"Driving is ruining our lives, and triggering environmental disasters. Only drastic action will kick our dependency"



"One of these emergencies is familiar to every hospital. Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Remember the claims at the start of this century, projected so noisily by the billionaire press: that public money would be better spent on preventing communicable disease than on preventing climate breakdown? It turns out that the health dividend from phasing out fossil fuels is likely to have been much bigger. (Of course, there was nothing stopping us from spending money on both: it was a false dilemma.) Burning fossil fuels, according to a recent paper, is now “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”.

In other sectors, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen sharply. But transport emissions in the UK have declined by only 2% since 1990. The government’s legally binding target is an 80% cut by 2050, though even this, the science now tells us, is hopelessly inadequate. Transport, mostly because of our obsession with the private car, is now the major factor driving us towards climate breakdown, in this and many other nations.

The number of people killed on the roads was falling steadily in the UK until 2010, at which point the decline suddenly ended. Why? Because, while fewer drivers and passengers are dying, the number of pedestrians killed has risen by 11%. In the US, it’s even worse: a 51% rise in the annual death rate of pedestrians since 2009. There seem to be two reasons: drivers distracted by their mobile phones, and a switch from ordinary cars to sports-utility vehicles. As SUVs are higher and heavier, they are more likely to kill the people they hit. Driving an SUV in an urban area is an antisocial act.

There are also subtler and more pervasive effects. Traffic mutes community, as the noise, danger and pollution in busy streets drive people indoors. The places in which children could play and adults could sit and talk are reserved instead for parking. Engine noise, a great but scarcely acknowledged cause of stress and illness, fills our lives. As we jostle to secure our road space, as we swear and shake our fists at other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, as we grumble about speed limits and traffic calming, cars change us, enhancing our sense of threat and competition, cutting us off from each other.

New roads carve up the countryside, dispelling peace, creating a penumbra of noise, pollution and ugliness. Their effects spread for many miles. The deposition of reactive nitrogen from car exhaust (among other factors) changes the living systems even of remote fastnesses. In Snowdonia, it is dropped at the rate of 24kg per hectare per year, radically altering plant communities. Wars are fought to keep down the cost of driving: hundreds of thousands died in Iraq partly for this purpose. The earth is reamed with the mines required to manufacture cars and the oil wells needed to power them, and poisoned by the spills and tailings.

A switch to electric cars addresses only some of these issues. Already, beautiful places are being wrecked by an electric vehicle resource rush. Lithium mining, for example, is now poisoning rivers and depleting groundwater from Tibet to Bolivia. They still require a vast expenditure of energy and space. They still need tyres, whose manufacture and disposal (tyres are too complex to recycle) is a massive environmental blight.

We are told that cars are about freedom of choice. But every aspect of this assault on our lives is assisted by state planning and subsidy. Roads are built to accommodate projected traffic, which then grows to fill the new capacity. Streets are modelled to maximise the flow of cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed by planners into narrow and often dangerous spaces – the afterthoughts of urban design. If we paid for residential street parking at market rates for land, renting the 12m2 a car requires would cost around £3,000 a year in the richer parts of Britain. The chaos on our roads is a planned chaos.

Transport should be planned, but with entirely different aims: to maximise its social benefits, while minimising harm. This means a wholesale switch towards electric mass transit, safe and separate bike lanes and broad pavements, accompanied by a steady closure of the conditions that allow cars to rampage through our lives. In some places, and for some purposes, using cars is unavoidable. But for the great majority of journeys they can easily be substituted, as you can see in Amsterdam, Pontevedra and Copenhagen. We could almost eliminate them from our cities.

In this age of multiple emergencies – climate chaos, pollution, social alienation – we should remember that technologies exist to serve us, not to dominate us. It is time to drive the car out of our lives."
cars  georgemonbiot  2019  environment  safety  health  policy  transportation  emissions  freedom  climatechange  globalwarming  society  cities  urban  urbanism  isolation  pollution  alienation  masstransit 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Stanford professor: "The workplace is killing people and nobody cares"
"From the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours, the modern workplace is taking its toll on all of us."
work  labor  health  2018  workplace  culture  capitalism  management  administration  psychology  stress  childcare  jeffreypfeffer  socialpollution  society  nuriachinchilla  isolation  fatigue  time  attention 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Julie Goldberg on Twitter: "The people I know who are the most miserable about politics right now are doing all their politics online. The people I know who are the least discouraged about politics are doing most of their politics in three dimensions. Get
"The people I know who are the most miserable about politics right now are doing all their politics online. The people I know who are the least discouraged about politics are doing most of their politics in three dimensions.
Get involved. You'll never regret it!

Isolation + constantly aggravated frustration = despair.
Community + working for change = hope.
Social media corporations make more money when we sit alone, argue with strangers, yell at the TV, and despair."
juliegoldeberg  politics  activism  isolation  frustration  despair  socialimedia  online  internet  web  twitter  facebook  action  discouragement  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Ringing the Fourfold: A Philosophical Framework for Thinking about Wellness Tourism: Tourism Recreation Research: Vol 31, No 1
"Perhaps no other area of tourism more needs a philosophy than wellness tourism with its transcendental aims and spiritual dimension. This paper explores Heidegger's rich philosophical concept of the ringing of the fourfold—an intimate relationship between earth, sky, mortals and divinities that Heidegger says reveals wholeness and authenticity and brings us into intimate contact with the world in the amazing event that is human existence. This paper argues that the ringing of the fourfold may be a philosophical basis for wellness and suggests tourism may actually facilitate the ringing of the fourfold. It uses the fourfold to explore how wellness tourism might balance and integrate lives unsettled and fractured by runaway time, frantic busyness, disconnection from the natural world and other people, loss of spirituality, and longing for a sense of place in an alien, impersonal and out-of-control world. First, it explores the possible origin of our lack of wellness by explicating Heidegger's ‘epoch of technicity’, a time when the world is seen as something to be managed and exploited for human gain by people who are reduced to little more than the engineer-servants of this management and exploitation. This part of the paper uses tourism literature to confirm the accuracy of Heidegger's predictions of rampant consumerism, ecological devastation, corporate greed, personal hubris, artificial community created by technology, and stress created by too little time, isolation, loss of identity and exhaustion. Next, the paper proffers a philosophical description of existential wellness by exploring Heidegger's concept of the fourfold as an alternative way to understand and experience the world. By returning to the tourism literature again, we show how touring may facilitate appreciation of the fourfold (and a sense of wellness) by bringing tourists into an authentic encounter with not only earth and sky (grounding and freeing nature) but also divinities and mortals who together create a world unlike the world of technicity. Finally, the paper looks at the implications of wellness tourism as a site for the ringing of the fourfold."
via:bopuc  wellness  consumerism  capitalism  2005  carolsteiner  tourism  heidegger  greed  corporatism  environment  sustainability  technology  stress  time  isolation  identity  exhaustion  work  labor  philosophy 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Social Media and Loneliness | L.M. Sacasas
"In 1958, Hannah Arendt published The Human Condition in which she discussed the rise of the “social,” a realm she distinguished from the private and the public spheres. It was marked by anonymity. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, she argued that loneliness and isolation were the seedbeds of totalitarianism."



"In 1913, Willa Cather had one of her characters in O Pioneers! describe his life in the cities this way:
Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen man are our mourners, and we leave nothing behind us but a frock-coat and a fiddle, or an easel, or a typewriter, or whatever tool we got our living by. All we have ever managed to do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that one has to pay for a few square feet of space near the heart of things. We have no house, no place, no people of our own. We live in the streets, in the parks, in the theaters. We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder.


I could go on, but you get the point."



"I’ve never understood why we should be relieved when we read about a study which concludes that a majority of people do not experience some negative consequence of technology. What about the often sizable minority that does? Do they not matter?"



"Technological fixes rarely alleviate and often exasperate social disorders, especially those that involve the most deeply engrained desires of the human heart. We’re better off refusing to treat social media as a remedy for loneliness or even as a form of community. Chastened expectations may be the best way to use a tool without being used by the tool in turn."
lmsacasas  michaelsacasas  2018  socialmedia  loneliness  hannaharendt  technology  technosolutionism  willacather  social  cities  isolation  urban  urbanism  online  internet  web 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Cul-de-sac : Open Space
"San Diego’s always been easy to malign; but the endlessly unfurling line of sunny boosterism endemic to San Diego’s civic self-image is all wrong also. When it comes to considering “America’s Finest City”, the national imagination sways between two poles: paradisiacal invention of temperate waves, fresh-fish tacos, and soft sand; or, cultureless void, psychologies sun-dulled into a blank embrace of his-n-hers wax-n-tan salons, stucco sprawl, and the artisanal F/A-18 Hornet."



This cross-national fact pervades all aspects of life in “San Diego.” Not just a border town; a border county. (A border country?)

And yet, San Diego’s often referred to as a geographical cul-de-sac, where the high mountains to the east and the border to the south create a physical and psychological lock-in-place. Cul-de-sac: a dead end, a deadlock, literally, the bottom of the bag. Says who?

When I stay in San Diego, I stay with my partner in Golden Hill, on an actual hill above downtown, whose slopes and inclines afford views of the bay to the west and south. Once the home of socialites and philanthropists, then in long decline as haven for junkies, dealers, and of course, artists, Golden Hill is now about one-third of the way through its “urban-revitalization.” It is bordered on one side by largely Latinx Sherman Heights/Barrio Logan, home to Chicano Park, and on the other by picaresque South Park, quiet, expensive, pretty, and pretty white. Bay Area residents would feel at home wandering Golden Hill’s blocks of Victorian mansions, Craftsman bungalows, and multi-decade representations of apartment complexes in various stages of upkeep or decay. The current fashion in building, though, is for high-priced, small-scale condos (“Starting in the low $500s!!”).

I’ve located myself, I know “where I am,” but it feels sensationally, essentially, placeless.

Street names, all called after other places: Arizona, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania. Uninventively named Ocean Beach nests beaches within beaches: avenues called by the names of other beaches. Newport, Narragansett, Saratoga, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Pescadero, Bermuda. Infinite displacement. Signs point elsewhere, the same as nowhere.

Like LA, San Diego’s hot, it sprawls. But not as hot, and the sprawl is uneager, tepidly accepting of, even pleased with, itself. To the west, the sparkling sea, and to the east, waves of expensive tract housing punctuated with low-slung shopping plazas crowded with corporate chains. Post-place USA? Along the coast, each in a string of seaside villages — first increasing and then decreasing in wealth concentration from south to north — has its own distinct flavor of blowsy undercurrent.

This “city of villages” is a net or concatenation of communities built on mesas, regularly separated by canyons, crevasses, the occasional waterway or stream — and often, freeways — and these light divisions create personality and economic boundaries between them. Hillcrest, North Park, East Village (in the city), or El Cajon, Del Mar, Santee (around the county). Traveling between them, or braked for a minute at the top of a hill, I’m always sensing myself on an edge — of something. Shore, skyline, precipice, border, cliff. Of understanding? The views are often grand or sweeping, but they don’t seem to send back “possibility.” The sky in San Diego is just the sky."



"Retirees and invalids, margarita- or beer-drenched drifters, yogis and transcendental meditation addicts, real estate agents, biotech execs, personal trainers, sailors, and a multiplicity of immigrants both international and domestic — and still somehow not a city of dreams. Or, a “city of broken dreams” (Mike Davis). A city of dreamless sleep, with sunny days spent ambulating dream-slow through the enervating heat."



"San Diego has no cover, no face, or is simultaneously all face. Which?

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and native San Diegan Rae Armantrout famously, unpopularly, wrote that San Diego has no charisma, is blank. That’s put unkindly perhaps, but it’s not all wrong. She also points to the odd quiet, the deep silence beneath whatever aggressive hum. Let’s call it the somnolent subconscious / the deeply sedimented unconscious — the veneer is thin here; you can feel it.

In fact, one isn’t any one here. One’s an atom, roasting in the sun.

“Perhaps living in San Diego prepares you to become a Buddhist,” writes Rae.

Diffuse, fuzzy around the edges, thick. My mind feels like that too, sometimes — it takes longer to shake itself awake. Is it the heat, the sun-glaze, is it in the water?"



"In 2016, 34.9 million tourists visited San Diego, spending 10.4 billion dollars.

San Diego is the most biologically rich county in the continental US. And the most threatened, with nearly 200 at-risk animals and plants.

Western snowy plover, coastal cactus wren, California gnatcatcher, least Bell’s vireo, arroyo southwestern toad, Stephens’ kangaroo rat, San Diego fairy shrimp, Quino checkerspot butterfly, San Diego thornmint, Dehesa beargrass, coastal sage scrub, Engelmann oak woodlands…

Seventy-four percent of ex-offenders return to prison within two years of release, in San Diego. The state average is sixty-five.

Autobiography of a Yogi, “the book that changed the lives of millions,” was penned by Paramahansa Yogananda at his Self‑Realization Fellowship ashram and retreat center in Encinitas, in North San Diego County. Ashtanga Yoga, the practice that changed the lives of millions, also had its US nativity scene in Encinitas, when K. Pattabhi Jois arrived here in 1975.



If my thesis is that the city is ungraspable, neither the sum of its parts or possible to glimpse in prism, this not-place-ness must be the prize/prison of manifest destiny become the end of history.

Jim Miller, in Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See: “cul-de-sac also means, finally and most poignantly, a situation in which further progress is impossible.”

On the other hand, says who? At the lift, box, and cycle gym I go to when I’m here, people chat, they say hi. I’m on the floor doing crunches while the Counting Crows song “Mr. Jones” is blasting over the deck. Suddenly I’m experiencing liberation — from every high-urban fantasy I ever had for or of myself.

Near the crest of a hill, up the block from a café I frequent, there’s a large pink stucco apartment building in a vaguely Spanish-modern style, trimmed in white. Someone’s installed a red-letter electronic ticker on the side of this building at its highest point, and programs it to spit out philosophic citations from Lao Tzu, Sophocles, “Anonymous”… From their perch on the hill the flickering banners appear to headline the city. For example: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall — Confucius, spelled out one letter at a time.

I puzzle a long time over this enigmatic line, dropped out of context and attributed to G.K. Chesterton, poet, theologian, philosopher, overt anti-Semite, and father of the Father Brown mysteries: Do not try to bend, any more than the trees try to bend… Try to grow straight, and life will bend you.

Red-letter warnings, invitations to unsubtle visions, and confusing mandates to the individual overcasting her gaze on the sparkling bay, the seventeen construction cranes hovering over downtown, and the freeways, distantly humming, palm trees swaying in the too-bright light, hand on forehead shielding eyes. Blink, blink, blink."
suzannestein  sandiego  gkchesterson  2017  lajolla  ucsd  undertheperfectsun  jimmiller  isolation  meaning  border  borders  mexico  us  place  srg 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Touch of Madness - Pacific Standard
"So Jones grew alarmed when, soon after starting at DePaul in the fall of 2007, at age 27, she began having trouble retaining things she had just read. She also struggled to memorize the new characters she was learning in her advanced Chinese class. She had experienced milder versions of these cognitive and memory blips a couple times before, most recently as she’d finished her undergraduate studies earlier that year. These new mental glitches were worse. She would study and draw the new logograms one night, then come up short when she tried to draw them again the next morning.

These failures felt vaguely neurological. As if her synapses had clogged. She initially blamed them on the sleepless, near-manic excitement of finally being where she wanted to be. She had wished for exactly this, serious philosophy and nothing but, for half her life. Now her mind seemed to be failing. Words started to look strange. She began experiencing "inarticulable atmospheric changes," as she put it—not hallucinations, really, but alterations of temporality, spatiality, depth perception, kinesthetics. Shimmerings in reality's fabric. Sidewalks would feel soft and porous. Audio and visual input would fall out of sync, creating a lag between the movement of a speaker's lips and the words' arrival at Jones' ears. Something was off.

"You look at your hand," as she described it to me later, holding hers up and examining it front and back, "and it looks the same as always. But it's not. It's yours—but it's not. Nothing has changed"—she let her hand drop to her knee—"yet it's different. And that's what gets you. There's nothing to notice; but you can't help but notice."

Another time she found herself staring at the stone wall of a building on campus and realizing that the wall's thick stone possessed two contradictory states. She recognized that the wall was immovable and that, if she punched it, she'd break her hand. Yet she also perceived that the stone was merely a constellation of atomic particles so tenuously bound that, if she blew on it, it would come apart. She experienced this viscerally. She felt the emptiness within the stone.

Initially she found these anomalies less threatening than weird. But as they intensified, the gap between what she was perceiving and what she could understand rationally generated an unbearable cognitive dissonance. How could something feel so wrong but she couldn't say what? She had read up the wazoo about perception, phenomenology, subjectivity, consciousness. She of all people should be able to articulate what she was experiencing. Yet she could not. "Language had betrayed me," she says. "There was nothing you could point to and say, 'This looks different about the world.' There were no terms. I had no fucking idea."

Too much space was opening within and around and below her. She worried she was going mad. She had seen what madness looked like from the outside. When Jones was in her teens, one of her close relatives, an adult she'd always seen frequently, and whom we'll call Alex for privacy reasons, had in early middle age fallen into a state of almost relentless schizophrenia. It transformed Alex from a warm, caring, and open person who was fully engaged with the world into somebody who was isolated from it—somebody who seemed remote, behaved in confusing and alarming ways, and periodically required hospitalization. Jones now started to worry this might be happening to her."



"Reading philosophy helped Jones think. It helped order the disorderly. Yet later, in college, she lit up when she discovered the writers who laid the philosophical foundation for late 20-century critical psychiatry and madness studies: Michel Foucault, for instance, who wrote about how Western culture, by medicalizing madness, brands the mad as strangers to human nature. Foucault described both the process and the alienating effect of this exclusion-by-definition, or "othering," as it soon came to be known, and how the mad were cut out and cast away, flung into pits of despair and confusion, leaving ghosts of their presence behind.

To Jones, philosophy, not medicine, best explained the reverberations from the madness that had touched her family: the disappearance of the ex-husband; the alienation of Alex, who at times seemed "there but not there," unreachable. Jones today describes the madness in and around her family as a koan, a puzzle that teaches by its resistance to solution, and which forces upon her the question of how to speak for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

Jones has since made a larger version of this question—of how we think of and treat the mad, and why in the West we usually shunt them aside—her life's work. Most of this work radiates from a single idea: Culture shapes the experience, expression, and outcome of madness. The idea is not that culture makes one mad. It's that culture profoundly influences every aspect about how madness develops and expresses itself, from its onset to its full-blown state, from how the afflicted experience it to how others respond to it, whether it destroys you or leaves you whole.

This idea is not original to Jones. It rose from the observation, first made at least a century ago and well-documented now, that Western cultures tend to send the afflicted into a downward spiral rarely seen in less modernized cultures. Schizophrenia actually has a poorer prognosis for people in the West than for those in less urbanized, non-Eurocentric societies. When the director of the World Health Organization's mental-health unit, Shekhar Saxena, was asked last year where he'd prefer to be if he were diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said for big cities he'd prefer a city in Ethiopia or Sri Lanka, like Colombo or Addis Ababa, rather than New York or London, because in the former he could expect to be seen as a productive if eccentric citizen rather than a reject and an outcast.

Over the past 25 years or so, the study of culture's effect on schizophrenia has received increasing attention from philosophers, historians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and epidemiologists, and it is now edging into the mainstream. In the past five years, Nev Jones has made herself one of this view's most forceful proponents and one of the most effective advocates for changing how Western culture and psychiatry respond to people with psychosis. While still a graduate student at DePaul she founded three different groups to help students with psychosis continue their studies. After graduating in 2014, she expanded her reach first into the highest halls of academe, as a scholar at Stanford University, and then into policy, working with state and private agencies in California and elsewhere on programs for people with psychosis, and with federal agencies to produce toolkits for universities, students, and families about dealing with psychosis emerging during college or graduate study. Now in a new position as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, she continues to examine—and ask the rest of us to see—how culture shapes madness.

In the United States, the culture's initial reaction to a person's first psychotic episode, embedded most officially in a medical system that sees psychosis and schizophrenia as essentially biological, tends to cut the person off instantly from friends, social networks, work, and their sense of identity. This harm can be greatly reduced, however, when a person's first care comes from the kind of comprehensive, early intervention programs, or EIPs, that Jones works on. These programs emphasize truly early intervention, rather than the usual months-long lag between first symptoms and any help; high, sustained levels of social, educational, and vocational support; and building on the person's experience, ambitions, and strengths to keep them as functional and engaged as possible. Compared to treatment as usual, EIPs lead to markedly better outcomes across the board, create more independence, and seem to create far less trauma for patients and their family and social circles."



"Once his eye was caught, Kraepelin started seeing culture's effects everywhere. In his native Germany, for instance, schizophrenic Saxons were more likely to kill themselves than were Bavarians, who were, in turn, more apt to do violence to others. In a 1925 trip to North America, Kraepelin found that Native Americans with schizophrenia, like Indonesians, didn't build in their heads the elaborate delusional worlds that schizophrenic Europeans did, and hallucinated less.

Kraepelin died in 1926, before he could publish a scholarly version of those findings. Late in his life, he embraced some widely held but horrific ideas about scientific racism and eugenics. Yet he had clearly seen that culture exerted a powerful, even fundamental, effect on the intensity, nature, and duration of symptoms in schizophrenia, and in bipolar disorder and depression. He urged psychiatrists to explore just how culture created such changes.

Even today, few in medicine have heeded this call. Anthropologists, on the other hand, have answered it vigorously over the last couple of decades. To a cultural anthropologist, culture includes the things most of us would expect—movies, music, literature, law, tools, technologies, institutions, and traditions. It also includes a society's predominant ideas, values, stories, interpretations, beliefs, symbols, and framings—everything from how we should dress, greet one another, and prepare and eat food, to what it means to be insane. Madness, in other words, is just one more thing about which a culture constructs and applies ideas that guide thought and behavior.

But what connects these layers of culture to something so seemingly internal as a person's state of mind? The biocultural anthropologist Daniel Lende says that it helps here to think of culture as a series of concentric circles surrounding each of us. For simplicity's sake, let's keep it to two circles around a core, with each circle … [more]
2017  daviddobbs  mentalhealth  psychology  health  culture  madness  nevjones  japan  ethiopia  colombo  addisababa  schizophrenia  society  srilanka  shekharsaxena  philosophy  perception  treatment  medicine  psychosis  media  academia  anthropology  daniellende  pauleugenbleuler  emilkraepelin  danielpaulschreber  edwadsapir  relationships  therapy  tinachanter  namitagoswami  irenehurford  richardnoll  ethanwatters  wolfgangjilek  wolfgangpfeiffer  stigma  banishment  hallucinations  really  but  alterations  of  temporality  time  spatiality  depthperception  kinesthetics  memory  memories  reality  phenomenology  subjectivity  consciousness  donaldwinnicott  alienation  kinship  isolation  tanyaluhrmann 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Inside MS-13 - Latino USA
"President Trump has been talking a lot lately about MS-13, a street gang that started in California and spread to Central America. But what is the real story behind the gang? Latino USA takes a deep dive into MS-13, from the gang’s origins in Los Angeles, to the economic motor that powers them in Central America, to a string of brutal murders in Long Island, New York. Plus, the other reason why the administration is talking about MS-13 these days: politics."



