robertogreco + legibility   44

Spiralism: Haiti’s Long-Lost Poetics of Protest | Public Books
"Kaiama L. Glover’s choice to translate—brilliantly—this particular work may be seen as a gesture toward reconnecting Spiralism with the broader literary history of the Caribbean, a field largely dominated by Martinican thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Édouard Glissant.

What is Spiralism? The novel opens with lyrical flights that lay bare the movement’s objectives:
More effective at setting each twig aquiver in the passing of waves than a pebble dropped into a pool of water, Spiralism defines life at the level of relations (colors, odors, sounds, signs, words) and historical connections …

Re-creating wholes from mere details and secondary materials, the practice of Spiralism reconciles Art and Life through literature, and necessarily breaks with the hypocrisy of the Word … Spiralism uses the Complete Genre, in which novelistic description, poetic breath, theatrical effect, narratives, stories, autobiographical sketches, and fiction all coexist harmoniously …


These first pages are not set off from the main narrative as paratextual commentary; instead, they are woven directly into the fabric of the text they foretell."



"Unlike other Franco-Caribbean genres such as Négritude or Créolité, Spiralism does not announce a geopolitical project, but its social dimension is made explicit in Ready to Burst. Like Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of Total Literature2—a genre that would be legible to both the oppressor and the oppressed, and that would be the synthesis of destruction and construction—Spiralism’s Complete Genre is meant to be accessible to all. As Paulin, the writer and Frankétienne’s fictional alter ego, explains, Spiralism must tailor its shape to the needs of proletarian readers: “Our age doesn’t lend itself to reading literary works, boring in their too often useless length. … Between the fatigue of the night before and that of the day after … the laboring classes only have limited time—if they have any at all—to read printed characters. … And so, it’s a question of stating things quickly.” Spiralism aims to cleanse the written word of its bourgeois nature by freeing it from the conventional sentence. Thus unshackled, Paulin explains, the word acquires velocity and magnitude. It becomes “Inflated with meanings. Swollen with allusions.”

Spiralism is, perhaps above all, a state of mind in the face of life’s absurdity. “Whirlwinds. Vertigos. Storms. My life beats to the rhythm of turbulences,” declares Paulin. “I am a Spiralist. … It’s not that I’m looking to be scandalous. But because life itself emerges from the cry of blood. Wayward child of pain. Of violence. And that, too, is Spiralism.” On the one hand, these semantic splinters perform the feeling of insularity, of oppression, of restlessness, and of fragmentation that characterized the life of the Haitian people under the Duvalier regime; on the other hand, the resistance they stage against traditional literature symbolically punctures all forms of dictatorships.

Spirals are intrinsically infinite, incomplete. Paulin never finishes his novel and eventually vanishes into thin air, having perhaps been a figment of Raynand’s imagination all along. And much as the spiral gives and takes, Frankétienne reminds the reader that his work’s self-proclaimed aesthetic allegiance matters less than the sheer fact of writing: “I no longer worry about what I write. I simply write. Because I must. Because I’m suffocating. I write anything. Any way. People can call it what they want: novel, essay, poem, autobiography, testimony, narrative, memory exercise, or nothing at all. I don’t even know, myself.”"
2015  spiralism  haiti  poetry  poetics  protest  frankétienne  kaimaglover  aimécésaire  édouardglissant  literature  form  corinestofle  jean-paulsartre  canon  legibility  renéphiloctète  jean-claudefignolé 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Los Angeles, Houston and the appeal of the hard-to-read city
"This is not going to be a column about all the things the New York Times got wrong about the Los Angeles Times in its recent front-page story by Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, "A Paper Tears Apart in a City That Never Quite Came Together." It is not, for the most part, going to be about all the things the New York Times got wrong (or simply failed to mention) about Los Angeles itself in that article, which argued that recent turmoil at this newspaper is emblematic of the city's broader lack of support for its major institutions. Plenty of smart people have already weighed in on both fronts.

And yes, every word in the previous sentence links to one of those smart people. Here are a couple more for good measure. When Josh Kun, Carolina Miranda, Daniel Hernandez, David Ulin, Alissa Walker, Matthew Kang and Carolyn Kellogg are united in knocking your analysis of Los Angeles, it might, you know, be a sign.

Anyway. This is going to be a column, instead, about something slightly different: about the legibility (and illegibility) of cities more generally. About how we react — as reporters and critics and simply as people — when we're confronted with a city that doesn't make sense to us right away.

Ten days or so before that story appeared, I spent a long weekend in Houston, meeting up with three old friends ostensibly to see the Warriors, the NBA team I grew up rooting for, play the Rockets — but also just to hang out and eat barbecue and visit the Menil, my favorite museum building in America (just edging out another Texas landmark, the Kimbell in Fort Worth).

Houston is casually written off even more often than Los Angeles, which is saying something. Now the fourth largest city in the country in population — and gaining on third-place Chicago — it's an unruly place in terms of its urbanism, a place that (as Los Angeles once did) has room, or makes room, for a wide spectrum of architectural production, from the innovative to the ugly. Like Los Angeles, it's a city that invested heavily in freeways and other car-centric infrastructure last century and remains, in many neighborhoods, a terrible place to walk.

It's long been a place people go to reinvent themselves, to get rich or to disappear. The flip side of its great tolerance is a certain lack of cohesion, a difficulty in articulating a set of common civic goals. (Here's where I concede that the instinct behind the New York Times piece on L.A., if little about its execution, was perfectly reasonable.) As is the case in Los Angeles, the greatest thing and the worst thing about Houston are one and the same: Nobody cares what anybody else is doing. Freedom in both places sometimes trumps community. It also tends to trump stale donor-class taste.

Roughly one in four residents of Houston's Harris County is foreign-born, a rate nearly as high as those in New York and Los Angeles. Houston's relationship with Dallas, the third biggest city in Texas, is something like L.A.'s with San Francisco; the southern city in each pair is less decorous, less fixed in its civic identity and (at the moment, at least) entirely more vital.

I've been to Houston five or six times; I like spending time there largely because I don't know it as well as I'd like to. That's another way of saying that while I'm there, I'm reminded of the way in which much of the world interacts with and judges Los Angeles, from a position of alienation and even ignorance. I just happen to enjoy that sensation more than most people do.

If I had to put my finger on what unites Houston and Los Angeles, it is a certain elusiveness as urban object. Both cities are opaque and hard to read. What is Houston? Where does it begin and end? Does it have a center? Does it need one? It's tough to say, even when you're there — even when you're looking directly at it.

The same has been said of Los Angeles since its earliest days. Something Carey McWilliams noted about L.A. in 1946 — that it is a place fundamentally ad hoc in spirit, "a gigantic improvisation" — is perhaps even more true of Houston. Before you can pin either city down, you notice that it's wriggled out of your grasp.

People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there's one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that's it. Smart, accomplished people don't like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.

Their reaction to that feeling, paradoxically enough, is very often to attempt to write that feeling away — to conquer that sense of dislocation by producing a story that sets out to explain Los Angeles in its entirety. Because it's a challenge, maybe, or because they simply can't be convinced, despite all the evidence right in front of them, that Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.

Plenty of journalists have left Los Angeles over the years and moved to New York to work for the New York Times; none of them, as far as I know, has attempted, after two or three months on the job, to write a piece explaining What New York City Means. I can think of many New Yorkers — each of them highly credentialed academically or journalistically or both, which is perhaps the root of the problem — who have come to Los Angeles and tried to pull off that same trick here.

That tendency — to attempt the moon shot, the overarching analysis, too soon — is equal parts hubris and panic. It usually goes about as well as it went this time around for Arango, not incidentally a brand-new arrival in the New York Times bureau here, and Nagourney.

Among the most dedicated scholars of Houston's urban form in recent years has been Lars Lerup, former dean of the Rice University School of Architecture. In his new book of essays, "The Continuous City," he argues that the first step in understanding Houston and cities like it is to begin with a certain humility about the nature and scale of the task.

This kind of city has grown so large — in economic and environmental as well as physical reach — that it begins to stretch beyond our field of vision. The best way to grasp it, according to Lerup, is to understand that it is not Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago — to recognize it instead as "a vast field with no distinct borders."

"The old city was a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a collectively constructed wall; the new city is everywhere," he writes. "Only when we accept that we can only attain a partial understanding can work begin."

Lerup stresses that huge, spread-out cities like Houston — which he also calls "distributed cities," places where "the spiky downtown is just a blip in the flatness" — have long been tough to read, in part because they are "always in the throes of change." But the relationship between urbanization and climate change has added a new layer of complexity, because big metro regions and their pollution are exacerbating the ecological crisis. The city now "owns everything" and must answer for everything, "even the raging hurricane bearing down on its coast." The vast city has grown vaster still.

If there's one place I part ways with Lerup, it has to do with his insistence that "few conceptual tools have evolved" to help us grapple with the distributed city and its meanings. At least in the case of Los Angeles, the literature on this score is richer, going back many decades, than even many locals realize.

There's not only McWilliams' superb, clear-eyed book "Southern California: An Island on the Land," which I would make required reading for every new hire if I were running the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times. (Especially the part where McWilliams admits that he hated Los Angeles when he arrived and that it took him "seven long years of exile" to understand and appreciate the city. Seven years! And that was with a brain bigger and more nimble than most.) There's also architect Charles Moore's 1984 guidebook, "City Observed: Los Angeles," which he wrote with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell.

Right at the beginning, Moore, as if to anticipate Lerup, reminds his readers that L.A. is "altogether different from the compact old centers of Manhattan and Boston." (It is not a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill.) Making sense of it, as a result, requires "an altogether different plan of attack."

That simple bit of advice is the only one journalists newly arrived in Los Angeles really need to get started on the right foot. It's also one those journalists have been ignoring for 34 years and counting."
houston  losangeles  cities  illegibility  vitality  urban  urbanism  nyc  christopherhawthorne  2018  socal  california  larlerup  manhattan  boston  sanfrancisco  chicago  nytimes  careymcwilliams  joshkun  carolinamiranda  danielhernandez  davidulin  latimes  alissawalker  matthewkang  carolynkellogg  timarango  adamnagourney  elitism  legibility  population  place  identity  elusiveness  hubris  panic  urbanization  climatechange  complexity  charlesmoore 
february 2018 by robertogreco
a rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes | sara hendren
"Take small steps. In an experimental approach to social change, presume that we cannot know the consequences of our interventions in advance. Given this postulate of ignorance, prefer wherever possible to take a small step, stand back, observe, and then plan the next small move. As the biologist J. B. S. Haldane metaphorically described the advantages of smallness: “You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mineshaft; and on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes.”

Favor reversibility. Prefer interventions that can easily be undone if they turn out to be mistakes. Irreversible interventions have irreversible consequences. Interventions into ecosystems require particular care in this respect, given our ignorance about how they interact. Aldo Leopold captured the spirit of caution required: “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts.”

Plan on surprises. Choose plans that allow the largest accommodation to the unforeseen. In agricultural schemes this may mean choosing and preparing land so that it can grow any of several crops. In planning housing, it would mean “designing in” flexibility for accommodating changes in family structures or living styles. In a factory it may mean selecting a location, layout, or piece of machinery that allows for new processes, materials, or product lines down the road.

Plan on human inventiveness. Always plan under the assumption that those who become involved in the project later will have or will develop the experience and insight to improve on the design."
2018  sarahendren  seeinglikeastate  jamescscott  urbanplanning  socialservices  government  everyday  maps  mapping  legibility  highmodernism  socialengineering  reversibility  small  slow  humanism  humans  ecosystems  markets  community  cooperation  scale  scalability  taylorism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman at Duke University - YouTube
"The Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures after Property and Possession seeks to interrogate the relation between race, sexuality, and juridical and theological ideas of self-possession, often evidenced by the couplet of land-ownership and self-regulation, a couplet predicated on settler colonialism and historically racist, sexist, homophobic and classist ideas of bodies fit for (self-) governance.

The title of the working group and speaker series points up the ways blackness figures as always outside the state, unsettled, unhomed, and unmoored from sovereignty in its doubled-form of aggressively white discourses on legitimate citizenship on one hand and the public/private divide itself on the other. The project will address questions of the "black outdoors" in relationship to literary, legal, theological, philosophical, and artistic works, especially poetry and visual arts.

Co-convened by J. Kameron Carter (Duke Divinity School/Black Church Studies) and Sarah Jane Cervenak (African American and African Diaspora Studies, UNC-G)"



[Fred Moten (31:00)]

"Sometimes I feel like I just haven't been able to… well, y'all must feel this… somehow I just can't quite figure out a good way to make myself clear when it comes to certain things. But I really feel like it's probably not my fault. I don't know that it's possible to be clear when it comes to these kinds of things. I get scared about saying certain kinds of stuff because I feel like sometimes it can seem really callous, and I don't want to seem that way because it's not because I don't feel shit or because I don't care. But let's talk about it in terms of what it would mean to live in a way that would reveal or to show no signs of human habitation.

Obviously there's a field or a space or a constraint, a container, a bounded space. Because every time you were saying unbounded, J., I kept thinking, "Is that right?" I mean I always remember Chomsky used to make this really interesting distinction that I don' think I ever fully understood between that which was bounded, but infinite and that which was unbounded, but finite. So another way to put it, if it's unbounded, it's still finite. And there's a quite specific and often quite brutal finitude that structures whatever is going on within the general, if we can speak of whatever it is to be within the general framework of the unbounded.

The whole point about escape is that it's an activity. It's not an achievement. You don't ever get escaped. And what that means is whatever you're escaping from is always after you. It's always on you, like white on rice, so to speak. But the thing about it is that I've been interested in, but it's hard to think about and talk about, would be that we can recognize the absolute horror, the unspeakable, incalculable terror and horror that accompanies the necessity of not leaving a trace of human inhabitation. And then there's the whole question of what would a life be that wasn't interested in leaving a trace of human habitation? So, in church, just because my friend Ken requested it, fuck the human. Fuck human inhabitation.

It's this necessity… The phrase I use sometimes and I always think about specifically in relation to Fannie Lou Hamer — because I feel like it's me just giving a spin on a theoretical formulation that she made in practice — is "to refuse that which has been refused to you." That's what I'm interested in. And that doesn't mean that what's at stake is some kind of blind, happy, celebratory attitude towards all of the beautiful stuff we have made under constraint. I love all the beautiful stuff we've made under constraint, but I'm pretty sure I would all the beautiful stuff we'd make out from under constraint better.

But there's no way to get to that except through this. We can't go around this. We gotta fight through this. And that means that anybody who thinks that they can understand how terrible the terror has been without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror is wrong. there is no calculus of the terror that can make a proper calculation without reference to that which resists it. It's just not possible."
fredmoten  saidiyahartman  blackness  2016  jkameroncarter  fredricjameson  webdubois  sarahjanecervenak  unhomed  unsettled  legibility  statelessness  illegibility  sovereignty  citizenship  governance  escape  achievement  life  living  fannielouhamer  resistance  refusal  terror  beauty  cornelwest  fugitives  captives  captivity  academia  education  grades  grading  degrading  fugitivity  language  fellowship  conviviality  outdoors  anarchy  anarchism  constraints  slavery  oppression  race  racism  confidence  poverty  privilege  place  time  bodies  body  humans  mobility  possessions 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."



