robertogreco + optimism   168

Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark - The On Being Project
"Writer and photographer Teju Cole says he is “intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all.” He attends to the border, overlap and interplay of things — from Brahms and Baldwin to daily technologies like Google. To delve into his mind and his multiple arts is to meet this world with creative raw materials for enduring truth and quiet hope."



"I’m going to go back to a word I used earlier, which is how much help we need. We sometimes think of culture as something we go out there and consume. And this especially happens around clever people, smart people — “Have you read this? Did you check out that review? Do you know this poet? What about this other poet?” Blah blah blah. And we have these checkmarks — “I read 50 books last year” — and everybody wants to be smart and keep up. I find that I’m less and less interested in that, and more and more interested in what can help me and what can jolt me awake. Very often, what can jolt me awake is stuff that is written not for noonday but for the middle of the night. And that has to do with — again, with the concentration of energies in it.

Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet, who died — can’t remember; maybe 2013 he died. He seemed to have unusual access to this membrane between this world and some other world that, as Paul Éluard said, is also in this one. Tranströmer, in his poetry, keeps slipping into that space.

In any case, I just found his work precisely the kind of thing I wanted to read in the silence of the middle of the night and feel myself escaping my body in a way that I become pure spirit, in a way. I remember when he won the Nobel Prize, which was in 2011. We live in an age of opinion, and people always have opinions, especially about things they know nothing about. So people who were hearing about Tranströmer for the first time that morning were very grandly opining that his collected works come to maybe 250 pages, that how could he possibly get the Nobel Prize for that slender body of work? — which, of course, was missing the fact that each of these pages was a searing of the consciousness that was only achieved at by great struggle. I think the best thing to compare him to is the great Japanese poets of haiku, like Kobayashi or Basho."



"But I wrote this today, and — for a long time now, but very definitely since January 1 of this year, I’ve been thinking about hospitality, because I wanted a container for some things I didn’t know where to put about the present moment. Who’s kin? Who’s family? Who’s in, who’s out? And just thinking this whole year about the question of hospitality has given me a way to read a lot of things that are very distressing, in this country and in the world, around the border but also around domestic policy. So this one goes against the grain, but I needed to put it down.

“The extraordinary courage of Lassana Bathily, an immigrant from Mali, saved six lives during a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes in 2015. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, François Hollande.

“But this is not a story about courage.

“The superhuman agility and bravery of Mamadou Gassama, an immigrant from Mali, saved a baby from death in the 18th Arrondissement in May 2018. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“But this is not a story about bravery.

“The superhuman is rewarded with formal status as a human. The merely human, meanwhile, remains unhuman, quasi-human, subhuman. Gassama crossed the Mediterranean in a tiny boat — that was superhuman, but no one filmed that, he remained subhuman, and there was no reward.

“Such is Empire’s magnanimity. Merci, patron. Je suis tellement reconnaissant, patron.

“The hand that gives, it is said in Mali, is always above the hand that receives. Those who are hungry cannot reject food. Not only those who are hungry but those who have been deliberately starved. But soon come the day when the Hebrews will revolt and once and for all refuse Pharaoh’s capricious largesse.

Hospitality.”

Because I wanted to think about this beyond what seemed, to me, too easy — the headlines, the gratitude — “Oh, he was heroic. He was like Spiderman, and the French government did a great thing and made him a citizen.”

How did we get here? Why is this enough? How did we get into the position where he kneels down to receive the crumbs?

If I were still on Twitter and I wrote that, I might get cancelled. You get cancelled when you’re out of step with the general opinion."



"I just find that anything really loud and hectic can just last for a moment, but it does not get to that deepest place, that place of self-recognition, which becomes indistinguishable from other-recognition, which is continuous with world-recognition. So I’m attracted, in all the arts, to those places where something has been quietened, where concentration has been established. I think one of the great artistic questions for any practitioner of art is, how do you help other people concentrate on a moment? This photograph, it’s a frontal portrait of a young woman, but it’s not a posed portrait. She’s in a crowd, and he has photographed her. She’s African-American, but her skin is dark, and he has made it darker still in the way he has printed it so that your first thought is, “Oh, could we lighten that a little bit?” And then you think, “No — no, no, no. Why am I feeling this way about this image?” In all the arts, there are those moments that are as though somebody has made the gesture of raising a palm, which is not a stop sign, but a — ”Attend, hush, listen.”

I think those are the moments we really live for in art, the moment where the artfulness falls away, and all that is left is that thing we don’t have a better word for beyond poetry."



"This is going to be my worst misquotation of the evening. But Toni Morrison talks about — we die, and that may be the — does anybody know it? — that may be the length of our lives or span of our lives; but we do language, and that may be the meaning of our lives — something in that direction. And I think it is somewhere in there. A frank confrontation with the facts is that between two cosmic immensities of time, you are born, you flare up for a moment, and you’re gone. And within two generations, everybody who knew you personally will also be dead. Your name might survive, but who cares? Nobody’s going to remember your little habits or who you were. So one meaning of our lives might be that we die.

But then the other is this other thing that has nothing to do with the noise out there — advertising, arguing on social media, which we all can get tempted into — or even our personal disputes or even our anxieties, even our struggles — but some other thing that is like this undertow that connects us to everyone currently alive and everyone that has lived and everyone that will live. So I think there’s just the stark, existential fact. It’s not fashionable to take up labels or whatever, but on some level, I’m sort of an existentialist. I don’t think it necessarily has a grander meaning. I certainly don’t believe that God has a wonderful plan to make it all OK. I used to. I don’t believe that anymore. You die; I don’t know what happens. I talk to my dead; I don’t know if they’re anywhere. You die, and it hurts people who love you.

But then, the other thing is that if there’s no grander, larger meaning, in real time there does seem to be a grand and large meaning. Right this minute, this does seem to be something that is real, that might not be meaning but comes awfully close to it: to be sitting together in the dark of this political and social moment, to be sitting together in the dark of what it actually means to be a human being, even if this were a euphoric political moment.

So there’s the grim view of, we’re not here for very long, and LOL no one cares, and then there’s the other thing, which is when your favorite song gets to that part that you love, and you just feel something; or when you’ve had a series of crappy meals and then finally, you get a well-spiced, balanced goat biryani — you know, when the spices are really fresh? Black pepper — a lot of people get black pepper wrong. Really fresh black pepper — and you have this moment.

So these moments of pleasure, of epiphany, of focus, of being there, in their instantaneous way can actually feel like a little nudge that’s telling you, “By the way, this is why you’re alive. And this is not going to last, but never mind that for now.” It happens in art, and it happens in friendship, and it happens in food, and it happens in sex, and it happens in a long walk, and it happens in being immersed in a body of water — baptism, once again — and it happens in running and endorphins and all those moments that psychologists describe as “flow.”

But what is interesting about them is that they happen in real time. As Seamus Heaney says, “Useless to think you’ll park and capture it / More thoroughly. You are […] / A hurry through which known and strange things pass.”

You’re just a conduit for that. But if you are paying attention, it’s almost — I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it’s almost enough. I’m certainly glad for it. I’d rather have it than not have it.

What do you think?"
tejucole  stillness  2019  truth  hope  interconnected  jamesbaldwin  brahms  place  borders  interstitial  tomastranströmer  smartness  reading  poetry  wokeness  kin  family  families  hospitality  photography  art  silence  quietness  listening  donaldtrump  barackobama  howwewrite  howweread  writing  tonimorrison  socialmedia  noise  meaning  seamusheaney  fear  future  optimism  johnberger  rebeccasolnit  virginiawoolf  hopelessness  kalamazoo  pauléluard  primolevi  instagram  twitter 
6 days ago by robertogreco
The Rebel Alliance: Extinction Rebellion and a Green New Deal - YouTube
"Extinction Rebellion and AOC’s Green New Deal have made global headlines. Can their aims be aligned to prevent climate catastrophe?

Guest host Aaron Bastani will be joined by journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot and economist Ann Pettifor."
extinctionrebellion  georgemonbiot  gdp  economics  capitalism  growth  worldbank  2019  greennewdeal  humanwelfare  fossilfuels  aaronbastani  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  mainstreammedia  media  action  bbc  critique  politics  policy  currentaffairs  comedy  environment  environmentalism  journalism  change  systemschange  left  right  thinktanks  power  influence  libertarianism  taxation  taxes  ideology  gretathunberg  protest  davidattenborough  statusquo  consumerism  consumption  wants  needs  autonomy  education  health  donaldtrump  nancypelosi  us  southafrica  sovietunion  democrats  centrism  republicans  money  narrative  corruption  diannefeinstein  opposition  oppositionism  emissions  socialdemocracy  greatrecession  elitism  debt  financialcrisis  collapse  annpettifor  socialism  globalization  agriculture  local  production  nationalism  self-sufficiency  inertia  despair  doom  optimism  inequality  exploitation  imperialism  colonialism  history  costarica  uk  nihilism  china  apathy  inaction 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Justice in America Episode 20: Mariame Kaba and Prison Abolition - The Appeal
"On the last episode of Season 2, Josie and Clint discuss prison abolition with Mariame Kaba, one of the leading organizers in the fight against America’s criminal legal system and a contributing editor for The Appeal. Mariame discusses her own journey into this work, provides perspective on the leaders in this space, and helps us reimagine what the future of this system could look like. Mariame’s way of thinking about this system, and the vision of possibilities she provides, is an excellent send-off to our second season."

[full transcript on page]

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



"Transformative justice calls on us to shatter binaries of all different types. Most of the people who currently are locked up, for example, in our prisons and jails, are people who are victims of crime first. They’ve been harmed and have harmed other people. The “perpetrator,” quote unquote… [more]
mariamekaba  clintsmith  josieduffyrice  prisonindustrialcomplex  prisions  violence  restorativejustice  justice  prisonabolition  punishment  2019  angeladavis  howardzehr  incarceration  community  humans  transformativejustice  harm  racism  responsibility  repair  people  carceralstate  binaries  accountability  police  lawenforcement  jails  coercion  gender  criminalization  humanism  decency  humanity  transformation  survival  bodies  abolition  abolitionists  nilschristie  ruthiegilmore  fayeknopp  presence  absence  systemsthinking  systems  complexity  capitalism  climatechange  climate  globalwarming  livingwage  education  organization  organizing  activism  change  changemaking  exploitation  dehumanization  optimism 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
THE CLOUD INSTITUTE
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Our community is made up of clients - past and present, students, friends, and practitioners in our network around the U.S. and all over the world. We learn from one another as we share questions, insights and effective practices.

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The objective of the game is to catch as many fish as possible within 10 rounds. Will you break the system?

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The EfS Digital Library houses units, lessons, templates, assessment protocols, design tools, workshop handouts, videos and podcasts that support education for sustainability.

Green Schools Conference
April 8 - 10, 2019 | The Green Schools Conference & Expo
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cloudinstitute  jaimecloud  sustainability  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  future  optimism  k12  highereducation  highered  systemsthinking  change  adaptability  ecosystems  responsibility  leadership  systems  criticalthinking  hope 
february 2019 by robertogreco
The Optimistic Activists for a Green New Deal: Inside the Youth-Led Singing Sunrise Movement | The New Yorker
"Sunrise, founded a year and a half ago by a dozen or so twentysomethings, began its campaign for the Green New Deal last month, when two hundred activists occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office a week after the midterm elections. The movement has allied with the incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who joined them outside Pelosi’s office (and whose run for Congress was inspired, in part, by her participation in the anti-pipeline protests at Standing Rock), and Justice Democrats, the progressive campaign incubator started by former staffers of Bernie Sanders. As the Republican-led government has forced more established environmental organizations into defensive positions, Sunrise has established itself as the dominant influence on the environmental policy of the Democratic Party’s young, progressive wing.

Just as the March for Our Lives has changed gun-control activism from a movement of grieving parents to one led by students, Sunrise is part of a generational shift in the environmental movement. For years, rhetoric about climate change has invoked the future generations who will have to live with the flooding, storms, droughts, diseases, and food shortages of a warmer world. The young people of Sunrise are telling lawmakers that the future is here: they are the children in question, and the consequences of climate change are affecting them now. And, like other activist movements of their generation, they see their cause as inseparable from the broader issues of economic and social inequality. In a proposal that Ocasio-Cortez has circulated in Congress, she describes the Green New Deal as “a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States.”

Inside Luther Place Memorial Church, cheers erupted as activists unfurled a yellow and black “green new deal now” banner from the balcony. The crowd hushed as the first speaker, Varshini Prakash, came to the microphone. Prakash, who is five feet tall and has long curly hair, is one of Sunrise’s co-founders. She later told me that a highlight of her activism career was when she participated in a musical disruption of a Trump Administration panel at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, in 2017, and a story about it trended on Reddit.

“We’re going to kick things off the way we always do,” Prakash said, “raising our voices in unison in song.” Part of what makes the Sunrise Movement’s activists seem so optimistic is that they conduct most of their protests while singing. Their ranks did not conform to the dour stereotype of an environmental movement composed of white-upper-middle-class Appalachian Mountain Club members. I spoke to Sunrise members whose families had roots in India, Iran, Croatia, Mexico, and working-class neighborhoods in American cities. There were some students in Carhartts and beanies, who looked like they might go camping, but one young person standing near me wore a Sisters sweatshirt, the brand started by the YouTube makeup artist James Charles, who is the first male spokesperson for CoverGirl. Sunrise’s principles include: “We are Americans from all walks of life,” “We are nonviolent in word and deed,” and “We shine bright.” The dominant culture is cheerfulness.

After leading the group in a song called “We’re Going to Rise Up,” Prakash introduced herself. She is from a town outside of Boston, but her grandparents are from southern India, and she told the story of a flood that hit their city, Chennai, in late 2015, when the region experienced its highest rainfall in a hundred years. This was typical of Sunrise members, who tend not to talk about starving polar bears, melting ice caps, or ocean acidification. Instead, they talk of family members who have lost their homes to floods or fires, young relatives who have asthma, or beloved landscapes that have been degraded or destroyed in the spans of their short lifetimes. (Another movement principle: “We tell our stories and we honor each other’s stories.”)

“I think no one should have to live in fear of losing the people that they love or the places that they call home due to crises that are preventable,” Prakash told the crowd. “My nightmares are full of starving children and land that is too sick to bear food, of water that poisons that which it should heal, and of seas that are ever more creeping on our shores,” she continued. “But my dreams are also full of a rising tide of people who see the world for what it is, people who see the greed and selfishness of wealthy men, of fossil-fuel billionaires who plunder our earth for profit.” The young people cheered.

Many of Sunrise’s founders met through the fossil-fuel divestment movement, but they tend to cite inspirations from outside environmentalism. Prakash named Occupy Wall Street, the Movement for Black Lives, and youth-led immigration-justice organizations such as United We Dream and Cosecha. Like the March for Our Lives, Sunrise has told a story of a corrupt political process, where oil and gas billionaires like the Koch brothers have helped direct governmental policies. Also like March for Our Lives, Sunrise has focussed on the development of clear, nonpartisan policy goals. Its members are working within existing political structures, pressuring politicians to take more active stances on the issue of climate change and to reject donations from fossil-fuel entities, and getting out the youth vote.

“Our strategy for 2019 is going to be continuing this momentum to build the people power and the political power to make a Green New Deal a political inevitability in America,” Prakash told me. “In 2020, we, along with our partners, are going to be attempting to build the largest youth political force this country has ever seen.” The movement has received support from established environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and 350.org, but a spokesperson for Sunrise, Stephen O’Hanlon, said the assistance has been primarily non-financial. He added that the organization has raised less than a million dollars since it was started, from a mix of grants from foundations and grassroots donors."



"On Tuesday morning, the day after the protest in Washington, I met with four of the Sunrise Movement’s co-founders at a bakery near Washington’s Union Station. They had ended the previous day with a small party at the office of 350.org. The office of Ayanna Pressley, the newly elected Justice Democrats–endorsed representative from Massachusetts, had sent pizzas.

Over oatmeal and coffee, they told me about their personal awakenings about climate change. Sara Blazevic, who is twenty-five and from New York City, went on a volunteer trip to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when she was sixteen. Victoria Fernandez, who is also twenty-five and from California, talked about how unseasonable rains had affected business at the tennis shop her father owns, in the Bay Area. Evan Weber, who is twenty-seven and grew up in Hawaii, told me that the beaches he had played on as a child in Oahu have since been washed away. Stephen O’Hanlon, twenty-three, who is from outside of Philadelphia, had witnessed the effects of mountaintop removal on a trip to Appalachia organized by a college group.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Prakash and Blazevic, who knew each other from the fossil-fuel divestment campaigns they had led in college, began connecting with other youth climate activists to discuss how they might form a more effective movement. They saw how Bernie Sanders had helped spark a new political energy among their peers, who were suddenly inspired to see their student debt and poor job prospects in more political terms. For Blazevic, the moment of clarity came in December, 2015, when she read remarks from Sanders in which he used the phrase “fossil-fuel billionaires.”

“I remember being, like, ‘That is it, why are we not talking about the fossil-fuel billionaires in the climate movement?” she recalled. “I just remember feeling like this is the story that we should be telling in the climate movement. We should be talking about the people who are most responsible for this crisis, and naming names of the Rex Tillersons of the world instead of doing what the climate movement had been doing for a while, which was, at least, in my corner of it, getting lost in conflicts with college administrators over small pools of money.”

Their first meeting, in July, 2016, was in the Neighborhood Preservation Center in New York City. They agreed that they wanted to propose solutions to the climate crisis that match its magnitude. Since climate change disproportionately affects poor communities of color, they agreed that racial and economic justice had to be considered in any solution to climate change they proposed.

They arranged to meet once a month for the next nine months, renting houses or staying with volunteers in a different location each time. They went to an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, to Delaware, to Virginia. Their numbers grew to a dozen people.

They studied the wins and the losses of the climate movement in its forty-year history. They read books about how other mass movements had grown viral and gone to scale—Fernandez fished out a waterlogged copy of the book “Rules for Revolutionaries” to give me one example. Others: “Reinventing Organizations,” by Frederic Laloux; “Where Do We Go from Here,” by Martin Luther King, Jr.; “This Is an Uprising,” by Mark and Paul Engler. Several of their members had attended a workshop at a social-movement training institute called Momentum, where they had studied how to effectively combine structured organizing with mass protest.

The idea was to build a movement that people would join to feel a part of some larger history. “In the Bernie moment, I was seeing so many young people who were, like, ‘I would drop everything to be a part of the political revolution,’ ” Blazevic said. “After the primary ended in their states, … [more]
emilywitt  optimism  greennewdeal  climatechange  climate  storytelling  alexandriaocasio-cortez  varshiniprakash  diversity  activism  climatejustice  politics  youth  grassroots  immigration  migration  closetohome  ows  occupywallstreet  blacklivesmatter  environment  sustainability  democrats 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Announcing Better Worlds: a science fiction project about hope - The Verge
"Contemporary science fiction often feels fixated on a sort of pessimism that peers into the world of tomorrow and sees the apocalypse looming more often than not. At a time when simply reading the news is an exercise in exhaustion, anxiety, and fear, it’s no surprise that so many of our tales about the future are dark amplifications of the greatest terrors of the present. But now more than ever, we also need the reverse: stories that inspire hope.