"Where Is MS-13 Really From? Hint: Not Central America"
http://latinousa.org/2017/08/11/ms-13-really-hint-not-central-america/

"In recent weeks, President Trump and his administration have been talking a lot about the MS-13 gang, often linking its criminal activities with illegal immigration from Central America.

Indeed, over the last two decades, warring between MS-13 and the 18th Street gang has risen to out-of-control levels of violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Yet the roots of Central America’s gang problem lie far away, in Los Angeles, where both MS-13 and 18th Street were born. The gangs were formed by young, alienated immigrants who struggled to adapt to hostile neighborhoods in L.A. In the ‘90s, the LAPD worked with immigration authorities to deport undocumented gang members, eventually deporting tens of thousands of criminals to Central America.

Once the gangs were installed in Central America, repressive policing policies known as the mano dura unintentionally worsened the problem. Mass incarceration of young kids from street cliques alongside hardened criminals turned prison into a finishing school for gang members.

In this segment, we explore the history of the Central American gang problem through a man who lived it firsthand. Alex Sanchez is a former MS-13 member who leads the Los Angeles office of Homies Unidos, a non-profit that helps gang members integrate into society."



"MS-13: Why Long Island, Why Now?"
http://latinousa.org/2017/08/11/ms-13-long-island-now/

"MS-13 has been making headlines recently, and attracting the Trump Administration’s attention, largely because of a string of youth murders in Suffolk County, New York. Since January 2016, MS-13 is suspected to be involved in 17 murders in Suffolk County—approximately 38% of all homicides during that time period.

Part of the tragedy is that migrants from Central America come to places like Suffolk County to flee exactly the kind of violence they are now facing. Law enforcement is stuck between trying to work with the community to prevent violence and the Trump administration’s deportation rhetoric which keeps undocumented people from coming forward with information.

Liz Robbins, an immigration reporter for The New York Times, joins us to talk about the gangs murders in Suffolk County, why the area is a hot bed for MS-13 violence, and how law enforcement has responded."



"What Does It Feel Like to Be Called an ‘Animal’? A Former MS-13 Member Speaks Out"
http://latinousa.org/2017/08/11/feel-like-called-animal-former-ms-13-member-speaks/

"Gerardo Lopez was born in Los Angeles to Argentinean and Mexican parents, and he joined MS-13 when he was 14 years old. He has since left MS-13, and now serves as Director of the Denver chapter of Homies Unidos, an anti-gang violence organization.

Lopez discusses what the constant news coverage of MS-13 feels like to someone with deep connections to the gang, and how this seems particularly different in President Trump’s America.

An extended version of this conversation is available on our sister podcast, In The Thick, a show about race, culture, and politics from a POC perspective. You can find it in your podcast feed or at InTheThick.org."



"How MS-13 Makes Money"
http://latinousa.org/2017/08/11/ms-13-makes-money/

"The economic motor that supports gangs in Honduras isn’t drug trafficking, kidnappings or prostitution rings, it’s something much more simple and insidious: extortion.

No sector of the economy suffers from gang extortion quite like bus and taxi drivers. If you are a bus driver, there’s something that will happen every so often where you are stopped at an intersection. A kid will come up to you and hand you a cell phone. Then, the guy on the other end of the line will say, “Hi, I’m calling from such-and-such a gang. And if you want to keep driving this route, you have to pay me money every single week. Or else we will kill you.”

Every month in Honduras, there are probably a few million dollars that come out of hardworking people’s paychecks and into the pockets of gang members. Over 40 bus drivers were murdered by gangs this year alone for not paying up.

On top of the terrible human toll, extortion is a major drag on the Honduran economy. And it’s getting worse and worse. Latino USA’s Marlon Bishop reports on this bloody industry from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital."
ms-13  california  losangeles  centralmerica  elsalvador  gangs  longisland  newyork  donaldtrump  politics  policy  immigration  via:felipemartinez  youth  isolation  violence  restortativejustice  prisons  2017  honduras 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting - The New York Times
"In my father’s house, my stepmother cooks dinner. First she sweats the onions, then she sears the meat. On special occasions, she mixes dough with flour ground from enset, a plant that resembles the banana tree.

Enset has roots that are white, and when they’re ground into powder, it’s packed into little baggies. When my father travels to Ethiopia, he returns with these white baggies tucked into the pockets of his suitcase, which is one reason, among many, that it is difficult for him to cross the border and come home.

A few years ago, he began to disappear. First he skipped the onions, then he skipped the meat. Eventually he skipped the special occasions, and when he arrived home, after the baptism or graduation or wedding had long since ended, he had no desire to eat. When I asked him to explain his absences, he said, ‘‘Yes.’’ When I asked him where he kept disappearing off to, he said, ‘‘O.K.’’

If it weren’t for my father’s age (he’s 63), or for his eventual return, I would be tempted to call his unexplained absences by a name popular among young people: ghosting. The millennial neologism for an age-old conundrum, ‘‘ghosting’’ describes the situation in which a person — Tinder match, roommate, friend — exits a relationship swiftly and without discernible cause. Though its iterations are diffuse and occur along varying degrees of intimacy, the word is generally used by those who are left behind: ‘‘He ghosted me,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted on.’’

Because I fear my father’s absence, I mimic his behavior and hope he might not be forgotten. I often close the channels of communication that I am expected to sustain, texting people I love only when I feel like it and answering the phone only when the caller is unknown. In November, the morning after the presidential election, a childhood friend sent me a text: ‘‘Sup?’’ I told him I was scared for my family. When he wrote back later that day to let me know that he, too, was scared — about his LSATs — I stopped responding; we haven’t spoken since. At a coffee shop, an Australian asked me what I was reading. I said, ‘‘ ‘Great Expectations,’ a terrible novel.’’ He told me he had gotten his Ph.D. studying apartheid and then wondered aloud which was more depressing: apartheid or the work of Charles Dickens. When he asked if I wanted to get a drink later that week to continue the conversation, I said, ‘‘O.K.’’ but never showed up.

According to the internet, this is very bad behavior. If you care about someone, and even if you don’t, you are meant to explain — in terms both clean and fair — why you are unable to fulfill the terms of their attachment: ‘‘I feel sick,’’ or ‘‘I have depression,’’ or ‘‘You are boring, and I am disappointed.’’ Those of us who neglect to disclose the seed of our indifference, or neglect to disclose the fact of our indifference altogether, are typically assumed to be selfish.

It’s no coincidence that ghosting arose as a collective fascination at a time of peak connectivity. When friends and acquaintances are almost always a swipe and a tap within reach, disappearing without a trace cuts especially deep. But the very function of ghosting is to halt the flow of information, and nearly every explainer written in its name — ‘‘How to Deal With Being Ghosted,’’ ‘‘How to Tell If You’re About to Be Ghosted,’’ ‘‘Why Friends Ghost on Even Their Closest Pals’’ — berates those who ghost for intentionally spinning silence into pain. Ghosters withhold information whose admission would be likely to provide relief in others, manipulating the terms of friendship, kinship and romantic love to appear in favor of a life lived in private.

If healthy relationships — especially in the digital age — are predicated on answerability, it makes sense that a lack of communication would feel like a breach of trust. But articulating negative feelings with tact is a task most often assigned to those whose feelings are assumed to be trivial. When fear for my family — black, migratory and therefore targets of the state — is equated with the mundane anxiety of a standardized test, I find it a relief to absent myself from the calculation. Saying, without anger, ‘‘This is how you hurt me’’ feels routine, like a ditty, and articulating the need for isolation — ‘‘Now I intend to disappear’’ — is always a betrayal of the need itself. Because society demands that people of color both accept offense and facilitate its reconciliation, we are rarely afforded the privacy we need. Ghosting, then, provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.

Some months after my father began to arrive at dinner on time, he drove me through the neighborhood by his office, a route we had driven many times before. I asked him, once again, where he had run off to all those nights. Pulling over to the side of the road, he said, ‘‘There is an excellent meditation studio inside that building.’’ I looked at the building, which looked like nothing. Confused, I asked him what he knew about meditation. ‘‘I know much about meditation,’’ he told me. ‘‘I came here once daily. I meditated, I ate my dinner and, when I was finished, I returned home.’’

The information, it seemed, had become necessary. My father, like the rest of us, was just trying to get better."
antiblackness  poc  blackness  ghosting  2017  meditation  self-improvement  reltionships  digitalage  connectedness  answerability  emotions  flight  freedom  provacy  solitude  inwardness  attention  communication  isolation  kinship  disappearance 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Why Millennials Are Lonely
"We’re getting lonelier.

The General Social Survey found that the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. “Zero” is the most common number of confidants, reported by almost a quarter of those surveyed. Likewise, the average number of people Americans feel they can talk to about ‘important matters’ has fallen from three to two.

Mysteriously, loneliness appears most prevalent among millennials. I see two compounding explanations.

First, incredibly, loneliness is contagious. A 2009 study using data collected from roughly 5000 people and their offspring from Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948 found that participants are 52% more likely to be lonely if someone they’re directly connected to (such as a friend, neighbor, coworker or family member) is lonely. People who aren’t lonely tend to then become lonelier if they’re around people who are.

Why? Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated. Their inexplicable withdrawal may, in turn, make their close connections feel lonely too. Lonely people also tend to act “in a less trusting and more hostile fashion,” which may further sever social ties and impart loneliness in others.

This is how, as Dr. Nicholas Christakis told the New York Times in a 2009 article on the Framingham findings, one lonely person can “destabilize an entire social network” like a single thread unraveling a sweater.
If you’re lonely, you transmit loneliness, and then you cut the tie or the other person cuts the tie. But now that person has been affected, and they proceed to behave the same way. There is this cascade of loneliness that causes a disintegration of the social network.

Like other contagions, loneliness is bad for you. Lonely adolescents exhibit more social stress compared to not lonely ones. Individuals who feel lonely also have significantly higher Epstein-Barr virus antibodies (the key player in mononucleosis). Lonely women literally feel hungrier. Finally, feeling lonely increases risk of death by 26% and doubles our risk of dying from heart disease.

But if loneliness is inherently contagious, why has it just recently gotten worse?

The second reason for millennial loneliness is the Internet makes it viral. It’s not a coincidence that loneliness began to surge two years after Apple launched its first commercial personal computer and five years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

Ironically, we use the Internet to alleviate our loneliness. Social connection no longer requires a car, phone call or plan – just a click. And it seems to work: World of Warcraft players experience less social anxiety and less loneliness when online than in the real world. The Internet temporarily enhances the social satisfaction and behavior of lonely people, who are more likely to go online when they feel isolated, depressed or anxious.

The Internet provides, as David Brooks wrote in a New York Times column last fall, “a day of happy touch points.”

But the Internet can eventually isolate us and stunt our remaining relationships. Since Robert Putnam’s famous 2000 book Bowling Alone, the breakdown of community and civic society has almost certainly gotten worse. Today, going to a bowling alley alone, Putnam’s central symbol of “social capital deficit,” would actually be definitively social. Instead, we’re “bowling” – and a host of other pseudo-social acts – online.

One reason the Internet makes us lonely is we attempt to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Though we temporarily feel better when we engage others virtually, these connections tend to be superficial and ultimately dissatisfying. Online social contacts are “not an effective alternative for offline social interactions,” sums one study.

In fact, the very presence of technology can hinder genuine offline connection. Simply having a phone nearby caused pairs of strangers to rate their conversation as less meaningful, their conversation partners as less empathetic and their new relationship as less close than strangers with a notebook nearby instead.

Excessive Internet use also increases feelings of loneliness because it disconnects us from the real world. Research shows that lonely people use the Internet to “feel totally absorbed online” – a state that inevitably subtracts time and energy that could otherwise be spent on social activities and building more fulfilling offline friendships.

Further exacerbating our isolation is society’s tendency to ostracize lonely peers. One famous 1965 study found that when monkeys were confined to a solitary isolation chamber called the "pit of despair" and reintroduced to their colony months later, they were shunned and excluded. The Framingham study suggested that humans may also drive away the lonely, so that “feeling socially isolated can lead to one becoming objectively isolated.”

The more isolated we feel, the more we retreat online, forging a virtual escape from loneliness. This is particularly true for my generation, who learned to self-soothe with technology from a young age. It will only become more true as we flock to freelancing and other means of working alone.

In his controversial 1970 book The Pursuit of Loneliness, sociologist Phillip Slater coined the “Toilet Assumption”: our belief that undesirable feelings and social realities will “simply disappear if we ignore them.” Slater argued that America’s individualism and, in turn, our loneliness, “is rooted in the attempt to deny the reality of human interdependence.” The Internet is perhaps the best example to date of our futile attempt to flush away loneliness.

Instead, we’re stuck with a mounting pile of infectious isolation."
online  internet  socialmedia  loneliness  2017  isolation  social  phillipslater  1970  1965  contagion  psychology  technology  smartphones  robertputnam  2000  web  nicholaschristakis  trust  hostility 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Dude Ranch — The California Sunday Magazine
"Even the drive to the college evokes cinematic scenes of frontier outposts: “You come down from the mountains into the valley and see off in the distance a few kinds of trees and a little cluster of buildings in an otherwise empty desert,” says Sam Contis, who has visited the school a dozen times since March 2013. “I wasn’t quite expecting the sense of scale — how small the campus is in relation to the rest of the space around it. It felt like you could blink and it would almost disappear.”"



"The last pillar is self-governance, which is a confluence of a lot of playfulness and a lot of seriousness. We ran our meetings with Robert’s Rules of Order and dealt with some tough decisions. We could have some incredibly tense, incredibly high-octane disagreements. And at the same time, we started most of our meetings with some kind of shared noise. We’d go from howling at the moon to getting into the heart of whether to let someone leave the valley or have a guest for this or that reason.

I experienced a level of comfort, of closeness, of vulnerability, of physical and emotional contact with my classmates, that I think it’s fair to say is pretty uncommon among male peer groups. But to protect that at the expense of allowing women in feels irresponsible, and I don’t think it gives the place enough credit. To imagine that having women at the school would fundamentally alter the relationships between people, that’s naive."



"I had an advantage when it came to the manual labor; I had worked on my dad’s farm and taken care of animals when I was a kid. But I was intimidated by the academics. One of the first classes I took was the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. That was the first time I took a philosophy class, and I realized that many of my peers had read the book two or three times before. In another class, we talked a lot about the internal politics of the U.S., and they kept saying “the electoral college,” and I was like, “What are they talking about? Is that a college? Where is it?”

Every time I worked alongside my classmates, I’d have long conversations that made me a better student. I remember one particular horseback ride with a friend. We were taking this class about The Varieties of Religious Experience, and we were asking, how is it that when you think about religious experience it always has to be associated with this idea of the divine? Here we were, riding in the valley, in this huge space where there is nothing but us and you can hear everything around you — you can hear the footsteps of the horses, you can hear sand blowing. How is that not given the same form of authority as someone dreaming that they talked to God?"



"There’s this paradox of Deep Springs, because on the one hand, it’s billed as this isolation experiment, but the reality is that it’s the most social experience I’ve ever had. I really started to feel it in my second year — the amount of obligations that piled on throughout the week, everyone being in one dorm."



"When I got there, my first memory was settling into the room where I was staying, and there were two students curled up together on the bed reading Emily Dickinson. Then I poked my head into another room at night where the student body was having what they call a “boojie.” There were 15 guys dancing to Kesha and Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. At that point, I just had no idea how I could possibly stay in that space. But by the end of my time, I learned to dance at Deep Springs in a very real way."
deepspringscollege  2017  photography  isolation  self-governance  sfsh  democratic  education  learning  colleges  universities  social  samcontis  ericbenson  cohabitation 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Why Are America’s Most Innovative Companies Still Stuck in 1950s Suburbia? | Collectors Weekly
"When Apple finishes its new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, the technorati will ooh and ahh over its otherworldly architecture, patting themselves on the back for yet another example of “innovation.” Countless employees, tech bloggers, and design fanatics are already lauding the “futuristic” building and its many “groundbreaking” features. But few are aware that Apple’s monumental project is already outdated, mimicking a half-century of stagnant suburban corporate campuses that isolated themselves—by design—from the communities their products were supposed to impact.

In the 1940s and ’50s, when American corporations first flirted with a move to the ‘burbs, CEOs realized that horizontal architecture immersed in a park-like buffer lent big business a sheen of wholesome goodness. The exodus was triggered, in part, by inroads the labor movement was making among blue-collar employees in cities. At the same time, the increasing diversity of urban populations meant it was getting harder and harder to maintain an all-white workforce. One by one, major companies headed out of town for greener pastures, luring desired employees into their gilded cages with the types of office perks familiar to any Googler.

Though these sprawling developments were initially hailed as innovative, America’s experiment with suburban, car-centric lifestyles eventually proved problematic, both for its exclusiveness and environmental drawbacks: Such communities intentionally prevented certain ethnic groups and lower-income people from moving there, while enforcing zoning rules that maximized driving. Today’s tech campuses, which the New York Times describes as “the triumph of privatized commons, of a verdant natural world sheltered for the few,” are no better, having done nothing to disrupt the isolated, anti-urban landscape favored by mid-century corporations.

Louise Mozingo, the Chair of UC Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department, detailed the origins of these corporate environments in her 2011 book, Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. From the 1930s designs for AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey to Google’s Silicon Valley campus today, Mozingo traced the evolution of suburbia’s “separatist geography.” In contrast with the city, Mozingo writes, “the suburbs were predictable, spacious, segregated, specialized, quiet, new, and easily traversed—a much more promising state of affairs to corporations bent on expansion.” It also didn’t hurt that many top executives often already lived in the affluent, low-density areas near where they wanted their offices built.

Like the expansive headquarters of many companies who fled dense downtowns, Apple’s new office falls into the architectural vein Mozingo dubs “pastoral capitalism,” after a landscaping trend made popular more than a century ago. In the mid-19th century, prominent figures like Frederick Law Olmsted promoted a specific vision of the natural environment adapted to modern life, beginning with urban parks and university campuses and eventually encompassing suburban residential neighborhoods.

“There was this whole academic discussion around what defined the picturesque, the beautiful, and the sublime,” Mozingo told me when we spoke recently. “Landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing had written extensively about it in American publications, but Olmsted went beyond that, and called his ideal park landscape ‘pastoral.’ He was well-read enough to understand that this combined elements of wild nature with agricultural nature.”"



"But perhaps even more damaging was the way this architectural trend turned residents away from one another and reduced their engagement in the public sphere. From the 1950s onward, the vast majority of suburban office projects relied on a model Mozingo refers to as “separatist geography,” where people were isolated from their larger communities for the benefit of a single business entity.

Mozingo’s concept of a separatist landscape builds off the ideas of geographer Allan Pred, who describes how our daily path through the built environment is a major influence on our culture and values. “If you live in a typical suburban place,” Mozingo explains, “you get in your car and drive to work by yourself, then stay in your office for the entire day seeing only other colleagues, and then drive back home alone. You’re basically only interested in improving highways and your office building.” Even as big tech touts its green credentials, the offices for Apple, Facebook, Google, and their ilk are inundated with parking, discreetly hidden below ground like their savvy mid-century forebears, encouraging employees to continue their solo commutes.

Today, this segregation isn’t only aided by architecture—it’s also a function of the tech-enabled lifestyle, with its endless array of on-demand services and delivery apps that limit interactions with people of differing views and backgrounds (exposure that would likely serve to increase tolerance). A protective bubble of affluence also reduces the need for civic engagement: If you always rely on ride-hailing apps, why would you care if the sidewalk gets cleaned or repaired?"



"“There are a handful of companies who are finally doing interesting things in the suburbs,” she continues. “For instance, there’s a developer in Silicon Valley, Kilroy Realty, building a development called the Crossing/900, which is the new Box headquarters, and it’s going to be high-density and mixed-use near Caltrain, so everybody’s excited about that one.” Mozingo also sees potential in a future Facebook project, since they’ve purchased a large plot of land near a disused rail line. “It’s supposed to be mixed-use with explicit public space, and a farmer’s market, and there’s the potential to actually service this area with rail,” she says. “I’m skeptical but hopeful.”

Clearly these modern suburban offices can’t resolve all of a community’s planning issues on a single, isolated site. But even companies that do try to affect change on a larger municipal level are often turned off by the required public process, which Mozingo calls “long, arduous, boring, and annoying.” Despite these misgivings, Mozingo’s understanding of urban history gives her faith that suburban corporate architecture could remedy the problems it has wrought.

“One of the reasons cities function really well,” Mozingo says, “is that in the first few decades of the 20th century, after industry had its way, there was a coalition of progressives who said, ‘We want good lighting, good transportation, and clean water in our cities. We’re going to have sidewalks and streets with orderly traffic, and we’re going to do some zoning so you don’t have a tannery right next to an orphanage.’ They put in big public institutions like museums and theaters and squares with fancy fountains. It cost everybody money, but was agreed on by both the public and private sectors. This is the reason why we still love San Francisco and New York City. Even if we don’t live there, we like going there.

“Believe me, in 1890, cities in the United States were just dreadful–but by 1920, they were much better, and everybody could turn on the tap and drink some water. This was not a small victory,” Mozingo emphasizes. “Suburban corporations have to realize that they’re in the same situation: They have to build alliances with municipalities, counties, state agencies, and each other to come together and spend the next three decades figuring it out—and it is going to take decades.”"
suberbs  suburbia  apple  google  ibm  belllabs  isolation  2016  cities  urbanism  us  corporatecampuses  janejacobs  allanpred  publicspace  urbanplanning  segegation  whiteflight  history  class  race  racism  1970s  1980s  housing  jobs  economics  work  generalmotors  transportation  publictransit  normanfoster  architecture  louisemozingo 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The Great Affluence Fallacy - The New York Times
"In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

This struck them as strange. Colonial society was richer and more advanced. And yet people were voting with their feet the other way.

The colonials occasionally tried to welcome Native American children into their midst, but they couldn’t persuade them to stay. Benjamin Franklin observed the phenomenon in 1753, writing, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”

During the wars with the Indians, many European settlers were taken prisoner and held within Indian tribes. After a while, they had plenty of chances to escape and return, and yet they did not. In fact, when they were “rescued,” they fled and hid from their rescuers.

Sometimes the Indians tried to forcibly return the colonials in a prisoner swap, and still the colonials refused to go. In one case, the Shawanese Indians were compelled to tie up some European women in order to ship them back. After they were returned, the women escaped the colonial towns and ran back to the Indians.

Even as late as 1782, the pattern was still going strong. Hector de Crèvecoeur wrote, “Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become European.”

I first read about this history several months ago in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book “Tribe.” It has haunted me since. It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled.

The native cultures were more communal. As Junger writes, “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.”

If colonial culture was relatively atomized, imagine American culture of today. As we’ve gotten richer, we’ve used wealth to buy space: bigger homes, bigger yards, separate bedrooms, private cars, autonomous lifestyles. Each individual choice makes sense, but the overall atomizing trajectory sometimes seems to backfire. According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression by as much as eight times the rate as people in poor countries.

There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.

Every generation faces the challenge of how to reconcile freedom and community — “On the Road” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But I’m not sure any generation has faced it as acutely as millennials.

In the great American tradition, millennials would like to have their cake and eat it, too. A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community.