"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."



"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Asemic writing - Wikipedia
[See also: https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/877535553671090176

Lyn Hejinian: "In responding to the Dubravka Djuric's question about the origins of my interest in writing, I said that it as the materiality of writing that first drew me to it, the prospect of working with 'the typewriter and the dictionary.'"
https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/877535553671090176

[See also:
"Definition Not Found: The last refuge from #content might just be asemic writing" by Rahel Aima
http://reallifemag.com/definition-not-found/

"Asemic writing might be better understood not as illegible but as ‘post-literate’"



"Within the sphere of green anarchist thought there is a current that bills itself as primitivist, with all the condescending fetishism that “primitive” invokes. Avowedly anti-technology, the anti-civilizationist critique of capitalism extends beyond the environmental degradation and forms of domination of contemporary production to rail against the concept of civilization itself. The sphere of alienation is extended beyond labor; as theorist John Zerzan lays out in Running on Emptiness, it is the regime of symbolic thought that is believed to most deeply distance us from our authentic selves, which are arbitrarily defined as the way we once existed as hunter-gatherers. Art, music, mathematics, literature, speech: any mode of representation is highly suspect. It’s the paleo diet, but for culture. Zerzan’s vision for the “future primitive” would have us living in a silent, pre-pastoralist utopia where we exist wordlessly amongst the trees — beyond art and agriculture and beyond semiotics, or perhaps more aptly, before and unsullied by it. While Zerzan’s concepts seem attractive as a thought exercise, they are unconvincingly and rather petulantly argued. Who would want to do away with the back catalogue of some of the only good things to come out of the morass of humanity as we know it? Perversely, a reading of these texts makes me wonder about the possibility of an asemic writing made not by humans, but by bots and other algorithms.

In 2011, So Kanno and Takahiro Yamaguchi created the Senseless Drawing Bot, a kinetic drawing machine that is Jean Tinguely-meets-Mars rover. It pairs a motorized skateboard with an arduino, and a long-short double pendulum that induces an element of chaos, to spray graffiti on the wall. There’s a lot of empty swinging and swaggering, a louche calisthenics. It makes a mark only when its randomized wobbles pass a certain pre-coded threshold, when it’s sure all eyes are on it, and then its gestures are fast, flashy, and nonchalant, as if drawn from immense, tumescent muscle memory. It’s all big words and it’s trying hard to flex; if ever a bot has seemed like a blustery fuckboy, this is it. The outcome is surprisingly great, a dense accumulation of multicolored freneticism, neat on the bottom and looping wildly on top like an overgrown hedge. Unlike the aforementioned Tag Clouds, it points to a machinic tagging that does not mandoline work into strict taxonomies, is unreadable by human viewers, and does not — yet — appear to be machine readable, either, as well as the delightful paradox of generative bots which are programmed by people, yet also enjoy their own agency.

In the realm of graphic notation, Emma Winston’s @GraphicScoreBot tweets out an image resembling a graphic score every hour. Each tweet features an outlined white rectangle, usually with stave lines, and often with a bass or treble clef and dynamic markings, so it’s clear we are to read this as music. Except, instead of conventional note forms, its markup includes an array of colorful geometric shapes, squiggles, and dashes. Circles of varying sizes and transparencies especially make the images feel like musical infographics (to me, they seem to suggest duration; others might see in them chords or orchestra stabs). There are semantic ruptures: the bot will, at random, tweet out cards from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, entreaties like “Trust in the you of now,” “A very small object. Its center,” and “Slow preparation, fast execution.” Less bombastic are the double-spaced “B E G I N” and “E N D” that pepper the scores, which Winston suggests can be taken as start and end points or altogether ignored. Though the scores are generally sparse, occasional plaintive adverbs and phrases like “sadly,” “casually,” and “as if tired” make suggestions as to mood. Cameos by Italian terms like con moto (with movement), andante (at a walking pace), and quasi niente (fade away to nothing) make the scores feel somehow more official. If the “post-literate” leads us to interrogate what we consider to be writing, this bot’s relative adherence to notational convention, more Fauvism than De Stijl, does the same for the musical score.

Also on Twitter, Darius Kazemi’s @reverseocr tweets out asemicisms more akin to those absentminded doodles, each cryptic scrawl accompanied by a random word, like “subtlety,” four times a day. It’s a study in impenetrable handwriting, only here the writer is not a shrink with a prescription pad but a bot. Without that accompanying word, the marks, while elegantly spare, are unrecognizable as anything but marks. So far, so asemic. Yet the way the bot works is by selecting a word and then trying — badly, endearingly — to draw it out. It keeps drawing, and failing, until an OCR or Optical Character Recognition program (the question of literacy is transposed to the algorithm, here) identifies a character. If that character matches the first letter of the word, “s” in the case of “subtlety,” that character gets drawn and the bot turns its attentions to the second character, “u.” If not, it perseveres until it gets a match, and eventually it manages, through trial and a lot of error, to draw out the whole word; we only see these successes. Of course all of these computational processes happen at lightning speed, but in a 2014 adaptation of the work for a show at Boston’s now-shuttered Find and Form Space Kazemi slows the algorithm down to a human timescale and makes visible the otherwise hidden work performed by the bot. The word here is, appropriately, “labor.” Yet there’s something in @reverseocr’s yearning to be understood — to be read, to be recognized by another — that makes me think it’s a kind of unrequited love. There is a 1973 interview with James Baldwin in the Black Scholar in which he says, in response to a question about the role of political themes in his writing,
The people produce the artist, and it’s true. The artist also produces the people. And that’s a very violent and terrifying act of love. The role of the artist and the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. Insofar as that is true, in that effort, I became conscious of the things that I don’t see. And I will not see without you, and vice versa, you will not see without me. No one wants to see more than he sees. You have to be driven to see what you see. The only way you can get through it is to accept that two-way street which I call love. You can call it a poem, you can call it whatever you like. That’s how people grow up. An artist is here not to give you answers but to ask you questions.

Kazemi’s bot expands the field of how we might understand asemic writing. Illegible though its drawings may be to our eyes, it is without doubt trying very, very hard to communicate meaning. Humans are not its intended audience; rather, its visual language, like barcodes or the computer vision markup of Amazon warehouses, is entirely for bots, machines, scripts, and other denizens of the algorithmic world. It’s a robot laughing alone with salad, and its inner life, its own well of lactic acid that it draws from to express itself, is off-limits to us. We, however, are on view to them, from the moment we press our thumbprints into our iPhones in the morning to the moment we touch-type a 2 a.m. text message whose characters are so drunkenly scrambled as to form complete non-words, which an algorithm gently corrects to other words we did or did not mean, so long as they’re legible. Perhaps this is an imposition on our freedoms; perhaps this is that two-way street between us and the algorithms, learning from each other; perhaps this is love."

via: "This @_reallifemag essay on asemic writing by @cnqmdi might be the best unwitting 'take' on Trump, covefefefe, etc."
https://twitter.com/eyywa/status/875099774059507716 ]
writing  asemicwriting  scribbling  randomness  typewriters  dictionaries  howwewrite  materiality  rahelaima  jeremybushnell  lynhejinian  dubravkadjuric  content  joséparla  apophenia  oseneworkekosrof  scat  scatsinging  conlang  language  experession  hélènesmith  medewianta  mirthadermisache  zhangxu  marcogiovenale  timgaze  jimleftwich  dariuskazemi  bots  emmawinston  horse_ebooks  huaisui  cursive  legibility  illegibility  avakofman  covfefe  literacy  postliteracy  ocr 
june 2017 by robertogreco
NONSTOP WITH CASEY GOLLAN & VICTORIA SOBEL — Lookie-Lookie
"Casey Gollan: The work we’re involved in definitely slips in and out of legibility. So I think it’s possible to care deeply and be intentional about shapeshifting within a chaotic system, understanding that it can be strategic or nonstrategic to explain what you’re doing. Just because the hacking of the Muni wasn’t immediately claimed by anyone doesn’t mean it’s not part of someone’s ongoing thing.

CH: Is it then a puzzle piece falling into place later for the larger structure?

CG: Maybe, but I think not necessarily trickily; for me it’s the difference between a prank and deep engagement. I like what Jill Magid said, that a prank is when you throw something into the mix to see what happens, almost like trolling. And I can see how, looking at one piece of an unknowably larger project at a time, it’s difficult to parse commitment from a string of pranks.

CH: Yeah there are different categories of trolls; from the watch-the-world-burn troll to the more long-game insidious troll, but on the surface it’s impossible to distinguish them.

CG: And then, thinking back to Keller, someone who’s attempting to co-opt or utilize “trolling” from outside that spectrum.

VS: I want to go back to this question of the articulated demand, or the non-demand. It’s such a pivotal question for someone like me who came into adulthood in the midst of global and local movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, seeing these really large mass mobilizations break with the history of the articulated, clear demand. So since 2011, going back and forth between the demand and the non-demand has become a really good prompt. It was very much at the forefront of the thinking within Free Cooper, if it would be strategic to articulate a demand, and if so how. We were talking about if it would be legible to issue a sort of non-demand, given that the school hadn’t begun to charge tuition yet, and what we were doing was to raise awareness, and activate not only the local community, but create a platform that could speak to other issues. What we came up with was a list of demands and principles – principles that couldn’t be satisfied via the demands being met. Because in this day and age the articulation of demands can often lead to an undue burden on organizers to satisfy their own demands: “You’ve articulated that you want this so why don’t you go do it yourself? It’s not the system that’s broken, it’s you that needs to work harder!” The script can often be flipped."



"CG: Recalibration is something that I hear people calling on others to not do right now: “Don’t normalize this.” Goldman Sachs and all these investors, however, are already saying, “Well, maybe it was terrible that this happened, but you should get the best investment returns out of the tax breaks that we forecast are coming,” so investors almost automatically calibrate to new economic conditions, as if isn’t up to them. Ursula Franklin said that her sense of ethics or morals is something she tunes — like an instrument — over time. An electronic tuner that’s calibrated could measure if an instrument is in tune, but really the range of an instrument is infinitely more complex than what a machine could understand. Ultimately it’s beyond measurement."
legibility  illegibility  caseygollan  2016  victoriasobel  systemsthinking  christinahendricks  ursulafranklin  normalization  ethics  meadurement 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

She was warm and generous and incredibly insightful, and she gave me no smooth answers, no simple way.

Central to our conversation was my worry about the massive surveillance capacities enabled by internet technologies and the way in which public assent to surveillance is fueled by the racism and militarism of the now eternal “War on Terror.” What could we do to combat this narrative? What could we do to change the underlying technologies such that they respect human agency and privacy?

Franklin agreed. This is a grave problem. But not a “technological” problem:

“Whether it’s heathens, witches, women, communists, whoever, the institution of an enemy as a political tool is inappropriate. The only solution is an insistence on a civilized democratic society. A civilized democratic society combats this and the wish of an authority to collect personal information on citizens and their activities and loyalties. Whether it’s done by spying, by bribing children, by workplace monitoring, by confession in the confession box of the church—the collection is the issue. The means—the technology—is secondary. The problem is a problem of authoritarian power. And at the root of this problem is the issue of justice, and justice is political.”

While justice can be understood, can be felt, there is no template to follow, or checklist to work through for ensuring a just outcome. The requirements are humility, a respect for context, and a willingness to listen to the most marginalized voices. Let these define the basic requirements of whatever you do. You must “put yourself in the position of the most vulnerable, in a way that achieves a visceral gut feeling of empathy and perspective—that’s the only way to see what justice is.”

Understanding justice, honoring those most vulnerable and including them as authors of any plan that impacts them, is a necessary starting place. But the problems associated with our current technologies won’t be solved by tweaking gears or redesigning mechanisms. A roadmap that centers on justice is only the first step. “For a very long time gadgets and machinery have been anti-people. If one wants to get away from the anti-people component, then you don’t argue technology as much as you argue capitalism.” Even with a view of what justice would look like and could be, attempts at radical change will, of course, be repulsed by powerful actors who benefit richly from the unjust status quo. Political change must be a part of the equation.

This isn’t a frenzied call for revolution. The bigger the scale, the bigger the vision for just change, the more difficult it will be to “get it through” a system in which power is aligned against justice (and, of course, the more difficult it will be to truly understand this vision’s vast impact on vulnerable populations and thus ensure it really supports justice.) Not that working to build practices and plans isn’t worthwhile—it is incredibly worthwhile. But you’re unlikely to have much real impact if you start with a grand announcement. “To proceed in a hostile world,” Franklin suggests, “call it an experiment. Admit that you don’t know how to do it, but ask for space and peace and respect. Then try your experiment, quietly.” In conditions not conducive to success, situate yourself out of the spotlight and proceed subtly, humbly, and be willing to downplay expectations while new forms incubate.

“My favorite word is an old Quaker term, ‘scrupling,’ used as an activity,” Franklin begins, addressing how to approach the vastness of the political and social problems we were discussing. “It comes out of the anti-slavery movement, originally. People would get together to ‘scruple,’ that is, discuss and debate a common problem, something they had scruples about—say, justice—for which they did not have a solution. This is scrupling, and this is something you and your friends can do.”

Gather and talk. Empathize and listen. Don’t chase the spotlight, and accept that some problems are big, and difficult, and that what you’re good at may not fix them. These are not the ways of charismatic executives and flash-bang inventors. These are not instructions for entrepreneurial success. These won’t produce bigger faster newer ways of doing things.

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Walled Gardens & Escape Routes | Kneeling Bus
"Slack and Snapchat are two of the platforms that best embody the current technological moment, the fastest recent gainers in Silicon Valley’s constant campaign to build apps we put on our home screens and not only use constantly but freely give our locations, identities, relationships, and precious attention. One of those products is for work and one is for play; both reflect values and aesthetics that, if not new, at least differ in clear ways from those of email, Facebook, and Twitter—the avatars of comparable moments in the recent past.

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

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

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

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

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

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



"If we’ve learned anything from recent technology, we can expect Slack and Snapchat to reveal their own serious flaws over time as users accumulate, behaviors solidify, and opportunists learn to exploit their structure. Right now most of the world is still trying to understand what they are. When the time comes—and hopefully we’ll recognize it early enough—we can break camp and go looking for our next temporary outpost."
walledgadens  web  online  internet  2016  snapchat  slack  darknet  darkweb  instagram  twitter  legibility  drewaustin  fredericjameon  reynerbanham  email  venkateshrao  benbashe  identity  communication  openweb  facebook  texting  sms  flowlaminar 
july 2016 by robertogreco
From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy [.pdf]
Gustavo Esteva
Madhu S. Prakash
Dana L. Stuchul

"At the end of his life, Freire wrote a short book, Pedagogía de la autonomía. (Freire, 1997) In it, he offers a meditation on his life and work, while returning to his most important themes. Freire reminds us that his education, his pedagogy, is pointedly and purposively ideological and interventionist. It requires mediators. Here again, it addresses those mediators: a final call to involve them in the crusade.
The leitmotiv of the book, the thread woven through every page as it occurred everyday in the life of Freire, is the affirmation of the universal ethic of the human being --- universal love as an ontological vocation. He recognizes its historical character. And he reminds us that it is not any ethic: it is the ethic of human solidarity. (Freire, 1996, p.124) Freire promotes a policy of human development, privileging men and humans, rather than profit. (Freire, 1996, p.125) He proclaims solidarity as a historical commitment of men and women, as one of the forms of struggle capable of promoting and instilling the universal ethic of the human being. (Freire, 1997, p.13)

Similar to liberation theology (an option for the poor) courageously adopted by an important sector of the Catholic Church in Latin America, Freire finds a foundation and a destiny for his theory and practice in the ideal of solidarity. Solidarity expresses an historical commitment based on a universal ethics. Solidarity legitimizes intervention in the lives of others in order to conscienticize them. Derived from charity, caritas, the Greek and Latin word for love, and motivated by care, by benevolence, by love for the other, conscientization becomes a universal, ethical imperative.