That’s why, starting on January 14th, we’ll be publishing Better Worlds: 10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of science fiction authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday.

Growing up, I was surrounded by optimistic science fiction — not only the idealism of television shows like Star Trek, but also the pulpy, thrilling adventures of golden age science fiction comics. They imagined worlds where the lot of humanity had been improved by our innovations, both technological and social. Stories like these are more than just fantasy and fabulism; they are articulations of hope. We need only look at how many tech leaders were inspired to pursue careers in technology because of Star Trek to see the tangible effect of inspirational fiction. (Conversely, Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson once linked the increasing scarcity of optimistic science fiction to “innovation starvation.”)

Better Worlds is partly inspired by Stephenson’s fiction anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future as well as Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, a 2015 “visionary fiction” anthology that is written by a diverse array of social activists and edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. Their premise was simple: whenever we imagine a more equitable, sustainable, or humane world, we are producing speculative fiction, and this creates a “vital space” that is essential to forward progress.

The stories of Better Worlds are not intended to be conflict-free utopias or Pollyanna-ish paeans about how tech will solve everything; many are set in societies where people face challenges, sometimes life-threatening ones. But all of them imagine worlds where technology has made life better and not worse, and characters find a throughline of hope. We hope these stories will offer you the same: inspiration, optimism, or, at the very least, a brief reprieve that makes you feel a little bit better about what awaits us in the future — if we find the will to make it so.

—Laura Hudson, Culture Editor, The Verge

BETTER WORLDS STORIES

“A Theory Of Flight”
By Justina Ireland | Animation by All In Pixel
A daring plan to build an open-source rocket could help more people escape Earth.

“Move The World”
By Carla Speed McNeil
Once in your life, you can choose to pull a lever that resets the world — but will it make things better?

“A Model Dog”
By John Scalzi | Animation by Joel Plosz
An overbearing CEO demands that his employees engineer a solution to his dad’s aging dog.

“Online Reunion”
By Leigh Alexander
A young journalist chronicling a vintage e-pet reunion gets more than she expected.

“St. Juju”
By Rivers Solomon | Animation by Allen Laseter
A young woman must choose between her secure enclave and the one she loves.

“Monsters In Their Season”
By Cadwell Turnbull
An island commonwealth integrates an AI to defend itself against a worsening hurricane season.

“Overlay”
By Elizabeth Bonesteel | Animation by Device
A family hopes that running the perfect simulation can wake the father from a coma.

“Skin City”
By Kelly Robson
A street performer gets into trouble after falling for a radical privacy devotee.

“A Sun Will Always Sing”
By Karin Lowachee | Animation by Yeah Haus
A spacecraft carrying precious cargo embarks on a lifetime journey to a better world.

“The Burn”
By Peter Tieryas
As people around the world fall victim to The Burn, AR researchers begin to suspect a pattern."

[See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAyBWYlLGGo ]
theverge  towatch  sciencefiction  scifi  optimism  technooptimism  animation  stories  hope  nealstephenson  walidahimarisha  adriennemareebrown  inspiration  justinaireland  carlaspeedmcneil  johnscalzi  joelplosz  leighalexander  allenlaseter  riverssolomon  cadwellturnbull  elizabthbonesteel  kellyrobson  karinlowachee  petertiervas 
december 2018 by robertogreco
John McWhorter: How Texting ‘LOL’ Changed Communication - The Atlantic
[on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA6V_th9rQw ]

"“Today, communication is much more fluid, much more varied, much subtler—it's better,” says John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, author, and frequent contributor to The Atlantic, in a new video from the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival. A big reason for this advancement in communication is, McWorther argues, the advent of texting—and even more specifically, the proliferation of the acronym “LOL.”

In the video, McWorther explains how LOL “ended up creeping in and replacing involuntary laughter,” and what meant for the new era of informal, nuanced communication. “It used to be that if you were going to write in any real way beyond the personal letter, there were all these rules you were afraid you were breaking—and you probably were,” he says. “It wasn't a comfortable form. You can write comfortably now.”"
johnmcwhorter  texting  texts  lol  2018  communication  language  linguistics  mobile  phones  change  flirting  fluidity  informal  informality  comfort  nuance  optimism 
september 2018 by robertogreco
What If? And What’s Wrong? – Sherri Spelic – Medium
"According to Erikson’s analysis, Design Thinking favors those already positioned to benefit from and claim the best of what society has to offer. It stands to reason then those places where Design Thinking finds its most ardent supporters and enthusiastic practitioners will be among those with the resources of time, money and opportunity who can contemplate ‘What if’ questions in relative existential safety.

In his study of the lives of the vulnerable, Marc Lamont Hill challenges us to go beyond the headlines and video capture of numerous awful human interactions to see the system designs already in place which made those encounters more likely, more predictable, more damaging. He shows us the histories and patterns of disenfranchisement and exclusion of America’s vulnerable that are hiding in plain sight. Embedded in those patterns are hundreds of local, statewide and federal design decisions in urban planning, municipal budgeting, school district allocation, law enforcement strategy, and social service delivery all with the potential to support or suppress affected communities. The question ‘What’s wrong?’ is ever present in these contexts but when addressed with the kind of careful analysis that Hill provides we can name the elephant in the room, trace its origins, learn how it grew and was nourished over time.

Our students can see inequality. Many of them experience its injustices on a daily basis. Precisely here is where I would like to see us focus our educator energies: on helping students see and identify the faulty designs throughout our society that plague the most vulnerable among us. In order to dismantle and correct these designs and patterns, they must first be able to notice and name them. That’s the kind of design thinking I hope and wish for: Where ‘what’s wrong?’ drives our pursuit of ‘what if?’

I also imagine that would be a pretty tough sell in the current marketplace of ideas."
sherrispelic  designthinking  education  skepticism  criticalthinking  systems  systemsthinking  inequality  2018  marclamonthill  leevinsel  meganerikson  entrepreneurship  neoliberalism  optimism  enthusiasm  design 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole on Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1 Reality takes no time off. Year end reckoning and new year anticipation are implicitly dyed with mortality. Some of those who…” • Instagram
"1
Reality takes no time off. Year end reckoning and new year anticipation are implicitly dyed with mortality. Some of those who will die this year already know it: they are terminally ill, and the clock moves inexorably. Many of those who will die this year, perhaps most, do not know it—could be you, could be me. Death comes as a surprise. Not living till the end of a given year having lived to the end of so many years, having lived to the end of all the years one has ever known (this is what being alive means), comes as a surprise, even for the terminally ill. Nor have we mentioned the many who will live but who will have come to live in a diminished way—I speak now not only of illnesses. Given these dark potentials, what are we then to do but to love each other and to move as best as we can without fear?
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
2
I turn the year, each year, with a relief that is quickly overtaken by apprehension. As a social being, I briefly subsume these antisocial emotions under a mask of merriment. I raise my glass and cry out “Happy New Year!” with the others—and even mean it, as wish and prayer. But soon afterward, in solitude and quietness, I return to my uncertainties: that one simply doesn’t know what any year might bring beyond its reliably mixed bag of elation, cataclysm, grief, banality, and epiphany. In the presence of such an inchoate proximate future, what are we to do but to love each other and to move as best as we can without fear?
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
3
Happy New Year!"
tejucole  love  fear  optimism  2017  2018  death  future  uncertainty  apprehension  anxiety 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Undercommoning – Revolution within, against, and beyond the University
"No nostalgia for the past | No nostalgia for the future

Undercommoning is building a North American network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the (neo)liberal, (neo)colonial university.

We host critical discussions and engagements to build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and undercommons-centred power. We aspire to create heterogenous networks that will link disparate geographic locations while also facilitating meaningful relationships around local, place-based organizing.

Undercommoning is an evolving network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the neoliberal, (neo)colonial university in North America. We seek to experiment with and broadcast new ways of working together, new forms of study, and new pathways to solidarity."



"What is the Undercommoning Project?

We participate in and affirm those activist projects that oppose and seek alternatives to gentrification, commercialization, rising student debt and tuition, low wages for university staff and contract labor, and the academy’s attempts to hold a monopoly on the production of knowledge.

We host occasional critical online discussions called “encounters,” broadcast and publish interviews with activists, and otherwise solicit and disseminate texts and projects that build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and to sustain and amplify the undercommons: those networks of struggle, study and creativity that exist within, outside and in spite of the university.

We aim to create platforms to connect those struggling in the shadows of the university: not only workers and students within the institution, but those for free education, autonomous learning, and collective study outside of the university’s walls. The Undercommoning project provides a framework to link diverse local struggles so that they can gain strength and insight from one another’s efforts and visions.

What does Undercommoning mean?
We discuss the project and its goals in more detail in this article: http://undercommoning.org/undercommoning-within-against-and-beyond/

Who we are
The Undercommoning Project is an alliance of outcasts and fugitive knowledge workers struggling in the margins and on the edges of the universities that wrought us.

As a network, we aim to connect to one another both continentally and locally, appropriating where we can the new technologies of digital communication and meeting in person when possible.

The network is maintained by a rotating “Collective” of 10-15 people, most of whom are precarious academic or university workers, some of whom have exited the university. We work semi-anonymously to avoid the recuperative and repressive forces of academic capitalism.

We reject the artificial hierarchies of knowledge and prestige that are the weapons of the university. As such, we are open to anyone onto whom the university casts its shadow, from custodial workers to dropouts, from adjunct faculty to administrative support staff, from students to food servers, from trade unionists to activists building alternative institutions.

We work in the tradition of militant inquiry: bottom-up collective learning dedicated to building community capacities for radical social change. Our project seeks to amplify everyday forms of resistance. The online forum is a place to share radical critiques and strategies for overturning a system where education is a transaction. Further, we recognize the education many of us have received owes an unpayable debt to oppression in the forms of colonialism, slavery, and dispossession of indigenous communities.

What we do?

While we are just getting off the ground now, as a collective, we aim to……

• Host regular online meet-ups for organizers and thinkers to learn about one another’s struggles and build solidarity and capacity.
• Publish interviews, transcripts, essays, news and examples from struggles around the world
• Organize local events where organizers can gather and make common cause.
• Act as a network for organizers and activists within, against, and beyond the university.
• Reveal and challenge the North American university as a site working at the junction of settler-colonialism, neoliberal capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and other systems of domination and exploitation. We also diagnose the university as a key institution of power that works in concert with police, prisons, the financial system, the ‘lower’ education system, punitive state bureaucracies, culture industries and other means of oppression.
• Catalyze intersectional solidarity between and beyond laborers of the university, including: precarious academic workers; clerical, technical, food service, maintenance, and other support workers; subcontracted workers; exploited student laborers; international learners’ and those ejected from or refused by the university.
• Valorize the labor of the “undercommons”, promoting the autonomy of these forms of bottom-up refusal, collaboration, solidarity and mass intellectuality that the university at once subjugates and requires for its survival.
How can I find out more?

Our hallmarks
• Anti-colonial: towards the reclamation and revalourization of Indigenous, non-white and proletarian forms of learning/study/community-building/praxis.
• Anti-racist: Towards a politics of liberation, against the afterlives of slavery and ongoing forms of racial capitalism which universities sustain and reproduce
• Anticapitalist: against the university as an Edu-factory and against schools as reproducers of class relations
• No nostalgia: for the public education or Keynesian university-that-never-was
• Feminist: for dismantling patriarchy and hetero-and-cis-sexism
• Trans-&-Queer-Liberationist: Towards a queer rebellion, against homonormative forms of capture and the valo(u)rization of new capitalist demographics
• Autonomist: grassroots self-organization, extraparliamentary, non-sectarian
• Accomplices: beyond allyship, strategizing with, not for, and ready to betray academic institutions
• Undercommoning: radical networks, resource redirection, subversion, non-participation
• Experimentation/exodus: radical creativity and courage
• Solidarity: learning/study in league with communities, struggles, etc.
• Strategic optimism: not just a pity party or a social club"
highered  highereducation  undercommons  stefanohaney  fredmoten  academia  gentrification  learning  neoliberalism  capitalism  colonialism  decolonization  praxis  feminism  networks  allyship  solidarity  optimism  strategicoptimism  education  anicapitalism  antiracism  indigenous  indigeneity  colleges  universities 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Impakt Festival 2017 - Performance: ANAB JAIN. HQ - YouTube
[Embedded here: http://impakt.nl/festival/reports/impakt-festival-2017/impakt-festival-2017-anab-jain/ ]

"'Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts': @anab_jain's expansive keynote @impaktfestival weaves threads through death, transcience, uncertainty, growthism, technological determinism, precarity, imagination and truths. Thanks to @jonardern for masterful advise on 'modelling reality', and @tobias_revell and @ndkane for the invitation."
https://www.instagram.com/p/BbctTcRFlFI/ ]
anabjain  2017  superflux  death  aging  transience  time  temporary  abundance  scarcity  future  futurism  prototyping  speculativedesign  predictions  life  living  uncertainty  film  filmmaking  design  speculativefiction  experimentation  counternarratives  designfiction  futuremaking  climatechange  food  homegrowing  smarthomes  iot  internetofthings  capitalism  hope  futures  hopefulness  data  dataviz  datavisualization  visualization  williamplayfair  society  economics  wonder  williamstanleyjevons  explanation  statistics  wiiliambernstein  prosperity  growth  latecapitalism  propertyrights  jamescscott  objectivity  technocrats  democracy  probability  scale  measurement  observation  policy  ai  artificialintelligence  deeplearning  algorithms  technology  control  agency  bias  biases  neoliberalism  communism  present  past  worldview  change  ideas  reality  lucagatti  alextaylor  unknown  possibility  stability  annalowenhaupttsing  imagination  ursulaleguin  truth  storytelling  paradigmshifts  optimism  annegalloway  miyamotomusashi  annatsing 
november 2017 by robertogreco
SOLARPUNK : A REFERENCE GUIDE – Solarpunks – Medium
"Solarpunk is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian. As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings. Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share. At once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, and an achievable lifestyle.
In progress…"

[See also:
http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/post/165763925033/solarpunk-a-reference-guide-solarpunks

"This page is an attempt to open up the optics of the Solarpunk community/genre for newcomers and others looking for references. A lot of the early discussions happened on tumblr dot com from 2014 onward after @missolivialouise‘s character concept post took off — with a core community of stewards who know who they are.

What follows is not meant to be an exhaustive list but hopefully will increasingly become one. We’re also aware that we are missing almost all of the art references from this list. :(

We also didn’t include any posts from us here at http://solarpunks.tumblr.com

Please get in touch (DM) with art and their references as a lot of content has lost their attribution  — @thejaymo"]
solarpunk  reference  speculativefiction  art  fashion  activism  sustainability  civilization  utopia  dystopia  optimism  kindness  future  futurism 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Ellen Ullman: Life in Code: "A Personal History of Technology" | Talks at Google - YouTube
"The last twenty years have brought us the rise of the internet, the development of artificial intelligence, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society. Through it all, Ellen Ullman lived and worked inside that rising culture of technology, and in Life in Code she tells the continuing story of the changes it wrought with a unique, expert perspective.

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t. Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years—and the next twenty."
ellenullman  bias  algorithms  2017  technology  sexism  racism  age  ageism  society  exclusion  perspective  families  parenting  mothers  programming  coding  humans  humanism  google  larrypage  discrimination  self-drivingcars  machinelearning  ai  artificialintelligence  literacy  reading  howweread  humanities  education  publicschools  schools  publicgood  libertarianism  siliconvalley  generations  future  pessimism  optimism  hardfun  kevinkelly  computing 
october 2017 by robertogreco
some thoughts on the humanities - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"The idea that underlies Bakhtin’s hopefulness, that makes discovery and imagination essential to the work of the humanities, is, in brief, Terence’s famous statement, clichéd though it may have become: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. To say that nothing human is alien to me is not to say that everything human is fully accessible to me, fully comprehensible; it is not to erase or even to minimize cultural, racial, or sexual difference; but it is to say that nothing human stands wholly outside my ability to comprehend — if I am willing to work, in a disciplined and informed way, at the comprehending. Terence’s sentence is best taken not as a claim of achievement but as an essential aspiration; and it is the distinctive gift of the humanities to make that aspiration possible.

It is in this spirit that those claims that, as we have noted, emerged from humanistic learning, must be evaluated: that our age is postmodern, posthuman, postsecular. All the resources and practices of the humanities — reflective and critical, inquiring and skeptical, methodologically patient and inexplicably intuitive — should be brought to bear on these claims, and not with ironic detachment, but with the earnest conviction that our answers matter: they are, like those master concepts themselves, both diagnostic and prescriptive: they matter equally for our understanding of the past and our anticipating of the future."
alanjacobs  posthumanism  2016  humanities  understanding  empathy  postmodernism  postsecularism  georgesteiner  kennethburke  foucault  stephengrenblatt  via:lukeneff  erikdavis  raykurzweil  claudeshannon  mikhailbakhtin  terence  difference  comprehension  aspiration  progress  listening  optimism  learning  inquiry  history  future  utopia  michelfoucault 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Apocalypse, Now - On The Media - WNYC
"Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.

2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest. 

3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there's hope.

4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!"
robertmacfarlane  kimstanleyrobinson  clairevayewatkins  jeffvandermeer  sciencefiction  scifi  speculativefiction  anthropocene  humans  nature  multispecies  language  tolisten  economics  finance  cli-fi  climatechange  utopia  names  naming  silence  pessimism  optimism  hope  dystopia  anthopocene  deserts  natue  change  earth 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Cecilia Cissell Lucas, Commencement, May 19, 2013 - YouTube
"PhD graduate speech, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education, Social and Cultural Studies Program"

[transcript: https://pdiehl.blogspot.com/2013/06/you-must-see-hear-and-read-this-speech.html

"Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here, and for all of your support for one another over the years. And thank you also to those who would like to be here today, but could not. This includes my Mom, who always made fun of me for taking forever to graduate -- but she passed away a couple of years ago and I am missing her today.

Of course, death is not the only thing that keeps people apart. Friends and families are ripped apart every day in this country due to an immigration system which criminalizes and deports people without “documentation”; and due to a prison industrial complex which disproportionately criminalizes and locks up dark-skinned people.

I raise these issues at an education graduation not only to honor those who may not be able to be with us today, but to raise the question of what it means for educators to be there for and with our students.

I think the answer to this question is, simply: to love. Simple, but not easy. Love is a discipline that must be practiced rigorously, and often involves taking risks.

Bell hooks has argued that where there is domination, love is impossible because domination is the opposite of love. To love, then, means being committed to bringing about justice.

This is also a pragmatic issue in our classrooms, if we are concerned with equity. We know that social policies and structures impact our students. Poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity impact a person’s ability to learn. So do the daily micro- and macro-aggressions of racism, nationalism, sexism and homophobia – all of which are systems of domination. These issues require our engagement beyond the classroom. But as educators, we should also interrogate the ways in which our curricula, pedagogies, disciplinary practices and school policies are supporting and justifying, rather than countering, economic and social systems of domination.