But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. If millennials are heading anywhere, it seems to be in the direction of community. Politically, millennials have been drawn to the class solidarity of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton — secretive and a wall-builder — is the quintessence of boomer autonomy. She has trouble with younger voters.

Professionally, millennials are famous for bringing their whole self to work: turning the office into a source of friendships, meaning and social occasions.

I’m meeting more millennials who embrace the mentality expressed in the book “The Abundant Community,” by John McKnight and Peter Block. The authors are notably hostile to consumerism.

They are anti-institutional and anti-systems. “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another,” they write.

Millennials are oriented around neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world. “A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep.” How many of your physical neighbors know your name?

Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements. It wouldn’t surprise me if the big change in the coming decades were this: an end to the apotheosis of freedom; more people making the modern equivalent of the Native American leap."
society  capitalism  davidbrooks  2016  history  sebastianjunger  communalism  nativeamericans  abundance  depression  us  affluence  millenials  johnmcknight  peterblock  consumerism  care  hospitality  nationalism  local  community  privacy  isolation  competition  autonomy  berniesanders  solidarity  wealth  atomization  well-being  qualityoflife  hectordecrèvecoeur 
august 2016 by robertogreco
How do I ... respond when I see racial abuse in public? | UK news | The Guardian
"Onlookers are often silent, and feel guilty afterwards for doing nothing. We suggest how bystanders can intervene or help"
racism  racialabuse  intervention  2016  isolation  bystanders  deescalation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Few quick thoughts on Brexit — Medium
"Brexit is pushback against huge social and economic changes that have devalued a great many people.

They are changes that have demanded many people give up long standing notions of who they are, what is their place in the world, and questioned how they find meaning.

That same anger, and the reasons for it, is here in the US also.

I work with addicts these days and have spent the last five years driving all across the country, spending weeks/months/years in places many live in, but few visit. Places filled with poverty and addiction.

What I learned is that addiction is on the same spectrum as suicide. It is a slower form, but comes from the same place.

It led me to one of the first books to study suicide, by Émile Durkheim who wanted to understand why people would kill themselves.

He suggests people needed a sense of integration and regulation, to feel part of something that worked. They needed strong bonds to larger society. Without that, they often took their own life. He called that sense of isolation or disruption, Anomie.

I see Anomie wherever I go. The things that used to give people meaning: Their work, their union, their family, their church, their bridge club, their elks club, whatever, have been eroded. And often mocked.

We over the last 50 years have replaced that, and now demand that people be valued by their intellect, and their wealth. We have further diminished whole groups of people by increasing the amount we reward the new and few “winners.”

To make things even worse, we often outright mock anyone who can’t keep up, or doesn’t fit in with the new order. We call them dumb. Idiots. Religious freaks. Rednecks. Thugs. Hoodlums. Ghetto trash. White trash.

The language we use to talk about those who have been left behind is rife with nasty attempts to turn them into lesser humans. We use the tactics of racist, and apply it to economic losers.

And often they respond by joining racist groups. Or latching onto racist policies and agendas.

Which makes it easier to demean them, because racism is bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. And as a kid of a German Jew who barely made it out of Nazi Germany, as a kid who grew up in a small southern town. As a kid who had our car windows shot out (while his dad was in it!) because my dad was a “Nigger loving Jew”. Yes racism is awful. Bad. Disgusting. Nasty.

But racism, and fascism, are very successful scams that sell to the desperate. Fascism understands that people want to feel valued and integral part of something larger. Racism is, sadly, the easiest and cheapest way to do that.

So, yes push back against the racism. Loudly.

But offer something else, a way for others to feel included. Provide a process, other than getting an education in an elite school, that gives people meaning, solidarity, and value.

Simply saying they are not valid, or lesser, or they are stupid. Or they are idiots. That is racism’s ugly cousin elitism, so don’t turn it into a fight of the ugly. You think that is going to help people feel included?

If you hate racism, then you really really really should hate any economic and social system that creates and rewards massive inequality. Because when you get that. You get racism.

And that is the system we have built and now have. That is the system that most everyone screaming about the dumb racists is part of, usually supports, and wins from."
elitism  racism  politics  us  uk  brexit  chrisarnade  2016  anger  inequality  understanding  winners  losers  winnertakeall  economics  society  integration  regulation  community  belonging  addiction  suicide  émiledurkheim  isolation  disruption  anomie  work  rednecks  religion  ostracization  fascism  desperation  rejection  inclusion  inclusivity  socialinequality  economicinequality  incomeinequality  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
On technology, culture, and growing up in a small town
"Rex Sorgatz grew up in a small and isolated town (physically, culturally) in North Dakota named Napoleon.
Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the '80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. "My Best Friend's Girl" was my avant-garde.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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



"“What are your favorite apps?”

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

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

Whoa, why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course she did.

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

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

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

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

“The sense of a small community,” she says, using that word again. “Everyone knows each other. It’s a big family.”"
internet  technology  rexsorgatz  2016  isolation  cv  web  online  culture  distraction  media  film  music  quietude  publishing  writing  worldliness  rural  howwelive  thenandnow  change  community  smalltowns  schools  education  journalism  books  censorship  fahrenheit451  raybradbury  thecatcherintherye  jdsalinger  newspapers  communication  socialmedia  snapchat  facebook  instagram  pinterest  theskimm  news  danahboyd  youtube  ebay  yahoo  twitter  videogames  gaming  subcultures  netflix  teens  youth  connectivity  childhood  college  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Perils of "Stranger Danger" | On Being
"One of the first lessons many of us learn as children is “Don’t talk to strangers.” Not “don’t get into a car with strangers” or “don’t let strangers into your house,” but “don’t talk to strangers.”

As a parent of two young children, I’m sure I’ve said it myself without giving much thought to what I was actually asking of them. Do I really want them to heed that advice? Taken literally, not talking to a stranger means not saying “Hello” or “Happy Holidays.” It means not making eye contact or smiling, body language that could lead to a conversation. It’s the kind of advice that has led us to a place where two people standing in an elevator less than three feet apart will look everywhere but at each other.

We like to say it takes a village, but we’re scared to death of the villagers. And so we erect boundaries around our children and get incensed if people cross them. Scold someone else’s child at your own peril, and keep your unsolicited parenting advice to yourself. The message to our fellow citizens is clear: hands off my child."



"Years ago, a friend of mine took a trip to the Caribbean island of Barbados. She had just boarded a packed city bus when she felt a tugging on her purse. Her fight response kicked into gear; clearly, she was being robbed. She tugged back hard, then saw that the “thief” was a woman in the seat right next to her. On the buses in Barbados, apparently, it is not uncommon for those seated to hold the bags of the people standing, thus relieving their load.

Of course, sometimes you really are being robbed, and some people actually are scary — though it’s worth mentioning that most crimes involving children are committed not by strangers but by people known to the family, and violent crime has plunged in the last few decades.

Teaching kids how to be careful and to exercise intuition when dealing with strangers is essential. But hanging a "no trespassing" sign around their necks only increases our, and their, sense of fear and isolation. Distance is not always safety. Indeed, the opposite might well be true. Americans are lonelier and more depressed than ever before. For the better part of a decade, suicide rates among young people have been steadily increasing. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to cherish every scrap of authentic human connection that comes our way.

So this year I resolve to be a little less cautious instead of more. Rather than bemoan my lack of a village, as I often do, I will take a long, hard look at the boundaries that I put up, and what those boundaries signal to the world. The rewards of letting people in — like watching a perfect stranger enchant my little one with Spanish nursery rhymes or serenade her in Punjabi — are too good to miss."
stangers  strangerdanger  parenting  2016  rikhasharmarani  caution  fear  children  isolation  society  anxiety  onbeing 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Los Angeles' Moral Failing | California Planning & Development Report
"Whereas a Berkeley resident can cross from exuberance of Telegraph Avenue into the heart of the Cal campus in a few steps, UCLA is an auto-oriented campus surrounded by a moat of driveways, green space, and city streets. Its neighbors are some of the wealthiest and orneriest an institution could ever have the misfortune to live next to. The university, for all its academic heft, retreats from the city, and the city from it.

UCLA was an ironically illustrative venue for a talk by Michael Storper, lead author of "The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies," that I attended recently. Contrary to its expansive title, Storper’s study concerns only Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given that both are booming Pacific Rim metropolises, it may be hard to figure out which is the “rise” and which is the “fall.”

Until you consider this: In 1970, the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas ranked, respectively, numbers three and one in per capita income in the United States. In 2009, after both areas grew by more than 50 percent in population, they were, respectively, numbers 1 and 25.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to wonder: What happened?

Some of the reasons for the divergence of Los Angeles and San Francisco, which he defines by their multi-county metro regions, are obvious. L.A.’s aerospace industry crumbled along with the Berlin Wall. Steve Jobs happened to grow up in Cupertino. Et cetera. Hollywood is Los Angeles’ superstar, except that it represents only 2.6 percent of the area’s economy, compared with tech’s 11 percent in the Bay Area

Those factors are just the start. For virtually any given job function, and controlling for all sorts of variables, Storper, who teaches at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, finds that a worker in the Bay Area makes more money and does more complex work than her counterpart in Los Angeles does. In other words, they’re not just making more in the Bay Area. They’re making better. This patterns holds for educated and uneducated, immigrants and non-immigrants, and it trickles down even to unskilled workers.

These are the statistics that back up San Francisco’s smugness. Riveting as they are, they describe the only effect but not the cause.

The Intangibles

L.A.’s and the Bay Area’s divergence depends largely on what Storper referred to as the “dark matter” of public policy. Lurking behind every data point and every policy are forces like curiosity, relationships, open-ness, diversity, civic self-image, and values. These factors are often disregarded by short-sighted wonks and bureaucrats not because they’re not crucial but because they aren’t easily quantified.

Storper argues that people in Los Angeles are lousy collaborators. Scholars in L.A. cite each other less often. Patents made in L.A. refer less frequently to other L.A.-based innovations. Los Angeles’ great universities – UCLA, USC, and Caltech – are not nearly as entrepreneurial as Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSF. He cites L.A.’s Amgen as a successful, once-innovative biotech company but says that it’s nothing compared to the Bay Area’s biotech cluster. And it's in Thousand Oaks -- nowhere near a major university.

Storper’s analysis indicates that networks of civic leaders in Los Angeles are often mutually ignorant of each other. The Bay Area Council, the region’s preeminent civic organization, is three times more “connected” than its closest equivalent in Southern California, the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. I know what Storper means. I’ve been to events at the Chamber, presided over by civic leaders of a certain generation.

Storper said the phrase “new economy” appears in none of L.A.’s economic development literature in the 1980s. At the same time, San Franciscans were shouting it from the rooftops.

Poverty & Pavement

These attitudes are fatal in an era when ideas, and not Fordist production, are the order of the day.

Echoing Enrico Moretti’s theories about innovation economies, high-wage jobs generate a multiplier that tends to take care of the workers at the bottom. "If you play to weakness (i.e. poverty) you get a weak economy,” Storper said. Interestingly, he said that there’s essentially zero good data on the efficacy of any public-sector economic development programs of the last 45 years. He chided Los Angeles’ leadership for its obsession with the low-paying logistics industry. A rising tide lifts all boats. Unless the boat is a container ship.

If an individual, firm, or government doesn’t have the knowledge or the capital to realize their dreams, so be it. But if they fail because they’re not open to the wisdom, energy, diversity, ambition, and creativity of other human beings, well, that’s something else.

Los Angeles’ economic failing is not just a business failing or a policy failing. It is a moral failing.

What else do you call it when 25.7 percent of residents in the biggest county in the richest state in the richest country in the world live in poverty?

Storper didn’t say so explicitly, but L.A.’s economics sins arise, in part, from our built environment. The two regions have plenty in common, especially in their outlying counties. But insofar as the center cities set the tone for their regions, the differences are striking. We have dingbats, setbacks, curb cuts, mini-malls, chain stores, McMansions, Pershing Square, streets like freeways, freeways like parking lots, and other elements of our landscape that push Angelenos away from each other.

How can you collaborate with someone when they’re in your way, making your drive longer, pouring pollution into your face? How can you feel as optimistic atop an asphalt sheet as you can strolling down a sidewalk lined with Victorians? How can you make friends when you can’t walk to a watering hole? Los Angeles is like a party full of beautiful people who have nothing interesting to say to each other.

Atonement

Atoning for our economic sins must include being a better Los Angeles.

We might not be able to trade Facebook (headquartered in Menlo Park, with 10,000 employees) for Snapchat (headquartered in Venice, with 200 employees). Nor can we can we trade Google for Disney, or the Transbay Tube for the Sepulveda Pass. But we can emulate some of the Bay Area’s urban sensibilities. We can use transit more often. We can build more mixed-use projects. We can embrace public space. We can build to the property line. We can plant trees. We can take advantage of our space rather than squander it. As our city changes, so can its culture.

The great news is that improvement is afoot, with downtown development, new transit, new types of development, and an optimistic corps of young planners. By the time Los Angeles comes into its own, today’s tech titans might be old news, just as Northrup Grumman and McDonnell Douglas are today. Something will have to replace them, and maybe they’ll reside in Los Angeles. We just need to give them a better home.

Postscript: Fortress Westwood

UCLA being what it is, many people who should have attended Storper’s talk – captains of industry, thought leaders, and everyday citizens interested in L.A.’s prosperity – are the ones who are least likely to actually have made the trip. Storper was preaching to a choir, mostly of fellow academics and urban nerds.

After the talk there was a reception. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, the usual. It provided a chance to do some of that mixing and mingling that elude us in L.A.

I would love to have stayed. Maybe I’d have developed new ideas or made new connections. But I had to go. My meter was running out."
losangeles  sanfrancisco  bayarea  ucla  ucberkeley  isolation  collaboration  urban  urbanism  2016  economics  poverty  wealth  janejacobs  cities  accessibilty  caltech  usc  policy  diversity  openness  values  relationships  westwood  california  publicspace  urbanplanning  enricomoretti  michaelstorper  joshstephens 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Apple and Star Wars together explain why much of the world around you looks the way it does - Quartz
"One of the most effective critiques of the totalizing approach to urban design—the Darth-design of cities, if you will—was architecture critic, activist, and theorist Jane Jacobs. Towards the end of her bestselling 1962 critique of mid-century urban design, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs recounts the number and diversity of the neighbors in the building where she worked. She reports:
“The floor of the building in which this book is being written is occupied also by a health club with a gym, a firm of ecclesiastical decorators, an insurgent Democratic party reform club, a Liberal party political club, a music society, an accordionists’ association, a retired importer who sells maté by mail, a man who sells paper and who also takes care of shipping the maté, a dental laboratory, a studio for watercolor lessons, and a maker of costume jewelry. Among the tenants who were here and gone shortly before I came in, were a man who rented out tuxedos, a union local and a Haitian dance troupe. There is no place for the likes of us in new construction. And the last thing we need is new construction.”

And added, in a forceful footnote: “No, the last thing we need is some paternalist weighing whether we are sufficiently noncontroversial to be admitted to subsidized quarters in a Utopian dream city.”

That there is little room for controversy or discord in the Death Star—amongst its legion of same-suited stormtroopers, say—may go without saying. But what of Apple?

It is clear, first of all, that the company’s success—for all the apparent imperiousness of Jobs—relied, and likely relies still, on discussion, disagreement, and diversity. Jobs himself was famously a stickler for regular “no-holds-barred” meetings in which, while his own leadership had to remain unchallenged, no other presumptions or suppositions were sacred. (Pixar’s irrepressible Alvy Ray Smith would be one of the only employees to challenge Jobs’ control of a whiteboard, part of a duel with Jobs in which dry-erase markers, presumably, stood in for sabers.)

Like the products themselves, however, Apple’s core identity relies on keeping disagreement and discord behind a tightly controlled façade. And sometimes even a tightly controlled interior; one of Jobs’ least successful management interventions on his return to Apple was a short-lived attempt to have all his many thousand employees wear the same, black, custom Issey Miyake clothing. To Jobs’ credit, he quickly withdrew the proposal—but it lived on in the many hundred black turtlenecks Miyake crafted for Jobs’ own, resulting use.

No, if there is something disturbing in the design of Apple’s own apparent Death Star, it is not so much in the company’s clearly successful internal operations, nor in its beautifully singular product range. Rather, it lies in the runaway result of this success; the way in which so many of our interactions with the world, and with each other, are now filtered through the efforts of a single, well-designed and Apple-authored interface.

And beyond well-intentioned, we might even say essential. Particularly given the disorder and predictable unpredictability of complex technological systems, we all crave, and need order. The first Star Wars shoot was so plagued with technical difficulties (and the related derision of the unionized British workforce on the Pinewood Studio lot) that more than one cast member observed that George Lucas appeared far more sympathetic to the authority and order of the Empire than the ragtag Rebel Alliance. Apple has thrived above all in the last two decades by offering the particular beauty that lies in order, organization, and simplicity, and in the predictable delight that results when something technical, unexpectedly, just works."



"We might start inside. A recent profile of Sir Jony Ive in the New Yorker by Ian Parker, “The Shape of Things to Come,” shifts seamlessly from the discussion of consumer objects to that of architecture. Ive, it is suggested, sees himself as an architect too. He finds it, he says, “a curious thing” that in design “we tend to compartmentalize, based on physical scale.” He is reported to assert that he has (in Parker’s words) “taught Foster’s architects something about the geometry of corners,” introducing a seamless, curved detail between wall and floor that now runs throughout the building’s interior.
Yet this detail, and its future life, points to what is in fact one of the main differences between design at the scale of consumer electronics, and that at the scale of architecture and the city.

Apple’s great success as a consumer-focused company is rooted in the one power a consumer has above all: choice. Apple’s products are ubiquitous, above all, because they are far better than what they compete with, a quality that comes precisely from the tight control that Apple exerts on them and their design. But, at the point we don’t like our device, we can—and will—buy a different and better one—from Apple, or from some as-yet-unimaginable competitor.

Yet it is in the nature of architecture that it offers no such choice—the more so the bigger it gets. We can, if we are lucky, sell a house we don’t like. But we can’t sell or dispose of the terrible building across the road. And architecture involves many more people than those who design it, or even pay for it. Myself, I keep thinking of the cleaning staff of the new Apple headquarters; it is for these people, above all, that the usual, clunky detail of wall-meeting-floor exists, with a skirting board to hide the edge of the floor-wax, and catch and disguise the dirt that escapes the polishers. One hopes a special, super-functional polishing device has been designed for them, that will seamlessly clean and feather the floor-wax as it slowly curves into the wall—but one fears that it has not. One thinks as well of Apple’s desk-bound employees, who, so as to preserve the clean lines of the building’s exterior, will not be able to open windows in their offices—despite the Bay Area’s preposterously perfect climate. (“That would just allow people to screw things up,” Jobs apparently declared.)

But here is where the design of products and buildings is most different. The particular conundrum solved by the best teams of architects and city-builders (including all of us as citizens) is how to balance a whole set of competing demands, physical, environmental, and social, against each other—including the demands of the powerful against the needs, and rights, of the powerless.

As we attempt to design 21st-century cities for an increasing landscape of uncertainty, this is an important lesson to remember. Instead of single, grand projects, the staying-power of a city depends on a million connections between its inhabitants, and the natural and technological systems that sustain them. Cities designed tabula rasa, as Jane Jacobs cogently characterized it a generation ago, lack this robust resilience. Instead, their monumental visions of order turn out to hide brittleness, fragility, and frequent catastrophe. Even the most seemingly ordered long-lived city-grid—Manhattan, Barcelona, even San Francisco—simply allows us to better negotiate what is, in reality, a riot of real-world diversity.

It is in this light, perhaps, that one might also examine Apple’s greatest points of corporate difficulty: the interface between the company’s tightly designed and integrated products, and the public software ecosystems it has developed in service of them, the App Store and the Mac App Store. To this architect, these places read a bit like a modernist cityscape; beautiful, elegant, even nice to visit—but very difficult to live in. Like such cities they are also—at least in the case of the Mac App Store—increasingly abandoned, as is usual, by those who can afford to leave.

And yet it is not really Apple that is entirely to blame. The revolution in architecture today—one where the world of screens and devices and the common infrastructure of our cities merge, overlap and combine—is much larger than even the enormous, careful company.

In an awkwardly received, hauntingly prescient diatribe while presenting the Oscar for Best Director in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola declared, “We’re on the eve of something that’s going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a small out-of-town tryout.” What Coppola saw was our world today: “a communications revolution that’s about movies and art and music and digital electronics and satellites, but above all, human talent.”

Steve Jobs’ Apple set out to help create this world—and has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams of the future. George Lucas hired Pixar’s founders, originally, to use technology to make the production of culture easier for himself and a cadre of directors. But Lucas’s digital editing system was quickly eclipsed by Apple’s own, far cheaper, Final Cut Pro—and then, of course, by the iPhones that put high-quality filmmaking and editing into all of our hands. In this, and much else, Apple has helped author a world much like that of Lucas’s far-off galaxy; where all of us are connected, and can tap into vast reserves of invisible power through the device we hold in our hands.

But as Apple’s reach extends into the city and world, into the public sphere as well as the private screen, we should do well to remember these hard-learned lessons of control and openness, hardness and softness, brittleness and resilience. After all, the only thing one can say for certain about a Death Star is that it unexpectedly explodes right before the ending."
apple  starwars  georgelucas  architecture  cities  design  stevejobs  nicholasdemonchaux  history  siliconvalley  filmmaking  urbanism  urbanplanning  control  predicatability  fragility  resilience  unpredicatability  hackers  hackability  jonyive  janejacobs  discussion  disagreement  friction  discord  serendipity  authority  cupertino  pixar  canon  openness  hardness  softness  brittleness  isolation  uncertainty 
december 2015 by robertogreco
In Pope Francis's Environment Encyclical, 'Laudato Si,' He Also Has Strong Criticism of the Internet - The Atlantic
"Loneliness. Obsession with technology. Spiritual flatness. These are hefty accusations to lob at the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and in some ways, they may be more connected to Francis’s age than his stature as a theologian. “For the pope’s generation, [the] media was telephones and the telegraph,” said Schneck. “There is a generational difference here.”

Even though the pope makes broad, sweeping warnings about the way people use technology, he reserves one particularly biting criticism for people who make media for a living. “Many professionals, opinion makers, communications media, and centres of power [are] located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems,” he writes. “This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality.”

“Tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality”: If there’s ever been a more withering critique of the take, I’ve not come across it. No mainstream newspaper or magazine is obligated to follow the teachings of the Church, but even secular journos might do well to heed the pope’s call for “self-examination.” What perspectives are lost when so many reporters are focused on the powerful populations in a handful of cities? And what would coverage look like if more journalists spent time walking the streets among the poor?"
laudatosi'  internet  online  relationships  emmagreen  technology  isolation  poverty  inequality  popefrancis  power  affluence  wealth  conscience  reality 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Calvin And Hobbes embodied the voice of the lonely child · For Our Consideration · The A.V. Club
"There is a mythic Calvin And Hobbes strip that’s been bouncing around the internet for years. No one’s quite sure where it came from or who’s responsible for it. Part of its mystery is likely because it’s purported to be the lost final installment of the series, drawn by Bill Watterson himself. In it, a serious looking Calvin toils away at his schoolwork while Hobbes looks on. The tiger is curious that his friend is being so diligent about his studies, and the boy responds that “the pills” he’s taking have started working. Hobbes then asks Calvin to go play, but Calvin is too absorbed in his project to take notice. The final panel is the tiger as “just” a stuffed animal, with Calvin indifferent to the change. It is, in every sense of the word, an abomination.