Certainly, Freire was fully aware of the nature of modern aid; of what he called false generosity. He identified clearly the disabling and damaging impact of all kinds of such aid. Yet, for all of his clarity and awareness, he is unable to focus his critique on service: particularly that service provided by service professionals. Freire's specific blindness is an inability to identify the false premises and dubious interventions --- in the name of care --- of one specific class of service professionals: educators.

In its modern institutional form, qua service, care is the mask of love. This mask is not a false face. The modernized service-provider believes in his care and love, perhaps more than even the serviced. The mask is the face. (McKnight, 1977, p.73) Yet, the mask of care and love obscure the economic nature of service, the economic interests behind it. Even worse, this mask hides the disabling nature of service professions, like education.

All of the caring, disabling professions are based on the assumption or presupposition of a lack, a deficiency, a need, that the professional service can best satisfy. The very modern creation of the needy man, a product of economic society, of capitalism, and the very mechanism through which needs are systematically produced in the economic society, are hidden behind the idea of service. Once the need is identified, the necessity of service becomes evident. It is a mechanism analogous to the one used by an expert to transmogrify a situation into a "problem" whose solution --- usually including his own services --- he proposes.

In this way, Freire constructed the human need for the conscience he conceived. In attributing such need to his oppressed, he also constructed the process to satisfy it: conscientization. Thus, the process reifies the need and the outcome: only conscientization can address the need for an improved conscience and consciousness and only education can deliver conscientization. This educational servicing of the oppressed, however, is masked: as care, love, vocation, historical commitment, as an expression of Freire's universal ethic of solidarity. Freire's blindness is his inability to perceive the disabling effect of his various activities or strategies of conscientization. He seems unaware that the business of modern society is service and that social service in modern society is business. (McKnight, 1997, p.69) Today, economic powers like the USA pride themselves in being post-industrial: that is, the replacement of smoke stacks and sweatshops moved to the South, with an economy retooled for global supremacy in providing service. With ever increasing needs, satisfaction of these needs requires more service resulting in unlimited economic growth.

Freire was also unaware that solidarity, both the word and the idea, are today the new mask of aid and development, of care and love. For example, in the 1990s, the neoliberal government of Mexican president Carlos Salinas used a good portion of the funds obtained through privatization to implement the Programa Nacional de Solidaridad. The program was celebrated by the World Bank as the best social program in the world. It is now well documented that, like all other wars against poverty, it was basically a war waged against the poor, widening and deepening the condition it was supposed to cure, a condition that, in the first place, was aggravated by the policies associated with the neoliberal credo.

Freire could not perceive the corruption of love through caring, through service. Furthermore, he was unable to perceive that the very foundation of his own notion of universal, globalized love, God's love for his children through Christ, is also a corruption of Christianity. (Cayley, 2000)

Freire was particularly unable to perceive the impact of the corruption which occurs when the oppressed are transformed into the objects of service: as clients, beneficiaries, and customers. Having created a radical separation between his oppressed and their educators, Freire was unsuccessful in bringing them together, despite all his attempts to do so through his dialogue, his deep literacy --- key words for empowerment and participation. All these pedagogical and curricular tools of education prove themselves repeatedly to be counterproductive: they produce the opposite of what they pretend to create. Instead of liberation, they add to the lives of oppressed clients, more chains and more dependency on the pedagogy and curricula of the mediator.iii.

During the last several centuries, all kinds of agents have pretended to "liberate" pagans, savages, natives, the oppressed, the under-developed, the uneducated, under-educated, and the illiterate in the name of the Cross, civilization (i.e. Westernization), capitalism or socialism, human rights, democracy, a universal ethic, progress or any other banner of development. Every time the mediator conceptualizes the category or class of the oppressed in his/her own terms, with his/her own ideology, he is morally obligated to evangelize: to promote among them, for their own good, the kind of transformation he or she defines as liberation. Yet, a specific blindness seems to be the common denominator among these mediators: an awareness of their own oppression. In assuming that they have succeeded in reaching an advanced level or stage of awareness, conscience, or even liberation (at least in theory, in imagination, in dreams), and in assuming, even more, that what their oppressed lack is this specific notion or stage, they assume and legitimate their own role as liberators. Herein, they betray their intentions.

In response to colonization, Yvonne Dion-Buffalo and John Mohawk recently suggested that colonized peoples have three choices: 1) to become good subjects, accepting the premises of the modern West without much question, 2) to become bad subjects, always resisting the parameters of the colonizing world, or 3) to become non-subjects, acting and thinking in ways far removed from those of the modern West. (Quoted in Esteva and Prakash, 1998, p.45)"



"In his denunciation of the discrimination suffered by the illiterate, Freire does not see, smell, imagine or perceive the differential reality of the oral world. While aspiring to eliminate all these forms of discrimination from the planet, he takes for granted, without more critical consideration, that reading and writing are fundamental basic needs for all humans. And, he embraces the implications of such assumptions: that the illiterate person is not a full human being.

Freire's pedagogic method requires that literacy should be rooted in the socio- political context of the illiterate. He is convinced that in and through such a process, they would acquire a critical judgement about the society in which they suffer oppression. But he does not take into account any critical consideration of the oppressive and alienating character implicit in the tool itself, the alphabet. He can not bring his reflection and practice to the point in which it is possible, like with many other modern tools, to establish clear limits to the alphabet in order to create the conditions for the oppressed to critically use the alphabet instead of being used by it."



"IV. Resisting Love: The Case Against Education

Freire's central presupposition: that education is a universal good, part and parcel of the human condition, was never questioned, in spite of the fact that he was personally exposed, for a long time, to an alternative view. This seems to us at least strange, if not abhorrent.
Freire was explicitly interested in the oppressed. His entire life and work were presented as a vocation committed to assuming their view, their interests. Yet, he ignored the plain fact that for the oppressed, the social majorities of the world, education has become one of the most humiliating and disabling components of their oppression: perhaps, even the very worst.



"For clarifying the issues of this essay, we chose to reflect on the life, the work, and the teachings of Gandhi, Subcommandante Marcos and Wendell Berry. Purposely, we juxtapose them to exacerbate their radical and dramatic differences. Is it absurd to even place them under the umbrella of public and private virtues we dwell on as we … [more]
gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  liberation  pedagogy  pedagogyoftheoppressed  wendellberry  solidarity  care  love  caring  carlossalinas  neoliberalism  teaching  howweteach  education  conscientization  liberationtheology  charity  service  servicelearning  economics  oppression  capitalism  mediators  leadership  evangelization  yvonnedion-buffalo  johnmohawk  legibility  decolonization  colonialism  karlmarx  ivanillich  technology  literacy  illegibility  bankingeducation  oraltradition  plato  text  writing  memory  communication  justice  modernism  class  inequality  humility  zapatistas  comandantemarcos  parochialism  globalphilia  resistance  canon  gandhi  grassroots  hope  individuality  newness  sophistication  specialization  professionalization  dislocation  evolution  careerism  alienation  self-knowledge  schooling  schools  progress  power  victimization  slow  small 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Refusal as Research Method in Discard Studies « Discard Studies
"Researchers examining waste issues have the potential to uncover particularly sensitive information—that specific places, people or animals might be contaminated— that has very real social and material consequences for communities being studied. We also might be given access to report on potentially painful community events and experiences. As researchers interested in social justice, how do we proceed helpfully in our research?

The concept of ‘ethnographic refusal’ is one way forward. Ethnographic refusal is a practice by which researchers and research participants together decide not to make particular information available for use within the academy. Its purpose is not to bury information, but to ensure that communities are able to respond to issues on their own terms. An ethnographic refusal is intended to redirect academic analysis away from harmful pain-based narratives that obscure slow violence, and towards the structures and institutions that engender those narratives. It is a method centrally concerned with a community’s right to self-representation.

This method comes out of an ethical commitment to decolonize research. For example, the recent ‘ontological turn’ in discard studies encourages researchers to engage with Indigenous knowledge systems and ontologies, as a way of better understanding how issues of contamination and waste are understood and experienced within Indigenous communities—something that is easily (and often) misconstrued by non-community members, including academics. In turn, researchers might have access to internal conversations, knowledge that is considered sacred, or that the academy otherwise “doesn’t deserve” (Tuck and Yang 2014a: 813). Engaging in ethnographic refusal as method, then, is intended as an ethical intervention that provides research participants the opportunity to dictate whether knowledge is to be made available within the academy (among other places), how environmental and human health issues are responded to, and by whom.

The following annotated bibliography is an introduction to ethnographic refusal. The first two texts in this bibliography (Tuhiwai Smith 1999; Zavala 2013), provide overviews of decolonization as a methodology, outlining the colonial traditions that inform contemporary anthropological practices and the need for decolonizing research. Both texts indicate the importance of research collaboration and emphasize efforts by Indigenous people to take control over their representation in research. The more recent piece (Zavala 2013), suggests that decolonial research must place Indigenous perspectives and interests as the marker through which research is evaluated and practiced. Based on readings written primarily by Indigenous researchers, I suggest that ‘ethnographic refusal’— whereby certain information about Indigenous knowledge and experiences is kept out of the academy— is a method that helps keep researchers accountable to the communities they research. The different perspectives on ‘ethnographic refusal’ held by Ortner (1995) and Simpson (2007) showcase how the method developed through two different bodies of literature, driven by very different goals and objectives. The final papers by Tuck and Yang (2014a & b) provide examples of ways that researchers can incorporate ‘refusals’ throughout their research process."
ethnography  method  refusal  2016  via:javierarbona  research  representation  self-representation  fieldwork  decolonization  ethnographicrefusal  illegibility  legibility 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Frances Stonor Saunders · Where on Earth are you? · LRB 3 March 2016
"The one border we all cross, so often and with such well-rehearsed reflexes that we barely notice it, is the threshold of our own home. We open the front door, we close the front door: it’s the most basic geographical habit, and yet one lifetime is not enough to recount all our comings and goings across this boundary. What threshold rites do you perform before you leave home? Do you appease household deities, or leave a lamp burning in your tabernacle? Do you quickly pat down pockets or bag to check you have the necessary equipment for the journey? Or take a final check in the hall mirror, ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’?

You don’t have a slave to guard your door, as the ancients did, so you set the alarm (or you set the dog, cave canem). Keys? Yes, they’re in your hand. You have ‘the power of the keys’, the right of possession that connects you to thousands of years of legal history, to the rights of sovereigns and states, to the gates of salvation and damnation. You open the door, step through, and turn to close it – through its diminishing arc, the details of your life inside recede. ‘On one side, me and my place,’ Georges Perec wrote:
The private, the domestic (a space overfilled with my possessions: my bed, my carpet, my table, my typewriter, my books, my odd copies of the Nouvelle Revue française); on the other side, other people, the world, the public, politics. You can’t simply let yourself slide from one into the other, can’t pass from one to the other, neither in one direction nor in the other. You have to have the password, have to cross the threshold, have to show your credentials, have to communicate … with the world outside.

You lock the door. You’ve crossed the border. You’ve ignored Pascal’s warning that all humanity’s misery derives from not being able to sit alone in a quiet room. When the Savoyard aristocrat Xavier De Maistre was sentenced to six weeks’ house arrest for duelling in 1790, he turned his detention into a grand imaginary voyage. ‘My room is situated on the 45th degree of latitude,’ he records in A Journey around my Room. ‘It stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, 36 paces in perimeter if you hug the wall.’ And so he sets off, charting a course from his desk towards a painting hung in a corner, and from there he continues obliquely towards the door, but is waylaid by his armchair, which he sits in for a while, poking the fire, daydreaming. Then he bestirs himself again, presses north towards his bed, the place where ‘for one half of our life’ we forget ‘the sorrows of the other half’. And so on, ‘from the expedition of the Argonauts to the Assembly of Notables, from the lowest depths of hell to the last fixed star beyond the Milky Way, to the confines of the universe, to the gates of chaos’. ‘This,’ he declares, ‘is the vast terrain which I wander across in every direction at leisure.’

Whether around your room in forty days, or around the world in eighty days, or around the Circle Line in eighty minutes, whether still or still moving, the self is an act of cartography, and every life a study of borders. The moment of conception is a barrier surpassed, birth a boundary crossed. Günter Grass’s Oskar, the mettlesome hero of The Tin Drum, narrates, in real time, his troubling passage through the birth canal and his desire, once delivered into the world, to reverse the process. The room is cold. A moth beats against the naked light bulb. But it’s too late to turn back, the midwife has cut the cord.

Despite this uncommon ability to report live on his own birth, even Oskar’s power of self-agency is subject to the one inalienable rule: there is only one way into this life, and one way out of it. Everything that happens in between – all the thresholds we cross and recross, all the ‘decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse’ – is bordered by this unbiddable truth. What we hope for is safe passage between these two fixed boundaries, to be able to make something of the experience of being alive before we are required to stop being alive. There’s no negotiating birth or death. What we have is the journey.

On the evening of 3 October 2013, a boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis foundered just off the tiny island of Lampedusa. In the darkness, locals mistook their desperate cries for the sound of seagulls. The boat sank within minutes, but survivors were in the water for five hours, some of them clinging to the bodies of their dead companions as floats. Many of the 368 people who drowned never made it off the capsizing boat. Among the 108 people trapped inside the bow was an Eritrean woman, thought to be about twenty years old, who had given birth as she drowned. Her waters had broken in the water. Rescue divers found the dead infant, still attached by the umbilical cord, in her leggings. The longest journey is also the shortest journey.

Already, in the womb, our brains are laying down neural pathways that will determine how we perceive the world and our place in it. Cognitive mapping is the way we mobilise a definition of who we are, and borders are the way we protect this definition. All borders – the lines and symbols on a map, the fretwork of walls and fences on the ground, and the often complex enmeshments by which we organise our lives – are explanations of identity. We construct borders, literally and figuratively, to fortify our sense of who we are; and we cross them in search of who we might become. They are philosophies of space, credibility contests, latitudes of neurosis, signatures to the social contract, soothing containments, scars.

They’re also death zones, portals to the underworld, where explanations of identity are foreclosed. The boat that sank half a mile from Lampedusa had entered Italian territorial waters, crossing the imaginary line drawn in the sea – the impossible line, if you think about it. It had gained the common European border, only to encounter its own vanishing point, the point at which its human cargo simply dropped off the map. Ne plus ultra, nothing lies beyond.