For example, I am inspired by the strong and growing movement against high stakes standardized testing. However, aren’t all tests -- and isn’t grading itself -- “high stakes” in the context of a society that thinks it is okay to discriminate on the basis of educational achievement?

All of us know that while, yes, we worked hard to get into UC Berkeley and to be here graduating today, this does not necessarily make us any smarter or more hard-working than others who do not have these degrees. And certainly our credentials do not make us more or less worthy as human beings. But that is what our society teaches us when our credentials are correlated with greater income and greater positions of power and influence.

There is a movement for “college for all” – but even if everyone were to get a PhD, does this mean that there would miraculously be enough well-paying and meaningful jobs available for everyone? We are told we need to improve our schools so that we remain “globally competitive” and that we are being responsible parents when, if we have the resources, we remove our kids from public schools or insist on AP and honors tracks within schools – but what does this say about our attitude towards the worth of children in other countries, poor children and/or children who are left out of honors and AP?

In a ranked system there is no such thing as “no child left behind” because ranking means some people’s success depends on others being less successful; the term “race to the top” is at least more honest.

Can we refuse to participate in a system which brutalizes so many of our students in this way, and reclaim schools for the kinds of learning that can help us build more just and loving societies?

We deal with many institutional constraints, but we are not helpless. Many people are working to create change using a range of strategies: direct resistance, subversive actions under the radar, acquiring positions of decision-making power, and creating alternative institutions.

Regardless of the strategies, we need to remain aware of the ways in which we compromise with oppressive practices. And we need to be doing this work in collaboration with our students and communities because we need all of our efforts and insights to shift from a norm of domination to a norm of love.

This rigorous discipline of love also requires learning to distinguish between liberatory and oppressive perspectives. This means teachers should not attempt to be neutral. There is no such thing as neutrality. That which appears neutral typically appears that way because it resembles the norm. But when the norm is characterized by domination, that is what we end up supporting when we attempt to be neutral.

While I am raising many difficult issues, I am actually quite hopeful. Cornel West distinguishes between hope and optimism. Optimism, he says, is “based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better.” Hope, however, looks at the evidence and says, “It does not look good at all. But gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.

And, the thing is, people have always done this. That is, people have always created liberatory visions that they’ve resiliently acted on against the odds. The question before us, as educators, is whether we are willing to join in that legacy of past and present love warriors.

In our classrooms, this means that instead of creating docile obedient bodies, we need to foster intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical daring. We also need to develop radical imaginations that can expand our sense of the possible. How many classrooms have you been in where you simultaneously developed rigorous analytical capacities, connected the classroom work to meaningful work beyond the classroom and experienced a learning process in which it was okay and even encouraged to publicly cry, laugh, rage, dance, be playful, be honest, be still, be unknowing, and take risks?

I ask my students to take many risks in the classroom, including trying things that might feel scary. It’s useful to practice in low-stakes situations so that we might be prepared in situations with higher-stakes consequences.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m going to conclude with something that feels scary to me. I don’t sing, and have certainly never done so into a microphone. So in the spirit of working together, I’m asking all of you -- in the audience and up on stage -- to please stand up and help me out; I know many of you know the words, and we’ll sing the chorus a few times so everyone can join in. If you don’t want to say “man,” you can say:

I’m starting with the one in the mirror. I’m asking her to change her ways. And no message could’ve been any clearer: if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.

Know that the mirror is not just on the wall but also in the eyes of other people who help us to see ourselves and the world in clearer ways. So commit to each other. Commit to loving as fiercely and uncontrollably as possible. Shout it out in your own way, in your own languages of the tongue and of the body: love, love, love, love, love. Thank you.”]
cecliacissell  oppression  domination  love  teaching  education  pedagogy  curriculum  2013  cornelwest  optimism  hope  justice  socialjustice  radicalism  liberation  risk  risktaking  bellhooks 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Parable Of The Sower – Not 1984 – Is The Dystopia For Our Age – Nnedi Okorafor
"Following US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s classic dystopia 1984 jumped to number one on Amazon’s list of best-selling books, just the latest sign of the genre’s current popularity.

But Nigerian-American World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor said 1984 is not the dystopia that feels most relevant to her at this point in history. “After everything that happened, I’m not reading 1984, I’m not reading Fahrenheit 451, I’m not reading A Handmaid’s Tale. I’m reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I feel like if we’re looking for any answers or where we’re going, it’s definitely in Octavia’s work.”

Speaking to The Stream on Al Jazeera, Okorafor read from the African-American novelist’s 1998 sequel, the Nebula-winning Parable of the Talents, which features a presidential candidate, Andrew Steele Jarret, who rises to power by promising, like Trump, to “make America great again,” and whose supporters are known to form mobs to burn and feather and tar those who don’t “quite match Jarret’s version of Christianity.”

Okorafor added that “the definition of dystopia depends on the group of people.” The Stream host, Femi Oke, used the regular power cuts in Nigeria as an example, saying, “Not having regular power could be the end of civilisation if you live in Brooklyn but not if you live in Abuja.”

New York Times bestselling Chinese-American author Marie Lu agrees. She lived in Beijing at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests, a period most in the West would have described as dystopian, but says during her time there it felt “like that’s just everyday life.”

Utopias for some are normally dystopias for others. Ron Charles, the fiction editor for The Washington Post, recounts a conversation with a professor of American-American literature. “She said what’s so interesting to her is that white people always think of dystopias as looking forward into this scary future, but black Americans can look back. They’ve already come through their dystopia. They had 200 years of horror and slavery. All the kinds of things we imagine the future dystopia being like are what black Americans already went through.”

Lu takes this further, saying, “There has never been a time in which we have not been living through a dystopia.”

Okorafor’s novels have been described as both dystopian and Afrofuturism, but she doesn’t see a contradiction in the terms. “Afrofuturism isn’t always upbeat,” she says. “A lot of it is in response to the darkness and trying to show the light but a lot of it goes dark… Afrofuturism is very diverse, so pinning it down to being focused on upliftment and being positive is a little short-sighted.”

Asked about what she’s currently working on, Okorafor said she is editing a “not so dark” novel called Remote Control, set in the future in Ghana, dealing with both technology and mysticism.

Watch the full discussion, which also features Dakar-based photographer Fabrice Monteiro, at https://fabricemonteiro.viewbook.com/ "

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQpdYT3jByM ]
dystopia  nnediokorafor  marielu  roncharles  afrofuturism  fabricemonteiro  femioke  2017  present  future  optimism  utopia  1984  georgeorwell  octaviabutler  parableofthesower  civilization 
february 2017 by robertogreco
A Boom Interview: Mike Davis in conversation with Jennifer Wolch and Dana Cuff – Boom California
"Dana Cuff: You told us that you get asked about City of Quartz too often, so let’s take a different tack. As one of California’s great urban storytellers, what is missing from our understanding of Los Angeles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuff: Why do you call it suburbia?

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



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

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

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

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



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

Davis: Gee, you shouldn’t be disheartened by my books on LA. They’re just impassioned polemics on the necessity of the urban left. And my third LA book, Magical Urbanism, literally glows with optimism about the grassroots renaissance going on in our immigrant neighborhoods. But to return to the two adolescent “science adventure” novels I wrote for Viggo Mortensen’s wonderful Perceval Press. Above all they’re expressions of longing for my oldest son after his mother moved him back to her native Ireland. The heroes are three real kids: my son, his step-brother, and the daughter of our best friends when I taught at Stony Brook on Long Island. Her name is Julia Monk, and she’s now a wildlife biologist doing a Ph.D. at Yale on pumas in the Andes. I’m very proud that I made her the warrior-scientist heroine of the novels, because it was an intuition about her character that she’s made real in every way—just a remarkable young person."
mikedavis  2016  interviews  economics  california  sanfrancisco  losangeles  henrygeorge  urbanism  urban  suburbia  suburbs  jenniferolch  danacuff  fauxurbanism  hipsters  downtown  property  ownership  housing  populism  progressive  progressivism  reynerbanham  planning  urbanplanning  citybeautiful  gentrification  cities  homeless  homelessness  michaelrotundi  frankgehry  richardlouv  gangs  sandiego  friendship  colinward  thechildinthecity  architecture  fun  discovery  informal  unprogrammed  freedom  capitalism  china  india  england  ireland  famine  optimism  juliamonk  children  teens  youth  development  realestate  zoning  sanbernardino  sciarc 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Is Children of Men 2016’s Most Relevant Film? -- Vulture
"Now, in 2016, Children of Men is having a remarkable resurgence — not just because of its tenth anniversary but because of its unsettling relevance at the conclusion of this annus horribilis. There have been glowing reappraisals on grounds both sociopolitical (Children of Men is “obviously something that should be on people’s minds after Brexit and after the rise of Donald Trump,” political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared in September) and artistic (“Children of Men, like no other film this century, and perhaps no other movie ever, solves the meaning of life,” wrote Vanity Fair columnist Richard Lawson in August). It’s getting the kind of online attention it sorely lacked ten years ago, generating recent headlines like “The Syrian Refugee Crisis Is Our Children of Men Moment” and “Are We Living in the Dawning of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men?” As critic David Ehrlich put it in November, “Children of Men may be set in 2027,” but in 2016, “it suddenly became clear that its time had come.”

Cuarón, however, is not feeling like taking an overdue victory lap. Curled over a table in an upscale Mexico City restaurant recently, the 55-year-old director gets a little irritated when I laud the film’s imaginative prescience. “This thing was not imagination,” he says, jabbing his index finger into the tablecloth. By Cuarón’s estimation, anyone surprised at the accuracy of his movie’s predictions was either uninformed or willfully ignorant about the way the world already was by 2006. “People were talking about those things, just not in the mainstream!” he says. He was reading about refugees, know-nothing reactionaries, and eerie disruptions in biological processes during the early '00s. If Children of Men can be said to have a message, Cuarón encapsulates it: “What’s really relevant now,” he tells me, “is to stop being complacent.”"



"Action. Owen ran, Richmond followed, and astoundingly, all was going smoothly. They got to a hollowed-out bus filled with people, through which Theo is supposed to scamper. Suddenly, one of the squibs misfired and, horror of horrors, a squirt of fake blood landed on the lens. Cuarón, watching on a monitor, felt his world collapse. “I yell, ‘Cut!’ ” he says, recounting the moment like a ghost story. “But an explosion happens at the same time, so nobody hears me.” The camera kept rolling, and Cuarón realized he had no choice but to let it play through, even though he was sure the shot was ruined and had no idea how he would proceed. “When we said, ‘Cut,’ Chivo starts dancing like crazy,” he says. “And I was like, ‘No, it didn’t work! There’s blood!’ And Chivo turns to me and says, ‘You stupid! That was a miracle!’ ” Chivo was right. One of the film’s enduring strengths is how it uses hyper-minute details to lull you into accepting the plausibility of this dire reality: bus advertisements that hawk trendy clothes for dogs (kids may be gone, but capitalism isn’t, so wouldn’t the Gap push you to dress your pets?); Theo casually asking Julian if her parents were “in New York when it happened” and never explaining what terrifying event “it” might have been; or the elderly, white, German refugee using her native tongue to indignantly weep about being herded alongside Schwarzen. The blood-squib shot encapsulates this aesthetic, and has since become famous — an eerie moment that, once seen, can’t be shaken, even ten years later. This dystopia doesn’t feel like a metaphor or a cautionary tale; it feels like a revelation of deeper truth. As one of Children of Men’s biggest fans, Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, put it in a documentary featurette that accompanied the DVD release, “A good portrait is more you than you are, yourself, and I think this is what the film does with our reality … It simply makes reality more what it already is.”"



"I saw Children of Men by accident on January 1, 2007, after finding that the movie I’d intended to see — Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, if I recall correctly — was sold out. I picked Children of Men despite knowing absolutely nothing about it, and seeing it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I came back to the theater to see Children of Men at least a half-dozen times over the following weeks. Then, a strange thing started to happen at night. I would dream about the final scene, in which Theo and Kee sit in the rowboat, awaiting the ship whose existence Theo won’t live to confirm. Upon waking, I’d find myself sobbing uncontrollably, soaking my pillow and heaving my gut.

Only after speaking with Cuarón did I realize why I wept: not with sorrow, but with hope for my own future. Children of Men imagines a fallen world, yes, but it also imagines a once-cynical person being reborn with purpose and clarity. It’s a story about how people like me, those who have the luxury of tuning out, need to awaken. This has been a brutal year, but we were already suffering from a kind of spiritual infertility: The old ideologies long ago stopped working. In a period where the philosophical pillars supporting the global left, right, and center are crumbling, the film’s desperate plea for the creation and protection of new ideas feels bracingly relevant.

Even though that lesson eluded me for a decade, I retained a passionate affection for Children of Men, long ago losing count of the number of times I’ve watched it. So it’s been deeply satisfying to see its robust second life among critics: It was particularly gratifying to see that, when the BBC polled 177 critics for a master list of the greatest films of the 21st century, Children of Men clocked in at number 13, beating out canonical flicks like 12 Years a Slave, Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation, and The Master.

Oddly enough, Cuarón doesn’t seem interested in talking about the film’s critical reappraisal, nor in agreeing that it is more relevant now than it was in 2006. We met up 12 days after Trump’s victory, and I expected him to be in full end-is-nigh mode, but he was relentlessly pleasant. He said he was not surprised that the atavistic rage of the Brexiters and Trumpists had overcome the weakening forces of centrist democracy. But most important, Cuarón was, against all odds, confident that better days lie ahead. “I used to think that any solution would come from the paradigms that I know,” he says. “Now I think that the only thing is to think of the unimaginable. For the new generation, the unimaginable is not as unimaginable.”

But, I counter, thanks to climate change, won’t we all be underwater pretty soon? Sure, he says, climate change could decimate humanity, but that’s no excuse to give in to fatalism. “There would be, still, pockets of populations that will scatter around the world,” he says. “What’s at stake is the culture as we know it.” Humans will continue to exist — and we have a responsibility to build a culture of respect and mutual assistance. It seems so dreadfully unlikely, but we are obligated to hope.

Cuarón is very specific about what he means by that word. For him, it is not a passive thing. It is not a messianic thing, either — he speaks derisively of the idea that you could vote for Barack Obama, then sit back passively and feel disappointed. “The hope is something that you create,” he says. “You live by hoping and then you create that change. Hope is trying to change your present for a better world. It’s pretty much up to you.” The gap between our world and that of Children of Men is closing rapidly, but he refuses to give up his faith in our wayward species. There are dark days ahead, to be sure, but perhaps they will also be days of transformation. “Look, I’m absolutely pessimistic about the present,” Cuarón says. “But I’m very optimistic about the future.”"
alfonsocuarón  childrenofmen  2016  2006  film  movies  abrahamriesman  climatechange  optimism  hope  refugees  francisfukuyama  richardlawson  complacency  dystopia  emmanuellubezki  filmmaking 
january 2017 by robertogreco
99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year – Future Crunch – Medium
[See also Chris Hadfield’s list:

"With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look."
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:017019e54e7b ]

"Our media feeds are echo chambers. And those echo chambers don’t just reflect our political beliefs; they reflect our feelings about human progress. Bad news is a bubble too."

Some of the biggest conservation successes in generation

[1 – 9]

Huge strides forward for global health

[10 – 24]

Political and economic progress in many parts of the world

[25 – 41]

We finally started responding seriously to the climate change emergency

[42 – 59]

The world got less violent

[60 – 66]

Signs of hope for a life-sustaining economy

[67 – 78]

Endangered animals got a some well-deserved breaks

[79 – 90]

The world got more generous

[91 – 99]"
via:anne  optimism  2016  trends  improvement  progress  health  global  healthcare  disease  conservation  environment  chrishadfield  economics  endangeredanimals  animals  violence  climatechange  politics  generosity  charity  philanthropy 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Chris Hadfield on Twitter: "With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look."
[See also: "99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year: Our media feeds are echo chambers. And those echo chambers don’t just reflect our political beliefs; they reflect our feelings about human progress. Bad news is a bubble too."
https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823#.tj7kowhpd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last."
chrishadfield  optimism  2016  improvement  trends  humanity  earth  environment  economics  health  poverty  refugees  crime  news  imprisonment  incarceration  prisons  us  canada  india  reforestation  forests  vaccinations  measles  manatees  tigers  giantpandas  wildlife  animals  multispecies  endangeredanimals  change  progress  oceans  pollutions  peace  war  colombia  government  srilanka  space  science  pacificocean  china  energy  sustainability  costarica  electricity  reneableenergy  britishcolumbia  ebola  ozone  africa  uruguay  smoking  disease  healthcare  dementia  mortality  environmentalism  italy  italia  bears  grizzlybears  spacex  gatesfoundation  angusharvey 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative
"My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively. She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.” During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do). was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines. You just seem so nice. I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.” It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.



"At the same time, the hostility between the working class and the elites is so great that there will always be some wariness toward those who go to the other side. And can you blame them? A lot of these people know nothing but judgment and condescension from those with financial and political power, and the thought of their children acquiring that same hostility is noxious. It may just be the sort of value we have to live with.

The odd thing is, the deeper I get into elite culture, the more I see value in this reverse snobbery. It’s the great privilege of my life that I’m deep enough into the American elite that I can indulge a little anti-elitism. Like I said, it keeps you grounded, if nothing else! But it would have been incredibly destructive to indulge too much of it when I was 18.



the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.

Obviously, the idea that there aren’t structural barriers facing both the white and black poor is ridiculous. Mamaw recognized that our lives were harder than rich white people, but she always tempered her recognition of the barriers with a hard-noses willfulness: “never be like those a–holes who think the deck is stacked against them.” In hindsight, she was this incredibly perceptive woman. She recognized the message my environment had for me, and she actively fought against it.

There’s good research on this stuff. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture, which is quite supportive and admirable in its own way, but is full of literature that speaks about addiction as a disease. If you spend a day in these circles, you’ll hear someone say something to the effect of, “You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for a tumor, so why judge an addict for drug use.” This view is a perfect microcosm of the problem among poor Americans. On the one hand, the research is clear that there are biological elements to addiction–in that way, it does mimic a disease. On the other hand, the research is also clear that people who believe their addiction is a biologically mandated disease show less ability to resist it. It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

Interestingly, both in my conversations with poor blacks and whites, there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way. Since Hillbilly Elegy came out, I’ve gotten so many messages along the lines of: “Thank you for being sympathetic but also honest.”

I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty. It’s not easy, especially in our politically polarized world, to recognize both the structural and the cultural barriers that so many poor kids face. But I think that if you don’t recognize both, you risk being heartless or condescending, and often both.



[to liberals:] stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).

There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.