This is not an actual installment of Calvin And Hobbes, and is instead a repurposed strip with a preachy message warning against the dangers of medicating children and ruining their creativity forever. There are any number of ways that this goes against the inherent spirit of the comic, but I will focus my disdain to a single point. Calvin And Hobbes was never about hyperactivity and Hobbes himself was never a manifestation of undiagnosed mania: He was a manifestation of pure, unadulterated loneliness.

Loneliness is a funny thing because generally it has less to do with being alone and more to do with not having other people around. That sounds paradoxical, but being alone and being isolated from your peers are two very different things. The former is a choice, the latter a decree. In truth, it’s even more complicated than that, as loneliness can strike at any time, even when surrounded by people. That niggling sense that maybe you don’t belong is all it needs to gain a foothold.

For as much as the brain of a child is growing and changing and maturing, for as many distractions as the world provides to developing minds, kids aren’t stupid, particularly children as highly sensitive and attuned to the world around them as Calvin. Disappearing into his own world is a coping mechanism for dealing with a world that seems to have little patience or place for him. His isolation breeds fantasy, which breeds isolation, which does him no favors at school or at home. To be a lonely child in the world means creating your own fun, your own friends, your own magic.



Calvin didn’t have trouble focusing on the world around him, he had trouble reconciling himself to the fact that the world around him was such a disappointment. The reason the strip appealed to people both young and old is because Calvin was feeling underwhelmed at a college graduate level. It’s not unheard of for children to experience this, particularly those who are more sensitive to their surroundings, and for many it was a relief to know that seeing the world without the luster and facade constantly created for us wasn’t so unusual. Calvin made it okay to be disheartened and disappointed by life and normalized the inherent loneliness that childhood can bring. He was there for us as we grew up and while we learned that things were capable of getting so much better and so much worse as we experienced puberty and beyond, he was still mired in the first grade, raging against the machine.

It’s quite the thing to sit down and read 10 years of a comic strip at once. It’s a comfort, like going home, the jokes warm and familiar. You grin when you come across the Sunday strips that served as the inspiration for the book collection titles, “Something Under The Bed is Drooling,” “Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat.” And though the strips are the same as they’ve ever been, you’ve come to them as a different person. Reading Calvin And Hobbes when you’re 33 is different from reading it when you’re 13. Now you’re struck by the struggle Calvin’s parents must have had keeping their child in line and loving him even as he drove them out of their minds, and you wonder if their single-income home would still be feasible in the current economic climate. But more than anything, you notice the sorrow buried in the strips, and you wonder how you missed how sad the children in the strips were the whole time.

Loneliness and sadness aren’t new fare for comic strips. If anything, Watterson’s characters are merely carrying on in the grand tradition of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts, where preternaturally clever children are nevertheless stymied by the world they live in. Like Peanuts, Calvin And Hobbes is timeless for the exact same reason: It appealed to adults just as much as it appealed to children. It spoke of things not always acknowledged in polite company, how people are mean, how we wish we had more friends, how being grown up seems weird and being a child even weirder, how the world doesn’t make sense, and how it’s hard to believe in things even though we desperately want to believe in them.

Calvin was a lot of things, just like every child. He was a budding inventor, a gifted artist, an enterprising entrepreneur, and a self-taught pundit. He was a good friend, an annoying neighbor, clever and conniving, lonely and loyal and, yeah, maybe a little hyperactive. But whatever he was, he taught an entire generation of children that though sadness and disappointment and loneliness may come prepackaged in life, that all could be weathered, so long as you had hope and a really good friend to see you through. For Calvin, that was Hobbes. For us, it was Calvin And Hobbes. And when the strip ended its 10 year run in 1995, it left in its wake a generation of children who, though now grown, could move forward in life confident that their magical friend would be with them always."

[Update: Tim Carmody put this in a small collection about loneliness: https://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/609837487414988800 ]
calvinandhobbes  loneliness  childhood  friendship  billwatterson  2015  libbyhill  comics  isolation  aloneness  life  living  children 
june 2015 by robertogreco
How our cars, our neighborhoods, and our schools are pulling us apart - The Washington Post
"Americans are pulling apart. We're pulling apart from each other in general. And, in particular, we're pulling apart from people who differ from us.

The evidence on this idea is varied, broad and often weird.

We are, as Robert Putnam famously put it, less likely to join community bowling leagues.

We're more likely, as I mentioned yesterday after a police confrontation with a group of black teens at a private swimming pool, to swim in seclusion, in gated community clubs and back-yard pools that have taken the place of public pools.

We're more likely to spend time isolated in our cars, making what was historically a communal experience — the commute to work — a private one. In 1960, 63 percent of American commuters got to work in a private car.

Now, 85 percent of us do. And three-quarters of us are riding in that car alone.

Within large metropolitan areas, we live more spread out, more distant, from each other than we once did. The population density in central cities plummeted by half after the 1950s, as many residents left for the suburbs.

As a result, writes economist Joseph Cortright in a new City Observatory report, in metropolitan America we now have fewer neighbors, on average, and we live farther from them than we did five decades ago.

It's little wonder, then, that we now socialize with them less often, too.

Add up all of these seemingly disconnected facts, and here you are: "There is compelling evidence," Cortright writes in the new report, "that the connective tissue that binds us together is coming apart."

The shared experiences and communal spaces where our lives intersect — even if just for a ride to a work, or a monthly PTA meeting — have grown seemingly more sparse. And all of this isolation means that the wealthy have little idea what the lives of the poor look like, that people who count on private resources shy away from spending on public ones, that misconceptions about groups unlike ourselves are broadly held.

Cortright's underlying point is the same as Putnam's 20 years ago. We're receding from the public realm in ways that could undermine communities and the will that arises when people within them know and trust each other.

We're even living further apart from each other within our own homes. As our houses have gotten bigger — and the size of the average household has declined — we're a lot less likely today in America to share bedrooms.A particularly curious data point Cortright unearths: In 1960, 3.5 percent of U.S. households lived in a home where bedrooms outnumbered occupants. Today, 44 percent of households do.

Here's another: We no longer even share the same experience of public safety. In the 1970s, Cortright points out that there were about 40 percent more private security officers in this country than public law enforcement officers. By the 1990s, there were twice as many. And their presence — monitoring gated communities, private clubs, quasi-public spaces like shopping malls — marks a kind of "anti-social capital." It implies that private guards must manage communities where that missing "connective tissue" can't.

When we retreat into these private spaces and separate enclaves, now increasingly sorted by income, too, we have less and less in common. And when we have little left in common, it's hard to imagine how we'll agree on fixes to big problems, or how we'll empathize with the people touched by them.

This familiar argument is particularly relevant now to many of the bitter debates we're having around racial unrest and even poverty. If rich and poor, black and white, don't share the same commons — if they attend separate schools, live in separate neighborhoods, swim in separate pools, rely on separate transportation — then there's little reason for them to mutually invest in any of these resources.

Historically in American cities, the ghetto didn't just separate black homes from white ones. It ensured that the rest of the city would never share in the concerns — shoddy trash pickup, weak policing, meager public investments — of the people who lived there.

The relationships that run between social capital, trust and the public realm, as Cortright writes, are complicated (likely even more so by modern technology). But they feel tremendously relevant today.

"Arguably," he writes, "the decline in social capital is both a cause and an effect of the decline of the public realm: people exhibit less trust because they have fewer interactions; we have fewer interactions, so we have lower levels of trust and less willingness to invest in the public realm that supports it.""
segregation  us  cities  urbanism  urban  cars  transportation  schools  education  2015  emilybadger  robertputnam  race  class  commuting  josephcortright  neighborhoods  community  communitities  isolation  trust  publiccommons  gatedcommunities  social  capitalism  security  lawenforcement  income 
june 2015 by robertogreco
tricia the wolf en Instagram: “#triciaaftergradschool - One thing that I learned over the last 8 years is that I now know the difference between commitment and co-dependence. In the process of being committed to finishing #gradschool, I became #codepend
"#triciaaftergradschool - One thing that I learned over the last 8 years is that I now know the difference between commitment and co-dependence.

In the process of being committed to finishing #gradschool, I became #codependent on finishing. Co-dependence is when you allow your emotional state to be triggered by another entity. For me, this entity morphed from student drama to fieldwork to waiting for a grant to finishing a paper and in the end writing my dissertation #synthesisnow. I used to think that it was great that I couldn’t fall asleep due to a fast beating heart because then I had the adrenaline to write more. I used to feel good about being woken up with heart palpitations because it gave me energy to process more fieldnotes. The list goes on. In the process, I stopped asking why. Why am I doing this? What is my purpose here? Why do I have to write this grant? Why do I have to panic over this paper?

In all these unnoticeable ways, I had absorbed the temporal logic of #gradschool EVEN THOUGH I didn’t even want to get an academic job! Isn’t that crazy!?!?! I allowed my own identity to become so tied to what I was doing that I stopped asking why.

But now that I’ve been done for a year and in rehabilitation to join society again, I found out that I experience insomnia, anxiety, breathing issues, writers block, and guilt when relaxing. So I’ve been working on all of that over the last year and it feels GREAT to become human again.

So now that I’m mindful of co-dependent behavior, I am also more aware of what commitment feels like. To me, commitment is a mindful decision to do something on terms that make sense for you and the parties involved. I always want to make sure wellbeing, joy, trust, and presence are the axis in which I align myself with whatever I commit to. I never want my identity to be so wrapped up in something that I can’t see the difference. I want to do this with every relationship I have whether it is with a person, job, or movement. Good bye co-dependence, hello commitment.

#triciainsandiego #sociology"

[Also here: http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119633986686/triciaaftergradschool-one-thing-that-i-learned

related posts:

https://instagram.com/p/3AGuI8t8F_/ + http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119634222266/

"#triciaaftergradschool - I am now wondering why I never spoke to the dpt about the cruel and stifling #microaggression directed towards me and other students during #gradschool. I mean wasn’t the only one who struggled - 50% of my cohort dropped out the first year.
It was hard to even recognize the pattern because these things happened over a period of several years.

But ultimately, I didn’t think it was easy to talk to the dpt because they never explicitly encouraged or condoned any of this petty behavior. But I am realizing now that they have created and participated in a measurement obsessed structure that allows such terrible behavior to flourish.

Ultimately, sociology #gradschool as it is set up now, can model corrupt regime behavior - it’s a party of a few people creating and enforcing policies that justify their existence. This justification is done through measurement & ranking in the name of “professionalization” of #sociology. This professionalization pressure is on top of existing departmental and institutional budget cuts that decreased research funding, a broken tenure system (that no one talks about openly), and the department’s failure to help graduates get good teaching positions. In addition, the majority of cohorts are made up of young students who lack real life experience. So all of this creates a competitive anxious group of homogenous students who will engage in selfish behavior and gang up on others if they feel threatened. The people who suffer the most in this system are the few students of color or working-class backgrounds who are allowed into the program.

So while my dpt has never condoned cruelty amongst students, their policies and values foster it. It’s similar to how no US city approve of police brutality, but it happens because the system creates conditions that allow it to flourish. The macro enables the micro - that is sociology 101.

#triciainsandiego (at UC San Diego Social Sciences)"

https://instagram.com/p/3AHPVPN8G-/ + http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119634502396/

"#triciaaftergradschool - Walking into the graduate lounge is triggering memories of so much petty shit that I witnessed and was subjected to during #gradschool. Here are just a few things that come to my mind:

1. Students made fun of me for wearing high heels and reading gossip magazines.

2. Students reported to faculty that I was texting with another student in class, disrupting seminars.

3. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t theoretical enough or fit to be a sociologist. In #sociology speak, this means you don’t belong cuz you’re too stupid to be in this program.

4. I was told by students to keep it a secret that I didn’t have plans to go into academia because the dpt will not give me grants & professors won’t engage with me. I didn’t keep it a secret. My research was never funded.

5. I was told to never publish #livefieldnotes or any blog posts about my research or else I’d never find a job.

6. Faculty reminded me several times that studying cellphones and the internet was “not sociological enough.”

7. Professors would say the dumbest shit that students would repeat & accept as truth! For example, a few faculty told us when we get tenured positions we will be more free than people who have jobs because we can do whatever we want and we’re smarter than people without Phds.

8. I dealt with sexual harassment from students and a professors.

9. A group of students told the grad director that I was creating problems amongst the grad students because I didn’t invite the to the parties that I was hosting at my house. Seriously high school shit.

#triciainsandiego #sociology (at UC San Diego Social Sciences)"

https://instagram.com/p/3AIs5Nt8Jg/ + http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119635295101/

"#triciaaftergradschool - Having just visited the Stasi Museum in Berlin (above) and UCSD #socialscience building (below) for #gradschool reflections, it’s interesting to note the similarities between totalizing institutions.

By NO way am I conflating #sociology #gradschool with East Germany/GDR under the Eastern Bloc. However, I think think the line between micro individual agency & macro structural forces are so thin that my personal processing of how the Sociology dpt created a cruel environment amongst grad students is helping me understand how people can turn on each other under institutional forces.

Totalizing institutions creep into people’s lives in benign ways. A few seemingly logical policies to measure & organize people into categories can create such terrible behavior.
These policies are always created by privileged elites who use it to justify their own existence & actions. And then a few sane ones start to question their own sanity, & perhaps to survive they go along with some of the policies.

I saw this happening in my #sociology department on a very small & benign scale. It happened even to me. The professionalization of sociology is treating people as ranked numbers to be slotted into categories that deem intelligence. Individual well-being is cast aside for the sake of the institution’s mission. If a student doesn’t perform like a normative #sociologist, then you’re marked as abnormal.

During my time, I eventually performed “sociology”. I wrote in the 3rd voice to appear more objective. I generated undecipherable intellectual garble papers. I formulated causal models, hypothesizing all sorts of variable isolation. I excelled in theory classes & became successful at obtaining funding from scientific instit. But I was miserable.

Eventually my mentors helped me realize that I had lost my voice as a writer. I wrote like a boring sociologist removed from society. That scared the shit out of me. Doing ethnographic work saved me, by observing humans I became human again.

All totalizing institutions become experts at removing the human experience, because once they do that, they can program people to do anything."

https://instagram.com/p/3AJO0Gt8KP/ + http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119635578466/

"#triciaaftergradschool - Today, I voluntarily came to UCSD #socialscience #sociology building for the first time post #gradschool. Lots of memories are coming back. When I first started grad school, I so badly wanted to enjoy it. I had this vision that I would weave a fun life between working in NYC and reading sociology books on #sandiego beaches.
Man was I wrong. I was so miserable in the program but I didn’t realize how terrible it was until this trip. I don’t think I ever truly allowed myself to acknowledge or even admit how traumatic it was on me while I was in the program. Why do so many experience #gradshcool as isolating, dark, and depressive? Why does it have to be this way when getting any degree, much less a PhD, is such an act of privilege and luck. Brilliant people around the world don’t even get the chance to read books much less step inside a university just because they were born into failed systems. I think I felt this weight of privilege on me, so I didn’t want to even allow myself to come off as unappreciative of this fabulous life I have as a Westerner. But that’s my reason, is there a larger reasons that cuts across all programs?

#triciainsandiego #gradschool #sociology

(at UC San Diego Social Sciences)"

https://instagram.com/p/3AJ6efN8LO/ + http://blog.triciawang.com/post/119635943301/

"#triciaaftergradschool - I am a fucking doctor. That’s right, I have a fucking phd. I am so proud of myself for getting this credential.

Although I think it’s important to remember that credentials do not reflect the quality of a person’s skillsets or intelligence. It makes me sick that #gradschool promotes intellectual superiority within our degree obsessed society.

… [more]
triciaang  2015  ucsd  gradschool  education  commitment  co-dependence  sociology  academia  richardmadsen  thewhy  purpose  triciawang  capitalism  highereducation  highered  2014  socialsciences  measurement  ranking  funding  research  behavior  groupdynamics  professionalization  control  dehumanization  elitism  privilege  isolation  objectivity  self-justification  bullying  systemicracism  institutions  institutionalizedracism  abuse  institutionalizedabuse  classism  class 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Leon Botstein for Democracy Journal: Are We Still Making Citizens?
[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/115896934920/on-secret-keeping-and-forgetting ]

"Democracy requires a commitment to the public good. But for a long time now, our citizens have been taught to see themselves as only private actors."



"What the European émigrés discovered was a reality that partially resembled these principles. They saw from the outside, as it were, how vital the connection is between how we structure our schools and our capacity to maintain a functioning pluralist democracy. John Dewey, America’s greatest thinker on education since Mann, guided the ideology of public education. For Dewey, the justification for the proper pedagogy was not primarily political; his conception of teaching and learning derived largely from an epistemological conceit within Pragmatism. But for the European émigrés, the contrast between the school systems from which they came and the school system in the country in which they arrived—the virtue and attraction of American educational practice—was significant in terms of its political consequences.

In those years, the defining factor in the American system was the idea of a single, unitary public school system in which everybody enrolled. All citizens went to the same sort of schools through to the end of secondary school. Private schools were an elite phenomenon and relatively insignificant. Most European public systems, by contrast, were intentionally segregated by ability, creating distinct groups beginning at age 11. The state, using examinations, divided the school population into varying categories, each of which maintained a different track. The majority of citizens never completed school beyond elementary school. Some percentage went on to vocational schooling. A very small segment of the population went, as adolescents, either to a humanistic academic high school (Gymnasium) or to a less prestigious practical and science-oriented high school (Realschule) and received a secondary-school diploma. A Matura or Abitur, the diploma from these two types of secondary schools, permitted an elite student to enroll in the university.

Consequently, the unitary public school system that kept all children together until college and that built citizens of character, devoted to democratic values, was viewed by the émigré generation as a marvel. American education appeared to fit the idea that the nation and democracy were tied to a homogeneity of rights, and that diverse constituencies could not only obtain equal legal status but through education achieve the means to realize it in economic and social terms. Citizenship via a nominally nondiscriminatory and standard process accessible to all irrespective of birth, religion, ethnicity, or even language was unheard of in Europe, but it—and the concrete advantages education added—seemed possible in America.

Higher education was no less eye-opening. Undergraduates delayed specialization and studied more than one subject. They were, from the start, asked to do far more writing that called for the expression of their own arguments and judgments. What was equally shocking to a European was the way in which the American university system seemed immensely flexible and open to new ideas. There was not a rigid hierarchy with one professor running each “faculty.” Young scholars did not have to wait for their elders to retire or die. The university was able to create new fields and new positions. Not only was there less hierarchy and formality, but in graduate education there was even less deference to authority than in the public school system. The dissenter, rebel, and ambitious entrepreneur were prized more than in Europe. In terms of graduate education and academic career advancement, American university practice still stands in contrast to that of Europe.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the academic standards by which the American common school system operated seemed horrifically low. The price paid by the democratic culture of the American school system, the émigré observers concluded, was the low level of shared culture achieved at the end of secondary public education. Freshmen could not read or write properly, and they possessed little understanding of literature, art, philosophy, or history. The thinly veiled (at best) snobbery of the mid-century émigré scholars simply exploded when their members (such as Werner Jaeger, Leo Strauss, and Kurt Wolff) came to teach American college students."



"I distrust private languages and the tendency to rely on one’s personal narrative as the basis for talking about politics and, in particular, education, understood as a political good. The personal narrative is always contingent on those outside of it. What a child has to learn in school is not only to formulate a personal narrative but also to set it aside; children need to listen, to observe others, and thereby to distinguish their personal narrative from those of others as each individual constructs a role as a citizen. However, the two imperatives—personal growth and citizenship—don’t appear naturally to overlap. A child needs to learn things that allow him or her to function in a democratic context, to learn to consciously ignore personal self-interest and contemplate the public good. What a common public school ought to teach, therefore, is the capacity for disagreement, contest, and compromise. But if I think public goods are irrelevant, that we can do without government, I automatically subscribe to a kind of illusion of individualism against which criticism is hard, since the point of having a discussion or debate—the creation of the public space of a shared participatory politics—is rejected."



"The project of public education is fundamental to the notion of public goods in America. The restoration of public education seems a precondition for making the public sphere operate properly. Education must be about something more than personal happiness and benefit, economically defined; it has to map out the idea that there is more to the public good than the belief that through some free-market-style calculus of aggregate self-interests, the greatest good for the greatest number will emerge. In other words, public education is about educating the future citizen to consider a common ground in politics that can and will secure a more rewarding notion of personal security and tranquility for all.

But in the context of today’s disenchantment with the public sphere, what can a school-trained citizen do? Merely compete in the marketplace? Work for Google? What actually defines the public sphere today is not the government and Congress, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Conspiracy theorists when I was young pointed to the presence of socialists and communists who were said to undermine our system of values. Fear seemed reasonable in the Cold War and under the threat of nuclear war. The line between fear and paranoia was thin indeed. Fear was plausible.

But the people who frighten me and undermine the public sphere today are not terrorists and ideologues interested in overthrowing the government; they are not even those who work for the U.S. government within the NSA or the CIA. Rather, I’m afraid of the very large corporate giants that control our access to information, regulate our private lives by providing social networks—a platform for deceptive intimacy—and monitor every move we make in life and preserve a record of every message, thereby rendering secret-keeping and forgetting—two essential human experiences—impossible."



"So where does this bring us with regard to education? As a practitioner of education, I still hold to the idea that the most difficult and yet most vital thing to do is to construct and sustain a language of public conversation. And that language of public conversation will inevitably be different from our several private languages. We cannot expect it to be the same. The conversation on matters that affect us all has to take place in real space and time. School is one source of that essential opportunity.

One of the depressing aspects of our politics today is the extent to which our candidates think it is enough to be a personality and to rely on a private language in order to get elected. We are more interested in the personalities of our politicians, as if they were our neighbors or private friends, than we are in what they think. Today’s politicians cannot speak a comprehensible language of ideas in public conversation about public goods, the matters at stake in politics. We have lost the taste for a sustained debate about ideas.

To confront this lack of public discourse based on ideas—ideas bolstered by claims and evidence subject to open scrutiny—public education needs to work. It needs to create a community of very diverse citizens who are able to occupy a public space in which they can negotiate matters of shared concern, from foreign affairs to domestic policy, using a shared language. The Internet does not offer such a platform, nor does the virtual space or Facebook or any other social media.

I therefore think that we need to redouble the defense of a single system of public education to which our citizens have free access. We need to resist the privatization of schooling. That does not mean that every school should look alike. But since we will continue to be (I hope) an immigrant nation, we will have to champion a public school system if we are to reconcile increasing differences, inequalities of wealth, and class distinctions into a functioning, dynamic democracy made up of citizens.