I have no theory, no grand narrative to explain why so many people are clambering into their own hearses before they are actually dead. I don’t understand the mechanisms by which globalisation, with all its hype of mobility and the collapse of distance and terrain, has instead delivered a world of barricades and partition, in which entire populations seem to be living – and dying – in a different history from mine. All I know is that a woman who believed in the future drowned while giving birth, and we have no idea who she was. And it’s this, her lack of known identity, which places us, who are fat with it, in direct if hopelessly unequal relationship to her.

Everyone reading this has a verified self, an identity, formed through and confirmed by identification, that is attested to be ‘true’. You can’t function in the world without it: you can’t open a bank account, get a credit card or national insurance number, or a driving licence, or access to your email and social media accounts, or a passport or visa, or points on your reward card. You can’t have your tonsils removed without it. You can’t die without it. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, whether you like it or not, the verified self is the governing calculus of your life, the spectrum on which you, as an individual, are plotted from cradle to grave. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon explained, you must be ‘noted, registered, enumerated, accounted for, stamped, measured, classified, audited, patented, licensed, authorised, endorsed, reprimanded, prevented, reformed, rectified and corrected, in every operation, every transaction, every movement.’"



"All migrants know that the reply to the question ‘Who on earth are you?’ is another question: ‘Where on earth are you?’ And so they want what we’ve got, a verified self that will transport them to our side of history. Thus, the migrant identity becomes a burden to be unloaded. Migrants often make the journey without identity documents, and I mentioned one reason for this, namely that the attempt to obtain them in their country of origin can be very dangerous. Others lose them at the outset when they’re robbed by police or border guards, or by people traffickers en route. Many destroy them deliberately because they fear, not without reason, that our system of verification will be a mechanism for sending them back. In Algeria, they’re called harraga, Arabic for ‘those who burn’. And they don’t only burn their documents: many burn their fingertips on hobs or with lighters or acid, or mutilate them with razors, to avoid biometric capture and the prospect of expulsion. These are the weapons of the weak.

The boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis sank off Lampedusa in October 2013, barely three months after the pope’s visit. Whether they had lost their identity papers, or destroyed them, when facing death the people on board wanted to be known. As the boat listed and took on water, and with most of the women and children stuck below deck, those who knew they wouldn’t make it called out their names and the names of their villages, so that survivors might carry ashore news of their deaths.​5 There isn’t really any other way: there’s no formal identification procedure for those who drown. In Lampedusa’s cemetery, the many plaques that read ‘unidentified migrant’ merely tell us that people have been dying in the Mediterranean for at least 25 years – more than twenty thousand of them, according to current estimates.

Everyone must be counted, but only if they count. Dead migrants don’t count. The woman who drowned while giving birth was not a biometric subject, she was a biodegradable one. I don’t want to reconstitute her as a sentimental artefact, an object to be smuggled into the already crowded room of my bad conscience. But … [more]
borders  identity  cartography  francesstonorsaunders  georgesperec  lampedusa  güntergrass  refugees  identification  personhood  geopolitics  legibility  mobility  passports  pierre-josephproudhon  globalization  thresholds  homes  milankundera  socialmedia  digitalexhaust  rfid  data  privacy  smartphones  verification  biometrics  biometricdata  migration  immigration  popefrancis  facialidentification  visas  paulfussell  stefanzweig  xenophobia  naomimitchison  nobility  surveillance  intentionality  gilbertharding  whauden  lronhubbard  paulekman 
march 2016 by robertogreco
DIGITAL-MATERIALITY-OF-GIFS
HI, my name is Sha.

I love gifs.

Some of my best friends are gifs. One of my sideprojects is GifPop, a site where people upload gifs to print animated cards.

But that's a longer story.

What I do want to talk about is animated gifs as a design material.

But first off, a quick reminder: no one owns language.

People argue about gif or jif, but it doesn't matter. No one owns language, and even if anyone did no one is a jraphic designer or jraffiti artist.

What i love about gifs are their history and their materiality.

First specified in 1987, the creators later stated in their 1989 revision that "the graphics interchange format is not intended as a platform for animation, even though it can be done in a limited way."

And what a gloriously, gloriously limited way it is.

Animated gifs, whether you are hypnotized by them or nauseated by them, have become a visual language unto themselves, an emotive vocabulary made out of culture.

Gifs are now a medium, and their portability and accessibility to anyone allows for endless remixing and reinterpretation.

Gifs weren't always this way.

We all remember the various under construction or dancing baby gifs from the 90s, and all the bedazzled backgrounds on myspace pages.

The gif spec limits color palettes to 256 colors, and must store the pixels that have changed for every frame of animation.

This makes them very inefficient for rendering or storing entire movies, but has made them nicely equipped to capture the most delicate of moments.

Because gifs can specify an infinite loop, they both break time and increase legibility, creating the beauty we call a reaction gif.

But gifs aren't just about cutting up bits of media.

The inefficiency of the file format and the upload limits of the social networks themselves have created a whole ecosystem of experimentation and juggling around constraints.

In Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg's work, they realized that by isolating movement they could make gifs at a much higher quality than most, and still fit Tumblr's strict upload requirements, creating the style they call cinemagraphs.

Sports editors like @dshep25 have taken this technique even further, taking advantage of controlled camera angels to collapse and collage many similar shots into a single gif, like this one of Lebron James.

Artists of course are leading this exploration.

The work of dvdp and 89-a both explore extremely limited color palettes while using tight loops and large swaths of black to reduce file size.

The work of Nicolas Fong explores this dense looping to a ridiculous extreme, creating hyperintricate animations that evoke the phenakistoscopes of the 1800s.

And we even see the seams of the network in the content that's posted.

On Tumblr, where upload limits are small but multiple side-by-side gifs are permitted, people collage snippets of dialogue together.

On Imgur, the preferred uploader for redditors, upload limits are much higher, enough for entire scenes to be remixed.

Here on Newhive, artists like molly soda take advantage of the support for transparency and collaging to make pieces like this, displaying messages from her Okcupid inbox.

Content like this just explodes, and with attention comes money.

Newer networks like Vine have popped up, creating their own medium of looping video.

These days for every Vine THERE are a dozen competing looping apps trying to capitalize on this meme economy.

But while these advances are exciting, the mainstreaming of gifs is not without its losses.

Tumblr now has a minimum resolution size.

Imgur is now promoting its own videogif format.

Facebook and Twitter have started converting gifs to video by default.

While individually these decisions to decrease file sizes or stop gifs from autoplaying make sense, this desire to optimize as well as commercialize gifs ends up siloing these animations from each other, removing the portability and ease of remixing that makes gifs exciting at all.

Gifs are a dumb, limited file format, and in the end this is why they are important:

They do not belong to anyone.

Because of their constraints they become a design material, to be played with, challenged, and explored. to try and domesticate them would be missing the point.

This was written BY SHA HWANG For a Pecha Kucha talk in Brooklyn and made into a remixable newhive. The ideas are from the internet.

Thank you to animatedtext for creating the amazing title gif. more detailed sources are INLINE ON THE PAGE to the right >>>>>>>>>

[Also at this URL: http://newhive.com/shashashasha/digital-materiality-of-gifs ]
shahwang  gifs  animatedgifs  internet  web  facebook  vine  twitter  fileformats  constraints  art  webart  tumblr  memes  remixing  portability  video  animation  emotions  imgur  okcupid  redit  newhive  phenakistoscopes  dvdp  89-a  @dshep25  cinemagraphs  jamiebeck  kevinburg  history  media  legibility  resolution  reactiongifs  accessibility  1987  1989  gifpop  culture  remixculture  multiliteracies 
january 2016 by robertogreco
toxic design : Index Gaia
"Background
Torino is a city on the move. The tradition forms of representation are obsolete or inadequate to depict the current reality and the dynamics in progress.

Project question
How can the city be made legible and comprehensible, understood as a complex organism and as a web of physical and social networks?

Description
The urban territory is a system whose complexity is growing, in which a multitude of tangible and intangible flows (people, goods, information) stratify and interconnect.

Faced with all this, the traditional modes of mapping and representing the city appear entirely inadequate: the representations of the new physical and social networks, like that of their individual and collective life, are a new challenge for the design of communication. The representation of the phenomena demands the gradual abandonment of classical visual languages, i.e. of maps that lay their trust chiefly in the topological and geographical metaphor.

Overcoming these limits means building a new representation of the city: a collective vision capable of defining and visualising the new concept of urban space and, more in general, social spaces.

The theme, proposed in collaboration with the Urban Center Metropolitano of Torino, aims to produce visualisations in the form of diagrams and maps of relationships that induce a new way of viewing human-city interaction, and also useful for outlining new criteria for its development."
gaiascagnetti  place  torino  progress  2008  legibility  comprehension  understanding  cities  urban  urbanism  maps  mapping  networks  geography  communication  visualization  christiannold  jimsegers  donatoricci  paolociuccarelli  giuseppevaccario  andrewridge  tomziora  aliciahorvathola  federicamessina  veronicafilice 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Imperial Designs | The Unforgiving Minute
[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/667000828113260544 ]

"[image]

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

[image]

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

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



"Q&A:

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

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

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

[See also: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/24/africa-charity-water-pumps-roundabouts
via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/667031543416623105 ]
designimperialism  design  via:tealtan  humanitariandesign  2015  africa  paulcurrion  control  colonialism  technology  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  siliconvalley  philosophy  politics  mooc  moocs  doublebind  education  bostondynamics  googlex  darpa  robots  yuvalnoahharari  californianideology  wikihouse  globalconstructionset  3dprinting  disobedientobjects  anarchism  anarchy  legibility  internet  online  web  nezaralsayyad  smarthphones  mobile  phones  benedictevans  migration  refugees  fiveeyes  playpumps  water  chandbaori  trevorpaglen 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Continuous Monuments and Imaginable Alternatives - Amateur Cities
"In 1969, Superstudio, a radical Italian design group, made a proposal for what they called the ‘Continuous Monument’. It was a homogenous block of architecture that would encircle the earth depicting the global and total dimension of design and architecture of that time. We currently live in the time of a similar monument that harvests and feeds off ‘data’ – the golden ambrosia of the 2010s."



"In an ideal situation the model of a mesh network has the potential to become a platform for broadly horizontal networked politics as defined by its inherent structure. It could bring a new type of commons in the face of the death of network neutrality, government and corporate surveillance and exploitation as embodied by the current network structure.

Too often we are confronted with visions and stories of the future that say: ‘In the future everyone will live this way or that way. In the future everyone will have these things. In the future everyone will want that thing.’ This can often lead to acceptance of the idea that the future has been predetermined by powers greater than us. We need to imagine instead, what futures might bring. There are dozens of other small, niggling but significant alternatives that can challenge the theoretical basis for how the future might open up to a plethora of possible imaginable alternatives. Take for instance; domestic solar power, crypto currencies, end-to-end encryption or personal manufacturing. They are but a few that have the potential to either become incredibly empowering or to be sucked into our current continuous monument.

It is often said by military strategists, business leaders and alike that knowledge is the most powerful weapon. But imagination is also a significant one.

The political theorist David Graeber writes about how, since the protests of the late 1960s, the same entities pursuing the project of legibility have pursued a ‘. . . relentless campaign against the human imagination.’ It has resulted in ‘. . . the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future.’

Activating imagination in everyday practice is hard. Financial imperatives and competition do not give space and time to explore alternatives and freely play with ideas without consequences. But there is a great reward in giving time to exploration. Inspiration can be found in things like mesh networks, but there are other examples. Jugaad culture – the repurposing of technology predominantly occurring in India is an excellent example. It provides an alternative by giving a particular design a different lifespan and shows how, in William Gibson’s words – ‘the street find its own uses.’ The speculative design cannon proposes objects and systems that are not intended for our world. They aim to stimulate our imagination about the hidden effects and repercussions of our design culture.

The purpose of such design and of introducing imagination is to widen the scope of possibilities. It could prevent the carte blanche master plan of the Smart City to become the inevitable endpoint of the current technological narrative. Furthermore it could perhaps lead to the development of real, functioning designs, such as mesh networks that will work better for people.

Knowledge of the systems, structures and technologies at play in our own continuous monument is vital for technologists, designers, urbanists, architects and everyone involved. It is impossible to be a wholesome practitioner and to remain ignorant of the wider context in which one situates one’s work. But what is equally as important is the activation of imagination; imagining beyond the given context to what could be, not just what, as is often presented, inevitably will be."
tobiasrevell  superstudio  architecture  government  resistance  cities  data  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  infrastructure  internet  privacy  surveillance  technology  design  systemsthinking  smartcities  legibility  illegibility  imagination  meshnetworks  2015 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Jamie Zigelbaum: Excerpt From My Master's Thesis
"One of the most interesting concepts arising from my research and development of tangible interfaces is the idea of external legibility. While the HCI literature is full of examples of studies of interface legibility or how well an individual user or a group of users can interact with or understand an interface or interaction techniques that they are directly involved with using (what could be called internal legibility), there are hardly any examples of studies to examine the impact of interface design on non-participating observers. I define this property of interface design as external legibility.

External Legibility: a property of user interfaces that affects the ability of non-participating observers to understand the context of a user’s actions.

One reason why external legibility is important in interface design has to do with its relationship to semantics. Although it may never be possible to truly understand another’s mind, communication is based on shared understanding. Without a context in which to base understanding, inferring meaning or semantics becomes difficult.

Think of watching a master craftsperson working on a cabinet. You can see her hammering a nail to join two two-by-fours, you can see how she makes precise cuts along the edge of a piece of plywood. The context that the craftsperson works within is highly legible to an observer—the feeling of the wood, the knowledge of why a hammer is used, the memory of experiences of doing things like what the craftsperson are doing are available to many of us, but unless you too are a master craftsperson you may not know why she is doing the things that she does. The specific content of her actions are private, her thoughts and strategies, but the context of her actions are public. Without the ability to move from observation to inference accurately, it is hard to create shared understanding. External legibility is a measure of the reliability of the connection between observation and inference in interface design, but not in the traditional framing of one person and one machine—what could be called legibility. External legibility is a property of the space between one person observing another person using a machine.

Publications
Zigelbaum, J. Mending Fractured Spaces: External Legibility and Seamlessness in Interface Design. Master’s Thesis, MIT Media Lab (2008)."
jamiezigelbaum  legibility  workinginpublic  modeling  2015  via:litherland  lcproject  openstudioproject  interface  interfacedesign  design  observation  inference  craft  craftsmanship  communication  understanding  process  context  visibility 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits - The Washington Post
"Sometimes these laws are cast as protection for the poor, ensuring that aid is steered in ways that will help them the most. Other times they're framed as protection for the taxpayer, who shouldn't be asked to help people who will squander the money on vices anyway.

But the logic behind the proposals is problematic in at least three, really big ways.

The first is economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way. The idea that they do defies Maslow's hierarchy — the notion that we all need shelter and food before we go in search of foot massages. In fact, the poor are much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have less of it (quick quiz: do you know exactly how much you last spent on a gallon of milk? or a bag of diapers?). By definition, a much higher share of their income — often more than half of it — is eaten up by basic housing costs than is true for the better-off, leaving them less money for luxuries anyway. And contrary to the logic of drug-testing laws, the poor are no more likely to use drugs than the population at large.