Well, I think it’s important to point out that Christianity, in the quirky way I’ve experienced it, was really important to me, too. For my dad, the way he tells it is that he was a hard partier, he drank a lot, and didn’t have a lot of direction. His Christian faith gave him focus, forced him to think hard about his personal choices, and gave him a community of people who demanded, even if only implicitly, that he act a certain way. I think we all understate the importance of moral pressure, but it helped my dad, and it has certainly helped me! There’s obviously a more explicitly religious argument here, too. If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

General Chuck Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, once said that the most important thing the Corps does for the country is “win wars and make Marines.” I didn’t understand that statement the first time I heard it, but for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management. The challenges start small–running two miles, then three, and more. But they build on each other. If you have good mentors (and I certainly did), you are constantly given tasks, yelled at for failing, advised on how not to fail next time, and then given another try. You learn, through sheer repetition, that you can do difficult things. And that was quite revelatory for me. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. If I had learned helplessness from my environment back home, four years in the Marine Corps taught me something quite different.



After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.

My biggest fear with Trump is that, because of the failures of the Republican and Democratic elites, the bar for the white working class is too low. They’re willing to listen to Trump about rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims because other parts of his message are clearly legitimate. A lot of people think Trump is just the first to appeal to the racism and xenophobia that were already there, but I think he’s making the problem worse.

The other big problem I have with Trump is that he has dragged down our entire political conversation. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from so many of my elite friends some version of, “Trump is the racist leader all of these racist white people deserve.” These comments almost always come from white progressives who know literally zero culturally working class Americans. And I’m always left thinking: if this is the quality of thought of a Harvard Law graduate, then our society is truly doomed. In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger."
donaldtrump  us  elections  2016  politics  poverty  roddreher  jdvance  agency  personalagency  race  economics  policy  optimism  bias  hostility  elitism  tribalism  progressives  liberals  resilience  military  christianity  structure  discipline  willpower  mentors  self-management  character  education  society  class  judgement  condescension  helplessness  despair  learnedhelplessness  sympathy  honesty  rajchetty  snobbery  complexity 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto – The Tattooed Professor
[Especially for this line: "Teaching is a radical act of hope."]

"Every summer, I take time to reflect on the academic year that was. The classes I taught, the workshops I either facilitated or attended, what I learned from failures and successes in and out of the classroom–when it comes to my teaching, I try to be a critically reflective practitioner. Directing a teaching center on my campus gives me a chance to also ground that reflection in the larger discourse about teaching and learning in higher education.

That discourse often doesn’t give one grounds for optimism; we’re continually reminded of the toll neoliberalism has exacted from higher education. Kansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois are only the most dramatic examples of a larger trend where higher education is a hostage to governing elites’ Randian economic fantasies. The fetishizing of “efficiencies” continues to erode faculty effectiveness, morale, and labor conditions. A narrow and misguided rhetoric of marketability and utility slowly chokes the Humanities. And, like a constant refrain above the din, we’re repeatedly told that students aren’t prepared for college, that technology makes them stupid, that none of them knows how to read or write or declaim or interact or balance a checkbook or do laundry or whatever. It’s easy, then, to slide into a sort of existential despair. Why bother teaching when it doesn’t matter? When no one cares about what you do or why you do it?

And, honestly, that’s where I was earlier this summer. It’s hard enough to cope with the challenges inherent in higher ed; coupled with the greasy dumpster fire that is our state of public affairs at the moment, it seems downright impossible. So I did what comes naturally to a historian–I went to my books, and then I wrote. Reconnecting with some of the books that have shaped me as an educator, and taking the time to write reflectively about where I think I stand, was a reminder that despite all of its problems, higher education is still a place of transformation and possibility. But it remains so only if we continually and intentionally hold it to the standards we know it should meet. And at the heart of that enterprise is what we do in the classroom. It comes down to, as it so often doefists, a conversation about teaching and learning.

In that spirit, I share here the products of my wrestling with angst and dismay, and the renewed drive it ultimately sparked.

This is my Teaching Manifesto.

If I want my students to take risks and not be afraid to fail then I need to take risks and not be afraid to fail.

It is tempting to think that “upholding disciplinary standards” is the only thing standing between us and the collapse of western civilization. It is also comically inaccurate.

Remember what Paolo Freire meant when he criticized the “banking model” of education, and take those insights to heart.

Learning cannot occur without metacognition and reflection. This applies to both us and our students.

Kids These Days are just like Kids in My Day, or Any Other Day, if we choose to remember honestly.

Our students are not us. If we merely teach to how we prefer to learn, we exclude a majority of our students.

I cannot assume my students will be able to do something that they have not been asked to do before coming to my class, and I cannot blame them for struggling with a task that’s new to them–no matter how ingrained that task is for me.

I am not the one to decide if a student is “ready for college.” That’s the student’s decision. If they’re admitted to my university and they’re in my class, I am ethically and morally obligated to give them my best.

They’re not deficiencies, they’re data points for our pedagogical decisions.

Just as students can get better at learning, I can get better at teaching. If I expect it from them, I should expect it from me.

There is a large body of scholarly research on teaching and learning. To not be conversant with at least its major findings is to commit professional malpractice.

If pedagogy and professional development are secondary priorities for you, don’t be surprised when your class is a secondary priority for your students.

It doesn’t matter how much I know if my students aren’t learning; knowledge must be used, not set up on a shelf to be admired but not touched.

Much of what we do in the classroom cannot be quantified.

And yet…“cannot be quantified” is not the same as “cannot be measured.” If we can’t demonstrate student learning, we aren’t doing it right.

Reclaim assessment for what it is meant to do: to show what our students can do as a result our classes. If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will tell them for us.

If universities truly value education, they cannot undercompensate or adjunctify the faculty and seriously claim to adhere to that commitment. As someone in a privileged academic position, I am obligated to speak this truth loudly and often.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, some on multiple fronts. Compassion and flexibility >>> being a hardass

Things whose pedagogical impact is often underestimated: empathy and humor.

Things whose pedagogical impact is often overestimated: shaming and rigidity.

When you say “rigor,” I think of corpses.

“Coverage” for coverage’s sake is where learning goes to die.

No matter what: Teaching is a radical act of hope."
pedagogy  technology  radicalism  teaching  2016  kevingannon  howwetech  why  thewhy  whyweteach  hope  rigor  empathy  humor  shaming  rigidity  flexibility  highered  highereducation  optimism  curriculum  manifestos  learning  metacognition  reflection  professionaldevelopment  content  knowledge  howwelearn  howweteach  via:audreywatters 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
[Easy Chair] | The Habits of Highly Cynical People, by Rebecca Solnit | Harper's Magazine
"In April 24, 1916 — Easter Monday — Irish republicans in Dublin and a handful of other places staged an armed rebellion against British occupation. At the time, the British Empire was the strongest power on earth; Ireland was its first and nearest colony. That the puny colony might oust the giant seemed far-fetched, and by most measures the endeavor was a failure. The leaders were executed; the British occupation continued. But not for long: the Easter Uprising is now generally understood as a crucial step in a process that led, in 1937, to full independence for most of the island. A hundred years on, some view 1916 as the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring. It seems to be taken for granted that these uprisings, too, were a failure, since many of the affected countries are now just different kinds of dire than they were before. But the public display of a passionate desire for participatory government, the demonstration of the strength of popular power and the weakness of despotic regimes, and the sheer (if short-lived) exhilaration that took place five years ago may have sown seeds that have not yet germinated.

I am not arguing for overlooking the violence and instability that are now plaguing North Africa and the Middle East. Nor am I optimistic about the near future of the region. I do not know what the long-term consequences of the Arab Spring will be — but neither does anyone else. We live in a time when the news media and other purveyors of conventional wisdom like to report on the future more than the past. They draw on polls and false analogies to announce what is going to happen next, and their frequent errors — about the unelectability of Barack Obama, say, or the inevitability of the Keystone XL pipeline — don’t seem to impede their habit of prophecy or our willingness to abide them. “We don’t actually know” is their least favorite thing to report.

Non-pundits, too, use bad data and worse analysis to pronounce with great certainty on future inevitabilities, present impossibilities, and past failures. The mind-set behind these statements is what I call naïve cynicism. It bleeds the sense of possibility and maybe the sense of responsibility out of people.

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Maybe it also says something about the tendency to oversimplify. If simplification means reducing things to their essentials, oversimplification tosses aside the essential as well. It is a relentless pursuit of certainty and clarity in a world that generally offers neither, a desire to shove nuances and complexities into clear-cut binaries. Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities. Instead, we conduct our conversations like wars, and the heavy artillery of grim confidence is the weapon many reach for.

Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

Different factions have different versions of naïve cynicism. There is, for example, the way the mainstream discounts political action that proceeds outside the usual corridors of power. When Occupy Wall Street began five years ago, the movement was mocked, dismissed, and willfully misunderstood before it was hastily pronounced dead. Its obituary has been written dozens of times over the years by people who’d prefer that the rabble who blur the lines between the homeless and the merely furious not have a political role to play.

But the fruits of OWS are too many to count. People who were involved with local encampments tell me that their thriving offshoots are still making a difference. California alone was said to have more than 100 Occupy groups; what each of them did is impossible to measure. There were results as direct as homeless advocacy, as indirect as a shift in the national debate about housing, medical and student debt, economic injustice, and inequality. There has also been effective concrete action — from debt strikes to state legislation — on these issues. Occupy helped to bring politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio, and Elizabeth Warren into the mainstream.

The inability to assess what OWS accomplished comes in part from the assumption that historical events either produce straightforward, quantifiable, immediate results, or they fail to matter. It’s as though we’re talking about bowling: either that ball knocked over those pins in that lane or it didn’t. But historical forces are not bowling balls. If bowling had to be the metaphor, it would be some kind of metaphysical game shrouded in mists and unfolding over decades. The ball might knock over a pin and then another one in fifteen years and possibly have a strike in some other lane that most of us had forgotten even existed. That’s sort of what the Easter Rising did, and what Occupy and Black Lives Matter are doing now.

Then there is the naïve cynicism of those outside the mainstream who similarly doubt their own capacity to help bring about change, a view that conveniently spares them the hard work such change requires.

I recently posted on Facebook a passage from the February issue of Nature Climate Change in which a group of scientists outlined the impact of climate change over the next 10,000 years. Their portrait is terrifying, but it is not despairing: “This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.” That’s a sentence about catastrophe but also about opportunity. Yet when I posted the article, the first comment I got was, “There’s nothing that’s going to stop the consequences of what we have already done/not done.” This was another way of saying, I’m pitting my own casual assessment over peer-reviewed science; I’m not reading carefully; I’m making a thwacking sound with my false omniscience.

Such comments represent a reflex response that can be used to meet wildly different stimuli. Naïve cynicism remains obdurate in the face of varied events, some of which are positive, some negative, some mixed, and quite a lot of them unfinished.

The climate movement has grown powerful and diverse. On this continent it is shutting down coal plants and preventing new ones from being built. It has blocked fracking, oil and gas leases on public land, drilling in the Arctic, pipelines, and oil trains that carry the stuff that would otherwise run through the thwarted pipelines. Cities, states, and regions are making stunning commitments — San Diego has committed to going 100 percent renewable by 2035.

Remarkable legislation has been introduced even on the national level, such as bills in both the House and the Senate to bar new fossil-fuel extraction on public lands. Those bills will almost certainly not pass in the present Congress, but they introduce to the mainstream a position that was inconceivable a few years ago. This is how epochal change often begins, with efforts that fail in their direct aims but succeed in shifting the conversation and opening space for further action.

These campaigns and achievements are far from enough; they need to scale up, and scaling up means drawing in people who recognize that there are indeed opportunities worth seizing.

Late last year, some key federal decisions to curtail drilling for oil in the Arctic and to prevent the construction of a tar-sands pipeline were announced. The naïvely cynical dismissed them as purely a consequence of the plummeting price of oil. Activism had nothing to do with it, I was repeatedly told. But had there been no activism, the Arctic would have been drilled, and the pipelines to get the dirty crude cheaply out of Alberta built, before the price drop. It wasn’t either-or; it was both.

David Roberts, a climate journalist for Vox, notes that the disparagement of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline assumed that the activists’ only goal was to prevent this one pipeline from being built, and that since this one pipeline’s cancellation wouldn’t save the world, the effort was futile. Roberts named these armchair quarterbacks of climate action the Doing It Wrong Brigade. He compared their critique to “criticizing the Montgomery bus boycott because it only affected a relative handful of blacks. The point of civil… [more]
rebeccasolnit  2016  cynicism  change  time  occupywallstreet  ows  hope  optimism  idealism  perfectionism  obstructionism  simplification  oversimplification  possibility  economics  justice  climatechange  keystonepipeline  patience  longview  blacklivesmatter  civilrightsmovement  politics  policy  conversation  easterrising  power  community  systemsthinking  standards  metrics  measurement  success  failure  dissent  discourse  uncertainty  opportunity 
may 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — counter-constraint #1: non-progress dogma
"The world’s fairs also offer their insights into this dichotic system. For example, Futurama’s hidden agendas are strikingly revealed in E. L. Doctorow’s novel World’s Fair (1985). As a family leaves the exhibit, the father says: ‘“When the time comes General Motors isn’t going to build the highways, the federal government is. With money from us taxpayers.” He smiled. “So General Motors is telling us what they expect from us: we must build them the highways so they can sell us the cars.”’

Bel Geddes’s vision of super-highways largely came true, but so did various dystopian imaginaries that were generated out of the Futurama vision. In ‘Futurama, Autogeddon’, Helen Burgess describes the way in which ‘a messy, always-under-construction, polluted highway system, beaming cheerfully forward into the future, is reflected back to us in the second half of the century as a degraded landscape in J. G. Ballard’s Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition. In these tales,’ Burgess writes,

Bel Geddes’ optimistic narrative of the Interstate has collapsed … because the Interstate system is unsustainable - both narratively and ecologically. The ghosts of the highway call back to us from these future narratives, reminding us that death is just around the next bend.

Progress dogma as an eternally recurring phenomenon

The progress boosterism in the West of the 19th century was followed by two highly regressive world wars. Yet the postwar period saw an almost immediate return to … optimism! Progress dogma was reborn! America, isolated from the worst ravages of the two World Wars, kept blowing the trumpet for progress, and the other western countries followed. The lessons of history continued, and continue, to fall on deaf ears.

Designing counter-constraints

We realise now that we’ve not set ourselves an easy task. These are massive, complex systems that are more easily identified and critiqued than challenged with alternatives. But inaction is no solution. So we’ll go on, inspired by historical examples of how critical approaches have impacted on specific research directions and undermined progress dogma. The public inquiry into genetically modified food development in Europe and the consequent demonising of an entire scientific area (‘Frankenstein foods’) led by certain newspapers is one example of technology being steered away from its intended trajectory. In that case, however, the approach was problematic because the debate was simplified as a contest between good and evil, dystopia vs. utopia, rather than being an open and constructive dialogue. As this article suggests, the reality is often more nuanced and complex than a simple binary opposition can express.

So how do we move toward a more constructive approach to counter-constraints?
Here, as a discussion starter, are some first steps:

1. Stop assuming that, through technology, the future will be better than the present.
2. Be wary of too-positive presentations of technological future solutions.
3. Don’t assume that any of society’s problems will be solved by technology alone.
4. Do assume that for every benefit a new technology brings there will be unforeseen implications.
5. Remember to ask: ‘Progress for whom?’
6. And: ‘What in this specific case does progress actually mean?’
7. Remember that progress is easily confused with automation. Or efficiency.
8. Watch Adam Curtis’s The Century of the Self (and then watch it again).
9. Find ways of encouraging a critical perspective in others, without being a dystopian dick about it.
10. Actively start building the future you want, with or without technology.

One approach where we have first-hand experience and that begins to address point 10 is speculative design, which aims to facilitate a more critical and considered approach to future-formation. By countering the constraints that limit normative design to slavishly serving the market, speculative design is free to present futures that are neither explicitly utopian or dystopian. Using this approach we can explore possible scenarios when specific emerging technologies collide with everyday life. Or we can see what happens when we apply alternative configurations of contemporary technologies or systems to generate fresh perspectives on particular problems (a counter-constraint to constraint no. 2: legacies of the past, which we’ll return to in a future post). Speculation is time well spent.

We’ll give further thought to counter-constraints over a game of ping-pong on our rough-hewn autoprogettazione table, followed by coffee and toast. More, much more, to come. "
crapfutures  counter-constraints  futures  speculativedesign  design  2016  technosolutionism  technology  progress  progressdogma  automation  efficiency  normanbelgeddes  eames  productification  utopia  dystopia  resistance  richardbarbrook  processfatigue  eldoctorow  helenburgess  interstatehighways  cars  history  optimism  sustainability  boosterism  adamcurtis  thecenturyoftheself  statusanxiety  bladerunner  pollution  traffic  futurama  world'sfairs  1939  1964  ibm 
february 2016 by robertogreco
All our imagined futures | A Working Library
"No, an end to growth will not look like Blade Runner, Mad Max, or The Hunger Games. These movies imagine what happens when we do not end growth soon enough.

So what would an end to growth look like? Writing in Dissent last spring, Daniel Immerwahr doesn’t paint the rosiest picture, but he also makes clear the alternative:
Such cuts can be made more or less fairly, and the richest really ought to pay the most, but the crucial thing is that they are made. Because, above all, stopping climate change means giving up on growth.

That will be hard. Not only will our standards of living almost certainly drop, but it’s likely that the very quality of our society—equality, safety, and trust—will decline, too. That’s not something to be giddy about, but it’s still a price that those of us living in affluent countries should prepare to pay. Because however difficult it is to slow down, flooding Bangladesh cannot be an option. In other words, we can and should act. It’s just going to hurt.

There’s the rub: those of us living in affluent countries must pay. Porter presumes that technology can get us out of climate change without that payment—that nuclear energy, renewables, carbon capture, and electric cars will let us continue to consume at current levels as if nothing had changed. (As an aside: you can follow the American love of cars all the way to Immortan Joe’s citadel.) But I don’t think it’s likely we’re going to get off that easy. Carbon capture is still a pipe dream, nuclear energy will take too long to ramp up even absent strong local objections, electric cars are hardly a panacea, and renewables such as solar and wind, while certainly promising, won’t help much if we continue to pull coal and oil out of the ground at the rates we are now.

As it happens, though, I think Porter’s instinct to reach for science fiction to understand the future is a useful one. In Submergence, J.M. Ledgard’s novel of planetary depths, Danny remarks: “If this was happening in a science-fiction world we would see it clearly for what it is, but we don’t because it’s happening here and now.” Fiction, and science fiction in particular, can help us imagine many futures, and in particular can help us to direct our imaginations towards the futures we want. Imagining a particular kind of future isn’t just day dreaming: it’s an important and active framing that makes it possible for us to construct a future that approaches that imagined vision. In other words, imagining the future is one way of making that future happen. Writing in Essence in 2000, Octavia Butler asked,
So why try to predict the future at all if it’s so difficult, so nearly impossible? Because making predictions is one way to give warning when we see ourselves drifting in dangerous directions. Because prediction is a useful way of pointing out safer, wiser courses. Because, most of all, our tomorrow is the child of our today. Through thought and deed, we exert a great deal of influence over this child, even though we can’t control it absolutely. Best to think about it, though. Best to try to shape it into something good. Best to do that for any child.