I share the émigré generation’s quite romantic optimism for the potential of a democratic school system, one marked by excellence and equity. I think such a system is worth fighting for. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There is evidence that we can improve schools. A welcome first step would be to instill in the best of our current college students and future … [more]
leonbostein  democracy  publicschools  civics  citizenship  2015  individualism  collectivism  publicgood  education  society  us  privatization  government  disagreement  debate  participation  capitalism  hannaharendt  hansweil  christianmackauer  progressive  progressivism  freedom  interdependence  independence  politics  learning  johndewey  egalitarianism  americandream  equality  inequality  generalists  specialization  hierarchy  informality  formality  horizontality  standards  standardization  competition  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  criticalthinking  accessibility  europe  history  leostrauss  kurtwolff  wernerjaeger  jacobklein  robertmaynardhutchins  stringfellowbarr  heinrichblücher  elitism  privateschools  content  process  methodology  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  purpose  sputnik  truth  canon  discourse  isolation  technology  internet  schooling  schooliness  science  wikipedia  communication  language  eliascanetti  teaching  information  research 
april 2015 by robertogreco
An Asshole Theory of Technology - The Awl
"This reminded me of something I came across a few years ago. It’s an account of Sony Chairman Akio Morita testing out the first Walkman:

[image: "I rushed home with the first Walkman and was trying it out with different music when I noticed that my experiment was annoying my wife, who felt shut out. All right, I decided, we need to make provision for two sets of headphones. The next week the production staff had produced another model with two headphone jacks."]

And an accompanying note, written a decade later in 1989, from writer Rebecca Lind (both collected from this book):

[image: "... the potential interaction of personal stereo use and interpersonal communication was considered from the very beginning of Walkman product development. Further, the potential impact was deemed to be something which should be remedied, hence, the addition of extra jacks and the "hot line" feature [which reduces playback volume and allows sharing listeners to converse without removing their headphones]. Because these attempts were made to neutralize this situation, we may assume that the personal stereo was at first considered to have a potentially negative influence on interpersonal communication."]

There seems to be something similar going on with the Apple Watch: an assumption not just that watches don’t do enough, or that other smartwatches are bad, or that an Apple Watch might allow people to do new things, but that the Apple Watch can, and must, fix the way people behave. It is, in this view, a tool for correcting problems created by the device to which it must be paired to operate. The Apple Watch is supposed to be a filter between you and your attention-suck hellworld smartphone; we will give it permission to intervene because it is slightly easier to look at while reducing our what’s-going-on-over-there-by-which-I-mean-in-my-pocket—by-which-I-mean-everywhere-else anxiety just enough to keep us sane. It provides a slight buzz, hopefully just enough, at a lower social cost. So it’s a little like… methadone?

Sony was worried that its portable stereo would be alienating. This turned out to be true. But the impulse to correct it was wrong: the thing that made it alienating was precisely the thing that made it good. The more compelling a gadget is, the more you use it, the more the people around you resent you for using it, the more they are pressured to use it themselves. (The fact that these devices are now all connected to each other only accelerates the effect.)

This is the closest thing we have to a law of portable gadgetry: the more annoying it is to the people around you, the “better” the concept. The more that using it makes you seem like an asshole to people who aren’t using it, the brighter its commercial prospects.

Consider an extreme example: Skip ahead past whatever replaces Google Glass** and the Oculus Rift to, say, mostly invisible lenses that take over for most of what we use phones for now (and, presumably, quite a bit more). It will certainly be tempting to suggest that the lens is less “distracting” then a phone or a tablet or a watch or a headset that blocks your view. And it will certainly help remedy the specific behaviors associated by previous devices. But just imagine how much of an asshole you’ll seem like to people in your physical vicinity for whom lensworld is inaccessible. You will be less present to non-participants than ever, even if your outward appearance and behavior lacks previously known asshole qualities. You will be two feet away and living on a different planet. (Though by then, maybe phone-level distraction will be normalized. Why prioritize people talking to you from two feet away over people talking to you from 100 miles? What the hell is your problem you stupid bad idiot? I’m talking to someone here, way over there.)

This is not to say that the Apple Watch won’t be successful, or that it will. But if it is, it probably won’t be for the reasons reviewers think, or even necessarily for the reason Apple thinks (it was designed by a self-described “group of people who love our watches,” which, what? Who??). It won’t be because it’s a better watch (boring, weird, WRONG) or because it makes non-Apple-watch users less irritable (anti-marketing). It will succeed if it can create new rude exclusionary worlds for its wearers (this is why I wouldn’t underrate the weird “Taptic” communications stuff).

It will succeed, in other words, to whatever extent it allows people to be assholes."
apple  culture  rebeccalind  akiomorita  communication  attention  isolation  applewatch  sony  walkman  googleglass  johnherrman  distraction  oculusrift  mobile  phones  smartphones  2015 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Maisonneuve | Collective Independents
"A FEW MONTHS AGO I moved into a one-bedroom basement apartment. The landlord penciled the stipulation “one person only” into the lease. I superimposed memories of Anna’s perfectly appointed home over the windowless, lineoleum-floored, beige-walled reality that is my new place. But how exciting to live without anonymous hair clogging the drain! I imagined little designer flourishes that would soon fill my space—an Edison lightbulb for the stucco ceiling perhaps, or a hanging plant that will likely die from the lack of light.

It took weeks for me to stop hoarding my possessions in the bedroom and claim the terrain of the new kitchen, bathroom, living room. Here, on top of the microwave, I will put my laundry money, important receipts, my wallet and cell phone. Here, on my bedside table, I will keep my passport, diary and what I’m reading. This floating shelf above my bed will house my most presentable books. Not only will the electric kettle, with its crusty metal coil, be thrown away, but I will purchase a shiny new whistling model that will sit proudly on the gas stove.

The inside of my new refrigerator appears mammoth; sometimes there’s only one item to a shelf. So much time I’ve wasted digging through shared fridges, only to discover diseased-looking tubs of yogurt and yellowing broccoli inside that cold jungle. What a pleasure to buy food that needs preserving.

How I love these little groupings of objects, all in their appropriate places where I might need them most. Playboy’s description of the bachelor pad is an understatement—this space feels as intimate as the compartments of my brain. I delight in the quirks of my domain—the way the gas element clicks three times, with a little stutter on the third beat, before bursting into blue flames. The silence around me has deepened to such an extent that I startle at the sound of water moving through the pipes or, when I’m lying in the bath, the sound of footsteps which turn out to be my own heartbeat.

But, a month and a half into living alone, I woke feeling wretched. Overnight, a throat tickle had morphed into full-on infection; my lymph nodes had hardened into painful, pronounced gills. I could barely swallow. I was nauseated and weak. Dirty dishes accumulated in the sink. My hair exploded into a greasy rat’s nest. I rotated sleeping shifts on the couch and the bed, never changing out of my sick-person uniform of the same sweat pants and flannel shirt.

By the third day, the novelty had worn off. Who cared that I could watch and re-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes for days on end? I missed the outside world and, worse, I was nowhere near coming out of quarantine. That night, my throat as raw as a ragged tailpipe, I tossed and turned until dawn. When I woke the next afternoon, the sun was already low in the sky. My apartment was dark and silent. The fridge and cupboards were bare. No one had called or emailed or texted or tweeted or Facebooked.

As I lay in bed spinning dark thoughts, like how long it would take someone to find my body if I died right then and there, grunts and groans and sighs came through the ceiling. The couple upstairs was having sex. Now? Of all times? I took a deep breath and dived into a downward spiral of self pity. In my mind, beloved friends and family acquired dark shadows. If they were sick and lonely, I certainly would have taken care of them—so where were they now? As soon as I got better, I resolved to look out for myself and only myself. Why stick your neck out for people if they only leave you in the end? These thoughts, at the time, felt all-consuming and true. That is the self-reinforcing power of loneliness."
loneliness  isolation  modernism  2015  lauratrethewey  housing  introverts  community  intimacy  independence 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The future of loneliness | Olivia Laing | Society | The Guardian
"Loneliness centres on the act of being seen. When a person is lonely, they long to be witnessed, accepted, desired, at the same time as becoming intensely wary of exposure. According to research carried out over the past decade at the University of Chicago, the feeling of loneliness triggers what psychologists call hypervigilance for social threat. In this state, which is entered into unknowingly, the individual becomes hyperalert to rejection, growing increasingly inclined to perceive social interactions as tinged with hostility or scorn. The result is a vicious circle of withdrawal, in which the lonely person becomes increasingly suspicious, intensifying their sense of isolation.

This is where online engagement seems to exercise its special charm. Hidden behind a computer screen, the lonely person has control. They can search for company without the danger of being revealed or found wanting. They can reach out or they can hide; they can lurk and they can show themselves, safe from the humiliation of face-to-face rejection. The screen acts as a kind of protective membrane, a scrim that allows invisibility and transformation. You can filter your image, concealing unattractive elements, and you can emerge enhanced: an online avatar designed to attract likes. But now a problem arises, for the contact this produces is not the same thing as intimacy. Curating a perfected self might win followers or Facebook friends, but it will not necessarily cure loneliness, since the cure for loneliness is not being looked at, but being seen and accepted as a whole person – ugly, unhappy and awkward, as well as radiant and selfie-ready.

This aspect of digital existence is among the concerns of Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has been writing about human-technology interactions for the past three decades. She has become increasingly wary of the capacity of online spaces to fulfil us in the ways we seem to want them to. According to Turkle, part of the problem with the internet is that it encourages self-invention. “At the screen,” she writes in Alone Together (2011), “you have a chance to write yourself into the person you want to be and to imagine others as you wish them to be, constructing them for your purposes. It’s a seductive but dangerous habit of mind.”

But there are other dangers. My own peak use of social media arose during a period of painful isolation. It was the autumn of 2011, and I was living in New York, recently heartbroken and thousands of miles from my family and friends. In many ways, the internet made me feel safe. I liked the contact I got from it: the conversations, the jokes, the accumulation of positive regard, the favouriting on Twitter and the Facebook likes, the little devices designed for boosting egos. Most of the time, it seemed that the exchange, the gifting back and forth of information and attention, was working well, especially on Twitter, with its knack for prompting conversation between strangers. It felt like a community, a joyful place; a lifeline, in fact, considering how cut off I otherwise was. But as the years went by – 1,000 tweets, 2,000 tweets, 17,400 tweets – I had the growing sense that the rules were changing, that it was becoming harder to achieve real connection, though as a source of information it remained unparalleled.

This period coincided with what felt like a profound shift in internet mores. In the past few years, two things have happened: a dramatic rise in online hostility, and a growing awareness that the lovely sense of privacy engendered by communicating via a computer is a catastrophic illusion. The pressure to appear perfect is greater than ever, while the once‑protective screen no longer reliably separates the domains of the real and the virtual. Increasingly, participants in online spaces have become aware that the unknown audience might at any moment turn on them in a frenzy of shaming and scapegoating.

The atmosphere of surveillance and punishment destroys intimacy by making it unsafe to reveal mistakes and imperfections. My own sense of ease on Twitter diminished rapidly when people began posting photos of strangers they had snapped on public transport, sleeping with their mouths open. Knowing that the internet was becoming a site of shaming eroded the feeling of safety that had once made it seem such a haven for the lonely.

The dissolution of the barrier between the public and the private, the sense of being surveilled and judged, extends far beyond human observers. We are also being watched by the very devices on which we make our broadcasts. As the artist and geographer Trevor Paglen recently said in the art magazine Frieze: “We are at the point (actually, probably long past) where the majority of the world’s images are made by machines for machines.” In this environment of enforced transparency, the equivalent of the Nighthawks diner, almost everything we do, from shopping in a supermarket to posting a photograph on Facebook, is mapped, and the gathered data used to predict, monetise, encourage or inhibit our future actions.

This growing entanglement of the corporate and social, this creeping sense of being tracked by invisible eyes, demands an increasing sophistication about what is said and where. The possibility of virulent judgment and rejection induces precisely the kind of hypervigilance and withdrawal that increases loneliness. With this has come the slowly dawning realisation that our digital traces will long outlive us."



"This space, the future now, is characterised, he believes, by a blurring between individuals and networks. “Your existence is shared and maintained and you don’t have control over all of it.”

But Trecartin feels broadly positive about where our embrace of technology might take us. “It’s obvious,” he said, “that none of this stuff can be controlled, so all we can do is steer and help encourage compassionate usage and hope things accumulate in ways that are good for people and not awful … Maybe I’m being naive about this, but all of these things feel natural. It’s like the way we already work. We’re making things that are already in us.”

The key word here is compassion, but I was also struck by his use of the word natural. Critiques of the technological society often seem possessed by a fear that what is happening is profoundly unnatural, that we are becoming post-human, entering what Turkle has called “the robotic moment”. But Surround Audience felt deeply human; an intensely life-affirming combination of curiosity, hopefulness and fear, full of richly creative strategies for engagement and subversion."



"Somehow, the vulnerability expressed by Laric’s film gave me a sense of hope. Talking to Trecartin, who is only three years younger than me, had felt like encountering someone from a different generation. My own understanding of loneliness relied on a belief in solid, separate selves that he saw as hopelessly outmoded. In his worldview, everyone was perpetually slipping into each other, passing through ceaseless cycles of transformation; no longer separate, but interspersed. Perhaps he was right. We aren’t as solid as we once thought. We are embodied but we are also networks, living on inside machines and in other people’s heads; memories and data streams. We are being watched and we do not have control. We long for contact and it makes us afraid. But as long as we are still capable of feeling and expressing vulnerability, intimacy stands a chance."
2015  olivialaing  loneliness  internet  isolation  urbanism  edwardhopper  online  presentationofself  sherryturkle  behavior  shaming  scapegoating  vulnerability  honesty  conversation  connection  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  surveillance  sousveillance  trevorpaglen  brucebenderson  aloneness  technology  future  anxiety  jeancocteau  ryantrecartin  peterschjeldahl  laurencornell  joshkline  frankbenson  art  film  jenniferegan  aurroundaudience  compassion  oliverlaric  intimacy  networks  collectivism  individualism  transformation 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Channel — Walker Art Center
"K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way.

In the process, the group frequently coins new terms to articulate their ideas, such as “Youth Mode”: a term used to describe the prevalent attitude of youth culture that has been emancipated from any particular generation; the “Brand Anxiety Matrix”: a tool designed to help readers understand their conflicted relationships with the numerous brands that clutter their mental space on a daily basis; and “Normcore”: a term originally used to describe the desire not to differentiate oneself, which has since been mispopularized (by New York magazine) to describe the more specific act of dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. (In 2014, “Normcore” was named a runner-up by Oxford University Press for “Neologism of the Year.”)

Since publishing K-HOLE, the collective has taken on a number of unique projects that reflect the manifold nature of their practice, from a consulting gig with a private equity firm to a collaboration with a fashion label resulting in their own line of deodorant. K-HOLE has been covered by a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Fast Company, Wired UK, and Mousse.

Part of Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series."

[direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMPN5f5cQ ]
k-hole  consumption  online  internet  communication  burnout  normcore  legibility  illegibility  simplicity  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  trends  fashion  art  design  branding  brands  socialmedia  groupchat  texting  oversharing  absence  checkingout  aesthetics  lifestyle  airplanemode  privilege  specialness  generations  marketing  trendspotting  coping  messaging  control  socialcapital  gregfong  denayago  personalbranding  visibility  invisibility  identity  punk  prolasticity  patagonia  patience  anxietymatrix  chaos  order  anxiety  normality  abnormality  youth  millennials  individuality  box1824  hansulrichobrist  alternative  indie  culture  opposition  massindie  williamsburg  simoncastets  digitalnatives  capitalism  mainstream  semiotics  subcultures  isolation  2015  walkerartcenter  maxingout  establishment  difference  89plus  basicness  evasion  blandness  actingbasic  empathy  indifference  eccentricity  blankness  tolerance  rebellion  signalling  status  coolness  aspiration  connections  relationships  presentationofself  understanding  territorialism  sociology  ne 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How to Be Invisible - NYTimes.com
"IN one of the most popular ads shown during the Super Bowl last weekend, the Indian-American actress Mindy Kaling thinks she’s become invisible. Cabs pass her by, and men barely look up on the sidewalk. And yet she embraces her invisibility as a kind of liberation. More of us should do the same.

We live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed. If we don’t get the interest, attention and recognition we think we deserve — whether we are men who have retired, women of a certain age (over 50, like me) or millennials who obsess over their brand visibility — we tend to file grievances. When Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” was published in 1952, it was a long overdue cry for recognition — social, judicial, legislative, human — for an entire race. But today, it’s a claim that many more of us seem to think we can file.

Which makes me wonder if it is time for all of us to reconsider the beauty, elegance and imagination that can come with being unseen. In her 2012 book, “Quiet,” Susan Cain discusses at length how silent attentiveness, rather than active participation, can allow one to absorb “on a deep level the laws of social dynamics” that go on around us. While she makes an eloquent argument for reticence and reserve, the natural world may be even more persuasive.

I almost missed the walking stick insect resting lightly on a wisteria branch on the porch railing last summer. With the symmetry and hue of a twig or shoot, it defied notice. Yet some small movement, some slant of light allowed me to see it, and once I did, I also saw that its elegance was a matter not just of its delicate frame and subdued color, but of its discretion as well. Calling it an inconspicuous marvel is not a contradiction.

Throughout the natural world, the capacity for camouflage and the ability to recede into the background come with lavish beauty and biological aplomb. Consider the arctic foxes and hares that turn white before snowfall. Or the baroque patterning of Indonesian crabs that mimic the coral in which they live. Or the octopus with cells beneath its skin that can change color to simulate that of the surrounding marine life. You could call these all extravaganzas of obscurity.

They also propose that becoming invisible, whether it is in color or behavior, is not the equivalent of being nonexistent, a lesson the human species seems to resist. It is not about denying creative individualism nor about relinquishing any of the qualities that may make us unique, original, singular.

Rather, it can be a condition of insight and endurance, a position of strength and power, a matter of knowing how and where we can be best accommodated by the exterior world. It can reflect a knowledge that we are of a larger world and that our survival depends on knowing this — not a bad thing to be reminded of when our disruptions of the natural environment result in everything from freakishly warm temperatures to ocean acidification.

Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.

Escaping notice need not be about complacent isolation, mindless conformity or humiliating anonymity. When circumstance confers invisibility upon us, perhaps it is something to appreciate and even welcome, as some iteration of the small imprint, low-impact living it makes sense to aspire to. Or possibly as a more profound poise, a fuller appreciation for our place in the greater scheme of things.

I think of the walking stick again. When it moves, its shadow is the shadow of a branch, its incremental motion suggesting nothing more than the breeze hitting a bit of bough. It may just be one ordinary thing disguised as another, but it has a lightness of being, a composure, and all the grace of going unseen."
invisibility  2015  akikobusch  susancain  inconspicuous  isolation  unseen  attention  nature  obscurity  individualism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Anab Jain, “Design for Anxious Times” on Vimeo
"As 2014 rushes past us, a venture capital firm appoints a computer algorithm to its board of directors, robots report news events such as earthquakes before any human can, fully functioning 3D printed ears, bones and guns are in use, the world’s biggest search company acquires large scale, fully autonomous military robots, six-year old children create genetically modified glow fish and an online community of 50,000 amateurs build drones. All this whilst extreme weather events and political unrest continue to pervade. This is just a glimpse of the increased state of technological acceleration and cultural turbulence we experience today. How do we make sense of this? What can designers do? Dissecting through her studio Superflux’s projects, research practice and approach, Anab will make a persuasive case for designers to adopt new roles as sense-makers, translators and agent provocateurs of the 21st century. Designers with the conceptual toolkits that can create a visceral connection with the complexity and plurality of the worlds we live in, and open up an informed dialogue that help shape better futures for all."
anabjain  superflux  2014  design  future  futures  via:steelemaley  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  designdiscourse  film  filmmaking  technology  interaction  documentary  uncertainty  reality  complexity  algorithms  data  society  surveillance  cloud  edwardsnowden  chelseamanning  julianassange  whistleblowing  science  bentobox  genecoin  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  internet  online  jugaad  war  warfare  information  politics  drones  software  adamcurtis  isolation  anxiety  capitalism  quantification  williamgibson  art  prototyping  present 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Loneliness is a modern epidemic in need of treatment - opinion - 30 December 2014 - New Scientist
"In recent decades, social isolation has been recognised as a major risk to our health and longevity. It's twice as bad for you as being obese and nearly as bad as smoking. The rising number of people who say they are affected, across a wide range of ages, is startling. Yet obvious mechanisms – such as self-neglect – do not explain the full health toll. So what else is going on?

To answer this question it is worth noting that you can suffer the ill effects of loneliness even if you are not socially isolated. It is essentially an emotional state, and recognising the brain's role is vital to understanding much of the harm that can be caused.

Comedian Robin Williams made a salient observation in 2009: "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone." Tracking large groups over time indicates that perceived social isolation carries its own risk for morbidity and mortality, independent of actual social isolation. What could drive this surprising effect?

Safety in numbers

The perception of isolation from others – of being on the social perimeter – is not only a cause of unhappiness, it also signals danger. Fish have evolved to swim to the middle of their group when predators approach, mice housed in social isolation show sleep disruptions and reduced slow-wave sleep and prairie voles isolated from their partners then placed in an open field explore their surroundings less and concentrate on predator evasion.

These behaviours reflect an increased emphasis on self-preservation when on the social perimeter. For instance, fish on the edge of a school are more likely to be attacked by predators because they are easier to isolate and prey upon. Such observations reflect a more general principle, that perceived social isolation in social animals activates neural, neuroendocrine and behavioural responses that promote short-term self-preservation. However, these responses bring a cost for long-term health and well-being.

The range of harmful neural and behavioural effects of perceived isolation documented in adults include increased anxiety, hostility and social withdrawal; fragmented sleep and daytime fatigue; increased vascular resistance and altered gene expression and immunity; decreased impulse control; increased negativity and depressive symptoms; and increased age-related cognitive decline and risk of dementia.

A little less lonesome

Sadly, to date, attempts to reduce loneliness have met with limited success. A meta-analysis of different strategies studied in randomised controlled trials, showed they had only a small effect. Among the four types of interventions examined, talking therapy that focused on inappropriate thought processes – a lack of self-worth, a lack of perspective and a skewed idea of how trustworthy others are and how they perceive you - had the largest impact. Social skills training, social support and increased opportunities for social contact were much less effective.

This finding is consistent with the idea that perceived social isolation can still put us in self-preservation mode – a hangover from ancient times when isolation would have left us very vulnerable to attack – which can lead to harmful thought processes and behaviour that is at odds with thriving in a modern society.

There is no pharmacological treatment for loneliness, although animal research is shedding light on this possibility. Given the scale of the problem today, the hunt for better treatments of all types deserves high priority."
loneliness  2014  psychology  isolation  johncacioppo  stephaniecacioppo  mentalhealth 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Is it time to cut adrift from island thinking? – Libby Robin – Aeon
"Island-mindedness is born in island places, but the islands of the mind have a broad appeal. Is this hard-wired? Recognising an island of safety and refuge might have enabled our hominin ancestors to find stepping stones out of Africa in times of environmental stress. The concept of the island has long been prominent in literature and useful in science: biologists and geographers, national park managers and archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and evolutionary theorists have all turned at times to the model of the island. Yet it might no longer be a great model for the new needs and concerns of our rapidly globalising century."



"An island is as much metaphor as it is physical place. Nature and wilderness reserves became the real nature for quantitative biological theorists. They could ignore the complex stuff of urban development and human communities. An island could stand for the Garden of Eden, in an age when wilderness was the highest ideal for conservation.