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.

That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the "submerged state." Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they're submerged. They come to us in round-about ways, through smaller tax bills (or larger refunds), through payments we don't have to make to doctors (thanks to Medicare), or in tuition we don't have to pay to universities (because the G.I. Bill does that for us).

Mettler's research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don't think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don't realize they rely on government themselves.

Mettler raises a lot of concerns about what the submerged state means for how we understand the role of government. But one result of this reality is that we have even less tolerance for programs that help the poor: We begrudge them their housing vouchers, for instance, even though government spends about four times as much subsidizing housing for upper-income homeowners.

That's a long-winded way of saying that these proposed laws — which insist that government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy, that they spend government money how the government wants them to, that they waive their privacy and personal freedom to get it — are also simply a reflection of a basic double-standard."
us  poverty  government  benefits  2015  politics  discrimination  patronization  legibility  illegibility  indignity  emilybadger  privacy  freedom  control  suzannemettler  law  legal  morality  inequality 
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
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [http://www.jessestommel.com/blog/files/dear-chronicle.html ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/surveillance-and-care/ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [http://robhorningtni.tumblr.com/post/112618248845/your-permanent-record ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

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

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

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:450933ec9018 ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Century of the Fugitive and the Secret of the Detainee | SAMPLE REALITY
"And what is the relationship between fugitives and detainees?

As the fugitive becomes one of the dominant images in American cinematic, literary, and folk culture, the detainee will become one of the dominant figures in real life.

The principle works under a law of inverse visibility. Detainees, for all their sheer number, will be virtually invisible to the mainstream media. The more detainees held indeterminately in detention centers, internment camps, and black ops military barracks, the less visible they will be. In their place stands their opposite: the fugitive.

Detainee should be the watchword of the 21st century, but it won’t. Instead, the fugitive will dominate the stories we tell ourselves about the modern world."
fugitives  detainees  surveillance  police  prison  amrksample  2013  storytelling  law  visibility  legibility 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Great Equity Test | EduShyster
"Xian Franzinger Barrett argues that accountability without equity means more inequity…

EduShyster: OK—I need you to set me straight here. Is ensuring that we continue to test kids in high-needs schools the civil rights issue of our time? Or is striking a blow against too much testing in high needs schools the civil rights issue of our time? Or is civil rights actually the civil rights issue of our time?

Xian Franzinger Barrett: The people who are talking about this genuinely on both sides are talking about the same thing, it’s just that the problem they’re trying to address is pervasive and terrible. This idea that we’re unseen and unheard unless we’re measured has a basis in history and reality, so I think it’s important that we don’t lose that. But anyone who says *you’re not going to be acknowledged unless you’re tested* is either too pessimistic or they’re racist. We also have to acknowledge that the very fact that people aren’t being supported or treated equitably unless they’re measured is racism. No one would ever say: *the rich kids in this private school—we don’t have a good measurement of them so we’re just not going to give them an education.* That’s just ridiculous.

EduShyster: That was only my first question and I’m pretty sure that already you have caused a number of heads to explode. So let’s keep going. You argue that accountability without equity actually ends up deepening inequity. Explain.

Franzinger Barrett: You think of that old expression about how when one person gets a cold, the other folks get pneumonia. If you mandate testing, it’s going to cause a mild disruption in most privileged communities, and it’s going to utterly decimate education in high-needs communities—unless, of course, there is some kind of intervention to stop that from happening. So when people say: *to acknowledge these communities, we have to do testing,* we need to ask why the communities aren’t acknowledged—and how are we going to make sure that this doesn’t become another inequitable thing stacked on top of people who are already burdened by inequity. You have the folks who argue that we need data on everything, everywhere saying that *if no one is watching what’s happening to the highest needs kids they’re not going to be supported.* But the flip side of that is that if there’s no filter for equity, you end up creating impossible burdens on the students, the parents and the teachers.

Xian2EduShyster: Well, I can tell you that you’re wrong because it says so right here in this internal messaging guide *How to Talk About Testing.* And one of the first thing it says is that if a parent or teacher tells you that there is too much testing, explain slowly and in simple language that they are wrong.

Franzinger Barrett: The burden of testing is inequitable. I’ll tell you what it means in the kind of environment that I’ve taught in. I happen to have a progressive principal now who advocates for our students and our building. But I’ve had 10 principals in 9 years in the Chicago Public Schools, and most have pushed the central office line on test at the staff and students of the community. So you’ve got a principal who spends most of her time outside of the building being harassed by higher ups about low test scores. She then comes back to the building and says *we’ve got a new plan and all of our resources are going to go to support test prep,* which means no field trips this year. Usually the plan isn’t based on any real research. The plan gets passed down, which means that every teacher is forced to ask themselves in an individual context: how do I weigh what I know is best for young people against my job? Teaching engaging lessons with culturally relevant curriculum is a hard thing to do even when you’re fully supported. But it becomes almost impossible when you’re basically being asked to risk your career in order to do that. What I need to do to really teach the highest needs students well automatically puts me at odds with higher ups in a district that’s focused on testing.

EduShyster: I follow you on Twitter, where you are a master of, among other things, the 140 character history lesson, especially when it comes to reminding people that inequity didn’t exactly arise with the advent of standardized testing.

Franzinger Barrett: I think it’s important that we don’t frame testing and the resulting narrowing of the curriculum as a new thing that has created inequity. While testing has created more inequity, high needs minorities communities have always been subjected to compliance-focused education—with one important exception: when these communities have run their own educations. Jean Anyon has written about the hidden curriculum of schools and how schools have been set up to teach empowerment and creativity and agency to affluent kids, but to teach working class kids to be compliant and follow orders. What’s interesting is that these sort of *improve everything* charter schools tend to fall into the second category. We can look back before Brown vs. Board of Education and say education was a catastrophe because of under-resourcing. When we look at the actual agency that African-American teachers had teaching African-American students, an argument can be made that it was better.

Ice CreamEduShyster: Since this interview is about race and equity, I have to ask you about racial tensions within the pro-public education movement. You’re a leader of that movement but you’ve also been a sharp critic of it for being overly white and frankly out-of-touch when it comes to issues of race.

Franzinger Barrett: So much of it has to do with organizing strategies and our core beliefs about what a pathway to freedom or a march to freedom looks like. We need to face the fact that it’s not possible for the privileged to lead a movement for educational justice on behalf of high-needs communities—and I would place myself in that privileged group here. Whether it’s our stance on testing or a just and empowering curriculum or teacher evaluation, we would all do better if we sat down and listened to the communities we work in and the students we serve. And we need to be prepared to hear some very harsh realities. I’m very interested, by the way, to see what happens this spring with our Network for Public Education (which I’m on the governing board of) conference in Chicago because you have a lot of great people with awesome motives who have worked their butts off for justice who are scratching their heads and asking *why are we so white?* I don’t think this is about shaming that. We have to address it head on and ask: *What is our long term plan to ensure that our movement is led by those most affected by policy?*

EduShyster: That idea that teachers need to listen to their students and the communities they’re from is a big part of the vision of CORE, the Chicago Teachers Union’s Caucus of Rank and File Educators, that you’re part of. Give us an example of what you hear.

Franzinger Barrett: In my 9th year of teaching in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood, I did peace circles with my students, which are safe spaces where participants can share their experiences without judgment. It was like being a first-year teacher again. I had assumed for all of those years that the honors kids liked the way they were learning at the school and the highest-needs kids, who I spent my time with, didn’t. But what I found out was that all of those kids who were doing great on tests hated the general school culture too. It was just that they’d learned along the way that there was some compensation for towing the line. And that was really hard. It was hard as an educator to stand there and hear that, as good as your motives are, you’re still part of the team that’s trapping us in this oppressive place. I was really thankful that they were willing to tell me that. That led to a lot of effective activism to make our school a more affirming, welcoming place. It was a tough moment but something beautiful came out of it.

EduShyster: One of the things I love about you is that you talk about *peace circles,* and say things like *march to freedom.* No one talks like that! Other than listening to Xian Franzinger Barrett, who else should we be paying more attention to in the debate over the future of public education?

Franzinger Barrett: Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) did opt-out work that wasn’t covered much. The first thing they did was hold protests and press conferences to try to get the right to take the ACT—because many students had been declared ineligible in order to raise test scores. Then not long after they led a walk out from the ACT Workkeys test because they said that it was more likely to steer them towards non-professional jobs as youth of color. Some of the reporters found this very confusing and wanted to know how students could be demanding to take the tests one week and refusing to take them the next, but to VOYCE that was the whole point. They wanted a choice and a say. I just want to point out though that there tends to be a lot of overlap between groups that are doing great work around high-stakes testing with other community groups, because the issues all intersect. So it’s hard to be in community and care about testing and not also work on the school to prison pipeline or curriculum justice. So I’d point to folks like the Schools LA Students Deserve, Project NIA, the Black Youth Project, the Algebra Project, the student unions in Providence and Philly. Those are some of the groups I’m looking to learn from."
xianfranzingerbarrett  xianbarrett  2015  jenniferberkshire  teaching  howweteach  socialjustice  schools  publicschools  inequality  education  policy  measurement  oppression  control  power  learning  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  brownvsboardofeducation  integration  segregation  class  chicago  race  equity  justice  legibility  leadership  privilege  inequity  empowerment  agency  activism  curriculum  voyce  canon 
february 2015 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] interpretation roomba
"Part of the reason these two quotes interest me is that I've been thinking a lot about origin stories and creation myths. I've been thinking about how we recognize and choose the imagery and narratives — the abstractions — that we use to re-tell a story. There's nothing a priori wrong with those choices. We have always privileged certain moments over others as vehicles for conveying the symbolism of an event."



"I've been thinking about history as the space between the moments that come to define an event. History being the by-product of a sequence of events pulling apart from each, over time, leaving not just the peaks a few dominant imagery but the many valleys of interpretation.

When I think of it this way I am always reminded of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics in which he celebrates "the magic in the gutter". The "gutter" being the space between frames where action is unseen and left to imagination of the reader. These are the things I think of when I consider something like the 9/11 Memorial and the construction of a narrative around the event it commemorates.

Not much is left to abstraction and so it feels as though the memorial itself acts as a vacuum against interpretation, at all. It is a kind of "Interpretation-Roomba" that moves through your experience of the venue sucking up any space in which you might be able to consider the event outside of the master narrative."



"After the panel some of us went out for drinks and for people of a certain it was difficult not to fall prey to moments sounding exactly like our parents and saying things like: The kids today, they don't know what it was like back in the day when all we had were bulletin board systems... I mention this for a couple reasons.

The first is to ask the question: Is a slow network akin to no network at all? It is hard to imagine going back to the dial-up speeds of the 1990's Internet and I expect it would be a shock to someone who's never experienced them but I think we would all do well to keep Staehle's comments about the time to broadcast and the time to relay in mind.

The second is that as we were all sitting around the table waxing nostalgic about 28.8 Kbps modems I remember thinking: Actually, when I first discovered the web I wanted the next generation to be able to take this for granted. I wanted the "kids" to live in a world where the Internet was just part of the fabric of life, where it didn't need to be a philosophical moment everytime you got online.

The good news is that this has, by and large, happened. The bad news is we've forgotten why it was important in the first place and if it feels like the Network is governed by, and increasingly defined, by a kind of grim meathook fatalism I think maybe that's why.

Somewhere in all the excitement of the last 20 years we forgot, or at least neglected, the creation myth and the foundational story behind the Network and in doing so we have left open a kind of narrative vacuum. We have left the space to say why the Network exists at all to those who would see it shaped in ways that are perhaps at odds with the very reasons that made it special in the first place."



"A question I've been asking myself as I've been thinking about this talk is: Does a littlenet simply transit data or does it terminate that data? Is a littlenet specific to a place? Are littlenets defined by the effort is takes to get there? That seems a bit weird, almost antithetical to the idea of the Network, right?

Maybe not though or maybe it's less about littlenets acting like destinations or encouraging a particular set of rituals but instead simply taking advantage of the properties the Network offers to provide bespoke services. For example, what if bars ran captive portal networks that you couldn't get out of, like Dan Phiffer's Occupy.here, but all they did was offer access to a dictionary?

That might seem like an absurb example at first but let it sink in for a minute or two and if you're like me you'll find yourself thinking that would be kind of awesome. A dictionary in a bar is a polite of saying We're here to foster the conversation on your own terms rather than dictate it on ours.

A dictionary in a bar would be a "service" in the, well, service of the thing that bars don't need any help with: conversation, socializing, play. People aren't going to stop frequenting bars that they don't have dictionaries in them, but a bar with a dictionary in it is that much better.

If a littlenet does not terminate then does it or should it engage in traffic shaping? What separates littlenet from a fake cell phone towers? What about deep packet inspection (DPI) ? What about goatse? If a littlenet does not drink the common carrier Kool-Aid is it still a Network or just gated-community for like minded participants?

None of these problems go away just because a network is little and, in fact, their little-ness and the potential ubiquity of littlenets only exascerbates the problem. It casts the questions around an infrastructure of trust as much as an infrastructure of reach in to relief.

We have historically relied on the scarcity and the difficulty of access to the tools that can manipulate the Network at, well, the network layer as a way to manage those questions of trust. Ultimately, littlenets force those larger issues of how we organize (and by definition how we limit) ourselves as a community to the fore. It speaks to the question of public institutions and their mandates. It speaks to the question of philosophy trumping engineering.

It speaks to the question of how we articulate an idea of the Network and why we believe it is important and what we do to preserve those qualities."



"It goes like this: If we liken the network to weather what does it mean to think of its climate as too hostile for any one person to survive in isolation? What would that mean, really? I have no idea and I recognize that this is one line of argument in support of a benevolent all-seeing surveillance state but perhaps there are parallels to be found in the way that cold-weather countries organize themselves relative to the reality of winter. Regardless of your political stripes in those countries there is common cause in not letting people face those months alone to die of exposure.

I really don't know how or whether this translates to the Network in part because it's not clear to me whether the problem is not having access to the Network, not having unfettered access to the Network (think of those Facebook-subsidized and Facebook-only data plans for mobile phones) or that the Network itself, left unchecked, is in fact a pit of vipers.

Should the state suspend reality in the service of a mandate for the Network the way that they sometimes do for universal health care or, if you live in the US, the highway system? Is that just what we now call network neutrality or should we do more to temper the consequences of assuming the Network is inherently hostile? To activiely foster a more communitarian sensibilities and safeguards?

You're not supposed to say this out loud, particularly in light of events like the Snowden revelations, but the reality is that societies announce that 2+2=5 because "reasons" all the time."



"My issue is that we have spent a good deal of the last 500 years (give or take) trying to make visibility a legitimate concern. We have spent a lot of time and lot of effort arguing that there is a space for voices outside the dominant culture and to now choose to retract in to invisibility, as a tactic, seems counter-productive at best and fitting the needs of people who were never really down the project at worst.

The only reason many of know each other is because we were willing, because we desired, to stick our head above the parapet and say "I am here". Acting in public remains complicated and is still decidedly unfair for many but if the creation myth of visibility is one of malice-by-default then we might have a bigger problem on our hands."