Butler’s Parable of the Sower is, like Mad Max, a tale of the road. And, like Mad Max, it’s a difficult but hopeful one. Maybe Porter should read it."
mandybrown  2016  octaviabutler  mikeculfield  eduardoporter  zizek  peterwirzbicki  submergence  hungergames  dystopia  optimism  hope  scifi  sciencefiction  danielimmerwahl  jmledgard  fiction  imagination  future  futurism  capitalism  growth  zerosum  change  economics  climatechange  globalwarming 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Digital Manifesto Archive: Design Fiction's Odd Present vs. Science Fiction's Near Future
"Julian Bleecker's "Design Fiction's Odd Present vs. Science Fiction's Near Future" proposes that Design Fiction supplant typical Science-Fiction narratives with diegetic prototypes--actual objects that test an idea."



"If there is anything to be gained from these Design Fiction practice it is the playful optimism that comes from "making things up." Making things up is playful and serious at the same time. It's playful in that one can speculate and imagine without the "yeah, but," constraints that often come from the dour sensitivities of the way-too-grown-up pragmatists. It's serious because the ideas that are "made up" as little design fictions - formed into props or little films or speculative objects - are materialized things that hold within them the story of the world they inhabit. There is the kernel of a near future, or a different now, or an un-history that begins the mind reeling at the possibilities of what could be. When an idea is struck into form we have learned to accent that as proof - a demonstration that this could be possible. The translation from an idea into its material form begins the proof of possibility. Props help. Things to think with and things to help us imagine what could be.

This is how the world around us is made, by people who imagine what could be and then go forth and make it material. Wheels did not suddenly appear on luggage, but they are and its hard to imagine that it didn't happen sooner.

Playfully, seriously making things up is how the world around us comes to be. Don't sit around and wait. Make up the world you want. Believe it. Tell its story. Inhabit it and it will become.

Design Fiction strides alongside of Science Fiction, obligating itself to fashion representation of what could be - whether that's a different present, a reassessment of the recent past, or a future likely to be obtained, it may be a reaction to a sense that Science Fiction has given up on the future, or ceded its remit to imagine the future. Perhaps Science Fiction has shifted to envisioning the differently present or the recently past. Ridley Scott recently said, "We have done all we can for Science-Fiction. After 2001 A Space Odyssey, Science-Fiction is dead."

Design Fiction mucks around in this odd present in which we live. Every year the future is held aloft in the hand at widely publicized consumer electronics trade shows. The press eats it up. It's the new science fiction. This is how we imagine the future. Through 100 million dollar trade shows. Through the trade's hand-held technologies and their odd mash-ups of telephone fitness devices brain wave TV remote controls. (No wonder the science-fiction literary has thrown in the towel. They'd do better as consulting engineers. What a great idea.) Our future is shown to use as made things - prototypes, or evocative objects that suggest, MacGuffin like, what they do. Objects that take batteries and have screens that goad us to massage them. Objects that cycle every 12-18 months and thence end up in a discard drawer or in a closet under last year's crap. Or on the Internet's close, Craigslist.

Design Fiction's commitment is to create a legible, tangible, material representation of alternatives. it uses designed objects - props, prototypes, fakes, punks, speculative consumer electronic objects, evocative ingots of color, material and precision manufacturing, prompts, provocations, little films, atmospheres and visual moments - to start conversations about the future. Design Fiction embraces the cycles of obsolescence, that banal next-new-thing - but it does so in order to find chinks in the iron-clad cycle and find innovative alternatives to the mediocre experiences they inevitable deliver.

The emphasis of Design Fiction is on alternative world as represented through the things. These props are called diegetic prototypes." They are objects that test an idea. The fact that they exist as material objects imply their existence in the same way an objects existence in a movie or play makes the object come to life. In some cases, those props spread ideas more effectively than could a laboratory prototype. Diegetic prototypes serve to tell a story about an object and start conversations, sometimes even before technical possibility has been considered. Diegetic prototypes implicate themselves as things that people would live with, rather than operating solely as technological, scientific or engineering possibility. They are designed, evocative, desirable, ineffable and imbued with a sense of imminent possibility, even necessity. They come across as things that actually make sense.

Design Fiction creates these things because they can help tell the stories about the worlds they occupy, without the stories being told in a typical narrative - and because telling good stories is hard. Making suggestive, evocative, compelling, curious objects is a designer's way of telling stories about worlds that could or should become."
manifestos  designfiction  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  design  sciencefiction  scifi  julianbleecker  optimism  making  play  playfulness  prototyping  tinkering  criticalmaking 
february 2016 by robertogreco
On the Political Dimensions of Solarpunk — Medium
[via: http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/post/131978924858/dont-ask-permission-from-a-state-beholden-to]

"Don’t ask permission from a state beholden to oligarchs, and definitely don’t expect those oligarchs to do any of this for you. Guerilla gardening is the model, but look further. Guerilla solar panel installation. Guerilla water treatment facility restoration. Guerilla magnificent temple to the human spirit construction. Guerilla carbon sequestration megastructure creation.

Figure out what a community needs to be prosperous, peaceful and sustainable in as long a term as you can wrap your head around, and start building whatever piece is most in reach before the absent state notices. Doing so just might create pockets of more effective, horizontal politics. As the state wanes, these pockets can grow in size and influence, creating a better world even if some government claims the authority of law and holds a monopoly on violence.

Now, political choices got us into this mess, and political choices could get us out. I for one argue for a comprehensive set of reforms that were inspired by the discussions held around the world during Occupy: a global debt jubilee to free both countries and individuals from debts that impoverish and enslave them; a tax on extreme wealth to control inequality and rein in the power of oligarchs; a guaranteed basic income to provide for the poor, the infirm and those more useful as caregivers, artists and thinkers than employees of businesses; a dramatic reduction in the workweek to slow down unsustainable levels of economic expansion and to eliminate the countless “bullshit jobs” that serve no function but to bore those who hold them; the regulation or even abolition of usury (once considered as great a sin as slavery), so that investments in sustainable infrastructure that will pay off in cathedral time are not hampered by interest payments that will eventually exceed principal."



"As I argued in my discussion of cities, solarpunk should be careful not to idealize either the gothic high tech or the favela chic. No matter how many High Line-style parks or vertical farms they build, Manhattan will be useless if it is only filled with the luxury condos of absentee financiers. And favelas may be full of jugaad-innovation and dense with diverse entrepreneurialism, but they feature a fatal flaw: no fire codes. Slums are fascinating from a design perspective right up until they burn down or wash away. In a world of more extreme weather, disasters will strike down favelas before their recycling-centric, low-carbon lifestyles can save the climate.

Instead, I like the idea of focusing on large-scale infrastructure projects that will provide value for communities into the long term. A seed bank; a hyper-dense vertical permaculture farm engineered for carbon fixing; a massive, low-maintenance desalination system; a space elevator. These projects could themselves be the organizing principle around which unique solarpunk communities are organized."



"I’ve seen many people describe solarpunk as optimistic. My last suggestion is this: don’t be optimistic, be hopeful. As Vaclav Havel explained: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Havel, an artist turned activist turned statesman who led his nation out of a time of crisis, in many ways embodies the transformational power of ideas and aesthetics — and thus the potential of a movement like solarpunk to do real good in the world.

This essay has been long, and it has discussed many troubling situations and possibilities. I wrote these things because I think it is important for any cohesive body of political thought to contrast what it wants with what it opposes: for transparency and privacy, against surveillance and deception; for conservation and abundance, against hoarding and exploitation; for neighborhoods and collaboratives, against gangs and police.

I also wrote this because I believe the enormity of our problems doesn’t have to paralyze us. Quite the opposite: seeing the world as it is is vital if you are going to figure out how it could be. Now is the moment to be galvanized, to know that we are on to something, and to make acting on these ideas a real part of our lives."
solarpunk  2015  andrewdanahudson  politics  favelachic  gothichightech  recycling  diy  optimism  hopefulness  scale  activism  jugaad  infrastructure  organization  horizontality  sustainability  solar  water  climatechange  gardening  hope  refugees  longnow  longnowfoundation  williamgibson  madmax  paolobacigalupi  bladerunner  overconsumption  overpopulation  thecomingrevolution  cities  urban  urbanism  brucesterling  drought  blackswans 
october 2015 by robertogreco
CLASS DISMISSED: A ROUNDTABLE ON ART SCHOOL, USC, AND COOPER UNION by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, Helen Molesworth, Mike Essl, Jory Rabinovitz, Lee Relvas, Amanda Ross-Ho, Victoria Sobel, Frances Stark, A. L. Steiner, Charlie White - artforum.com / in print
[via: https://twitter.com/CaseyG/status/652215259235807232 ]

"IN AN ERA when creative economies are leading the hypermonetization of every aspect of life, from attention and identity to privacy and time, it’s not surprising that this country’s most progressive models of art education are under attack. In fact, the liberal arts and humanities are besieged across the board, increasingly expected to justify their funding, even their very existence, in universities and beyond. We are witnessing a massive cultural shift when we see the corporatization of higher education—with its top-down power structures, bloated bureaucracies, “synergistic” partnerships with the private sector, relegation of faculty to contingent adjunct labor, and reliance on students as revenue streams—spiking tuition costs and sending student debt ballooning.

All this has come dramatically to a head this past year on both coasts, at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design in Los Angeles. It is sadly predictable and all the more alarming that the ever-accelerating process of financialization should upend two of the most vital art schools in America, each of which has been based on the endangered premise of a tuition-free or fully funded education. While the specific circumstances and institutional histories make the nature of each crisis distinct, they both betray the wrenching cultural shifts produced by a head-on collision with the technocratic crusaders of contemporary capitalism.

Following its board of directors’ decision to abandon Cooper Union’s tuition-free mandate, which had stood for more than 150 years, the school’s president and five trustees resigned amid an ongoing inquiry into the institution’s finances by the New York State Attorney General. The grassroots Committee to Save Cooper Union has taken legal action to preserve the venerable institution’s founding mission of free education, and to call attention to the fiscal mismanagement and lack of accountability on the part of the school’s board of trustees. [Eds. note: As this issue was going to press, the Attorney General announced that a settlement had been reached and that Cooper Union would work to eventually reinstate free tuition.] At USC Roski, the drastic restructuring and reduction in funding for the school’s renowned graduate program by a new dean’s administration prompted high-profile, tenured faculty to resign in protest and the entire MFA class of 2016 to drop out en masse earlier this year, citing unacceptable changes to funding packages, curriculum, and faculty.

Debates over art education have a long history, of course. A groundbreaking and utopian model that remains relevant today is Black Mountain College, which nurtured cultural and pedagogical innovation at mid-century and which is the subject of a major exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, opening on October 10. Artforum invited the show’s curator, HELEN MOLESWORTH, to join eight distinguished participants—from Cooper, faculty MIKE ESSL and alumni JORY RABINOVITZ and VICTORIA SOBEL; and from USC Roski, current or former faculty members FRANCES STARK, CHARLIE WHITE, and A. L. STEINER; alumna AMANDA ROSS-HO; and LEE RELVAS, one of the seven class-of-2016 students who dropped out—to discuss the current situation at both institutions and the histories, challenges, and continued promise of art school."



"HELEN MOLESWORTH: We’ve convened today to talk about the current crises at USC and Cooper, both of which are symptoms of larger problems facing the entire concept of art education in this country. And for many schools today, Black Mountain College remains a key model for art education after World War II.

In the face of this crisis, Black Mountain is even more relevant to the current situation than one might think: It was a program born of extraordinary optimism, but it was also born of dissent, born of a firing of tenured faculty, born of a group of teachers and students deciding that they needed to own the means of production themselves and create an institution in which there were no trustees or board of regents, so they could collectively control the college. It had an extraordinary efflorescence and was a wellspring of the American avant-garde; the curriculum at BMC influenced many of the practices that define contemporary studio and liberal-arts programs—group critiques, collaboration, interdisciplinarity. It also failed beautifully and wonderfully and spectacularly at its end: It was short-lived, running only from 1933 to 1957.

Which leads me to the most basic and perhaps the most unanswerable question: Why now? Why are extremely successful, renowned arts-education departments on both coasts under attack in the way that they are at Cooper and USC? Are they—and Black Mountain—anomalies, experiments that could never last? Or are they victims of some of the nastiest tactics of our neoliberal new economy?"



"LEE RELVAS: I’m one of the seven MFA students who just dropped out from USC. We dropped out collectively to protest the school’s reneging on funding and curricular promises made to us, because that funding model and pedagogical model were clearly no longer considered valuable under the new dean’s leadership. But we also wanted to protest publicly the economics of higher education: namely, the normalization of massive student debt.

We range in age from twenty-seven to forty-one years old. So we actually did know what we were getting into as far as the debt that we thought we were going to be taking on, as well as the lack of teaching opportunities, and if we were so lucky to get a teaching job, how little most of those teaching jobs paid.

But we still wanted two years of time and space to be artists and thinkers and to be in close conversation with each other. And outside these flawed institutions, there is little material and cultural support for that."



"HELEN MOLESWORTH: In New York, do you have a similar sense that the faculty and the students at Cooper were unable to articulate the value of free tuition to the board?

MIKE ESSL: I think we did articulate it but we weren’t heard, and it was all the more disturbing to me because of my own personal understanding of that value. My dad is a mechanic and my mom is a bookkeeper. They didn’t go to college and they didn’t save for college, and me going to college was just never on their radar. And Cooper Union gave me permission to go to art school. Without that freedom, without being able to tell my parents essentially to fuck off, I don’t know where I would be now. [Laughter.]

And what that does for, say, a lower-middle-class student, that permission, the way it lowers the risk of art school and allows you to even conceive of going, is something that the board of trustees did not care about at all.

We would hear about how the cost of teaching artists is too expensive and that when artists graduate they don’t donate, and there was really no consideration of the artist as a person in the world at all. And so for those people to be the board members of a school like Cooper Union, I would argue, is criminal. They just refused to hear any arguments.

JORY RABINOVITZ: There was no dialogue, no transparency. There was never any mention of charging tuition while I was at Cooper. I started when the demolition of the Abram S. Hewitt Memorial art building, and the construction of the new Thom Mayne–designed academic center, 41 Cooper Square, in its place, was just beginning. The three-year transition phase completely displaced the art school and literally split it in two, sending half of the classes and studios to a rented building in Long Island City. Since the art school donated the least and protested the most, it really felt like we were being singled out to receive this weird form of punishment or austerity measure. Many of the school’s questionable financial decisions that are currently under investigation happened at the very same time. So when I look at the new building, it’s hard not to see a big perforated smoke screen.

MIKE ESSL: They showed up at the table already having decided that our model was old-fashioned and could no longer be supported. Which is why we have been saying all along that it’s a cultural problem, not an economic one."



"A. L. STEINER: Eighty percent of USC’s faculty is now adjunct and contingent. This is part of an ideology of austerity being embraced at the school, even though its undergraduate program ranks sixteenth in tuition nationwide and the university is one of twenty schools nationwide responsible for one-fifth of the country’s graduate-school student debt. The dean’s thinking came down to a gamble—that the graduate faculty’s interactions, and the program’s funding and curricular promises, were unnecessary. There’s a bigger agenda in play, and it’s intertwined with the value and significance of an arts education in a technocratic regime, in a world where the nonprofit sector exists as a manifestation of the private sector."



"FRANCES STARK: But you have to consider that in context. I was on the search committee for the new dean in the spring of 2013, and the problem of financial sustainability was not explicitly on the table when we were interviewing candidates. The entire process seemed perfunctory: It became clear that the interim dean was the internal candidate they wanted, and who, it was later disclosed, was somehow attached to the $70 million gift from Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to endow a new school of “Art, Technology and the Business of Innovation” at USC. Erica Muhl, who became dean, has zero background in contemporary fine art, design, or art history. She is not conversant with these fields at all. I asked her, “What is your vision for the school?” And she responded, “To be number one.” No joke. OK? She told the graduate students: “The future of art is Mark Zuckerberg… [more]
cooperunion  blackmountaincollege  usc  art  arteducation  education  highered  highereducation  helenmolesworth  mikeessl  joryrabinovitz  leerelvas  amandaross-ho  victoriasobel  francesstark  alsteiner  charliewhite  sarahlehrer-graiwer  via:caseygollan  activism  neoliberalism  capitalism  politics  conversation  proximity  ambiguity  joy  meritocracy  organizations  institutions  bmc  arts  humanities  schools  tcsnmy  progressive  technocracy  artseducation  culture  thinking  optimism  bauhaus  calarts  community  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive: Phuc Tran at TEDxDirigo - YouTube
"Phuc Tran is in his second decade as a Classicist and Tattooer. He has taught Latin, Greek, German, and Sanskrit at independent schools in New York and Maine and was an instructor at Brooklyn College's Summer Latin Institute. In 2010, he served on a committee to revise the National Latin Praxis exam for ETS. Phuc currently teaches at Waynflete School in Portland."
phuctran  language  english  subjunctive  refugees  2012  identity  indicative  reality  presence  future  imperative  perspective  immigration  immigrantexperience  grammar  depression  regret  creativity  imagination  experience  optimism  philosophy  via:juliarubin  french  vietnamese  france 
september 2015 by robertogreco
6, 67: Side pass
"Q: Where do you find the time to write a newsletter?

A: I think of things that I was going to do, but which I don’t want to do as much as I want to do a newsletter, and then I don’t do those other things, and do the newsletter instead.

Q: You said once that you were pretty optimistic about the world’s future, despite your deep fear of climate change. Why?

A: Well, short version, because of what I think of as the genre of whig graphs. I strongly disagree with the hypercapitalist, only-humans-matter, business-as-usual agenda of most people I see deploying those graphs. (← Between that sentence and the coming sentence is where a longer version would have to do a lot of careful bridge-building. →) But I have much more trust in the futures of vaccinated, nourished, educated, relatively non-traumatized children who are close to the world’s biggest problems than I do in my own analyses. The risk in this stance is quietism. In any case, I think we’re in big trouble. My optimism isn’t a kind of satisfaction, only a kind of hope.



Q: How do I learn to write better?

A: Not sure. But maybe try stuff like: Write about things you care about. When you read something that surprises you, think about why, and how it could have been different. Good writing teaches you how to read it. As a reader, pay attention. As a writer, reward attention. Accept that you can’t make any one piece of writing avoid every valid criticism, communicate the whole truth, or please everyone you’d like to please. Notice peers whose writing is like yours and watch them learn. Find things you appreciate in writing that you (or common wisdom) don’t like. Ask someone who knows better than me.

Q: As you might expect from the fact that I subscribe to your newsletter, I think we share some tastes and interests.