Islands are also devices for thinking mathematically, for simplifying the real world and leaving out messy variables. MacArthur and Wilson were conscious of the complexity of the processes they wished to explain quantitatively – processes such as dispersal, invasion, competition, adaptation and extinction. An island-based theory, they acknowledged, left out ‘many of the most troublesome – and interesting – problems’. Ecological principles need sound theories and statistical significance if they are going to attract support from governments and policymakers. Ultimately, they argued, islands and continents need to be understood together, but the island was the basis for mathematical certainty – for laws – in the management of nature. Their final chapter, ‘Prospect’, argued that biogeography was mature enough to ‘be reformulated in terms of the first principles of population ecology and genetics’."



"The island had seemed an ideal field for ‘experimentation’, but island biogeography did not take sufficient account of time and history, and the assumption that the island’s ecological future was heading steadily towards some sort of ‘balance’ was misplaced. In 1986, the Finnish philosopher-ecologist Yrjö Haila argued that the equilibrium model had ‘ossified into a simple formula that began to suppress creative thinking instead of stimulating it’.

Haila advocated ‘a broader, pluralistic appreciation of the role of theories in general’. But ecologists have found it difficult to let go of the elegance and parsimony that equilibrium theories embody, and to see the way life works afresh without theoretical assumptions. In 2006, the ornithologist and oceanic island specialist David W Steadman argued: ‘Data that fail to support an ‘elegant’ model are often regarded as noise or the exception that proves the rule. Elegant models made by deified people die hard.’

Wilson’s fame gave the equilibrium theory a longer life than its data supported. The balance of nature was attractive beyond science, and it has a romantic following, particularly among conservationists and nature lovers who support the national parks and ‘wilderness’ ideals. The US Wilderness Act is now 50 years old, and things have moved on during the Great Acceleration of change in the same period.

Even as the theory of island biogeography was gaining supporters, the critique of the balance of nature was gathering pace within ecology. National parks and nature reserves management took for granted that nature could somehow heal itself, if protected from humanity. Experimental ideas about islands drove – and at times limited – the conservation agenda, because managers still indulged the idea that nature could be fenced off, or isolated from the threat of humanity. In the past half-century, during which the human population has more than doubled, theories for protecting nature from our overexploitation have proliferated. Biological extinctions have accelerated unabated."



"In the ‘post-national’ 21st century, borders are no longer as fixed as national jurisdictional law suggests. Australia has, at times, excised itself from its islands to handle the politics of asylum‑seeking. Would-be migrants, seeking refuge in Australia, are held on offshore islands until their status is legitimated or denied. By this means, successive Australian governments have deprived vulnerable people, including children, of basic human rights. For the sake of domestic political convenience, the nation of the plastic stencil sometimes defines itself without the islands where refugee boats land. The fact that people abandon nations and passports because of global pressures, because of the impossibility of being at home where they were born, is part of what is changing the nature of nations in a global world. People are no longer from where they came from. They become citizens of where they wash up, or the world. Island-mindedness – the separation of places from other places – is no longer an option.

In this global world, it is flows and circulation, rather than land parcels, that are important. Just as Google maps and GPS have become widespread, territoriality is changing. Flows are about land-and-sea-and-sky-and-people – a collective consciousness that is hard to represent on a 2D map or a phone app.

The island-minded idea of nature, separated from culture, has also changed. Some say we are at the ‘end of nature’: there is now a human signature on all the global flows: the biophysical system is also cultural, as the new epoch of the Anthropocene is imagined. To rework the poet John Dunne, no island-nation is ‘entire of itself’, nor can any island-nature be other than ‘involved in mankind’. Perhaps the bell now tolls for the last island: the blue marble of planet Earth, an island in the infinity of space."



"Surtsey is still bleak and black, but mosses and lichens, windswept grasses and stunted shrubs now soften its edges. All its creatures still live as much with the global systems of winds and storms as on the precious fragment of land that erupted 50 years ago. Surviving on such a remote island is, paradoxically, a mark of cosmopolitanism. Only plants and animals that travel easily will flourish there."
libbyrobin  via:anne  2014  iceland  islands  science  isolation  cosmopolitanism  judithschalansky  picoiyer  surtseyisland  peterveth  charlesdarwin  alfredrusselwallace  galápagos  alexandervonhumboldt  newzealand  australia  bali  lombok  ecology  biology  life  robertmacarthur  edwardowilson  ecosystems  discreetness  nature  wilderness  complexity  extinction  dispersal  invasion  adaptation  competition  biogeography  geography  lordhoweisland  yrjöhaila  equilibrium  conservation  adrianmanning  jakobvonuexküll  flows  circulation  borders  people  humans  separation  anthropocene  darwin 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Playable cities
"In Bristol, the recent conference “Making the City Playable” reveals that being smart isn’t the only attribute to which cities should aspire: publicly playful activities can create a happier, more cohesive and even more effective urban future."



"How do you empower people to transform their cities? It is a question that Usman Haque grapples with at Umbrellium on a daily basis. Trained as an architect, Haque’s interest in the psychology of public space led him to a career building creative response environments, interactive installations, and mass participation initiatives designed to foster a sense of collective creative ownership. With creations such as Burble (in which the public collectively constructs a massive inflatable structure made of balloons containing sensor-controlled LEDs that send crowd-responsive patterns of light rippling through the structure) or Assemblance (which recently filled the Barbican, London’s renowned performing arts center, with an immersive environment of three-dimensional interactive light-structures that encourage people to work together to sculpt and manipulate their form), Haque uses creative technology to explore the decision making frameworks that foster collaboration. “It is not inevitable that technology isolates us,” he argues; instead, he sees it as a call to action to explore its ability to connect us. “What I’d like to see more of is the feeling of belonging and ‘this is ours and we can do great things with it’” he concludes: “I’d like to see more of that sense of ownership, and anything that supports and reinforces that.”"



"As the recent Making the City Playable Conference highlighted, many things must work together to support and reinforce that sense of ownership and engagement. “Real regeneration is about people not buildings; activity not big investment,” affirms Bristol’s mayor—and former architect—George Ferguson. A champion of good urbanism, Ferguson has had a pivotal role in some of Bristol’s largest urban transformation projects and is a strong advocate of the Playable City movement. His support has not only enabled many of the city’s recent playful interventions—from Park and Slide, to a city wide zombie chase game, streets temporarily closed for children’s play, and the Playable City Award’s Hello Lamppost and Shadowing—it has also highlighted the benefits that can be achieved by (and often necessity of) working with local authorities. Nevertheless it is worth noting that playful interventions can come in all sizes and degrees.

To wit, while Bristol has built its reputation as a city willing to try things and be unorthodox, it has not always done so by being the class clown. As both Playable City Award projects show, serendipity and the unexpected are equally as valid as the overt gesture. “At first you have the initial excitement reaction where you have people doing crazy things and having their friends come visit and take videos,” explains Matthew Rosier of Shadowing, the shadow-capturing streetlight he and partner Jonathan Chomko recently unveiled in eight locations throughout Bristol, “but we’re more excited to see how it’s working in a few weeks time, when it has become part of peoples’ routines and we can see how they experience it in their daily lives.” It’s about more than cheeky people doing funny things in the streets.

The Playable City will face some inevitable growing pains. One of its major challenges—as a movement not primarily about economic impact or mass behavior change—is providing quantifiable metrics. Bristol’s relatively small size and progressive city governance present a very unique breeding ground that is not easily replicated. Furthermore the concept of play is not a constant across cultures. Nevertheless, Watershed is determined to drive a global playable city network comprised of 10-20 cities around the world that want to steward the movement. “We’d really like to fund a much more significant global playable city award where we would be able to award another city with funds to pioneer something that we can learn from, be inspired by, and share,” Watershed’s Reddington says. With Hello Lamppost set to travel to Austin, USA, it seems the Playable City movement is gaining ground. Between you, me and the lamppost, I’d join their team."
play  cities  urban  urbanism  kimberliebirks  2014  playablecities  hellolampost  playablecity  clarereddington  umbrellium  usmanhaque  thewatershed  tomuglow  smartcities  bogotá  stockholm  publicspace  burble  ownership  technology  isolation  connection  social  engagement  shadowing  parkandslide  georgeferguson  matthewrosier  jonathanchomko 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Marilynne Robinson’s ‘When I Was a Child I Read Books’ - NYTimes.com
"Robinson grew up in Idaho and now lives in Iowa — places where, as she puts it in her new collection of personal and critical essays, “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” “ ‘lonesome’ is a word with strongly positive connotations.” In her lexicon, lonesomeness means the opposite of isolation. It envelops the mind and heart in unsullied nature, allowing focused apprehension of the miracle of creation, as when she remembers kneeling alone as a child “by a creek that spilled and pooled among rocks and fallen trees with the unspeakably tender growth of small trees already sprouting from their backs, and thinking, there is only one thing wrong here, which is my own presence, and that is the slightest imaginable intrusion — feeling that my solitude, my loneliness, made me almost acceptable in so sacred a place.”

One inference to be drawn from Robinson’s essays is that her novels contain a good deal of self-portraiture. When she was young, she seems to have been a prairie version of one of J. D. Salinger’s Glass children — except that rather than urbanity, her precociousness took the form of piety. “I looked to Galilee for meaning,” she tells us, “and to Spokane for orthodonture.” Only such a reverent child could have felt, as Ruth, the narrator of “Housekeeping,” feels when the boat she’s in seems about to capsize, that “it was the order of the world that the shell should fall away and that I, the nub, the sleeping germ, should swell and expand.” This kind of high-mindedness can appear a little chastising to those of us who would have worried about drowning.

But if Robinson writes with a devoutness that can alienate those who don’t share it, she also avers that wisdom is “almost always another name for humility.” Not only in Christian Scripture but throughout the Hebrew Bible, she finds a “haunting solicitude for the vulnerable.” Like many conservative critics, with whom she would otherwise disagree, she is angry at America for its putative betrayal of its founding principles. She condemns “condescension toward biblical texts and narratives, toward the culture that produced them, toward God.” She decries the diminution of religion as “a primitive attempt to explain phenomena which are properly within the purview of science.” But her anger arises not on behalf of some fanciful notion that America was once a monolithic Christian nation. She is angry, instead, at our failure to sustain the capacious conception of community with which, as she shows in a brilliant essay entitled “Open Thy Hand Wide: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism,” America began — a community founded not on the premise that human beings are motivated primarily by greed, but as an experiment in building a society on the principle of love. She persists in believing that this experiment has not been futile: “The great truth that is too often forgotten is that it is in the nature of people to do good to one another.”"



"“I think we all know,” she remarks near the beginning of the book, “that the earth might be reaching the end of its tolerance for our presumptions.” In that word “presumptions” there is great force, amplified by the plural possessive pronoun that precedes it and that underscores everyone’s “inevitable share in human fallibility.” Like every good preacher, Marilynne Robinson judges others while including herself — in theory, at least — in the judgment."
marilynnerobinson  2012  andrewdelbanco  christianity  lonesomeness  loneliness  solitude  isolation  presumptions  humanism  humility  grace  religion  belief 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Reading Proust in prison - Austin Kleon
"Daniel Genis spent ten years in prison and read over one thousand books:
He read “In Search of Lost Time” alongside two academic guidebooks, full of notations in French, and a dictionary. He said that no other novel gave him as much appreciation for his time in prison. “Of course, we are memory artists as well…,” he wrote of prisoners in his journal, in the entry on “Time Regained.” “Everyone inside tries to make their time go by as quickly as possible and live entirely in the past,” he said. “But to kill your days is essentially to shorten your own life.” In prison, time was both an enemy and a resource, and Genis said that Proust convinced him that the only way to exist outside of it, however briefly, was to become a writer himself… Later, when he came across a character in a Murakami novel who says that one really has to be in jail to read Proust, Genis said that he laughed louder than he had in ten years.

Murakami might be on to something. The people I know of who’ve read a stupendous amount of books in a certain period of time have lived in a kind of sparse, prison-like existence. When the depression hit, Joseph Campbell moved to a shack outside of Woodstock, New York, and read nine hours a day for five years. When I was 20, I spent 6 months in Cambridge, England living in a room the size of a broom closet, and that’s when I read Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Joyce, etc. (At one point, Genis’s father tells him to read Ulysses in prison, because “he wouldn’t have the willpower to get through it once he became a free man.”) My friend was in the Peace Corps for two years in Africa, and he said all there was to do at night was smoke weed and read. He read a couple hundred books.

Maybe that’s what college should be: two years where your rent is paid and you do nothing but read…"
danielgenis  reading  concentration  attention  prison  imprisonment  isolation  harukimurakami  proust  josephcampbell  marcelproust 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Secluded innovation — Medium
"When work is fragmented and spread across multiple places, the ease of connections becomes more valuable than free coffee. Public transportation becomes critically important (as if it weren’t already). The maintenance of our sidewalks becomes as essential as their initial design. Parks and other urban punctuation move from being amenities to being productive assets. And all of this changes the equation for deciding what to do within one company’s own little fiefdom. If someone can walk a few blocks down for a break on a bench, or up the street for coffee, why recreate anemic versions of those options indoors? Why pass up moments of transition between spaces, between conversations, between peer groups, between moods? Those are the moments when serendipity is most active. If you value creativity, there is little incentive to recreate the city internally. The walls of the amenity fortress become more of a burden than a benefit.

One peace dividend of the intense competition and talent wars between consumer technology companies is massive effort being dumped into all the things that make a company. The staid pillars of human resources, operations, facilities, management hierarchies, and others are being consciously redesigned from scratch. If these approaches are affordable in slower industries where investors are more cautious, and they spread outside of the enclave of technology companies, this will be as important as the apps and websites those companies have built. Yet, for all of the attention — the hype, I think it’s fair to say — that the new tech-driven culture of work is attracting, it still feels cloistered behind the collective mass of security badges, clubby language and NDAs. These trappings of seclusion make it feel fresh and exciting if you’re on the inside of the bubble, but cultish if you’re on the outside.

Moving from cult to culture rarely happens by fiat; it’s a slow process that will be painful for the true believers and awkward for the rest of us. Yet luring all of us forward should be the potential that doing so means we change things on a fundamental level by redesigning the assumptions we’ve inherited from the industrial era. The city itself remains an under-loved ally in this. For a community that understands the essential value of open source, there’s a distinct lack of respect for openness in the way they relate to the city. Re-engaging with the public realm is the most fundamental tool that companies (and groups of companies) have to connect with the public, to understand needs more holistically, and to convert that understanding into longterm public and private value. Doing so will require many companies to go back to first principles and find a way to internalize the value of the outside world rather than literally importing it. Seclusion may make it easier to develop technology, but it’s a barrier to deeper innovations in how we live together as a society. Pop the bubble, come out of that garage; the weather’s great."

[See also: http://aeon.co/magazine/altered-states/what-tech-offices-tell-us-about-the-future-of-work ]
bryanboyer  architecture  cities  culture  technology  startups  cults  2014  officedesign  seclusion  isolation  offices 
july 2014 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » Whether it’s bikes or bytes, teens are teens
"If you’re like most middle-class parents, you’ve probably gotten annoyed with your daughter for constantly checking her Instagram feed or with your son for his two-thumbed texting at the dinner table. But before you rage against technology and start unfavorably comparing your children’s lives to your less-wired childhood, ask yourself this: Do you let your 10-year-old roam the neighborhood on her bicycle as long as she’s back by dinner? Are you comfortable, for hours at a time, not knowing your teenager’s exact whereabouts?

What American children are allowed to do — and what they are not — has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, and the changes go far beyond new technologies.

If you grew up middle-class in America prior to the 1980s, you were probably allowed to walk out your front door alone and — provided it was still light out and you had done your homework — hop on your bike and have adventures your parents knew nothing about. Most kids had some kind of curfew, but a lot of them also snuck out on occasion. And even those who weren’t given an allowance had ways to earn spending money — by delivering newspapers, say, or baby-sitting neighborhood children.

All that began to change in the 1980s. In response to anxiety about “latchkey” kids, middle- and upper-class parents started placing their kids in after-school programs and other activities that filled up their lives from morning to night. Working during high school became far less common. Not only did newspaper routes become a thing of the past but parents quit entrusting their children to teenage baby-sitters, and fast-food restaurants shifted to hiring older workers.

Parents are now the primary mode of transportation for teenagers, who are far less likely to walk to school or take the bus than any previous generation. And because most parents work, teens’ mobility and ability to get together casually with friends has been severely limited. Even sneaking out is futile, because there’s nowhere to go. Curfew, trespassing and loitering laws have restricted teens’ presence in public spaces. And even if one teen has been allowed out independently and has the means to do something fun, it’s unlikely her friends will be able to join her.

Given the array of restrictions teens face, it’s not surprising that they have embraced technology with such enthusiasm. The need to hang out, socialize, gossip and flirt hasn’t diminished, even if kids’ ability to get together has.

After studying teenagers for a decade, I’ve come to respect how their creativity, ingenuity and resilience have not been dampened even as they have been misunderstood, underappreciated and reviled. I’ve watched teenage couples co-create images to produce a portrait of intimacy when they lack the time and place to actually kiss. At a more political level, I’ve witnessed undocumented youth use social media to rally their peers and personal networks to speak out in favor of the Dream Act, even going so far as to orchestrate school walkouts and local marches.

This does not mean that teens always use the tools around them for productive purposes. Plenty of youth lash out at others, emulating a pervasive culture of meanness and cruelty. Others engage in risky behaviors, seeking attention in deeply problematic ways. Yet, even as those who are hurting others often make visible their own personal struggles, I’ve met alienated LGBT youth for whom the Internet has been a lifeline, letting them see that they aren’t alone as they struggle to figure out whom to trust.

And I’m on the board of Crisis Text Line, a service that connects thousands of struggling youth with counselors who can help them. Technology can be a lifesaver, but only if we recognize that the Internet makes visible the complex realities of people’s lives.

As a society, we both fear teenagers and fear for them. They bear the burden of our cultural obsession with safety, and they’re constantly used as justification for increased restrictions. Yet, at the end of the day, their emotional lives aren’t all that different from those of their parents as teenagers. All they’re trying to do is find a comfortable space of their own as they work out how they fit into the world and grapple with the enormous pressures they face.

Viewed through that prism, it becomes clear how the widespread embrace of technology and the adoption of social media by kids have more to do with non-technical changes in youth culture than with anything particularly compelling about those tools. Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook may be fun, but they’re also offering today’s teens a relief valve for coping with the increased stress and restrictions they encounter, as well as a way of being with their friends even when their more restrictive lives keep them apart.

The irony of our increasing cultural desire to protect kids is that our efforts may be harming them. In an effort to limit the dangers they encounter, we’re not allowing them to develop skills to navigate risk. In our attempts to protect them from harmful people, we’re not allowing them to learn to understand, let alone negotiate, public life. It is not possible to produce an informed citizenry if we do not first let people engage in public.

Treating technology as something to block, limit or demonize will not help youth come of age more successfully. If that’s the goal, we need to collectively work to undo the culture of fear and support our youth in exploring public life, online and off."
teens  adolescence  children  trust  mobility  internet  online  risk  risktaking  2014  danahboyd  via:lukeneff  creativity  ingenuity  problemsolving  isolation  fear  parenting  overprotection  snapchat  tumblr  twitter  facebook  society  culture  safety  social  socialmedia  labor  experience 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Examining The New Los Angeles Paradigm: An Interview With Victor Jones | Los Angeles, I'm Yours
"Victor Jones thinks about Los Angeles in a way few people do: he thinks about it in the future tense, as a place of myriad possibilities. “Los Angeles, unlike most well known cities, is a twenty-first century paradigm in terms of its ability to inform how people live and what people do and how they experiences civic and public space. It is a new physical model of urbanity: I think Los Angeles is a fantastic case study.”

“Thats the draw here,” he says. “While perfect weather, a great economy, and geography have made life easy to take for granted my work in academia and design pushes back on the city, forcing people to reconsider the evidence of things not seen. This push back is to say—Hey.—let’s stop and revisit this, acknowledging that we are a part of a discussion, that we are not completely inside ourselves and that we are becoming a greater reference globally. When we look at urban development in Beijing, Dubai, Mexico City for example, Los Angeles has become a reference versus traditional nineteenth century cities. Let’s try to understand the physical implication of these things.”"



"The irony is that Victor is a native who never liked it here. “I always hated Los Angeles,” he explains. “I was always overwhelmed by the expanse and horizontality of the city and the lack of continuity. It wasn’t until I moved back from France and got my driver’s license that a whole new relationship with the city emerged.”

“I really didn’t get to know the city that I was born and raised in until my late thirties,” he adds. “That’s when I began to understand how special this place is.”

Victor had lived in Los Angeles from birth through late elementary school and high school. He attended Cal Poly San Louis Obispo for his undergraduate degree in Architecture and found the experience to be quite profound: it created opportunities to try different metropolitan settings. “My Architectural History professor, Dr. Joseph Burton, radically changed my life: he proposed that I moved to Paris after graduation to work,” Victor explains. “Initially, I was very resistant to the idea. But, what was supposed to be a three month internship ended up being twelve years living in Paris: that was a life changing experience. I never thought that I would end up back in Los Angeles! I completely found myself and found a completely different world order in France.”

Paris brought a lot of important things to his life: he met his partner of twenty five years, he worked for Jean Nouvel and Louis Vuitton, and took a break during his time there to get a graduate degree in Architecture from Harvard. After, he found himself back in Paris—but soon left to further his own practice. “We arrogantly thought our club membership to Paris would never expire,” he says. “There was a lot of discussion between my partner, Alain Fièvre and I on where to go and we decided that Los Angeles was the best place for an architectural practice, Fièvre + Jones. So, we came here in the late nineties. It is a very challenging experience to uproot our Parisian existence and move to the United States.”

“We do miss Europe quite a bit, though,” Victor says with a longing—but positive—undertone. “That’s what brought us to Silver Lake and to an office in Hollywood: we’re such urban creatures that we were looking for that simulacrum of urbanity in Los Angeles. Both Silver Lake and Hollywood have their own special version of that, Silver Lake being a bit of Brooklyn and Hollywood being a bit like every popular zone in every major city in the world. From certain angles, Hollywood may look like Times Square in the eighties and, from another it may look like Pigalle in Paris. It has a very special and unique quality to it.”

You could confuse his comparisons for nostalgia but analyzing Los Angeles in this manner is Victor’s job: he studies space, formed communities, and urban infrastructure to discover its flaws and successes. “My principal concentration at USC’s School Of Architecture is research on community based projects and understanding what that means in a post-racial culture. Rather than looking at community service as a direct response to under-served individuals or minorities, I look at how we as a more urban, global, and heterogenous community can construct a better quality of life.”"



"“There is a natural tendency to create villages for practical reasons. But, there is a beauty in having a passport to all neighborhoods. If you are of a certain curiosity, you’ll breach those boundaries, not letting your universe be defined by a street. But, [Angelenos] religiously stick to their boundaries. We have to question the curious way that infrastructures—like freeways—impact our lives, organizing us in as architect Craig Hodgetts says the mish-mosh we call Los Angeles.”