"The problem I have with littlenets is that I want to live in a world with a "biggernet" that doesn't make me sad or suspect or hate everyone around me. The concern I have with littlenets is that they offer a rhetorical bluff from which to avoid the larger social questions that a networked world lay bare. And that in avoiding those questions we orphan the reasons (the creation myths) why the Network seemed novel and important in the first place.

There's a meme which has bubbling up more and more often these days, advanced by people like Ingrid and others, that perhaps libraries should operate as internet service providers. That the mandate of a publicly-minded institution like a library is best suited to a particular articulation of the Network as a possibility space.

Libraries lend books on the principle that access to information is value in and of itself not because they know what people will do with that knowledge. Libraries have also been some of the earliest adopters of littlenets in the service of that same principle in the form of electronic distribution hubs. I bet some of those littlenets even have dictionaries on them.

So, despite my reservations and in the interests of defaulting to action maybe we should all endeavour to run our own read-only littlenets of stuff we think is worth preserving and sharing. If the politics and the motives surrounding the Network are going to get all pear-shaped in the years to come then maybe littlenets are our own samizdat and the means to save what came before and to say as much to ourselves as to others: This is how it should be."
aaronstraupcope  2014  history  storytelling  time  memory  scottmccloud  abstraction  gaps  memorial  objects  artifacts  shareholdervalue  motive  confidence  internet  web  purpose  networks  littlenets  meshnetworks  community  communities  occupy.here  visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  samizdat  realpolitik  access  information  ingridburrington  libraries  sharing  online  commons 
october 2014 by robertogreco
▶ No Neutral Ground in a Burning World [30c3] - YouTube
"The news of the past few years is one small ripple in what is a great wave of culture and history, a generational clash of civilizations. If you want to understand why governments are acting and reacting the way they are, and as importantly, how to shift their course, you need to understand what they're reacting to, how they see and fail to see the world, and how power, money, and idea of rule of law actually interact.

Our relationships with work and property and with the notion of national identity are changing rapidly. We're becoming more polarized in our political opinions, and even in what we consider to be existential threats. This terrain determines our world, even as we deal with our more individual relationships with authority, the ethics imposed by our positions in the world, and the psychological impact of learning that our paranoia was real. The idea of the Internet and the politics it brings with it have changed the world, but that change is neither unopposed nor detatched from larger currents. From the battles over global surveillance and the culture of government secrecy to the Arab Spring and the winter of its discontent, these things are part of this moment's tapestry and they tell us about the futures we can choose. The world is on fire, and there is nowhere to hide and no way to stay neutral.

Speaker: Quinn Norton Eleanor Saitta"

[Slides: http://dymaxion.org/talks/NoNeutralGroundInABurningWorld.pdf ]

[Reading list: https://gist.github.com/dphiffer/9a583e4a4da169eee436

Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott
Moral Mazes by Robert Jackall
The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer
Debt, The First 5000 Years by David Graeber
Fellow Prisoners by John Berger
Secrecy, Film (2008)
]
via:caseygollan  2013  quinnnorton  eleanorsaitta  capitalism  marxism  anarchism  anarchy  endtimes  geekculture  politics  ethics  communication  hackerculture  internet  web  online  coding  civilization  history  culture  technology  outsiders  seeinglikea  state  jamescscott  legibility  architecture  brasilia  surveillance  authority  power  money  ruleoflaw  control  positionalethics  brasília 
october 2014 by robertogreco
something is rotten in the state of...Twitter | the theoryblog
"Some of this is overt hostile takeover – a trifecta of monetization and algorithmic thinking and status quo interests like big brands and big institutions and big privilege pecking away at participatory practices since at least 2008.

<i>…Oh, you formed a little unicorn world where you can communicate at scale outside the broadcast media model? Let us sponsor that for you, sisters and brothers. Let us draw you from your domains of your own to mass platforms where networking will, for awhile, come fully into flower while all the while Venture Capital logics tweak and incentivize and boil you slowly in the bosom of your networked connections until you wake up and realize that the way you talk to half the people you talk to doesn’t encourage talking so much as broadcasting anymore.</i> Yeh. Oh hey, *that* went well.

And in academia, with Twitter finally on the radar of major institutions, and universities issuing social media policies and playing damage control over faculty tweets with the Salaita firing and even more recent, deeply disturbing rumours of institutional interventions in employee’s lives, this takeover threatens to choke a messy but powerful set of scholarly practices and approaches it never really got around to understanding. The threat of being summarily acted upon by the academy as a consequence of tweets – always present, frankly, particularly for untenured and more vulnerable members of the academic community – now hangs visibly over all heads…even while the medium is still scorned as scholarship by many.

[image of @bonstewart tweet: “academia, this whole “Twitter counts enough to get you fired but not hired” mindset is why we can’t have nice things.”]

You’re Doing It Wrong

But there’s more. The sense of participatory collective – always fraught – has waned as more and more subcultures are crammed and collapsed into a common, traceable, searchable medium. We hang over each other’s heads, more and more heavily, self-appointed swords of Damocles waiting with baited breath to strike. Participation is built on a set of practices that network consumption AND production of media together…so that audiences and producers shift roles and come to share contexts, to an extent. Sure, the whole thing can be gamed by the public and participatory sharing of sensationalism and scandal and sympathy and all the other things that drive eyeballs.

But where there are shared contexts, the big nodes and the smaller nodes are – ideally – still people to each other, with longterm, sustained exposure and impressions formed. In this sense, drawing on Walter Ong’s work on the distinctions between oral and literate cultures, Liliana Bounegru has claimed that Twitter is a hybrid: orality is performative and participatory and often repetitive, premised on memory and agonistic struggle and the acceptance of many things happening at once, which sounds like Twitter As We Knew It (TM), while textuality enables subjective and objective stances, transcending of time and space, and collaborative, archivable, analytical knowledge, among other things.

Thomas Pettitt even calls the era of pre-digital print literacy “The Gutenberg Parenthesis;” an anomaly of history that will be superceded by secondary orality via digital media.

Um…we may want to rethink signing up for that rodeo. Because lately secondary orality via digital media seems like a pretty nasty, reactive state of being, a collective hiss of “you’re doing it wrong.” Tweets are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers…because the Attention Economy rewards those behaviours. Oh hai, print literacies and related vested interests back in ascendency, creating a competitive, zero-sum arena for interaction. Such fun!

[image of @bonstewart tweet: “the problem with 2014 Twitter, short version: being constantly on guard against saying the wrong thing leaves no much left to say.”]

Which is not to say there’s no place for “you’re doing it wrong.” Twitter, dead or no, is still a powerful and as yet unsurpassed platform for raising issues and calling out uncomfortable truths, as shown in its amplification of the #Ferguson protests to media visibility (in a way Facebook absolutely failed to do thanks to the aforementioned algorithmic filters). Twitter is, as my research continues to show, a path to voice. At the same time, Twitter is also a free soapbox for all kinds of shitty and hateful statements that minimize or reinforce marginalization, as any woman or person of colour who’s dared to speak openly about the raw deal of power relations in society will likely attest. And calls for civility will do nothing except reinforce a respectability politics of victim-blaming within networks. This intractable contradiction is where we are, as a global neoliberal society: Twitter just makes it particularly painfully visible, at times."

[See also: http://edcontexts.org/twitter/behind-something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-twitter/ ]
academia  competition  fear  twitter  bonniestewart  2014  participatory  branding  institutions  corporatization  socialmedia  corporatism  gutenbergparenthesis  thomaspettitt  lilianabounegru  performance  orality  oraltradition  communication  digital  digitalmedia  media  attention  attentioneconomy  print  literacies  literacy  subcultures  legibility  participation  participatorymedia  networkedculture  culture  walterong  donnaharaway  emilygordon  ferguson  participatorculture  networkedpublics  stevensalaita  secondaryorality 
september 2014 by robertogreco
[Herald Interview] ‘Alternative education teaches students to be themselves’
"South Korea’s alternative education institutes are protesting the government’s push to introduce a mandatary registration system, claiming the move would extend the state’s grip on students who are fleeing regular schools and their rigid curriculum.

The Ministry of Education has announced it would conduct a special inspection of unauthorized alternative education facilities, a step that critics argue would pave the way for mandatory registration.

“The problem with the new measure is that it can lead to infringement of the schools’ autonomy. The plan specifies very strong control over the schools while promising very little support,” said Hyeon Byeon-ho, head of the People’s Solidarity of Alternative Education, in an interview with The Korea Herald. The PSAE is an association of 53 alternative schools nationwide.

Hyeon, also head of alternative school Mindle, said nontraditional schools need leeway to offer experimental education programs for students who feel that the conventional school system does not work.

“Simply put, alternative education is something that lets children be themselves. I think that is the essence of education,” he said.

The concept of alternative education first appeared in the late 19th century among European and American educators who believed education should cultivate the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual aspects in children.

In Korea, the movement started to gain momentum in the late 1990s, in response to criticism that the conventional education system only focused on delivering knowledge and preparing students for college entrance exams.

“Modern-day education itself is for the benefit of the country, not for students,” Hyeon said. “Its essence is the standardization of all things, including human. Teachers, curriculum and everything are standardized and made interchangeable.”

In the book “In Defense of Childhood,” U.S. writer Chris Mercogliano discusses how children are “tamed” via school structures and risk-averse parents. Children’s adventurous nature, the spark that inspires them to explore, is smothered by control, the author claims.

Hyeon said Korea faces the same education problem, with outdated practices spawned by the military dictatorship still haunting the society. Far from promoting creative thinking, the iron-fisted regimes of the 1970s and 1980s strictly regulated what Koreans saw, read, heard and even thought.

According to Hyeon, education back then focused on fostering people who were obedient enough to follow the government’s command and control.

“The motto at Mindle is to help students become self-reliant and inspire them to help each other. That is actually the self-proclaimed goal of public education, although the reality is far from it,” he said.

Korea’s public education is dwarfed by the ever-expanding private market. The country’s private education spending, for instance, is among the highest in the world, due largely to the overheated competition to enter prestigious colleges, one of the key measures of success and social status here.

Such obsession over college entrance stems from parents’ fear of their children lagging behind in the competition with their peers, according to Hyeon.

“With an insufficient social security system, competition to avoid failing becomes even more intense. The distortion of education in Korea stems from the fear of falling behind,” he said. “They are terrified that they will fall short of the standards set by society.”

But as nonconventional schools strive toward alternative ways of education, concerns are being raised over the students’ well-being. Recent ministry data showed that some of unauthorized education facilities had substandard food services and buildings.

Also, while Korean law prohibits adult entertainment facilities from being built within 200 meters of schools, it does not apply to unauthorized institutes.

“The Education Ministry’s plan for the institutionalization of alternative schools is inevitable to some degree. With over 10,000 students enrolled in these alternative institutes, we cannot ignore our social imperatives, such as providing a safe environment for students,” Hyeon said.

He said the PSAE is proposing to the Education Ministry that unauthorized education institutes should be allowed to apply for registration or not, depending on their situations.

Hyeon said Korea needs institutions that remain outside of the regular education system to attempt novel methods of teaching, free from the influence of authorities. "
korea  2014  education  alternative  government  policy  unschooling  deschooling  freedom  regulation  standardization  hyeonbyeon-ho  chrismercogliano  control  legibility  society 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Fantasy and the Buffered Self - The New Atlantis
"When asked by the editors of the website The Immanent Frame to summarize the key concerns of his vastly ambitious book A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor wrote,

Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.

As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.

Before pursuing my argument, I must make two clarifications. First, fantasy itself is not a recent development but rather an ancient form (though not under its current name). What we now call “fantasy” is something closer to “realism” in the pagan world, which is populated by many powers capable of acting upon “porous” human selves. In the pagan world, success in life is largely a matter of navigating safely among those powers, which are unpredictable, beyond good and evil, and often indifferent to human needs. (Such indifference means that they can help as well as hurt, but also that their assistance can never be relied upon.) In this environment, fantastic creatures are at the very least personifications or embodiments of powers genuinely believed to exist. The realism is not strict, in that the writers and readers of earlier times did not necessarily believe in the existence of precisely such creatures as were described in their stories — perhaps not Apollo or Artemis any more than Dante’s Geryon or Spenser’s Blatant Beast, though such questions are necessarily and notoriously vexed. But at the very least the pre-modern world is one in which powers like those hold sway and cannot be safely neglected; a world in which what we would call the fantastic is an intrinsic element of the real.

Second, some of the most celebrated practitioners of modern fantasy share with their pre-modern predecessors this belief that the fictional apparatus of fantasy is a relatively close approximation to the way things really are for human beings. J. R. R. Tolkien may not have believed in Sauron, but he surely believed that there are in human history people who sell themselves to the Enemy and find themselves as a result of that decision first empowered and then destroyed. And when, at the beginning of Lewis’s Perelandra (1944), the protagonist Ransom’s progress toward a friend’s house is impeded by invisible forces who fill him with fear, Lewis was describing the work of spirits whom he truly believed to exist, though under a slightly different description, just as he probably believed that some forms of scientistic rationalism are the product of demonic influence. In short, these writers sought to present their readers with an image of an enchanted world, of selves fully porous to supernatural forces. But because they did so in genres (fantasy, science fiction) known for the imaginative portrayal of the wholly nonexistent, readers confident in their buffered condition can be delighted by those stories without ever for a moment considering the possibility that the forces portrayed therein might correspond to something real. Indeed, the delight of the stories for such readers consists primarily in their perceived unreality."



"If the technical boy is wrong, if resistance can happen, we might take comfort from what seems to me the authentic core of the fantastic as a genre, as we see it from the standpoint of late modernity: fantasy may best be taken as an acknowledgment that the great problem of the pagan world — how to navigate as safely as possible through an ever-shifting landscape of independent and unpredictable powers who are indifferent to human needs — is our problem once more. The powers now may have different names than the ones Homer or Ovid knew, but they are powers all the same. American Gods is an especially important text for this moment, because it rightly identifies technologies as gods and simultaneously sides with the older gods as being intrinsically closer to the proper human lifeworld. Imaginatively, if not in substantive belief, we are pagans once more.

What We Don’t See

But a coda is required. All that I have written so far about porous and buffered selves has followed Charles Taylor in bracketing the question of what our actual condition is. We may choose to believe that we can buffer ourselves, protect ourselves against unknown powers. But that’s a kind of wager: if the powers are real, our disbelief won’t deter them. And it may be that certain powers profit from being disregarded or treated as mere fancies. In a sonnet he wrote in the late 1930s, Auden portrayed a world from which magic had passed: “The sudden shadow of a giant’s enormous calf / Would fall no more at dusk across their lawns outside”; the last dragons and kobolds died off. The people “slept in peace.” But:

... The vanquished powers were glad

To be invisible and free: without remorse
Struck down the sons who strayed into their course,
And ravished the daughters, and drove the fathers mad."
2014  alanjacobs  fantasy  history  legibility  invisibility  visibility  belief  modernity  mysticism  magic  identity  self  protection  boundaries  unpredictability  uncertainty  supernatural  spirits  sciencefiction 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Homo Sacer | booktwo.org
"The paradox of that invisibility, which I have been exploring for some time, is that while the digital defaults to illegibilty, it also renders that operation more legible to those who can read it, who do have access, because its logical nature, the nature of its operation, means it must be written down. Unlike previous forms of power, intention must be explicitly encoded into the machine. This intention can be hidden, but it’s always present. Neither good nor bad, nor neutral; invisible, but never wholly illegible."