A: What do you read and pay attention to? Dunno. I follow a lot of amazing people on Twitter. When I come across something especially interesting, I assume it’s part of a network of interesting things and try to map that out. (For example, if I particularly enjoy a book, I’ll do web searches for the people thanked in the acknowledgments.) Looking for gaps, ruthlessness about things that are supposed to be interesting but aren’t, etc. I don’t know! Really there’s nothing in particular that I would point to other than the entire internet."
charlieloyd  2015  reading  writing  howweread  howwewrite  process  learning  howwelearn  generalists  twitter  education  unschooling  attention  interestedness  interested  classideas  communication  ideas  hypercapitalism  future  hope  optimism  climatechange  humanism  newsletters  futures  quietism 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Solarpunk: We Are Golden, and Our Future Is Bright | F.W. Fife
"There are two forces at work here, and they’re found in the two words that make up this new idea.

First, SOLAR:

• Light. In direct opposition to the increasingly dark tone our fiction—and world—seem to be taking.
• Day. As opposed to the permanent night in which stories of cyberpunk and dystopia seem to take place.
• The Sun. A source of natural energy to support and power our future.
• Which is, of course, a much cleaner energy, the use of which will not harm our environment or selves.
• This is, then, a blending of nature and technology.
• And this is a gentle blend, not a subjugation of the earth by force through deforestation and polluting, harsh industry.
• Beneficial not only for the earth, but for the people who need it most.
• Healing and including marginalized people—like the physically and mentally disabled, the poor and homeless, people of color and immigrants, abuse victims, the chronically ill, LGBTQA people, all of the most vulnerable members of society.
• Essentially, HOPE.

And that note takes us to PUNK. Something you might be a little more familiar with, but depending on your age, might associate with loud music, outlandish hairstyles, and rude kids acting out. But I assure you, there’s not much to be scared of here. (Punk rockers can be nice too! We don’t bite. Horns up!)

PUNK:

• Rebellion. Going in a different direction than the mainstream. But in this case, that’s increasingly going in the scary direction.
• Counterculture. If our culture is pessimistic and self-centered, our counterculture will be made of hope, joy, and caring for one another.
• Enthusiasm. Ever been to a rock concert? When it goes right, it’s fun! Solarpunk goes after its goals with that same level of energy! Rock out!
• Individuality. Like the piercings and tattoos and spiky purple hair you might associate with the word ‘punk,’ it’s made to let everybody be who they are—especially those described above, who need safe places the most. As a chronically ill, queer kid, I really needed this growing up. Punk indeed!

So that’s the ideology. And you might have noticed the pretty pictures I included here! Worth a thousand words, I hope they help illustrate the more visual side of it. Solarpunk fits in with styles like art deco and art nouveau. Lots of gentle curves and swirling, bright colors, the antithesis of harsh angles and metal and stark, painful edges. Solarpunk is gentle and nurturing and welcoming.

You might say it’s also an artistic aesthetic. Like in Disney’s Treasure Planet with its gorgeous storybook ships that traverse the vast reaches of outer space with solar-powered sails on an earnest, hopeful search for hidden wonders.

Solarpunk is an architecture and building and living methodology. It’s shown in Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful films with human society living in harmony with nature, as in the floating steel-and-tree city below from Castle In The Sky. And when humanity fails to respect and live alongside nature, it quickly learns that it must.

And it’s a philosophy and a way of life, about lifting up instead of oppressing. The spreading and sharing of resources instead of hoarding by an elite few. Good for all instead of only benefiting the very rich. A vision of a beautiful future is rebellion. In this increasingly grim, dark, gritty world, hope is a radical act of rebellion.

Solarpunk rejects the idea that because something is dark or pessimistic, it’s more meaningful. Just because a story has a devastating ending doesn’t make it somehow more profound as an art form. Just because something is optimistic doesn’t make it silly or trite. Hope is not something to be scoffed at. It’s the only thing that will keep the world functioning."

[via: https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/639595474706558976 ]
solarpunk  2015  hope  optimism  dystopia  utopia  environment  hayaomiyazaki  nature  harmony  sustainability  punk  fwfife 
september 2015 by robertogreco
#itshappening: real signs of a brighter future | 1010
"10:10's #itshappening project gathers together great examples of progress on climate change from around the world. We're sharing them with you and we’d love you to spread the word about your favourite happenings.

From the mountains of Nepal to the seabeds of Scotland, we gather stories from industry reports, unsung local groups and our carbon cutting friends around the world.

Given snappy descriptions and some visual fairydust, the individual examples look pretty impressive. But together, they add up to something much bigger – a better world taking shape. And that's a story everyone needs to hear.

Against a flood of bad climate news and a rocky road ahead, #itshappening is a call to celebrate how far we’ve come and, to step up our ambition for the future. This is a time for taking risks and thinking big, and #itshappening offers real-life examples of people doing just that. Together we’re fighting fatalism with hope, and countering apathy with agency.

So next time someone tells you we can't solve climate change, show them these pictures."
climatechange  change  sustainability  optimism  via:justinpickard  news 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Prototyping Risks when Design is Disappearing
"Our current unsustainability, especially when understood in terms of materials intensity, is in large part a result of design— whether imposed by modernist design experts or tempered by user- or even human-centered design research. Generative design is not especially culpable—at its best it tries to access what might finally be truly needed by its participants rather than just-another creative-yet-still-feasible idea. However, generative design research’s materials-based techniques do tend to encourage creative innovation mostly with respect to more thing-based solutions to latent concerns (rather than leading to service systems for instance, or structural dissolving of those concerns, such as no-build options, value- or lifestyle shifts, etc).

A second thing to note is that our unsustainability is a massive problem, of a size that demands truly radical responses. It is as if there is a kind of problem beyond wicked: in addition to being complex (a large number of interdependent variables) and wicked (because some of those variables are people, who act in not always fully rational ways and change their minds), sustainability is also just a big problem—solutions will require nation-sized infrastructure rebuilding (fuel switching, city renovation and even relocation) and similarly nation-sized notion re-conceptualizations (new ideas about freedom and autonomy, cost and responsibility, etc). Can we get this level of “Big and New” from processes like generative design research?"



"What is dominant in commercial design at the moment are methods that do nevertheless have proactionary elements, by which I mean a deliberate ignoring of imagining future consequential risks. I am referring here to, for example, Agile and Lean product development. These are distinct forms of design management and each a broad church, but consistent across them is a commitment to accelerated iteration of products released to live markets. Design is driven by real-time feedback on how “Minimum Viable Products” (MVP) are being used. The rationale is that many high consequence risks, and opportunities, are unanticipatable. Rather than imagine or sense what these “blackswans” might be, designers should instead focus on being able to respond immediately to what emerges. These Lean Agile philosophies eschew the grand visioning aspects of proactionary advocates, 
but are sympathetic with the downplaying of risk anticipation. As Joi Ito, head of MediaLab at MIT is fond of saying (though I am not sure of his evidence for this claim), “the cost of assessing risk is 
now often greater than the cost of failing” [7].

If Lean Agile, etc, aim at accessing the realizably innovative, the other end of the design dialectic might be Maker culture. These neo-tinkerers also pursue multiple iterations in order to discover serendipitously new uses for existing combinations of technologies, software and/or materials. There is a similar antivisioning driving these hackathons, and in all the rapid building there is also no anticipation of consequential risk.

In either case, the approaches deploy what could be called a “generalized prototyping.” Lean Agile beta-releases and hacked systems are more than prototypes; they are live products being used by people who are not explicitly structured "



"Transition Design aims to promote staged change, not forever changing.

1. A VISION FOR THE TRANSITION to a more sustainable society is needed. This calls for the reconception of entire lifestyles in which communities are in symbiotic relationship with the environment. Lifestyles are place-based yet global in their exchange of technology, information and culture.

2. The vision of the transition to a sustainable society will require new knowledge about natural, social, and “designed” systems. This new knowledge will, in turn, evolve the vision.

3. Ideas, theories and methodologies from many varied fields and disciplines inform a deep understanding of the DYNAMICS OF CHANGE in the natural and social worlds.

4. New theories of change will reshape designers’ temperaments, mindsets and postures. And, these “new ways of being” in the world will motivate the search for new, more relevant knowledge.

5. Living in and through traditional times requires a MINDSET AND POSTURE OF OPENNESS, mindfulness, a willing-ness to collaborate, and “optimistic grumpiness.”

6. Changes in mindset, posture and temperament will give rise to new ways of designing. As new design approaches evolve, designers’ temperaments and postures will continue to change.

7. The transition to a sustainable society will require new ways of designing that are informed by a vision, a deep understanding of the dynamics of change and a new mindset and posture.

8. New ways of designing will help realize the vision but will also change/evolve it. As the vision evolves, new ways of designing will continue to be developed."
camerontonkinwise  2015  design  sustainability  materials  prototyping  via:anne  openness  mindfulness  collaboration  optimism  criticism  change  technology  culture  makers  makermovement  agiledesign  iteration  vision  foresight  modernism  neomodernism  consequences  systemthinking  criticaldesign  designcriticism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left
"“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.
All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  democracy  murraybookchin  via:anne  climatechange  anarchism  optimism  capitalism  progress  economics  ecology  growth  directdemocracy  egalitarianism  morality  ethics  hope  left  socialism  communism  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2015 by robertogreco
SOLARPUNKS — You’re Doing Solarpunk All Wrong
"I’m not saying that apostulating’s proposed world/setting isn’t cool - I like it! - but it’s at odds with solarpunk as it’s been conceived and described up to this point. Lots of people have been putting thought and imagination into solarpunk as a genre or a movement, and for the most part the consensus has described a hopeful future in which we work together against the machine to move from our current world of competition, isolation and intolerance to one of cooperation, community and pluralism. 

This optimistic mood is what people have found compelling about solarpunk. I know it’s a big reason I’m so enthused about the idea, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. It’s hopeful. It tells us that we can make a difference, that there is an alternative to the seemingly-inevitable slide into dystopia. That this has resonated with so many people is awesome. We need these stories, now more than ever. To say “that’s not solarpunk, this is solarpunk”, where this is a bleak and blasted world of hopeless desperation, oppression and brutality - completely counter to how everyone else has been imagining it - is kind of presumptuous. It disregards all the thought and effort that everyone else has put in. 

Maybe if the post-apocalyptic world of the Energy Barons can still be saved - if they can be overthrown - if a new, kinder, wiser civilisation can rise from the ashes of the old world - if as a species we can learn from our mistakes and reject the misguided values which killed the world - if there is hope, maybe it could be solarpunk. But it needs that hope. It needs that chance to move forward and make something better than what we have now. 

The world as described by apostulating doesn’t have that. It’s a world of ashes in which there is no future, no potential, no hope, just an endless, futile scrabble for survival. Without hope, it’s not solarpunk.

Call the post-apocalyptic hellscape of the Energy Barons something else - wastepunk, maybe. But please don’t try to supplant the work that’s already been done to turn solarpunk into something it’s not and never has been.

There’s darkness enough in the here-and-now. Here’s to being angry and hopeful."
solarpubk  optimism  dystopia  2015 
june 2015 by robertogreco
No one cares about your jetpack: on optimism in futurism - Dangerous to those who profit from the way things areDangerous to those who profit from the way things are
"This review [http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/tomorrowland-is-like-watching-a-jetpack-eat-itself-1706822006 ] of Disney’s Tomorrowland (and others like it that I have read) got me thinking about something I was asked at the Design In Action summit last week in Edinburgh. I was there participating in the “Once Upon a Future” event, where I read a story called “The Dreams in the Bitch House.” It’s about a tech sorority at a small New England university. And programmable matter.

After I did my keynote and read my story, I did a Q&A. After a few questions, someone in the audience asked: “Why so negative?”

I get this question a lot. I’ve been involved in a couple of “optimistic” science fiction anthologies, namely Shine (edited by Jetse de Vries) and Hieroglyph (edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn). But people don’t invite me to these because I’m an optimistic person. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Evidence:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InDOzrtS42M ]

When I was trained as a futurist (I have a Master’s in the subject), I was taught to see the whole scope of a problem. That’s at the root of design thinking. The old joke about designers is that when someone asks how many designers you need to change a lightbulb, the designer asks “Does it need to be a lightbulb?” Because really, what the room needs is a window. When people talk about innovation, that’s what they mean. A re-framing of the issue that helps you see the whole problem and approach it from another angle.

America’s problem is not that it needs more jetpacks. Jetpacks are not innovation. Jetpacks are a fetish object for retrofuturist otaku who jerked off to Judy Jetson, or maybe Jennifer Connelly’s character in The Rocketeer. “We were promised jetpacks!” they whine. Yeah, dude, but what you got was Agent Orange. Imagine a Segway that could kill you and set your house on fire. That’s what a jetpack is.

Jetpacks solve exactly one problem: rapid transit. And you know what would help with that? Better transit. Better telepresence. Better work-life balance. Are jetpacks an innovative solution to the problem of transit? Nope. But they sure look great with your midlife crisis.

But railing against jetpacks isn’t an answer to the question. Why so negative? Three reasons:

1) We have more data than we used to, and we’re obtaining more all the time.

Why don’t we fantasize about life in space like we used to? Because we know it’s really fucking difficult and dangerous. Why don’t we research things like food pills any more? Because we know eating fibre helps prevent colon cancer. We know those things because we’ve done the science. The data is there, and for every piece of technology we use, we accumulate more. It’s hard to argue with that vast wealth of data. At least, it’s hard to do so without looking like some whackjob climate change denier.

2) Less optimistic futures have the power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

When people ask me, “Why can’t you be more positive?” what I hear is, “Why can’t you tell me a story that conforms to my narrative and comforts me?” Because discomfiting futures have real power. As Alf Rehn notes:
What we need, then, is more uncommon futurism. A futurism that cares not a whit about what’s hot right now, who remain stoically unimpressed by drones and wearable IT, and who instead take it as their job to shock and awe CEOs with visions as radical as those of the futurists of yore. We need futurism that is less interested in agreeing with contemporary futurists and their ongoing circle-jerk, and who takes pride in offending and disgusting those futurists who would like to protect the status quo.


The truth is that the horrible dystopia you’re reading about is already happening to someone else, somewhere else. What makes people nervous is the idea that it could happen to them. That’s why I have to keep sharing it.

3) The most harmful idea in this world is that change is impossible.

Octavia E. Butler said it best: “The only lasting truth / is Change.” And yet, we act like change is impossible. Whether we’re frustrated by policy gridlock, or rolling our eyes at Hollywood reboots, or taking our spouses on the same goddamn date we have for for twenty years, we act as though everything will remain the same, forever and ever, amen. But look around you. Twenty years ago, thinks were very different. Even five years ago, they were different. Look at social progress like gay marriage. Look at the rise of solar power. Look at the shrinking of the ice caps. Things do change, they are changing, and they will change. And not all of those changes will be positive. Not all of them will be negative, either. But change does occur. Rather than thinking of change as a positive or a negative, as utopian or dystopian, just recognize that it’s going to happen and prepare yourself. Futurists don’t predict the future. We see multiple outcomes and help you prepare for them.

In the end, the lacklustre performance of Tomorrowland at the box office has nothing to do with whether optimism is alive or dead. It has to do with changing demographics among moviegoers who know how to spot an Ayn Rand bedtime story when they see one. There are whole generations of moviegoers for whom jetpacks don’t mean shit, whose first memories of NASA are the Challenger disaster. And you know what? Those same generations believe in driverless cars, solar energy, smart cities, AR contacts, and vat-grown meat. They saw the election of America’s first black president, and they witnessed a wave of violence against young black men. They don’t want the depiction of an “optimistic” future. They want a future where their concerns are taken seriously and humanely, with compassion and intelligence and validation. And that’s way harder than optimism."
culture  future  futurism  discourse  madelineashby  2015  tomorrowland  alfrehn  dystopia  octaviabutler  optimism  pessimism  realism  demographics  aynrand  race  establishment  privilege  drones  wearables  power  innovation  jetpacks  telepresence  transit  transportation  work  labor  scifi  sciencefiction  systemsthinking  data  retrofuturism  climatechange  space  food  science  technology  change  truth  socialprogress  progress  solar  solarpower  validation  compassion  canon  work-lifebalance 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Transcendental Rites - The Baffler
"JS: […] Many younger persons today who haven’t traveled far enough into the professional middle class to be saddled with its go-along/get-along mode of resignation are aroused with half-articulate and semi-organized fervor over the crimes of their government. They’re struggling to connect the up-close realities of police misconduct with the world-historical bullshit peddled by the secret intelligence agencies. What can the next generation learn about the moral imagination from the writers discussed in your book?

EM: I hope you’re right about younger persons, and, if so, they seem to me to be facing structural problems in world society that are almost as intractable as the ones that people faced in the Cold War. It’s not exactly easy to deal with a world where governments and corporations seem to share the idea that if something is technically possible (information gathering via spying or torture, for example), then they ought to go ahead and do it. Governments used to think that way about bombs, and now they think that way about “enhanced interrogation techniques” and data-gathering. Maybe the only thing I would feel comfortable saying about the relation between moral imagination and political reality is something like this: When you think mostly in terms of partisan politics—our side versus their side—then you inevitably start worrying about whether an action or attitude helps your side or the other side, and you lose sight of what your real goal is, which (I hope anyway) has something to do with a social world that might be fit for free and responsible persons to live in. But if you think about politics as a way of putting your moral intelligence into effect, then you make it harder for other people to obfuscate the issue in order to serve their own immoral purposes.

It seems to me that in recent years the people who have done the most to make some worthwhile change possible have been the truth-tellers, those who said things that did themselves no good—they’re going to be on the run from the authorities more or less forever—but that they couldn’t stop themselves from saying because of a moral, rather than a partisan, motive. There’s a pretty clear contrast between such truth-tellers and the Nobel Prize–winning president who campaigned on a platform of moral action and then decided it was safest to forget about it. Parables about this kind of thing run through the book, and some of them complicate the whole issue. Norman Mailer, for example, was always committed, in what seems to me a thoroughly admirable way, to the democratic left, very much like Dwight Macdonald, but Mailer got himself tangled up in the idea that his own personal mythology and vision mattered more than what happened to other people. Macdonald never made that mistake, but Macdonald paid a price for seeing things as clearly as he did: he spent many years in something like passivity and despair, which didn’t do him any good, and certainly didn’t do any good for the kind of society he wanted.

Auden once said something to a friend that I think may get to the heart of both the difficulty and hopefulness of all this. He said (I’m paraphrasing from memory), “Americans get very angry when you tell them there are no answers, but in a crisis, they look forward, unlike Europeans, who look backward.”"

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/118020300148/it-seems-to-me-that-in-recent-years-the-people-who ]
johnsummers  edwardmendelson  2015  academia  citizenship  history  humanities  alfredkazin  normanmailer  lioneltrilling  dwightmacdonald  optimism  pessimism  us  europe  future  past  society  truth  morality  patisanships  barackobama  mythology  personalmythology  truthtelling 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Black Books- The Story of Britain's First Black Bookshop on Vimeo
"This film delves into the radical history of Britain's first black bookshop which was founded by John La Rose and Sarah White in 1966. As well as creating a much needed space for black communities to access and publish their own literature, it helped support important campaigns such as the Caribbean Artists Movement, the Black Parents Movement as well as playing a pivotal role in the historic Black Peoples Day of Action.