These views do not mean that Victor has a pessimistic view of Los Angeles. That is why he is so passionate about it changing for the better. Arguing for more opportunity for how people engage the city, he says, “Generally speaking, Angelenos tend to isolate themselves. They have a trajectory of work and home and their neighborhood. All due to limitations set by the city’s infrastructure – whether we are talking about public space, transportation, cultural institutions etc,” Some of my most fond memories of the city are from cinema and how ‘the industry’ illustrates the city. I remember in Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta would be in the Valley and then drive miles to another part of the city without any hesitation: the city in that film is a forest of pockets full of different opportunities. They were not restricted by cultural biases, distance, demographics – nothing stopped them from moving from one place to another."
victorjones  architecture  losangeles  2014  beijing  dubai  mexicocity  mexicodf  urban  urbanism  cities  race  community  diversity  integration  boundaries  borders  segregation  roads  freeways  michaelgovan  film  design  landscape  lacma  transportation  isolation  mobility  traffic  sustainability  craighodgetts  df 
march 2014 by robertogreco
“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don’t Read Or Write About Education
"The lack of imagination evident in these narratives reflects the lack of real-world alternatives. In the real-world fantasylands of schooling (e.g., Finland, Cuba, Massachusetts) education looks more or less the same as it does everywhere else. In short, the system is missing—or ignores—its real antithesis, its own real death. Without that counter-argument, educational writing loses focus. Educationalists present schooling as being in a constant state of crisis. Ignoring for a second the obvious fact that without a crisis most educationalists would be out of a job—i.e., closing our eyes to their vested interest in the problem’s persistence—what does this crisis consist of? Apparently, the failure of schools to do what they are supposed to do. But what are they supposed to do? What is their purpose? And why should we stand behind their purpose? This is the line of inquiry that—can you believe it—is ignored.

Of all the civic institutions that reproduce social relations, said Louis Althusser, “one… certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.” That statement was made in 1970, by which time school buses zigzagged the cities every working morning and afternoon, school bells rang across city and countryside, the words “dropout” and “failure” had become synonymous, education schools were in full swing, and school reform had gained its permanent nook on the prayer-wheel of electoral campaigns. In other words: what silence?

Althusser, of course, was referring to the absence of schooling as a topic in critical discourse. In this regard he was, and continues to be, accurate. The few paragraphs that he appended to the above-quoted statement may well be the only coherent critique of schooling in the upper echelons of critical theory. Critical theory, which has written volumes on Hollywood, television, the arts, madhouses, social science, the state, the novel, speech, space, and every other bulwark of control or resistance, has consistently avoided a direct gaze at schooling (see footnote). ((Here follows a cursory tally of what critical theorists (using the term very loosely to include some old favorite cultural critics) have written on education. I won’t be sad if readers find fault with it:

Horkheimer is silent. Barthes and Brecht, the same. Adorno has one essay and one lecture. Marcuse delivered a few perfunctory lectures on the role of university students in politics—but he makes it clear that you can’t build on them (university politics as well as the lectures, sadly). Derrida has some tantalizing pronouncements, particularly in Glas (“What is education? The death of the parents…”), but they are scattered and more relevant to the family setting than the school. Something similar, unfortunately, could be said of Bachelard—why was he not nostalgic about his education? Baudrillard, Lefebvre, and Foucault all seem interested in the question, if we judge by their interviews and lectures—and wouldn’t it be lovely to hear from them—but they never go into any depth. Even Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which contains the above quote, quickly shies away from the topic: instead, he concentrates on the Church. In short, professional critical philosophy might have produced a more interesting study of Kung Fu Panda (see Žižek, who is also silent) than of the whole business of education. The one exception would be Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which I will discuss.)) Even Foucault, champion of enclosures, keeps out of the schoolhouse. ((Part III of Discipline and Punish includes a discussion, but his analysis there is mixed with all the other institutions that exercise punishment. The only direct references are in two lecture-discussions with students, both from 1971.)) The silence is particularly striking if we see radical philosophy itself as an educational endeavor, an enterprise concerned with ways of seeing and doing.

It’s not that there are no critical conversations within education—there are, and I will discuss them soon. But I think the silence of radical philosophers is emblematic of some special problems in the relationship between education and society."



"Progressive educators, who as a rule crave resources and ideas from outside their field, nonetheless did not seem bothered by the new seclusion. They even welcomed it. Today, every schoolteacher, admin, or researcher learns as part of her training to show open disdain for any opinion on education that doesn’t come from inside the field (“but has she taught?”). In American education schools, it’s possible to get a doctorate without having been assigned a single book from outside your field. Education is such an intensely social process (think of any classroom vignette, all the forces at play) that this intellectual swamp could only survive by a sheer will to isolation. Educationalists need this privacy partly because it allows them to ignore the core contradictions of their practice. The most important of these contradictions is that they have to uphold public schooling as a social good, and at the same time face up to the fact that schooling is one of the most oppressive institutions humanity has constructed. It has to be built up as much as it needs to be torn down brick by brick.

This dilemma bedevils the majority of writing by the most active educationalists. The redoubtable Deborah Meier is a good example—good, because she really is. Meier is the godmother of the small school movement in the United States. She has dedicated her life to making schools more humane and works with more energy than entire schools of education put together. Her philosophical base is one of Dewey’s pragmatism and American-style anarchism. She is also in a unique position to understand the contradictions of schooling, because she has built alternative schools and then watched them lose their momentum and revert to traditional models. What’s more, Meier can write. But when she writes, her books take titles like Keeping School and In Schools We Trust. In which schools, exactly? Not the same ones through which most of us suffered, I assume; rather, the progressive, semi-democratic ones on the fringes of the public system. The problem, apparently, is not schooling itself. It’s just that, inexplicably, the vast majority of schools fail to get it right. The “reformed school” is a sort of sublime object: something that does not quite exist, but whose potential existence justifies the continuation of what is actually there.

We are all familiar with this type of “we oppose the war but support the troops” liberal double-talk, a pernicious language game that divests all ground agents of responsibility—as if there could be a war without soldiers (though we seem to be moving that way) or bad classrooms without teachers. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to place the blame squarely on the teachers’ shoulders—considering the poor education they themselves receive in the first place—but we must also expose this kind of double-talk for what it really is: an easy out. And it is an easy out that abandons the oppressed: in this case, those students who actively resist teachers, those last few who have not been browbeaten or co-opted into submission. ((When Michelle Rhee, the (former) chancellor of public schools in Washington D.C., began shutting down schools, liberals tore their shirts and pulled their hair and finally ousted her. Very few people mentioned that those schools—a veritable prison system—should have been shut down. The problem was not the closures—the problem was that Rhee, like other Republican spawns of her generation, is a loudmouth opportunist who offered no plan beyond her PR campaign. What’s striking is that Rhee was using the exact same language of “crisis” and “reform” as progressives, and nothing in the language itself made her sound ridiculous. Since then, progressives have eased up a little on the crisis talk.))

Because the phenomenon of student resistance to education so blatantly flies in the face of the prevailing liberal mythology of schooling, it is a topic that continues to attract some genuine theorization. ((For a review of literature and some original thoughts, see Henry Giroux’s Resistance and Theory in Education (1983). For a more readable discussion of the same, see Herbert Kohl’s I Won’t Learn From You (1991).)) It’s also a topic that is closely tied to another intractable bugaboo of the discussion: the staggering dropout rate, in the US at least, among working class and immigrant students, and particularly among blacks and Latinos. Education is the civil rights issue of our time—Obama and Arne Duncan’s favorite slogan—was originally a rallying cry among black educationalists. ((The latter, in case you don’t know, is Obama’s Secretary of Education. A (very thin) volume could be written on the absolute lack of political and intellectual gumption that he epitomizes. To the Bush-era, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (a severe and ineffective set of testing requirements), Duncan added the Race to the Top initiative, thus bringing much unintentional clarity to the discourse: education reform is a race in which no one’s left behind.)) But if we understand a “civil rights struggle” to be, fundamentally, the story of the disenfranchised and the marginalized classes’ resistance to structural oppression, then this seemingly simple phrase is haunted by a kind of dramatic irony—since a great deal of research shows that what many black and working class students actively resist is schooling itself. Further studies showed that even those underserved students who succeed in schools persevere by dividing their identities; by cordoning off their critical impulses; by maintaining their disaffection even while they keep it well out of the teacher’s sight."



"A fundamental problem is that education demands a scientific foothold … [more]
education  unschooling  canon  houmanharouni  2013  criticaleducation  theory  eleanorduckworth  deborahmeier  jeanpiaget  paulofreire  ivanillich  karlmarx  society  schooling  oppression  class  liberals  progressive  progressives  theleft  paulgoodman  sartre  theodoreadorno  michellerhee  reform  edreform  nclb  rttt  radicalism  revolution  1968  herbertmarcuse  power  policy  politics  teaching  learning  jaquesrancière  arneduncan  foucault  louisalthusser  deschooling  frantzfanon  samuelbowles  herbertgintis  jenshoyrup  josephjacotot  praxis  johndewey  philosophy  criticaltheory  henrygiroux  herbertkohl  jeananyon  work  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressiveeducation  school  schooliness  crisis  democracy  untouchables  mythology  specialization  isolation  seclusion  piaget  michelfoucault  althusser  jean-paulsartre 
december 2013 by robertogreco
What Tech Hasn’t Learned From Urban Planning - NYTimes.com
“SAN FRANCISCO — The tech sector is, increasingly, embracing the language of urban planning — town hall, public square, civic hackathons, community engagement. So why are tech companies such bad urbanists?



Gone also is any sign of life the plaza ever had. Google leased as much of the complex as it could get its hands on — and the correspondingly skyrocketing rents accelerated the closing of all the ground-floor businesses, even a short-lived outpost of The Melt (a franchise that serves uniformly grilled sandwiches made with a high-tech — and tech-industry-financed — piece of machinery). In place of Starbucks there is now something called the Mozilla Community Space — that isn’t open to the community. You need to be a registered “Mozillian” (whatever that is) to gain access.

Tech companies that remain in the suburbs are taking a similarly upside-down approach to urbanism. Facebook’s Menlo Park campus, set in a sea of parking, is a sort of movie-set version of a city, with cafe, dry cleaner, doctor, dentist and personal trainers all accessible only to employees. Informal public gathering places (like Starbucks, for example, or a barbershop) are essential to local democracy and community vitality. But by creating “third places” (home and work are the first and second) that aren’t actually open to the public, that benefit is severely compromised.

“Community space” implies something that is open to, well, the community. Subverting of naming conventions to suggest public access and transparency, while providing neither, is troubling and increasingly pervasive. But this turning inward, despite the incessant drumbeat of “community,” is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception.”
urbanism  city  cities  google  twitter  sanfrancisco  lament  spur  community  architecture  planning  technology  siliconvalley  janejacobs  isolation  communities  commons  2013  via:migurski 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Why This Shepherd Loves Twitter - Herdy Shepherd - The Atlantic
"I'm not really an “early-adopter.” In fact, I'm the exact opposite. I'm a Luddite and a shepherd.

Our shepherding work in the English Lake District is all about continuity and being part of a living cultural tradition that stretches back into the depths of time. Our work is often little changed from the way things were done when the Vikings first settled these valleys. Even our dialect is peppered with Norse words.

I like old things, old ways of doing things, old stories, old places, and old people. I'm deeply conservative with a small 'c'. Ask any half decent economist and they'll tell you that most new ideas are a waste of time, most new ideas fail. Our way of life results in fairly conservative people suspicious of pointless chatter and new technologies for the sake of newness.

I am, in short, about as unlikely to get excited by something like Twitter as anyone alive.



I tweet anonymously because that's how I like it. My feed is not really about me: I’m just a narrator. It’s about the way my people farm an amazing landscape, the sheep, the land, the sheepdogs, and the characters in our valley. It’s not really in the spirit of my community to self promote... The individual is not that important here compared to the collective way of life. At the start of my tweeting I feared that my farming peers would disapprove of it, so its been amusing to discover that they worked out who I was very quickly, many follow me on Twitter, and funniest of all they ask me to post pictures of their sheep or to tell the wider world things ‘that need to be said.’

Now we have close to 13,000 followers. We’ve been featured on many of the world’s leading news channels, had features written about us in many magazines, hosted film crews from around the world, and featured on several radio programmes. Weird for something that everyone here thinks is normal, and ‘Just what we do.’

Three things work for me about Twitter:

1) The 140 character limit forces a brevity that suits my way of life;

2) Sharing my world through photos is even quicker, and my world is, I’ve learnt, exotic, strange and beautiful to other people who are disconnected from the land;

3) It works on my smartphone so I can tweet whilst I work outdoors, without needing to stop work to do so. If I spend more than 20 seconds taking photos or tweeting then I’m not doing my real job properly. My tweeting is, and has to be, quick, dirty and real.

The combination of these three elements means that my world has become shareable in real time with other people. I'm no Robert Capa but the combination of a very good smart phone camera, an amazing landscape and working life, and Twitter letting me post pics in 2 or 3 clicks means that my world can be in your world within 10 seconds. And some of you appear to like my world.



On one level, the answer might be ‘not much’. Tweeting doesn’t affect the basic economics of what we do (it's a lousy way to make money), or how cold the rain or snow is, so some folk will never be interested. That’s fine. But tweeting surprised me, because it does sometimes give you heart to know so many other people respect and appreciate what we do. Sometimes it just makes you feel a little less lonely. It gives you a kind of courage to carry on.

Tweeting is kind of an act of resistance and defiance, a way of shouting to the sometimes disinterested world that you’re stubborn, proud, and not giving in as everywhere else is turned into a clone of everywhere else.

* * *

I’m not alone, there are some amazing people tweeting about their lives on Twitter. They are fascinating unique lives that were often invisible before the ability to self-publish on social media. I’d like to think that Twitter has given people that had disappeared from view — obscured and crowded out by the loud noise of modernity — the chance to raise their voice, tell their stories, share their lives, and to say "Hey, we didn’t go away, we are still here, and you might just be interested because what we do is important to everyone."

Twitter gives you an amplifier for your voice (albeit not necessarily an audience if you are tedious, and let's face it: lots of people are). It cuts out the middleman (I don't need you to interpret and translate my life and my work for other people – sorry journalists but I’m a shepherd not an idiot). It lets you find your niche (and that niche can be massive). It lets you sell things (we sell sheep, wool and visits to our farm on Twitter). And it lets you connect with weirdly interesting other people (widening your sphere of influence through collaborations with artists or writers).



Most new ideas may fail, and most new ideas might be rubbish... but sometimes a new idea, a new technology, empowers you to defend the old against the new, and some old things are worth defending."
socialmedia  twitter  resistance  loneliness  farming  herdyshepherd  shepherds  sheep  2013  connection  whyweteet  expression  communication  technology  iphone  voice  defiance  stubbornness  pride  life  living  isolation  agriculture 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Existential Depression in Gifted Children | The Unbounded Spirit
"It is such existential issues that lead many of our gifted individuals to bury themselves so intensively in “causes” (whether these causes are academics, political or social causes, or cults). Unfortunately, these existential issues can also prompt periods of depression, often mixed with desperate, thrashing attempts to “belong.” Helping these individuals to recognize the basic existential issues may help, but only if done in a kind and accepting way. In addition, these youngsters will need to understand that existential issues are not ones that can be dealt with only once, but rather ones that will need frequent revisiting and reconsideration."
depression  existentialism  structure  life  psychology  children  meaning  meaninglessness  gifted  potential  purpose  isolation  failure  aloneness  via:litherland 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Watering the Roots of Knowledge Through Collaborative Learning - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"These problematic aspects of the model are symptoms of its first major fault, a violation of the wisdom of Confucius: "Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I will remember; involve me, and I will understand." I have demonstrated this fault directly. One fall at Columbia University, I had the usual 80-student class of bright, ambitious undergraduates fulfilling their science requirement by taking my lecture course on the solar system. Most attended the lectures, and, mostly, they paid attention (I do not use PowerPoint). They worked through long quantitative problem sets, took biweekly quizzes, and performed well on the midterm and final exams. They then went home for Christmas and on to the spring semester.

The following September, I gathered most of them again and administered a test on some of the material we had covered. I gave the same test to my new class before my first lecture. The results were statistically indistinguishable. So much for pouring knowledge from the full container to the empty ones—it leaks out.

The second major fault of the current educational model is that learning is an isolated activity. Yes, we bring a number of students together to form a "class," but then we do everything possible to isolate students from each other: "No talking in class"; "Please leave two seats between each person for this exam"; "Do all your own work." We desocialize learning, separating it from the periods of normal human interaction we call dorm-room bull sessions.

The third misplaced pillar of educational practice is competition and its accompanying correlate, quantitative measurement. Standardized tests proliferate; grade-point averages are calculated to four significant figures. We pretend that these numbers measure learning and use them to award scholarships, sort professional-school applicants, and, sadly, evaluate self-worth. And we are surprised that cheating—the goal of which is to get a higher score—is widespread. If a group of students works together effectively and efficiently to solve a hard problem, in school this is called cheating. In life, as the British educator Sir Ken Robinson notes, it's called collaboration, a valued asset in most real-world settings."



"General education is often thought of as a means to expose students to a broad range of "essential" knowledge and to provide a historical context for the culture in which they live. These are valid, but insufficient, goals. The purpose of general education should be to produce graduates who are skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning skills, instinctively collaborative, inherently transdisciplinary in their approach to problems, and engaged in their local and global communities—broadly educated individuals with an informed perspective on the problems of the 21st century and the integrative abilities to solve them."
davidhelfand  questuniversity  2013  via:tealtan  education  design  curriculum  academia  highereducation  highered  tcsnmy  cv  teaching  learning  unschooling  blockprograms  collaboration  deschooling  measurement  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  social  isolation  comparison  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  coloradocollege  flexibility  depth  depthoverbreadth  generalists  generaleducation  adaptability  shrequest1 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Zach Klein's Blog — The Future of Offline
"To me: Have you ever felt that your profession, which involves getting people online, contradicts your passion or advocacy for spending time outdoors?

Me: We used to be stuck with whomever lived near us. Now a feature of the Internet is that it allows us to find the diaspora of ourselves, the people out there that resonate with us. I think online community building will beget offline community building. We will reshuffle to be closer to the people we want to work, live and play with."
community  communities  online  internet  isolation  connectivism  zachklein  2013 
february 2013 by robertogreco
Notebook on Cities and Culture: S3E1: Buoyancy and Poignancy with Pico Iyer
"Japan's distinctive combination of buoyancy and poignancy, which leads to the pre-savoring of wistfulness to come; the culture's dissolution of mind, heart, and soul all in the same place, and his efforts to build an intellectual infrastructure around his Japan-related intuitions; his recent reading of John Cage, an unexpected master of the Japanese virtues of not knowing and not saying; the necessity, when you want to write about something, to write about something else, and of writing about a passion in order to write about yourself; the Californian question of "being yourself," and its inadmissability to the Japanese mindset; his relief at not having to be Japanese within Japanese society, and what being a Japanese in Japanese society has done to visit a female brain drain upon the country; what it takes to best remain an outsider in Japan, enjoying its peculiar kind of diplomatic immunity, and how Donald Richie mastered that exchange of belonging for freedom…"
passions  memoirs  notknowing  presence  time  fleetingmoments  poignancy  buoyancy  nuance  invisibility  reservedness  quiet  energy  friction  spontaneity  globalization  osaka  english  responsibility  interdependence  compassion  isolationism  isolation  canon  identity  collectivism  community  place  westpoint  books  listening  silence  understanding  vitality  comfort  nostalgia  pre-nostalgia  memory  women  familiarity  attention  donaldrichie  gender  knowing  writing  belonging  california  thoughfulness  japan  intimacy  society  culture  colinmarshall  johncage  2013  via:charlieloyd  picoiyer  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
5by5 | Back to Work #93: 67 Points of Articulation
"This week, Dan and Merlin continue their purging personal odyssey through the state of Florida. Isolation, education, and a parting admonition not to throw your cap in the air."

[See also: "Vocational Wheel" http://5by5.tv/b2w/7 ]
growingup  peakingearly  graduation  florida  children  adolescence  knowitalls  middleschool  highschool  vocationaltraining  teaching  schools  obedience  moving  isolation  learning  writing  fiveparagraphessays  2012  education  danbenjamin  merlnmann  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Big Red & Shiny: Did someone say 'Adhocracy'? An interview with Ethel Baraona Pohl
"…how are you working with Joseph Grima…around the idea of 'adhocracy', something that "captures opportunities, self-organizes and develops new and unexpected methods of production. ""

"…the concept of adhocracy is almost inherent in design. Work tools, new technologies and forms of communication, and strategies that facilitate self-organization—like DIY projects—are readily developable, urban actions that have a real impact on our environment."

"…there was some confusion on the part of the participants on the topic 'imperfection'—the overall theme of the Biennial—and the concept of adhocracy was brought up as a response to the proposals."

"…Peter Gadanho…recently said…"curating is the new criticism""

"…the most beautiful aspect of our times (and this is also related to the adhocracy), is that there is room and respect for all."

"multi-connected society can be very saturating for some people, but it also allows them, from their loneliness and isolation, to find what they need…"
ebooks  print  kindle  bottomup  bottom-up  hierarchy  tumblr  paufaus  laciudadjubilada  wikitankers  mascontext  quaderns  postopolisdf  postopolis  openconversation  conversation  stories  dpr-barcelona  anamaríaleón  klaus  tiagomotasaravia  nereacalvillo  claranubiola  amazon  booki  github  publishing  epub  domus  léopoldlambert  aurasma  communication  online  internet  digital  books  crowdfunding  douglascoupland  linkedin  pinterest  vimeo  twitter  youtube  facebook  socialnetworks  socialnetworking  socialmedia  society  networkedsociety  networks  web  loneliness  cv  isolation  shumonbasar  markusmiessen  opencalls  collaboration  curating  curation  diy  participation  petergadanho  josephgrima  ethelbaraona  2012  istanbulbiennial  istanbul  adhocracy  adhoc  epubs  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Isolated and Under-Exposed: Why the Rich Don't Give - Neighborhoods - The Atlantic Cities
"Turns out lower giving among the rich likely has much more to do with where they live and who they live near.

As this accompanying article from the journal notes, when the rich are highly concentrated in wealthy enclaves, they're less likely to give as compared with the rich living in more economically diverse neighborhoods. The report found that in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of taxpayers reported earning $200,000 or more, the average giving was just 2.8 percent of discretionary income.