"I was recently commissioned to produce a work for FACT in Liverpool, for an exhibition entitled “Science Fiction: New Death“, and for it I produced a hologram of my own. Entitled Homo Sacer, the hologram intones lines from various international agreements, treaties, national laws and public government statements. Beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 1948 directive “Everyone has the right to a nationality”, the monologue steps through the various laws which repeal this right, culminating in the text of the letter which stripped Mohamed Sakr – later killed by a drone strike – of his British citizenship, and the Home Office’s oft-repeated mantra “Citizenship is a privilege not a right”."



"If we’re to understand the complex role which technology plays in shaping the world around us, we need a better understanding of complex systems in general, of other kinds of invisible but occasionally legible frameworks, like the law. And in turn, we can take what we have learned in the study of computation and networks and turn that augmented understanding back on the world around us, as a mode of analysis, and perhaps as a lever with which to shift it."
visibility  invisibility  legibility  illegibility  homesacer  2014  jamesbridle  holograms  surveillance  systems  systemsthinking  technology  law  nationality  citizenship 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Problem with “Personalization”
"What are the repercussions of radically “personalizing” education through computers? What do we gain? What do we lose?

There’s a very powerful strain of American individualism — and California exceptionalism — that permeates technology: an emphasis on personal responsibility, self-management, autonomy. All that sounds great when and if you frame new technologies in terms of self-directed learning.

But how do we reconcile that individualism with the social and political and community development that schools are also supposed to support? How do we address these strains of individualism and increasingly libertarianism as they permeate the classroom?

What do we do about the communal goals of education, for example — to produce good citizens, if nothing else — if we become maniacally focused on personal goals of education instead? What happens to meaningful moments to collaborate? What happens to discussion? What happens to debate? What happens to the idea that we must work through ideas together — not just in the classroom, but as part of our work and civic responsibilities?

And who gets the “personalized” education delivered through them via adaptive technology? And who gets the “personalization” that we hope a student-centered, progressive education would offer?

This image from a PBS documentary about Rocketship Education haunts me.

The chain of charter schools boasts personalization — “Rocketship uses the most adaptive and personalized programs available, and continues to push Silicon Valley vendors and others to create even more adaptive learning tools,” its website boasts.

So the problem with personalization via adaptive software isn’t simply that “it doesn’t work.” It’s that it might work — work to obliterate meaningful and powerful opportunities for civics, for connection, for community. Work to obliterate agency for students. And work not so much to accelerate learning, but to accelerate educational inequalities."

[Accompanies: "What Should School Leaders Know About Adaptive Learning?" https://modernlearners.com/what-should-school-leaders-know-about-adaptive-learning/ ]

[See also: http://thesprouts.org/blog/rendering-learners-legible ]
rocketshipschools  audreywatters  education  personalization  bigdata  legibility  autonomy  personallearning  learning  schools  policy  adaptivelearningtechnology  data  datacollection  adaptivelearning  adaptivetechnology 
june 2014 by robertogreco
sprout & co :: Rendering Learners Legible
"Educators talk a lot about ‘personalization.’ Is the animating purpose of “personalization” in to render students legible? If it is, could Sal Khan take the Hippocratic oath?"
alecresnick  education  legibility  jamescscott  2013  salkhan  ethics  unschooling  deschooling  personalization  individualization  sprout&co  data  inbloom  schools  facebook  google  khanacademy  netflix  sprout  salmankhan 
june 2014 by robertogreco
6, 6: Asymmetrical information
"I have so little interest in grand pictures of the world with nothing to say about children. This assumption in cultural discussions that people step out of a wall sometime between 18 and 21, well, it’s not good enough; it’s not serious enough. If you want to talk to me about surveillance and censorship, tell me about baby monitors and when you would let kids in your care read 4chan. Your approach to that matters more than your approach to the finer connotations of the word “Orwellian”, e.g., whether the figure of thzzzZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZ[snort]ZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ."

(Removed from this point a good deal of grumping about people who use arguments in the form “we should be treated like adults” without saying what that means to them other than “down with bad stuff, up with good stuff”, nor how non-adults should be treated; and then kind of halfheartedly trying to shame people for treating Foucault’s geneological method as if it were The Path And The Way Of Criticism rather than a useful tonic; and getting sad that sometimes children’s experience is treated as if it counts only insofar as it will be remembered by the adult they will become.)

"Something I tell myself: Assume you’re teaching. More often than thinking “Oh, I figured something out, time to share”, ask “What am I teaching right now, and am I doing it well?” Sometimes what I’m teaching is not pretty: “Don’t expect too much from strangers” or “Everyone has their quirks” or worse. All the more reason to think about it.

Like a lot of intrapersonal advice, this is tricky to explain: too obvious, too precious, too odd. The principle comes partly from reflecting that many of the most important things I’ve learned were from incidental actions of people working on something else. (I remember flipping through my mother’s MTW and learning about graphic design, poetry, pedagogy – everything but gravity.) It also comes from an idea put well in XKCD 1053.

(And this gives us one of the distinctive flavors of work made for the internet: layerednes. A blog post about some small issue will carry coded gestures to connections with highfalutin’ academic work; deniable hints of limits and risks might appear when a conscientious engineer is made to work hard-sell PR; and who among us has not seen something on a controversial topic flying a big red herring to distract zealots? And we have art like this [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/for-shame-the-giant-poster-that-shows-drone-pilots-the-people-theyre-bombing/360257/ ], which works entirely by lying about its audience: that isn’t for drone operators at all, but by saying it is, it works on its actual audience: people like me.)"



"One of the things that’s been bringing OODA to mind is what you might call legibility capture. Let’s take it as read that we’re surrounded by giant translucent surfaces, and we’re trying to see inside them, and to understand their shapes and connections, in order that we might discern what their deal is. They meanwhile are examining us, covertly, with consent, obliquely, loudly, by proxy, for unknown future use, and in many other ways, which is worrying.

There are many ways to think about this; for me it’s phrased most naturally as “legibility” in the way that John C. Scott has developed it. His brilliance is perhaps fogged by his prose style, which with time becomes its own painfully funny effect, a kind of Marx Brothers–esque absurdism, as he over and over again, in the same book, with placid deadpan, re-introduces legibility as if for the first time.

(Thinking of this becase a couple friends spent the weekend at some kind of Data Tragicomedy conference – my ignorance of the details is a small pleasure but a sincere one – which it pleased me to believe consisted entirely of artbros in their off-blacks standing up, clearing their throats, smiling, and saying “I’ve discovered – or perhaps invented – something that I like to call ‘legibility’…”.)

One of the things that OODA is concerned with, in its productively unsatisfying way, is initiative. In go, this is sente. Alice has sente in a game with Bob when she’s made a move that Bob must respond to, instead of building his own position. To hold sente is to keep Bob on the defensive, so that he can’t plan or build; he’s always a turn behind. (Every time I think about this stuff I’m startled again by the illumination of psychological violence, from domestic abuse to torture-as-interrogation.) Boyd wants you, the student of OODA, to have initiative, because to have initiative is to have options. (Cough cough Nussbaum’s capability approach cough cough sneeze.) You have initiative because you can read the opponent better than they can read you, and so you can at least partly decide how they read you.

Skip this paragraph if you like me are easily disturbed by violence. This gruesome Amnesty briefing on the violence this year in northern Nigeria and this SSP report on the famous body bags in Kadugli both explain (partly) how they did their satellite imagery analysis to identify or confirm mass graves. This is in an obvious way highly responsible: conclusions should be presented with the evidence that led to them; theories should be falsifiable. It also bears risks, because by showing methods to identify mass graves they necessarily show how to hide from those methods, and even how to play into them by creating fake graves to distract and discredit.

That risk is the thing. It’s what I think about when people are like “Ah ha, I figured out I can look at tail numbers, or shell casing markings, or IP addresses owned by spyware companies; now we know what’s up!” Once they know you know but before you know they know you know, you’re at their mercy; they’re feeding you. Legibility capture.

I don’t know. I keep thinking of XKCD 1053, and the kind of empathy it calls for, and of the epigrams Joe Armstrong throws around about Erlang (e.g., p. 9):

The world is parallel
The world is distributed
Things fail

I said at the beignning of the year that my theme would be scale: communicating the sizes of stuff. I’ve done very little about that. I keep remembering things, little parcels of spacetime. Sleeping on a boat under a Saltillo blanket, listening to a flag’s rope ring against the pole in the wind. With a flu, in a parked Volkswagen Golf, reading Elfwood. When you GPS-track yourself you start to find that a lot of what it tells you is about where you weren’t."
charlieloyd  2014  teaching  learning  xkcd  legibility  scale  allsorts  learningallthetime  howwelearn  howweteach  perspective  understanding  layerdness  datadrama  jamescscott  violence  ooda  johnboyd  competition  initiative  offense  empathy  children  legacy  surveillance  censorship  babymonitors  4chan  adulthood  childhood  parenting 
april 2014 by robertogreco
6, 3: Seasteading
"So Jim is a blacksmith – a word I mostly hear these days in jokes about obsolescence. He lives on a small, rural island where he has the time and quiet to think and work very hard on small things that most people have not imagined. He is also one of the most globalized people I know. I’m counting people who had “major liquidity events” and whose Twitter profiles say their location is SoMa/SoHo or whatevs. Jim is narrowly specialized labor, enabled by things like oligopolistic global shipping companies.

And likewise, my family’s off-the-grid setup – solar panels, their own well, their own garden – relies on solar panel manufacturers, modern well-drilling rigs, and the internet.

Many visitors are offended by this. They have a rhetoric of simplicity that feels that e.g. buying gasoline to run a generator to have electric lights in winter is failing to live up to the promise of living in the woods. But for my family and others, that promise was never made. It’s a projection, an assumption, an outsider’s stereotype. They are not claiming or trying to be out of the world.

What do you get from living on a natural seastead oops I mean small island? Well, you get a different kind of time – a different set of distractions. Not simplicity, but a reallocation of complexity that suits some people. You get too many things to list here. The one I want to talk about is that you see your material dependencies more clearly. That is, you have to carry the gas that you buy. You know where your water comes from, even if it’s just as technologically mediated as a Brooklynite’s water – maybe more – because you have to replace the pump from time to time. It’s not that you have less of a supply chain, it’s that you pay more attention to it because you’re the last link in it. You unload your kit, your cargo, your stuff, from a literal-ass boat that goes across the water."

So here is what I can tell you: our material culture is vast. The substrate of comfortable, middle-class-as-portrayed-in-primetime American life is ginormous, far beyond anyone’s understanding in any depth. Years ago there was a Neal Stephenson Wired story called In the Kingdom of Mao Bell, from which I often think of the line (phrased in terms of Western culture, but mutatis mutandis):
For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.

Which is only to make a point that is easy to make but very hard to appreciate, and I have to practice making to myself in new ways all the time, re-estranging it to re-familiarize it: what we have going here, this system by which roads are paved, you can appeal a court ruling, you can just assume you got the right change back at Whole Foods, Whole Foods exists, etc., is so big and complicated that you can’t appreciate it. At best you can call upon cognitive intercessors, like thinky magazine features on the cold chain or whatever, to mediate between your grasp of the size of the culture and its reality. I say this as someone whose job is partly to look at enormous depictions of material culture – I mean staring at the Port of Tokyo–Yokohama, or Magnitogorsk, is kind of what I do all day, and I still take it for granted.

And the system has tremendous momentum. I am no historian, but my vague sense is that in recognizable form in the Euramerican sphere it goes back to things like the New Model Army and the aftermath of the French Revolution: the establishment of a bureauracy, i.e. a system of applied governance with accountability built in as paperwork and defined responsibilities, as opposed to something at best hollowed out like a nest of sticks inside feudalism.

And when I see bureaucracy around me doing things like getting all fetishistic about a piece of paper, I have to remind myself that yes, this is imperfect, but the point is that we enshrine the word, something roughly permanent and widely legible, as opposed to worshipping the squire, i.e., whatever he feels like today, that we can’t even examine directly to mutually identify and begin to debate whether it’s good. A whig history but I’m a whig."

[Related: http://masochuticon.com/2006/05/24/
via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484597685396045824
in this thread: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484483973767110656
follow-up http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-16-america-again ]
complexity  canon  interconnectedness  seasteading  frontier  waldronisland  bureaucracy  2014  charlieloyd  slow  change  purpose  purposefulness  civilization  interdependence  seeing  noticing  separateness  libertarianism  capitalism  globalization  materials  systems  systemsthinking  siliconvalley  laws  governance  government  society  nealstephenson  simplicity  distractions  bighere  dependencies  supplychains  legibility  illegibility  coffee  waldron  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What Your Culture Really Says — about work — Medium
[via: http://mike.teczno.com/notes/on-managers.html ]

"Toxic lies about culture are afoot in Silicon Valley. They spread too fast as we take our bubble money and designer Powerpoints to drinkups, conferences and meetups all over the world, flying premium economy, ad nauseam. Well-intentioned darlings south of Market wax poetic on distributed teams, office perks, work/life balance, passion, “shipping”, “iteration,” “freedom”. A world of startup privilege hides blithely unexamined underneath an insipid, self-reinforcing banner of meritocracy and funding. An economic and class-based revolt of programmers against traditional power structures within organizations manifests itself as an (ostensively) radical re-imagining of work life. But really, you should meet the new boss. Hint: he’s the same as the old boss.

The monied, celebrated, nuevo-social, 1% poster children of startup life spread the mythology of their cushy jobs, 20% time, and self-empowerment as a thinly-veiled recruiting tactic in the war for talent against internet giants. The materialistic, viral nature of these campaigns have redefined how we think about culture, replacing meaningful critique with symbols of privilege. The word “culture” has become a signifier of superficial company assets rather than an ongoing practice of examination and self-reflection.

Culture is not about the furniture in your office. It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly. The critique of startup culture that came in large part from the agile movement has been replaced by sanitized, pompous, dishonest slogans.

Let’s examine popular startup trends that are being called “culture” and look beneath the surface to find the real culture that may be playing out beneath it. This is not a critique of the practices themselves, which often contribute value to an organization. This is to show a contrast between the much deeper, systemic cultural problems that are rampant in our startups and the materialistic trappings that can disguise them.

We make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have implemented a loosely coordinated social policy to ensure homogeneity in our workforce. We are able to reject qualified, diverse candidates on the grounds that they “aren’t a culture fit” while not having to examine what that means - and it might mean that we’re all white, mostly male, mostly college-educated, mostly young/unmarried, mostly binge drinkers, mostly from a similar work background. We tend to hire within our employees’ friend and social groups. Because everyone we work with is a great culture fit, which is code for “able to fit in without friction,” we are all friends and have an unhealthy blur between social and work life. Because everyone is a “great culture fit,” we don’t have to acknowledge employee alienation and friction between individuals or groups. The desire to continue being a “culture fit” means it is harder for employees to raise meaningful critique and criticism of the culture itself.