Decades on, 'New Beacon Books' is still a functioning bookshop but in a world of Amazon and Kindles can it really survive forever?"
britain  uk  2014  documentary  booksellers  bookshops  1966  johnlarose  sarahwhite  activism  politics  lcproject  publishing  openstudioproject  optimism  1960s  change  arwaaburawa  bookstores 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Free Cooper Union Disorientation Reader
"Why is institutional memory so short? To maintain systems of control. Disorientation is a rejection of the administration’s rewriting of history, the systemic underpinnings of financialized realism, and the way that our communities are strategically disempowered.

We must constantly be disorienting ourselves.

Disorientation is
a brick,
a ping-pong ball,
a barricade,
a vote of no confidence,
an infinite dream.

What follows is a very focused history of what’s happening at Cooper, and in no way adequately addresses all of the broader intersectional struggles that continue to shape and support our movement. We’d like to acknowledge all of the past and present groundwork, in hopes that we can achieve paradigm shifts together through our continued campaign building."
cooperunion  institutionalmemory  education  highered  highereducation  control  disorientation  paradigmshifts  empowerment  disempowerment  resistance  noconfidence  progress  optimism  struggle  caseygollan  2015 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Eduardo Galeano: 'My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia' | Books | The Guardian
"Most mornings it's the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before. "Mine are always stupid," says Galeano. "Usually I don't remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? "It's not a person," he explains. "It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.""
eduardogaleano  garyyounge  2013  memory  amnesia  latinamerica  history  dreams  globalization  journalism  writing  literature  realism  reality  despair  melancholy  activism  revolution  resistance  protest  pessimism  optimism  economics  foreignpolicy  us  uruguay  racism  politics  military  war  peace  context  present  past  nelsonmandela  terrorism  christophercolombus  humanism  humanity  compassion  machismo  collectivememory  small  canon  collectiveamnesia  robertcarteriii  forgetfulness  power  beauty 
april 2015 by robertogreco
It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest to earn $1.25 a day | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
"The sustainable development goals will aim to eradicate poverty by 2030 but our current economic model, built on GDP, could never be inclusive or sustainable"



"If you follow international news you will be accustomed to headlines announcing that world leaders have succeeded in cutting global poverty in half over the past couple of decades. Its sounds like brilliant news, but it’s just not true. The numbers have been furtively manipulated to make it seem as though our economic system is working for the majority of humanity when in fact it is not.

The sustainable development goals, to be decided in September, will take this dubious good-news story a step further. This time, the main goal is not just to further reduce extreme poverty, but to eradicate it entirely – and to do so by no later than 2030. This is a welcome move: it’s about time we finally got around to putting poverty eradication firmly on the agenda. But it also raises some tough questions. Is it possible to end poverty under our current economic system?

A few weeks ago economist David Woodward tackled this question in an article published in the World Economic Review. His findings are shocking. He shows that, given our existing economic model, poverty eradication can’t happen. Not that it probably won’t happen, but that it physically can’t. It’s a structural impossibility.

Let’s assume that we can maintain the fastest rate of income growth that the poorest 10% of the world’s population have ever enjoyed over the past few decades. That was between 1993 and 2008 – after the debt crisis of the 1980s that crippled much of the developing world and before the banking collapse of 2008. During that period, their incomes increased at a rate of 1.29% each year.

So how long will it take to eradicate poverty if we extrapolate this trend? 100 years.

That’s what it will require to bring the world’s poorest above the standard poverty line of $1.25/day. Compare that with the SDGs’ 2030 target. And keep in mind that Woodward’s methodology is not able to capture the poorest 1% of the world’s population, who will still remain in poverty even at the end of this period. That’s 90 million people, more than the entire population of Germany today, who will remain in poverty forever. Whatever the SDGs will achieve, poverty “eradication” won’t be one of those things.

Even this extremely optimistic, best-possible scenario does not account for the slowdown in income growth since the financial crash. It doesn’t factor in the spikes in food prices that have effectively wiped out the incomes of the poor over the past few years, or the fact that climate change is already unravelling development gains across the global south. It imagines all of this away, and assumes that no further economic or ecological crises will happen in the next 100 years – which is a very big assumption indeed.

As if the 100-year timeline isn’t disappointing enough, it gets worse. A growing number of scholars are beginning to point out that $1.25/day – which is the official poverty line of the SDGs – is actually not adequate for people to survive on. In reality, if people are to meet their most basic needs and achieve normal human life expectancy, they need closer to $5/day. How long would it take to eradicate poverty at this more accurate line? 207 years.

Progress is woefully slow because to date the only strategy for reducing poverty is to increase global GDP growth. Politicians, economists and the development industry all have no other ideas. But GDP growth doesn’t really benefit the poor – or the majority of humanity, for that matter. Of all the income generated by global GDP growth between 1999 and 2008, the poorest 60% of humanity received only 5% of it. The richest 40%, by contrast, received the rest – a whopping 95%. So much for the trickle-down effect.

To eradicate poverty global GDP would have to increase to 175 times its present size if we go with $5/day. In other words, if we want to eradicate poverty with our current model of economic development, we need to extract, produce, and consume 175 times more commodities than we presently do. This is horrifying to contemplate. And even if such outlandish growth were possible, it would drive climate change to unimaginable levels and wipe out any gains in poverty reduction.

It’s a farcical proposition – a cruel joke played at the expense of the poor. And, as if to add insult to injury, to achieve this level of GDP growth, global per capita income would have to be no less than $1.3 million. In other words, the average income would have to be $1.3 million per year simply so that the poorest two-thirds of humanity could earn $5 per day. It’s completely absurd, but shows just how deeply inequality is hardwired into our economic system.

But it is in fact possible to eradicate poverty in fewer than 207 years, and to do so without destroying our ability to inhabit this planet. We need to abolish debts owed by developing countries, close down the tax havens, install a global minimum wage, place a moratorium on land grabs, and put an end to the structural adjustment programmes that allow rich countries to control the fates of poor countries. On top of all this, we need to dethrone the GDP measure and replace it with something more rational – like the Genuine Progress Indicator or the Happy Planet Index.

Unfortunately, the SDGs do not provide the answer, because they are not allowed to challenge dominant economic interests. Despite the fact that we’re already overshooting our planet’s total biocapacity by about 50% each year, growth, production, and consumption remain at the centre of their agenda. Yes, it’s all qualified by terms like “inclusive” and “sustainable”, but there are no clear commitments on what this is supposed to look like.

Of course, the corporations and rich-country governments that control the SDG process are very unlikely to adopt the change needed to truly eradicate poverty, because it would threaten the interests of the global 1%. But that’s exactly the point, and we need to be making it every chance we get."

[See also: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/exposing-great-poverty-reductio-201481211590729809.html ]
poverty  economics  2015  jasonhickel  capitalism  davidwoodward  inequality  measurement  statistics  lyingwithstatistics  gowrth  gdp  politics  optimism 
april 2015 by robertogreco
No Dickheads! A Guide To Building Happy, Healthy, And Creative Teams. — Medium
"There is a perpetuated myth within the design community, that a single visionary is required to build great products. Rubbish. Great teams build great products; moreover, in my experience, the greatest teams prioritize and nurture a healthy and positive internal culture because they understand it is critical to the design process itself.

In 20 years of leading design studios and teams, ranging from a small boutique consultancy to several in global corporations, I have become obsessed with the differences between a successful studio and a merely effective one. Inevitably what makes or breaks a studio depends on its ability to evolve skills and competencies while remaining fastidiously creative. However, simple adaptability is not enough. In an ever-changing hyper-competitive landscape, what I’ve found to be even more important is the value of laughter, empathy, a collective responsibility and a distinct lack of ego.

My measure of success — beyond incredible products — has been creating studios and a studio culture where the creative capacity of the collective team is palpable; where designers love to come to work, and visitors remark how positive and creative it feels.

The following, is an attempt to create a guide for the (often-overlooked, humanist leaning) behaviors that make a studio happy, functional and sustainable. I believe there is a straight line between how the studio feels, how we as designers treat each other, and the innovative impact of the team. The value of articulating the characteristics of an effective studio will hopefully make each team member a more conscientious contributor. Of course, these characteristics will ebb and flow to varying degrees and should not be considered concrete rules. Rather, these behaviors serve as a guideline for creating a consistently positive, and as a result, a consistently more creative place to work.

SAY GOOD MORNING AND GOOD NIGHT … While it may appear trivial, the act of observing (and even encouraging) these subtle cultural rituals increases a studio’s functionality by making it more personal.

BE OPTIMISTIC, EMBRACE FAILURE, AND LAUGH MORE… Design, through a humanist’s lens, sees optimism as a choice and creativity as an optimistic act. Therefore, constant optimism is a key ingredient to iteration. It fuels the persistence and tenacity necessary for sustaining the creative process, especially during challenging times. For example, the difficulty of innovating within a large corporation reflects a work environment where people often say, “No” or “I don’t understand” because change in corporate culture is often uncomfortable and slow. As a result, negativity must be confronted and countered — not just in a brainstorming session or during a proposal — but on a daily basis. …

EAT AND COOK TOGETHER … Team events within a big corporation are set up to facilitate these informal conversations but often do the opposite: you go to a nice restaurant, everyone orders expensive food and lots of wine, they drink until they get drunk, and you go back to your hotel room. One year, our budget ran low so we thought, “What if we did the opposite? Go to the wilderness, buy food, and cook for each other.”

What happened next was amazing! Somebody invariably took responsibility for cooking, another for preparing food, and someone else for laying the table. Without much discussion the whole team was buzzing around the kitchen, like a hive working towards a common goal. There’s something inherently vulnerable about cooking together and for each other. It’s humbling to serve and to be served.

GOOD STUDIOS BUILD GOOD WALLS It is important when you walk into any studio that you feel as much as see what is being built — the studio should crackle with creative energy. Specifically, I believe you can determine the health of any design studio simply by looking at its walls. …

READ FICTION … As designers we are often asking people to take a leap of faith and to picture a world that doesn’t quite exist. We are, at our essence, doing nothing more than creating fiction and telling good stories — an essential part of human communication. Wouldn’t it then make sense to, at the very least, invite fiction into the studio or at the most encourage it to flourish?

Storytelling is a craft. It’s emotional and it’s part of the design process. We should therefore read and study fiction.

DESIGN THE DESIGNING There’s one very simple rule when innovating: design the process to fit the project. …

EMBRACE THE FRINGE I believe creative people want “to make”. In corporations or complex projects, the products we make often take an inordinate amount of time. As a result, I assume that most designers (myself included) work on fringe projects — creative projects made outside of the studio. …

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Language defines the territory of projects. It is therefore important to constantly check that people share the same understanding of a word, phrase or name. Ideally at the outset of the project you should define the language, almost to the point of giving each person on the team a list: when we say this, this is what ‘this’ means. This pedantic approach is particularly important in multicultural studios where a diverse language encourages multiple, sometimes volatile, interpretations …

MEET OUT IN THE OPEN There are very few highly confidential things in an effective studio, so why go in a room and close the door? Instead, move most conversations out in the open. They will be better as a result. …

EVERYONE LEADS AT SOME POINT … At any point everyone should feel the responsibility, or the opportunity, to lead. It is so important to be collectively responsible. No one person can lead these dynamic projects effectively in a studio because they are never two-dimensional. …

INVERT EVERYTHING Designing products for people requires that you get inside their minds, feelings, motivations and values. To do so, a smart designer must invert their own worldview and see the world through someone else’s eyes in order to empathize with them. This ability to empathize with others, a very humanist behavior, is perhaps the most important capability and characteristic of both a studio and a designer. …

HIRE A BOOKIE Competition motivates a team, that’s a given. But betting on shit seems to be galvanizing and brings a team together. …

BRING THE OUTSIDE, INSIDE … We spend most of our time with our colleagues at work rather than with our partners or families. So whether we like it or not, we are all going through this life together. We should embrace that fact.

Yes, I understand people value privacy and you must respect that boundary. But the reality of the modern studio is that boundaries often blur. In fact, I think it is good that they are blurred. Children, pets, and hobbies — shared human connections and interests — promote this intimacy. …

….. ALLOWED! … I believe it is a perpetuated myth that great products are built by a single visionary. Often the people who think they are visionaries are just egomaniacal Dickheads. I honestly believe that great teams build great products and that careers are made by people that prioritize great products first, not their own ambition. …

FIND A GOOD MIRROR The studio mirror is a distinct role and a job title. In our studio Luke’s role was to archive our work and reflect it back to the team in a unique way, much like the documentation of these principles. Pursued with persistence and the eye of a journalist, the Studio Mirror should capture not only WHAT is being made but HOW and by WHOM. This isn’t simply dumping files on a server but rather curating the content in a way that is compelling and consumable for the team. For example, our studio created a quarterly magazine. You can read ADQ2.1: The Launch Issue here."
rhysnewman  lukejohnson  teams  creativity  studios  openstudioproject  lcproject  2015  collaboration  tcsnmy  leadership  open  openness  transparency  process  fun  play  intimacy  sharing  language  storytelling  fiction  walls  design  place  work  food  optimism  failure  laughter  howwework  conviviality  cohabitation  facetime  relationships  publishing  reflection  documentation  jpl  omata  culture  fringe  display  planning  outdoors  criticism  connection  conflict 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Edutopia | Jacobin
[Too much to quote (still tried and exceeded Pinboard's visible space) so go read the whole thing.]

"Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away."



"Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)

We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.

Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.

Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.

Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Math project, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.

Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.

Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.

According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”

What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored."



"IDEO puts forth the fact that Innova students perform higher than the [Peruvian] national average on math and communication tests as proof that they’ve delivered on their mantra for the project: “affordability, scalability, excellence.”

But if test scores are higher than those of public schools, it is not because of the soul-searching of teacher/designers. It’s because tuition is about a quarter of the national median income. After all, a consistent pattern in the educational research of the past half-century is that the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents is one of the strongest predictors of his or her academic success."



"Design thinking, embraced by key figures in business and especially in the tech industry, insists that educators adopt a perpetually optimistic attitude because that is what it takes to believe everything will turn out okay if we just work together to streamline our efforts. That is what it takes to believe that the best idea is the one that survives group discussion and is adopted. The rabid optimism of the techno-utopian vernacular, with its metaphors that no longer register as metaphors, obscures the market imperatives behind the industry’s vision for the future.

This is intentional. Conflating the future with unambiguous, universal progress puts us all on equal footing. Participating as a citizen in this framework consists of donating your dollar, tweeting your support, wearing your wristband, vowing not to be complacent.

Critiquing the solution only impedes the eventual discovery of the solution. And why make demands for power if you yourself are empowered? Empowerment, as Duncan uses it, is a euphemism. Anger is empowering, frustration is empowering, critique is empowering. Competence is not empowering.

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated."



"The United States is one of just three OECD countries, along with Israel and Turkey, where schools that serve rich families have better resources and more funding than schools that serve poor families. The other thirty-four countries included in the index either provide equal funding for all students or spend a disproportionate amount of money on students from low-income families.

In a country where the top 20 percent of the population earns eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent, this inevitably leads to two distinct and parallel systems of education, one for the rich and one for the poor. It’s not that “money doesn’t matter” for reforming the education system, or that technology can be a substitute, but that children from working-class and poor families score lower on standardized test scores than their wealthy peers — and America has many more poor families than rich."



"One example of the importance of this kind of flexible and evolving practice — especially for children from low-income families — comes from Lisa Delpit, educator and author of Other People’s Children. In talks, Delpit uses a situation she witnessed in a preschool in which a teacher handed out a tray of candy and instructed children to each take a piece and pass on the tray. Some of the children took multiple pieces, and there was not enough to go around.

A teacher evaluating the children without interpreting the context, like a machine, would conclude that the children did not successfully complete the task and need more practice in sharing. In fact, after asking why the children took extra pieces, the human teacher found that they were simply engaging in a different kind of creative economy, saving up a couple of pieces to take home to siblings later.

I suspect the innovation Gates is investing in is not a technological one, but a managerial one. The only truly novel thing Sal Khan has done is produce a cheap and popular way to distribute basic lectures and exercises to a large number of people who like them."



"The firing and disciplining of teachers is also an ideological choice: teachers threaten the ruling class. Though they are atomized as workers into separate classrooms and competing districts, teachers are, as Beverly Silver puts it, strategically located in the social division of labor. If they don’t go to work, no one can — or at least, no one with children to look after. As caretakers, teachers are by definition important and trusted community figures, public care workers who can shut down private production.

In the United States, where the vast majority of families continue to rate their own child’s teacher highly, even while believing the political mantra that the nation’s education system is rapidly deteriorating — unique job protections like tenure serve to further strengthen teachers’ capacity to resist … [more]
meganerickson  2015  whigpunk  education  designthinking  timbrown  ideo  policy  canon  paulofreire  oppression  capitalism  inequality  management  petermclaren  salkhan  khanacademy  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  politics  economics  edwardthorndike  history  bfskinner  psychology  control  power  technosolutionism  progress  technology  edtech  funding  money  priorities  optimism  empowerment  distraction  markets  lisadelpit  otherpeople'schildren  hourofcode  waldorfschools  siliconvalley  schooling  us  democracy  criticalthinking  resistance  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  efficiency  rote  totelearning  habitsofmind  pedagogyoftheopressed  anationatrisk  rotelearning  salmankhan 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Lazy, Forgetful Creatures of Habit — Research Things — Medium
"When we talk about designing and marketing, a lot of times we’ll focus on the techniques, the specific practices. Shop talk is fun.

The hardest part of any design project isn’t figuring out how to write well, or lay out a page, or code a website. We have a solid body of knowledge. The challenge is dealing with the humans. Humans are a pain in the ass. But we love them, because our work depends on them. And because they are us.

Humans, especially those of us who spend a lot of time on and around the Internet, all of us are

Lazy, forgetful creatures of habit.

That is your core behavior pattern right there. I just saved you a lot of work creating personas.

Being a lazy, forgetful creature of habit is completely rational. We only have so much energy and attention, and we have ever increasing demands on it. Why should you do anything that requires more work? Why should you go out of your way? Or commit something to memory, when Google will remember it for you?

But what works for each of us as individuals can make life very difficult for our businesses. How do you reach people who have so much competition for their attention and such well-honed abilities to ignore things? It’s not just “banner blindness”. People are often blind to absolutely everything that doesn’t match the thing they’re looking for. It’s baked into our brains — the part of pattern matching that happens below conscious awareness. (And we’re well on our way to notification blindness now.)

And how do you make sure you are working with a realistic view of the priorities of actual humans, instead of making assumptions or relying on wishful thinking? You ask yourself that question every day. “What am I assuming?”

(Wishful thinking is the lazy habit that will doom an entrepreneur.)

Established organizations are lazy, forgetful creatures of habit as well, because they are made up of humans — plus an extra layer of inertia. So, while you are considering the users of the new product or service you are designing, you had better think about all of the existing habits of the organization that has to support it. Those habits can be even harder to change because they are baked into the culture and the business model.