In other words, concentration of wealth is also isolation from the less fortunate."
proximity  generosity  diversity  wealthdistribution  wealth  philanthropy  2012  research  isolation  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
FILM; Chris Marker: Already Living in Film's Future - New York Times
"Had she smiled? It was miraculous, as if one was seeing and feeling in an instant the revolution by which still pictures became cinema. It was a magical way of saying, ''Look, there is the message, there is the thing about movies: they have a special affinity for passing time, for change and evanescence, for memory or forgetting.'' … Mr. Marker is far less impressed by the camera's neutrality or its ability to record things whole. He loves imagery, but does not trust it. His essential influences -- Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov -- are filmmakers who explored montage (or editing) as a stimulus to argument. Pictures come to life if we are looking, thinking, testing; they demand definition, not just awed witness. Above all, Mr. Marker sees that imagery has become a chief resort of our collective memory -- but in a way that stresses our isolation as much as our involvement. To adapt the critic John Berger (another Markerian) a little: photographs evoke presence and absence at the same time. We are there, in the scene, yet cut off from it. It is the model for so much of modern experience -- our amazing ability to acquire information usually depends on some distancing mechanism. We do not know things so much as pretend to know them. … Mr. Marker is already at work on a more sophisticated version of ''Immemory'' (for the technology changes every year). What it already amounts to is a trip through one man's archive -- or memory. And to many people, it seems the most likely future for film -- a new kind of cinema, private, solitary, exploratory, yet full of epiphanies, like the breathing face in ''Jetée.'' Some may lament the loss of all the old communal atmospherics of moviegoing. Yet others see in such filmmaking a recognition of the essential loneliness of humankind -- and a return to the kind of information exchange exemplified by, of all things, writing and reading."
2003  chrismarker  film  cinema  memory  time  change  forgetting  isolation  knowing  via:Preoccupations  lajetée 
july 2012 by robertogreco
2001: An Interview with Kathleen Dean Moore | Derrick Jensen
[via: http://randallszott.org/2012/07/05/philosophy-a-living-practice-grace-place-and-the-natural-world-kathleen-dean-moore-the-ecology-of-love/ ]

[broken link, now here: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/303/a-weakened-world-cannot-forgive-us

and here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FDgoxH2-YWV1mqQH5mjNF3tvV_jLzgrcXmBTnb68SbM/edit (and a copy in my Google Drive)]

“Philosophers fretted that the world would disappear if they turned their backs, but when I closed their finely argued books and switched off the light, it was their worries that disappeared, not the world.”

"Not just our bodies, but our minds – our ideas, our emotions, our characters, our identities – are shaped, in part, by places. Alienation from the land is an alienation from the self, which causes sadness. And the opposite is true, too: there’s a goofy joy to finding ourselves in places that have meaning for us."

"So, to a certain extent, it’s your memories that make us who we are. For example, I am the person who remembers seeing a flock of white pelicans over Thompson Lake and the apple tree in the backyard of my house. And every time I notice something, every time something strikes me as important enough to store away in my memory, I add another piece to who I am. These memories and sense impressions of the landscape are the very substance of my self. In this way, I am – at the core of my being – made of the earth."

"Memories do live in places, and if you go there, you can find them. Sometimes, if your memory is as unreliable as mine, you can find them only if you go there."

"Environmental destruction is a kind of self-destruction. If we go around systematically destroying the places that hold meaning for us, that hold our memories, then we become fragmented and don’t have a sense of who we are."

"One of my colleagues says that, if there is eternal life, it isn’t found in the length of one’s life, but in its depth. That makes sense to me. I have no doubt that each life has a definite limit, an endpoint, but I don’t think there is any limit to the potential depth of each moment, and I try to live in a way that reaches into those depths. I want to live thickly, in layers of ideas and emotions and sensory experience. I recommend a way of life that is rich with noticing, caring, remembering, embracing, and rejoicing – in the smell of a child’s hair or the color of storm light."

"We lead lives of relentless separation – comings and goings, airport embraces, loneliness, locked doors, notes left by the phone. And the deepest of all those divides is the one that separates us from the places we inhabit. Everywhere I go, I encounter people who have come from someplace else and left behind their knowledge of that land. Universities, which should study connections, specialize in distinctions instead. Biologists in their laboratories forget that they are natural philosophers. Philosophers themselves pluck ideas out of contexts, like worms out of holes, and hold them dangling and drying in the bright light. We lock ourselves in our houses and seal the windows and watch nature shows on tv. We don’t go out at night unless we have mace, or in the rain without a Gore-Tex jacket. No wonder we forget that we are part of the natural world, members of a natural community. If we are reminded at all, it’s only by a sense of dislocation and a sadness we can’t easily explain."

"You have to be careful how you generalize about Western philosophy, because there are so many different branches of it, and what’s true of one branch might not be true of another.

That said, I think the problem is summed up by Socrates’ statement that philosophy seeks “the true nature of everything as a whole, never sinking to what lies close at hand.” A philosopher, Socrates said, may not even know “what his next-door neighbor is doing, hardly knows, indeed, whether the creature is a man at all; he spends all his pains on the question [of] what man is.”

The implication of his statement is that, if philosophy is concerned with big, abstract ideas, then it must be di-vorced from the details of our lives. I believe that is a huge mistake. If philosophy is about big ideas, then it must be about how we live our lives. If I find out what a human being is, to borrow Socrates’ example, then I will know what makes one human life worth living."

"Jensen: I would like a philosophy that teaches me how to live: How can I be a better person? How can I live my life more fruitfully, more happily, more relationally?

Moore: These are traditionally the most significant philosophical questions, but they’ve been washed off the surface of philosophy by the twentieth century.

It’s a failure of courage, I think. Real-life issues are messy and ambiguous and contradictory and tough. But their complexity should be a reason to engage them, not a reason to turn away. The word clarity has two meanings: one ancient, the other modern. In Latin, clarus meant “clear sounding, ringing out,” so in the ancient world, clear came to mean “lustrous, splendid, radiant.” The moon has this kind of clarity when it’s full. But today that usage is obsolete. Now clear has a negatively phrased definition: “without the dimness or blurring that can obscure vision, without the confusion or doubt that can cloud thought.” For probably twenty years, I thought that this modern kind of clarity was all there was; that what I should be looking for as a philosopher was sharp-edged, single-bladed truth; that anything I couldn’t understand precisely wasn’t worth thinking about. Now I’m beginning to understand that the world is much more interesting than this."

"I’m always surprised when a nature writer describes going off alone to commune with nature. That way of relating to nature is all about isolation, and I don’t have much patience with it. To me, that’s not what being in nature is about at all.

In my life, the natural world has always been a way of connecting with people – my children, my husband, my friends. The richness of my experience in the natural world translates immediately into richer relationships with people.

I think one of the most romantic and loving things you can say to another person is “Look.” There is a kind of love in which two people look at each other, but I don’t think it’s as interesting as the love between two people standing side by side and looking at something else that moves them both.

Let’s think about this in terms of what we were saying about memory and identity: If we are our memories, then to the extent that two people share memories, they become one person. The whole notion of the joining of souls that’s supposed to happen in marriage may come down to those times when we say, “Look,” to our partner, so the two of us can capture a memory to hold in common."
2001  well-being  fluidity  consistency  truth  landscape  connectivism  ecology  ecologyoflove  surroundings  education  learning  community  socialemotional  lcproject  relationships  nature  cv  philosophy  slow  local  highereducation  highered  academia  isolationism  loneliness  isolation  kathleendeanmoore  place  leisurearts  leisure  meaning  geography  memory  memories  space  sharing  environment  environmentalism  looking  seeing  noticing  sharedexperience  beauty  communing  identity  humans  humanism  canon  reconciliation  forgiveness  life  rivers  communities  dams  artleisure  socialemotionallearning  derrickjensen  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Island biogeography - Wikipedia
"Island biogeography is a field within biogeography that examines the factors that affect the species richness of isolated natural communities. The theory was developed to explain species richness of actual islands. It has since been extended to mountains surrounded by deserts, lakes surrounded by dry land, fragmented forest[1] and even natural habitats surrounded by human-altered landscapes. Now it is used in reference to any ecosystem surrounded by unlike ecosystems. The field was started in the 1960s by the ecologists Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson,[2] who coined the term island biogeography, as this theory attempted to predict the number of species that would exist on a newly created island."

[Via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory via @vruba]
isolation  biology  robertmacarthur  eowilson  islandbiogeography  islands  biogeography  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Able Parris - Social Media and Friendship: A Response
"But I can only be close friends with a limited amount of people, and this disappoints me. I’d love to spend more time with my friends. I’d love to spend more time with my wife. I’d love to spend more time alone. I’d love to spend more time making things. I’d love to spend more time sleeping. (I should be sleeping.) I can’t do more of all these things. In fact, I’ve basically given up trying to make time to play guitar; I just can’t do it all. 

The only answer I’ve come up with is to make sure I get enough time to be in isolation. It’s the only thing I can truly control. Plus, I’m a terrible friend, husband, and employee if I don’t get enough time alone to sort out my thoughts. I’ll continue meeting new people, and I’m sure there will be meaningful friendships that emerge, but only of I take care and nurture myself."
social  limits  finite  attention  sleep  family  making  isolation  relationships  life  time  cv  twitter  introverts  socialmedia  2012  ableparris  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
A New, Noisier Way of Writing - NYTimes.com [Definitely not an OR, but and AND. Room for mix, room for both.]
"This opening up of the process may fit the zeitgeist, but it terrifies many writers. Yet is Mr. Coelho right? Must the writer, like corporations & governments everywhere, accept a fundamental shift in what is kept open & what kept closed?

Some serious writers show a way forward. Teju Cole…is an avid user of Twitter, using it not to expound on the Super Bowl, but to remix and rewrite Nigerian headlines in a deft, literary way. Salman Rushdie, a defender of Writing with a capital W, has found a way to balance that literary seriousness with new habits of launching tweet-wars, informing us where he is, and reviewing books in 140 characters, always with his trademark wit.

The question, perhaps, is this: As the writer surrenders to these new possibilities, what will be her role in the instantaneous, feedback-driven, open world? Will there be a place for those other, slower thoughts, ideas that take time and quiet to flower, truths that cannot be crowdsourced?"
slow  concentration  online  web  entrepreneurship  meritocracy  wikipedia  isolation  attention  anandgiridharadas  vsnaipaul  jonathanfranzen  salmanrushdie  waltwhitman  leavesofgrass  twitter  crowdsourcing  distraction  writing  2012  paulocoelho  tejucole  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Timeless on Vimeo
"The digital settles in as background. We remember less and query more. Our identity play would be considered schizophrenic in the last century. We have more friends than ever before yet know new frontiers of isolation. The quantification of our experience haunts us in the form of a persistent history. And we are distracted more than we ever knew possible. These circumstances are paradoxically a description of the near future and a diagnosis of the current state of affairs. The truly timeless is redefined – it has transcended that which is classic; it has become that which is never finished."
timlessness  future  2012  experience  quantification  isolation  persistenthistory  robversteeg  angeliquespaninks  karencifarelli  ks12  patriziakommerell  gabrialshalom  maryflanagan  tobybarnes  vivianvangaal  elskevanderputten  markuskayser  jorienkemerink  peterkirn  rafaëlrozendaal  bernhardherrmann  technology  design  brucesterling  designfiction 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Coworking Is Better for You Than Previously Thought
"In this European study, "93% and 86% of people say their personal and business circles have grown, respectively, and 76% say they're more productive. More importantly, 88% said their isolation has decreased, which probably influences their productivity (and happiness)."
work  communities  happiness  isolation  coworking  howwework  tcsnmy  lcproject  social  productivity  glvo  via:jbushnell  lifehacks  communitites 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Online and Isolated? Transcript - On The Media
"LEE RAINIE: For centuries, when new technologies come on the scene there’s almost an instinctive human reaction, particularly among those who are challenged by the new technology, to blame the technology for any social ill that happens to arise at the same time. Something has gone on with our social networks in the past 20 years. Our data matched the data that the previous researchers had collected showing the networks are shrinking. And so, now we're inviting other social scientists and researchers like ourselves to go out and find the real culprit and not just think that the Internet lies behind it just because the Internet was being adopted at the same time this harmful social trend was emerging."
leeraine  socialmedia  isolation  onthemedia  media  research  pew  internet  web  online  relationships  social  society  process  2009  via:preoccupations  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
The Book Bench: Ask an Academic: Boredom : The New Yorker
"The identity of Tanonius Marcellinus has been lost, Peter Toohey writes in “Boredom: A Lively History,” but the sort of restlessness experienced by the inhabitants of Beneventum is still with us today. Boredom is universally viewed as an affliction, he argues, but the dreary feeling can also be useful—as long as it is in short supply."
boredom  research  categorization  madelieineschwartz  tanoniusmarcellinus  petertoohey  sensemaking  existentialboredom  simpleboredom  chronicboredom  existentialism  isolation  emptiness  alienation  helplessness  dopamine  philosophy  books  toread  animals  human  humans  instinct  social  emotions  psychology  alertness  sentimentality  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
Draft of a manifesto written in defense of a group of people that did not ask for my defense, using words they would not use and engaging people they ignore. « Lebenskünstler
"While you wring hands over what it all means, we are trying to change the world, build relationships and communities. Are we naive? Possibly. We prefer a world of naive dreamers to cynical observers. Keep your beloved “criticality.” Hold it close to your heart and tell us what you feel. We are friends, not “colleagues” and we choose to embrace humane values and each other. We offer a different vision. Against the professional hegemony of academic intellectualism we offer – trust, love, sentiment, passion, egalitarianism and sincerity…

We are gamblers, believing in the value of risking everything for the sake of our “foolish” dreams and schemes."
randallszott  doing  livign  acting  cynicism  2010  manifestos  art  theory  practice  glvo  lcproject  tcsnmy  intellectualism  humanity  passion  egalitarianism  sincerity  trust  love  sentiment  worldchanging  dreamers  academia  risk  risktaking  amateurism  unschooling  deschooling  understanding  cv  leisure  tinkering  wittgenstein  johndewey  philosophy  isolation  shopclassassoulcraft  authenticity  rigor  Rancière  agamben  brucewilshire  richardshusterman  robertsolomon  booklist  nicolasbourriaud  radicalphilosophy  antonionegri  naïvité  everyday  amateurs  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
Breaking Free From the Iron Cage: Business in the Connected Age : peterme.com
"So, if strategy & planning are manageable, it again begs the question, why are so many experiences so bad? & as you dig further, you realize the problem is with the organization itself. Strategies, plans, & execution are all outputs of organizational behavior. & if your organization is broken, if its values are ill-defined, vision unclear, & goals too restrictive, this will inevitably lead to mindless strategies, ill-considered plans, and sub-par execution.

So you need to address the extremely challenging aspects of organizational dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and all manner of, well, people stuff. And when you do that, you realize most corporations still operate under the mechanistic and bureaucratic practices of the 19th and 20th centuries, born of railroad functions and mass manufacturing. These bureaucratic approaches are inherently dehumanizing, and so these organizations struggle with the key characteristic of delivering great experiences–human engagement."
business  connectivism  learning  values  organizations  petermerholz  tcsnmy  lcproject  bureaucracy  hierarchy  relationships  flow  isolation  play  work  workplace  deschooling  unschooling  autonomy  control  industrialage  generative  services  social  society  change  human  humans  management  administration  leadership  experience  2011  shrequest1  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
notgames — Darkgame
"Darkgame is a sensory deprivation computer game by Eddo Stern currently in development. The game plays on physical manipulation of the player’s senses as the central focus of game strategy. The immersive gameplay is based upon the experience of communication and conflict under stress of sensory deprivation and sense isolation. During the game you are equipped with custom made head gear, applying different sensations to your head as you are navigating the virtual world interacting with other players over the internet."
darkgame  senses  sensorydeprivation  videogames  games  gaming  isolation  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
The WELL: State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky [Isaac D'Israeli as described by his son, more at the link]
"He was himself a complete literary character, a man who really passed his life in his library. Even marriage produced no change in these habits; he rose to enter the chamber where he lived alone with his books, and at night his lamp was ever lit within the same walls. Nothing, indeed, was more remarkable than the isolation of this prolonged existence; and it could only be accounted for by the unitedinfluence of three causes: his birth, which brought him no relations or family acquaintance; the bent of his disposition; and the circumstance of his inheriting an independent fortune, which rendered unnecessary those exertions that would have broken up his self-reliance. He disliked business, and he never required relaxation; he was absorbed in his pursuits. In London his only amusement was to ramble among booksellers; if he entered a club, it was only to go into the library. In the country, he scarcely ever left his room but to saunter in abstraction upon a terrace…"
history  books  isaacd'israeli  isolation  ideas  literature  cv  libraries  eruditedandyism  bookworms  relationships  politics  self-reliance  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
The philosophical underpinnings of David Foster Wallace's fiction. - By James Ryerson - Slate Magazine
"To understand the fiction of David Foster Wallace, it helps to have a little Wittgenstein."<br />
<br />
"for someone as obsessed with isolation as Wallace, he was "obviously a social novelist, a novelist of noticed details, on a near-encyclopedic scale." Where other novelists dealing with solipsism, like Markson and Beckett, painted barren images with small compressed sentences, Costello observed, "Dave tackled the issue by massively overfilling his scenes and sentences to comic bursting"—indeed to the point of panicked overstimulation. There was a palpable strain for Wallace between engagement with the world, in all its overwhelming fullness, and withdrawal to one's own head, in all its loneliness. The world was too much, the mind alone too little. "You can't be anything but contemptible living for yourself," Costello said, summing up the dilemma. "But letting the world in—that sucks too."<br />
<br />
It's not exactly what you'd call an intellectual conundrum. But it was the lived one."
books  writing  language  philosophy  davidfosterwallace  wittgenstein  depression  solipsism  isolation  overstimulation  loneliness  from delicious
december 2010 by robertogreco
Not in isolation / from a working library
"Wise words about making things from A Pattern Language, page xiii:

"This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing, you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it."

I love the use of the word “repair” here. It presumes that—while things are not perfect—neither are they forlorn."
meaning  making  connectedness  creating  apatternlanguage  christopheralexander  glvo  repair  repairing  isolation  longhere  bignow  relationships  context  nature  make  lcproject  decentralization  schools  education  from delicious
december 2010 by robertogreco
All the lonely people - Roger Ebert's Journal
"But back to loneliness. I have to reveal a truth about myself: I've never felt particularly lonely. I was an only child. I came from a happy, stable home. The school bus dropped me off at 3, and my parents weren't home until after 5, but those two hours alone were treasure to me. I was a curious little boy. I always had something going…

A few weeks ago, something happened. Chaz needed emergency surgery. There were two nights when I was alone and she was in the hospital, just as there were months when she was alone and I was in the hospital. And in the middle of the night a great fear enveloped me. If "anything happened" (as they say), I would be so terribly, terribly alone, and sad. I would miss her so much. This feeling came over me in a wave. I pulled the covers tighter around me. Then I would know what loneliness was."
rogerebert  loneliness  introversion  isolation  solitude  intorverts  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
[VIVARIA.NET] ["The project asks: Why Look at Artificial Animals? (paying homage to John Berger's essay 'Why look at Animals?' published in 1980)."]
"Animals are both like and unlike humans. If this was partly reinforced by human isolation from the wider world of nature under the culture of capitalism, under late techno-capitalism, animals can be said to be increasingly both like and unlike machines — or to put it another way, machines are increasingly being classified according to the model of the animal. The inter-relationships are enduring ones, reactivated by changes in social and technological production, making the former distinction further complicated by the addition of artificial life-formds and biotechnologies — the merging of biological and computational forms. The task of classifying and differentiating between animals, humans and machines is one performed with increasing amounts of difficulty, born out of complexity, to use an adaptive term. Perhaps, under the conditions of bio-techno-capitalism, humans are both like and unlike artificial animals."
animals  art  literature  science  poetry  vivaria  borges  taxonomy  relationships  humans  complexity  shakespeare  darwin  sulawesicrestedmacaques  johnberger  via:chriswoebken  biotechnology  capitalism  bio-techno-capitalism  machines  classification  sorting  differentiation  hybrids  isolation  nature  techno-capitalism  technology  charlesdarwin  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
Scientific Commons: Sigur Rós's Heima: An Icelandic Psychogeography (2009), 2009 [Tony Mitchell]
[now here: https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/10567 ]

[PDF: https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/10567/1/2008008719OK.pdf ]

"examines sonic geography of…Sigur Rós w/ particular reference to Heima, which documents tour…of remote places in home country. Known for causing people to faint or burst into tears during concerts, music could be said to express sonically both isolation of Icelandic location & induce feeling of hermetic isolation in listener through climactic & melodic intensity of sound…Singing both in Icelandic & invented language Hopelandic (vonlenska), Jónsi, gay & blind in one eye, channels a striking form of glossolalia in vocals…group acknowledges strong degree of Icelandic animism in music…have referred to ‘presence of mortality’ in Icelandic landscape & links to stories, sagas, magic & ritual in remote country where ‘majority…believes in elves & power spots…invisible world is always w/ us’…create geomorphic soundscapes which transport active listener into imaginary world…bass player Georg Holm, who is demophobic, has stated, ‘we provide colors & frame & you paint the picture'"

[via: http://twitter.com/ballardian/status/24613154409 ]
glossolalia  vonlenska  sigurros  heima  iceland  music  psychogeography  inventedlanguages  language  emotion  fear  demophobia  sound  animism  landscape  sagas  magic  ritual  mortality  soundscapes  geomorphicsoundscapes  jouissance  identity  myth  isolation  sigurrós  rituals  from delicious
september 2010 by robertogreco
The Financialization of Everyday Life | varnelis.net
"For future generations, the experience of rediscovering long-lost friends will be unfamiliar. Similarly, new friends are all too easy to make. If alienation was in part the product of feeling alone in a city or in mass society, misunderstood and unable to find others like oneself, today the Internet makes it possible for us to connect to a massive number of dispersed, networked publics brought together around particular taste cultures. Through social networking sites, we come to regard each other as intimates even before we have met. Intimacy is now a matter of keeping up the "telecocoon," the steady, ambient conversation that keeps individuals together regardless of how far apart they are."
kazysvarnelis  networks  networkedpublics  urban  urbanism  isolation  alienation  cities  mobility  connections  dispersion  ambient  ambientconversation  ambientintimacy  looseties  etiquette  internet  web  social  socialnetworking  from delicious
september 2010 by robertogreco
What Is It About 20-Somethings? - NYTimes.com [This piece has popped up everywhere.]
"KENISTON CALLED IT youth, Arnett calls it emerging adulthood; whatever it’s called, the delayed transition has been observed for years. …“It’s somewhat terrifying,” writes a 25-year-old…“to think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network w/ the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love & maintain personal well-being, mental health & nutrition.’ When is there time to just be & enjoy?” Adds a 24-year-old: “…It’s almost as if having a range of limited options would be easier.”

While the complaints of these young people are heartfelt, they are also the complaints of the privileged.

The fact that emerging adulthood is not universal is one of the strongest arguments against Arnett’s claim that it is a new developmental stage. If emerging adulthood is so important, why is it even possible to skip it?"
babyboomers  change  culture  education  future  millennials  greatrecession  generationy  adulthood  2010  life  maturation  society  parenting  parenthood  growingup  adolescence  prolongedadolescence  childlaborlaws  sociology  psychology  us  generation  youth  generations  marriage  careers  highereducation  gradschool  intimacy  isolation  possibility  jobs  work  neuroscience  brain  cognition  puberty  helicopterparents  developmentalpsychology  emergingadulthood  self  autonomy  independence  schooling  schooliness  decisionmaking  uncertainty  helicopterparenting  boomers  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
Weekend Essay by Jonah Lehrer: How Power Affects Us - WSJ.com
"Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there."
jonahlehrer  machiavelli  authority  corruption  ethics  politics  business  leadership  power  psychology  behavior  brain  management  military  human  markhurd  2010  empathy  transparency  hierarchy  administration  tcsnmy  accessibility  isolation  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
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