Meetings are evil and we have them as little as possible.
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have a collective post-traumatic stress reaction to previous workplaces that had hostile, unnecessary, unproductive and authoritarian meetings. We tend to avoid projects and initiatives that require strict coordination across the company. We might have difficulty meeting the expectations of enterprise companies and do better selling to startups organized like us. We are heavily invested in being rebels against traditional corporate culture. Because we communicate largely asynchronously and through chat, it is easy to mentally dehumanize teammates and form silos around functional groups with different communications practices or business functions.

We have a team of people who are responsible for organizing frequent employee social events, maintaining the office “feel”, and making sure work is a great place to hang out. We get served organic, vegan, farm-raised, nutritious lunches every day at work.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Our employees must be treated as spoiled, coddled children that cannot perform their own administrative functions. We have a team of primarily women supporting the eating, drinking, management and social functions of a primarily male workforce whose output is considered more valuable. We struggle to hire women in non-administrative positions and most gender diversity in our company is centralized in social and admin work. Because our office has more amenities than home life, our employees work much longer hours and we are able to extract more value from them for the same paycheck. The environment reinforces the cultural belief that work is a pleasant dream and can help us distract or bribe from deeper issues in the organization.

20% of the time, or all of the time, people can work on whatever they want to
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have enough venture funding to pay people to work on non-core parts of the business. We are not under that much pressure to make money. The normal work of the business is not sufficiently rewarding so we bribe employees with pet projects. We’re not entirely sure what our business objectives and vision are, so we are trying to discover it by letting employee passions take root. We have a really hard time developing work that takes more than a few people to release. We have lots of unfinished but valuable projects that get left behind due to shifts in focus, lack of concentrated effort, and inability to organize sufficient resources to bring projects to completion.

We don’t have managers and the company is managed with no hierarchy
What your culture might actually be saying is… Management decisions are siloed at the very top layers of management, kept so close to the chest they appear not to exist at all. The lack of visibility into investor demands, financial affairs, HR issues, etc. provides an abstraction layer between employees and real management, which we pretend doesn’t exist. We don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.

We don’t have a vacation policy
What your culture might actually be saying is… We fool ourselves into thinking we have a better work/life balance when really people take even less vacation than they would when they had a vacation policy. Social pressure and addiction to work has replaced policy as a regulator of vacation time.

We are all makers who are focused on shipping.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Features are the most important function of our business. We lack processes for surfacing and addressing technical debt. We have systemic infrastructure problems but they are not relevant because we are more focused on short-term adoption than long-term reliability. We prioritize fast visible progress, even if it is trivial, over longer and more meaningful projects. Productivity is measured more by lines of code than the value of that code. Pretty things are more important than useful things.

Closing
Talk to your company about culture. Talk to other companies about culture. Stop mistaking symbology and VC spoils for culture. Be honest with yourself, and with each other. Otherwise, your culture will kill you softly with its song, and you won’t even notice. But hey, you have a beer keg in the office."
shanley  2013  business  culture  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  control  power  meetings  homogeneity  organzations  vacation  policies  politics  work  labor  process  social  socialpressure  management  administration  illegibility  legibility  decisionmaking  powerstructures  criticism  valve 
march 2014 by robertogreco
managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team (tecznotes)
"Apropos the Julie Ann Horvath Github shitshow, I’ve been thinking this weekend about management, generally.

I don’t know details about the particular Github situation so I won’t say much about it, but I was present for Tom Preston-Werner’s 2013 OSCON talk about Github. After a strong core message about open source licenses, liability, and freedom (tl;dr: avoid the WTFPL), Tom talked a bit about Github’s management model.
Management is about subjugation; it’s about control.

At Github, Tom described a setup where the power structure of the company is defined by the social structures of the employees. He showed a network hairball to illustrate his point, said that Github employees can work on what they feel like, subject to the strategic direction set for the company. There are no managers.

This bothered me a bit when I heard it last summer, and it’s gotten increasingly more uncomfortable since. I’ve been paraphrasing this part of the talk as “management is a form of workplace violence,” and the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form. In my first post-college job, I was blessed with an awesome manager who described his work as “firefighter up and cheerleader down,” an idea I’ve tried to live by as I’ve moved into positions of authority myself. The idea of having no managers, echoed in other companies like Valve Software, suggests the presence of major cultural problems at a company like Github. As Shanley Kane wrote in What Your Culture Really Says, “we don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.” Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluted explicitly. For people on the wrong side of a power dynamic, engaging with explicit structure is often the only means possible to fix a problem.

Implicit power can be a liability as well as a strength. In the popular imagination, implicit power elites close sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. In reality, the need for implicit power to stay in the shadows can cripple it in the face of an outside context problem. Aaron Bady wrote of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that “while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy.”

Going back to the social diagram, this lack of ability to communicate internally seems to be an eventual property of purely bottoms-up social structures. Github has been enormously successful on the strength of a single core strategy: the creation of a delightful, easy-to-use web UI on top of a work-sharing system designed for distributed use. I’ve been a user since 2009, and my belief is that the product has consistently improved, but not meaningfully changed. Github’s central, most powerful innovation is the Pull Request. Github has annexed adjoining territory, but has not yet had to respond to a threat that may force it to abandon territory or change approach entirely.

Without a structured means of communication, the company is left with the vague notion that employees can do what they feel like, as long as it’s compliant with the company’s strategic direction. Who sets that direction, and how might it be possible to change it? There’s your implicit power and first point of weakness.

This is incidentally what’s so fascinating about the government technology position I’m in at Code for America. I believe that we’re in the midst of a shift in power from abusive tech vendor relationships to something driven by a city’s own digital capabilities. The amazing thing about GOV.UK is that a government has decided it has the know-how to hire its own team of designers and developers, and exercised its authority. That it’s a cost-saving measure is beside the point. It’s the change I want to see in the world: for governments large and small to stop copy-pasting RFP line items and cargo-culting tech trends (including the OMFG Ur On Github trend) and start thinking for themselves about their relationship with digital communication."
michalmigurski  2014  julieannhovarth  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  power  julianassange  wikileaks  valve  culture  business  organizations  management  legibility  illegibility  communication  gov.uk  codeforamerica  subjugation  abuse  shanley  teams  administration  leadership 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Former Valve Employee: 'It Felt a Lot Like High School' | Game|Life | Wired.com
“It is a pseudo-flat structure where, at least in small groups, you’re all peers and make decisions together,” she said. “But the one thing I found out the hard way is that there is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company and it felt a lot like high school. There are popular kids that have acquired power in the company, then there’s the trouble makers, and everyone in between.”
business  valve  2013  via:caseygollan  structurelessness  horizontality  power  control  hierarchy  hierarchies  leadership  organzations  communities  culture  legibility  illegibility 
march 2014 by robertogreco
STET | Attention, rhythm & weight
"For better or worse, we live in a world of media invention. Instead of reusing a stable of forms over and over, it’s not much harder for us to create new ones. Our inventions make it possible to explore the secret shape of our subject material, to coax it into saying more.

These new forms won’t follow the rules of the scroll, the codex, or anything else that came before, but we can certainly learn from them. We can ask questions from a wide range of influences — film, animation, video games, and more. We can harvest what’s still ripe today, and break new ground when necessary.

Let’s begin."

[See also: http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/10/books-in-browsers-iv-why-we-should-not-imitate-snowfall/ and video of Allen's talk at Books in Browsers 2013 (Day 2 Session 1) http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/40164570 ]
allentan  publishing  writing  internet  web  timcarmody  2013  papermodernism  literacy  fluency  intuitiveness  legibility  metaphor  interaction  howweread  howwewrite  communication  multiliteracies  skills  touch  scrolling  snowfall  immersive  focus  distraction  attention  cinema  cinematic  film  flickr  usability  information  historiasextraordinarias  narrative  storytelling  jose-luismoctezuma  text  reading  multimedia  rhythm  pacing  purpose  weight  animation  gamedesign  design  games  gaming  mediainvention  media 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Eye Magazine | Opinion | Are you sure you need that new logo?
"Item: Last year, in the remote town of Sylhet, in the north-east corner of Bangladesh, I hailed a cycle-ricksha and asked to be taken to the house of my friend Abdul Khaled Kayed in the district of Ambar Khana. I didn’t even know the street he lived in, let alone the number of the house. ‘No problem,’ said the ricksha driver, though he had never heard of my friend and was not familiar with the district. We proceeded by means of a series of encounters with shopkeepers, cafe waiters and fellow ricksha drivers, each one taking us a little closer to our destination. It was a leisurely, somewhat erratic journey. Each conversation was interesting and enjoyable, including invitations to take tea, to describe my house in Camden Town and to discuss the meaning of life; I was almost sorry when we finally arrived at my friend’s house. If there were any street signs to be seen during the journey I didn’t notice them, nor did my driver consult them.

Item: In her book New Lives, New Landscapes (1970), the late Nan Fairbrother showed two photographs of the main street of Suffolk village of Lavenham. The first is of the street festooned with telephone wires and power cables. The second shows exactly the same viewpoint, taken after a successful campaign to remove the overhead wires. The improvement is startling. The Civic Trust Award, so often given to commemorate the application of lettering to shopfronts and offices, or the addition of suitably designed concrete tubs with suitable plants to enhance the village square, was here given to a scheme whose sole purpose was subtraction."



"Item: When I set up my Graphic Design business 30 years ago, one of our first clients was a prestigious furniture maker who wanted a complete graphic styling job: stationery range, information sheets, showroom graphics, vehicle livery and promotional pieces. When we presented our proposals, the managing director was duly impressed and gave us an immediate go-ahead. Then he said, ‘I particularly like the name style for the company, but perhaps we’ll hold on to that until you come up with your proposal for the symbol to go with it.’ When I told him we considered the name style to be quite adequate as an identity device and had no plans for including a symbol, he was much taken aback. ‘But we’ve always had a symbol,’ he said, ‘and anyway, I thought you would insist on us having one.’ After some to-ing and fro-ing we agreed he would think about it. At the end of a nail-biting week, he phoned back to say he was entirely reconciled to not having a symbol. ‘A much more elegant solution,’ he said. ‘And it kills two birds with one stone. We won’t have to bother about all the problems of symbols – when to use them and when not, how small can they be without becoming mere blobs, how big without looking bloated. And we save the sizeable fee you’d be charging us if you did design it.’

There’s the rub. How do we charge for convincing our clients not to have some graphic indulgence they have set their hearts on? And even more difficult, how do we get them to remove something that is unhelpful, or intrusive, or superfluous, or downright misleading? Who is going to pay for something they are not going to get? And who is going to pay for having something they do not need taken from them?"
legibility  design  wayfinding  kengarland  unproduct  notbuilding  bigidea  1993  branding  logos  simplicity  navigation  cities  graphicdesign 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Little Mystical - Some Obvious Things About Drawing Maps
"As single-user tools (since we’re talking about personal construction of knowledge), I wonder at the gap between the activity beneath the surface and what a visitor sees – a canonical-looking map or article.

Criticism of Wikipedia’s factual accuracy is often (1) It can change anytime! and (2) Any random person can change it! – which, well, are also the reasons why it works. But the disconnect happens because a unstable work, that’s under constant negotiation, looks stable. How many people look at Wikipedia history frequently? How many people understand – explicitly understand – that this is knowledge construction?

There are some obvious ideas that fall out of making that level of change clearer to people – you could highlight areas that have changed since you last looked at it, you could fade out areas under heavy negotiation and only show the stable parts by default.

Or with personal map-making / map-reading, when you have these layers of structured data, you can do a little paint-by-layers – say you’re drawing a map of your neighborhood, you drag out lines following the path of the main streets you walk on, and Sim-City-style, they get drawn-in using live data. You get both the explicitness of someone’s “drawing out” their map’s contours and the benefit of the latest satellite mapping data."

[Full conversation here: http://storify.com/rogre/legible-maps-of-places-and-infospaces ]
allentan  2013  maps  mapping  wikipedia  osm  openstreetmap  charlieloyd  comments  history  information  knowledge  undertsanding  change  accuracy  time  memory  legibility  infospace  infospaces 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Platforms of Visibility: Exploring legibility through the contemporary Latin American city on Vimeo
"Urban architecture inhabits sites of radical dynamic interchange, often acting as the focal point where a variety of visible and invisible flows converge. Global networks and processes transcend immediate notions of site and adjacency, forcing the restructuring of relationships around new definitions of scale, boundary, and spatiotemporality. Current networked and mobile infrastructures have not only radically redefined communication, but also how we interrogate and see our surroundings. For users of these networks, the whole idea of urban legibility and navigation has become immediate and much easier. But for those who study the contemporary city, these networks and processes only make the study of urban legibility that much more complex.

This thesis examines how architecture, as a primary participant in this stage, can serve as a legibility platform for the modern urban condition. Towards this goal, this thesis will begin by introducing a literature review into four overlapping tracks of research:

1.) Urban legibility 2.) Cartography 3.) Media Platforms 4.) Cineplastics

The thesis work will then focus on Latin America, widely acknowledged to be the most urbanized region in the world. Out of necessity, this region has re-established and advanced the necessary toolkit for radical urban transformation in the 21st century.

The research content will look at the idea of mapping networked forms of imageability within the context of three Latin American cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Medellin, Colombia; and Quito, Ecuador.

The interrogation of the research data at multiple scales and mediums in Quito, Ecuador will serve as primary driver for an architectural proposal sited in that city

The ambition for this thesis is to present a platform --- within the context of urban Latin America --- through which the dynamic contemporary urban condition --- and by extension the dynamic architectural condition --- can be put in focus."
spatiotemporality  urban  urbanism  latinamerica  quito  medellin  caracas  ecuador  venezuela  colombia  cities  socialmedia  visualization  mapping  maps  architecture  emmettruxes  scale  boundaries  flows  networks  adjacency  legibility  urbanlegibility  data  via:sha  video  visibility  planning  medellín 
july 2013 by robertogreco
A Big Little Idea Called Legibility
"The Authoritarian High-Modernist Recipe for Failure…

• Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
• Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
• Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
• Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
• Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
• Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
• Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

Central to Scott’s thesis is the idea of legibility. He explains how he stumbled across the idea while researching efforts by nation states to settle or “sedentarize” nomads, pastoralists, gypsies and other peoples living non-mainstream lives…"
politics  history  philosophy  problemsolving  imperialism  colonialism  jamescscott  design  architecture  urbanplanning  urbanism  nomads  nomadism  gypsies  pastoralists  mainstream  radicals  radicalism  2011  venkateshrao  legibility  illegiblepeople  illegibles  stevenjohnson  patternmaking  patterns  patternrecognition  complexity  unschooling  deschooling  utopianthinking  india  high-modenism  lecorbusier  forests  brasilia  bauhaus  control  decolonization  power  nicholasdirks  rome  edwardgibbon  civilization  authoritarianism  authoritarianhigh-modernism  elephantpaths  desirelines  anarchism  organizations  illegibility  highmodernism  utopia  governance  simplification  measurement  quantification  brasília  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco

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