Many an ambitious new strategic direction with complete buy-in from the top has fallen apart because someone further down the chain lacked incentive to change what they were doing. And again, this is rational, or at least understandable, behavior on the individual level.

And researchers — design researchers, market researchers — they can be lazy, too. A lot of bad research is bad because the study was designed based on what questions were easy and oh so satisfying to ask, not based on what was going to yield the most useful information.

If your success depends on people taking action, or remembering your name, or doing anything at all new, you had better make it as easy and satisfying as possible. And the only way to make it as easy as possible is to be really and truly realistic about what makes something feel difficult to someone who is not you.

Optimism is the death of design. Cultivating a habit of critical thinking is the first step to saving it.

Next time, I’ll talk about the Fear."
behavior  erikahall  2015  laziness  attention  priorities  humans  design  designresearch  criticalthinking  forgetting  users  marketing  optimism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Three Miles | This American Life
"There’s a program that brings together kids from two schools. One school is public and in the country’s poorest congressional district. The other is private and costs $43,000/year. They are three miles apart. The hope is that kids connect, but some of the public school kids just can’t get over the divide. We hear what happens when you get to see the other side and it looks a lot better."

[See Antero Garcia's response:
http://www.theamericancrawl.com/?p=1517

and Mark Gomez's too
http://www.ed4change.com/?p=613 ]
inequality  education  schools  poverty  2015  colleges  universities  class  psychology  highered  highereducation  thisamericanlife  optimism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Michael Winter, Ursula Franklin - Home | The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers | CBC Radio
"The news anchor Tom Brokaw coined the term "the greatest generation" to describe the Americans who grew up during the Depression and sustained the ravages of the Second World War. Shelagh thought of that description after she read a book of speeches by the acclaimed scientist, pacifist, and feminist Ursula Franklin.

Ursula Franklin isn't an American but she is a member of that great generation of people shaped personally by the War - very personally in her case.  

She was born in Germany and spent the war in a forced labour camp. Her parents were both in concentration camps.. Miraculously, all three survived and came to Canada. 

Ursula Franklin has spent her life in this country devoted, as she says, to "being useful". She's put her intelligence, discernment, and humanity to many uses. She's a physicist who has made important discoveries and advancements in science, a Quaker who has advocated tirelessly in the service of peace, and a ground breaking feminist.
 
Ursula Franklin Speaks is a collection of speeches and interviews from 1986 to 2012. She collaborated on it with her friend and University of Toronto colleague Sarah Jane Freeman. 

We hope you enjoy this extended version of Shelagh's conversation with Dr. Ursula Franklin."
ursulafranklin  2015  interviews  feminism  quakers  shelaghrogers  canada  collectivism  citizenship  humanism  pacifism  clarity  patriarchy  capitalism  privatization  socialism  scrupling  scruples  hope  hopelessness  optimism  change  civics  activism  discourse  problemsolving  townmeetings  commongood  conversation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Your guide to California in the Pacific world, past, present, and future
"via: https://twitter.com/the_wrangler/status/567023408064778240
"California is a queer place... it has turned its back on the world and looks into the void Pacific."—D.H. Lawrence: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/1862325/d14d0bdf66/572442965/353d17b409/ "

"At Boom, we think of our mission as opening up conversations about California in the world and the world in California. California was part of the Pacific world long before it was part of the United States. Today, we live in many worlds. The Pacific is not the only one. But it is arguably most important for California—and one we are still trying to figure out.

We put together our new issue looking backward and forward on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco to try to provoke, inspire, and sustain a conversation about California in the Pacific world: 1915 | 2015 | 2115.

In the process, we found a strong current we didn’t anticipate running from the past through the present and into the future: the quest for a California cosmopolitanism in the Pacific world.

Our spring issue, in the mail to subscribers now, is divided into three sections. Colin Marshall, Wendy Cheng, Robert Gottlieb, and Jean Melesaine kick things off by exploring the state of California in the Pacific world—or Latin-Pacific world—today. Elizabeth Logan, Abigail Markwyn, Phoebe S.K. Young, and Suzanne Fischer explore the 1915 roots of California’s cosmopolitanism in an optimism for peace and prosperity on the eve of World War I, but also in the deeply troubling scientific racism that underpinned imperial aspirations abroad and segregation at home. And then we look ahead to 2115, with help from Gustavo Arellano, Alex Steffen, Alexis Madrigal, and Annalee Newitz. Will Silicon Valley's view of itself and California still at the center of the Pacific world prevail, or will a broader Pacific cosmopolitanism win out, one in which California may not be the center, but will always be a part?

The full issue is already available on JSTOR, and over the coming weeks we’ll be rolling it out at www.boomcalifornia.com, where historian Thomas Osborne’s introductory essay [http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/california/ ] is up now, along with my letter from the editor's desktop, the full list of contributors, and our quarterly Boom list of things to do, see, and read around California this spring. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be sure you don't miss a thing."

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/from-the-editors-desktop-4/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/contributors-spring-2015/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/spring-2015/ ]
california  pacific  2015  history  dhlawrence  1915  2115  cosmopolitanism  colinmarshall  wendycheng  roberthgottlieb  jeanmelasaine  elizabethlogan  abigailmarkyn  phoebeyoung  suzannefischer  optimism  gustavoarellano  alexsteffan  alexismadrigal  annaleenewitz  boomcalifornia  thomasosborne 
february 2015 by robertogreco
kateoplis: "I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be." —Robert Doisneau
[various Robert Doisneau photographs]

"I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be." —Robert Doisneau
robertdoisneau  photography  change  imagination  utopia  resistance  life  optimism  hope 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Poetic Administration — In all cultural revolutions there are periods of...
"In all cultural revolutions there are periods of chaos and confusion, times when grave mistakes are made. If we fear mistakes, doing things wrongly, constantly evaluating ourselves, we will never make the academy a culturally diverse place where scholars and the curricula address every dimension of that difference.

As the backlash swells, as budgets are cut, as jobs become even more scarce, many of the few progressive interventions that were made to change the academy, to create an open climate for cultural diversity are in danger of being undermined or eliminated. Those threats should not be ignored. Nor should our collective commitment to cultural diversity change because we have not yet devised and implemented perfect strategies for them. To create a culturally diverse academy we must commit ourselves fully. Learning from other movements for social change, from civil rights and feminist liberation efforts, we must accept the protracted nature of our struggle and be willing to remain both patient and vigilant. To commit ourselves to the work of transforming the academy so that it will be a place where cultural diversity informs every aspect of our learning, we must embrace struggle and sacrifice. We cannot be easily discouraged. We cannot despair when there is conflict. Our solidarity must be affirmed by shared belief in a spirit of intellectual openness that celebrates diversity, welcomes dissent, and rejoices in collective dedication to truth."

— bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, pp. 33
bellhooks  pedagogy  1994  teaching  teachingtotransgress  diversity  mistakes  chaos  confusion  learning  howwelearn  howweteachcivilrights  socialjustice  conflict  optimism  dissent  commitment  struggle  sacrifice  socialchange 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Steve Lambert
"Steve Lambert’s father, a former Franciscan monk, and mother, an ex-Dominican nun, imbued the values of dedication, study, poverty, and service to others – qualities which prepared him for life as an artist.

Lambert made international news after the 2008 US election with The New York Times “Special Edition,” a replica of the “paper of record” announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. In the Summer of 2011 he began a national tour of Capitalism Works For Me! True/False – a 9 x 20ft sign allowing people to vote on whether capitalism worked for them . He has collaborated with groups from the Yes Men to the Graffiti Research Lab and Greenpeace. He is also the founder of the Center for Artistic Activism, the Anti-Advertising Agency, Add-Art (a Firefox add-on that replaces online advertising with art) and SelfControl (which blocks grownups from distracting websites so they can get work done)."



"For me, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. I carefully craft various conditions where I can discuss these ideas with people and have a mutually meaningful exchange. Often this means working collaboratively with the audience, bringing them into the process or even having them physically complete the work.

I want my art to be relevant to those outside the gallery – say, at the nearest bus stop – to reach them in ways that are engaging and fun. I intend what I do to be funny, but at the core of each piece there is also a solemn critique. It’s important to be able to laugh while actively questioning the various power structures at work in our daily lives.

I have the unabashedly optimistic belief that art changes the way people look at the world. That belief fuels a pragmatic approach to bring about those changes."
art  artists  politics  anarchism  anarchy  stevelambert  change  optimism  socialpracticeart  everyday  collaboration 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103750710570/you-gotta-remember-and-im-sure-you-do-the

quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Ursula K Le Guin's speech at National Book Awards: 'Books aren't just commodities' | Books | The Guardian
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et9Nf-rsALk ]

"To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom."
ursulaleguin  2014  invention  sciencefiction  fiction  speculativefiction  future  creativity  whywewrite  writing  imagination  capitalism  economics  publishing  genre  visionaries  freedom  alternatives  books  fear  diversity  hope  optimism  paradigmshifts  transcontextextualism 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Self-Directed Learning: Lessons from the Maker Movement in Education
"Learning through the making of things is a concept as old as education. As psychologist Jean Piaget argued, knowledge is a consequence of experience. But somehow, with the exception of a small number of schools and vocational education programs dedicated to experiential inquiry-based learning, our nation’s schools strayed from this hands-on approach to education, spending much of the past 50 years focusing intensely on the memorization of information. Information matters, of course, but a growing number of schools and educators are reclaiming our educational roots, aiming to help kids learn by making stuff — but this time with a technological twist.

This new “maker movement” in education is an offspring of a broad cultural maker movement, spurred over the past decade in large part by Internet connectivity and affordable computer software and hardware. Guided by the shared philosophy that, if it can be imagined, it can be made, makers are popping up everywhere. They are do-it-yourself global entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, craftspeople, and inventors. In 2006, the first Maker Faires (yes, they use the Middle English “e” to give it that geeky panache; it’s also the French word for “to do” or “to make”) were organized so people could demonstrate their inventions, prototypes, and other creations, whimsical or practical, and otherwise learn from each other and delight in human inventiveness. The faires have been described as “the world’s greatest show (and tell)” — attracting hundreds of thousands of people annually. In 2013, there were 60 Maker Faires worldwide. Meanwhile, an increasing number of successful websites are dedicated to the movement. Etsy (www.etsy.com), for instance, has more than a million artisans selling their wares to the world. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter also make it possible to get funding for larger self-starter projects. A recent article in The Economist described the movement as the “third industrial revolution,” focusing particularly on the rise of customized, small-batch manufacturing.

In education, the maker movement owes much of its impetus to the professionals at MIT’s Fab Lab, Stanford’s FabLab@School program, Make Media, The Maker Education Initiative, and other educational institutions with fabrication labs on their campuses. A fab lab is a low-cost digital workshop equipped with 3D scanners, computer controlled laser cutters, milling machines, and other equipment that allow users to build most anything. These labs, previously only found at elite engineering schools, are now popping up in urban settings as membership-supported maker spaces, as well as in innovative public libraries and a fast growing number of public and private schools — including Marymount School (New York), Castilleja School (California), and Hillbrook School (California) where I work.

Other schools are undertaking similar efforts, focusing on the infusion of design thinking and, more generally, problem solving and experiential learning into the curriculum.

“Making,” in education, refers to any form of construction that allows students to exercise their creative license to invent things. The making can involve analog and/or digital tools. It can be done in art, science, humanities, math, or any other subject, given the correct supplies. By its very nature, it employs the constructionist approach to learning, allowing each child the opportunity to construct new knowledge and skills while literally designing and building a physical object or digital entity.

The movement is predicated on the belief that students learn best when the learning is self-directed, when it arises from genuine interests, concerns, and questions. Educator Gary Stager sums up the maker philosophy succinctly: “Less us, more them.”

For students who learn through the making of things, the reward shifts from the successful demonstration of learned facts (i.e., tests, essays, lab reports) to the joy and earned wisdom experienced through exploration and discovery. Growing evidence indicates that this process provides students with a deeper understanding of the way things work, as well as a stronger sense of purpose and autonomy. It builds confidence, fosters creativity, and sparks a deep interest in learning."
christaflores  2014  making  education  democracy  learning  howwelearn  divergentthinking  convergentthinking  passfail  self-assessment  assessment  self-directed  self-directedlearning  empowerment  optimism  garystager  sylviamartinez 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Snarkmarket: A Concise History of the Future
"Tim: I used to have a rule, that I would never just link to stuff. I always had to comment just as much.
That’s why in my first year, I had about fifteen posts.
Robin: a blog is like an article of clothing. a weird one, like a futuristic pointy hat or silver pants.
you don’t know how to wear it at first…
but then you break it in — you get comfortable with it
Tim: but suddenly you go to a party where everyone’s rocking it
and you say… oh, that’s how you do it
Matt: when we started, I just thought it would be a good way to keep in touch w/ Robin. which it has been. but it ended up much awesomer, which was a plus.
Robin: well i credit snarkmarket to essentially changing my trajectory in journalism entirely.
because, almost overnight,
it was so much more FUN than writing normal articles,
and getting feedback in the normal way.
which is to say, not at all.
your party metaphor applies here, tim.
Tim: Snarkmarket easily made me much more interested in, um, now than I ever would have been.
Reminds me of the Nietzsche quote — the trouble with scholars is that by thinking backward, eventually you believe backward too.
Robin: mmm i like that!
Tim: SM has helped me orient my thinking forward.
Robin: a blog — and all the things that surround & support it, like a well-stocked rss reader, and commenters — are an anchor to the present
sometimes to a fault
but even so
Tim: The real trouble is thinking that backwards is the last forwards
like, the real break is the printing press
or the french revolution
or the advent of the computer
some epoch-making change that fixes everything forever
so you don’t see how things are changing now
Matt: it took me a moment to process “backwards is the last forwards.”
Tim: thinking backwards to find beginnings
rather than closures or ruptures
Matt: I eventually got it. I like it.
Tim: which in a way is a blinder to optimism
Matt: I’m going to toss that at a curmudgeonly academic one of these days.
Robin: honestly we’ve waited too long to refresh/reboot/rethink snarkmarket —
partly as a result of, you know, having jobs and lives and things —
but at its ideal it is changing a lot more frequently, a lot more fluidly.
so we should think of this evolution not as an epoch-maker
but the first beat in a new, faster tempo
Matt: amen.
Tim: right, throwing the finish line ahead so you can run past it
Matt: the other day, I was thinking about how I’ve never kept a diary. and there was a moment of regret - all those thoughts and memories that have just been scattered to the ages.
but then I remembered Snarkmarket. which is the oddest type of diary. ‘cause it’s not about me, but it’s about how I view the world.
Robin: yes! actually matt, you just linked to an old 2006 post of mine today —
and i clicked over and went: “wait… who wrote this?”
it struck me in the best possible way
Tim: a diary of public preoccupations
So, like, what are the big moments in SM history?
It seems like Robin targeting Al Gore TV is a big one
EPIC is undoubtedly a big one
which, in a way, is more consequential.
Matt: I remember four years ago, a while after Dean’s Presidential candidacy went up in flames, when I posted about a story I intended to report in ten years. (when his records from office in VT would be made public.)
Robin: love that. i feel that we must endeavor to make snarkmarket a reliable repository for ten-year ideas.
Matt: Snarkmarket seemed the most enduring document in which to declare that intent. there was no better way to send a message to myself in 10 years.
Robin: we’re halfway there already which isn’t bad.



Matt: blogging = destiny.
Robin: welcome to the snarkmatrix officially, tim
Tim: thanks kids.
Matt: yes, we are very glad to have you.
Tim: good to be aboard this leaky rocketship into the future."
snarkmarket  2008  timcarmody  mattthompson  robinsloan  blog  blogging  optimism  writing  howwewrite  howwethink  forwardthinking  backwardthinking  evolution  progress  inventingthefuture  genesis  future 
november 2014 by robertogreco
BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - HAPPIDROME - Part One
"In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border everyone talks about the enemy - IS - and the frightening ideas that drive them. No-one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them.

But the moment you look into what the Kurds are fighting for - what you discover is absolutely fascinating. They have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker.

He wanted to create a future world in which there would be no hierarchies, no systems that exercise power and control individuals. And the Kurds in Kobane are trying to build a model of that world.

It means that the battle we are watching night after night is not just between good and evil. It is also a struggle of an optimistic vision of the future against a dark conservative idea drawn from the past.

It is a struggle that may also have great relevance to us in the west. Because the revolutionary ideas that have inspired the Kurds also shine a powerful light on the system of power in Britain today. They argue that we in the west are controlled by a new kind of hierarchical power that we don’t fully see or understand.

There are two men at the heart of this story.

One is the American revolutionary thinker. He is called Murray Bookchin. Here is a picture of Bookchin looking revolutionary.

The other man is called Abdullah Ocalan. He is the leader of the Kurdish revolutionary group in Turkey - the PKK

Here he is in 1999 after he had been captured by Turkish security forces and was on his way to a jail on a tiny island in the Sea of Marmara where he would be the only prisoner.

In his solitude he would start to read the theories of Murray Bookchin and decide they were the template for a future world.

Both men began as hardline marxists.

Murray Bookchin was born in New York in 1921. In the 1930s he joined the American Communist Party. But after the second world war he began to question the whole theory that underpinned revolutionary marxism.

What changed everything for him was the experience of working in a factory. Bookchin had gone to work for General Motors - and he realized as he watched his fellow workers that Marx, Lenin and all the other theorists were wrong about the working class.

The Marxist theory said that once working men and women came together in factories the scales would fall from their eyes - and they would see clearly how they were being oppressed. They would also see how they could bond together to become a powerful force that would overthrow the capitalists.

Bookchin saw that the very opposite was happening. This was because the factory was organised as a hierarchy - a system of organisation and control that the workers lived with and experienced every second of the day. As they did so, that hierarchical system became firmly embedded in their minds - and made them more passive and more accepting of their oppression.

But Bookchin didn’t do what most disillusioned American Marxists in the 1950s did - either run away to academia, or become a cynical neo-conservative. Instead he remained an optimist and decided to completely rework revolutionary theory.

Here is Bookchin in 1983 talking about how his thinking became transformed - and how his factory experiences led him towards anarchism. It’s part of a fantastic film called Anarchism in America - as well as Bookchin it’s got a great bit with Jello Biafra, and it’s really worth watching if you can get hold of it.

[video]



Watching these sections of the film does make you think that what is being described is spookily close to the system we live in today. And that maybe we have misunderstood what really has emerged to run society since the 1980s.

The accepted version is that the neo-liberal right and the free market triumphed. But maybe the truth is that what we have today is far closer to a system managed by a technocratic elite who have no real interest in politics - but rather in creating a system of rewards that both keeps us passive and happy - and also makes that elite a lot of money.

That in the mid 1980s the new networks of computers which allowed everyone to borrow money came together with lifestyle consumerism to create a system of social management very close to Skinner’s vision.

Just like in the mental hospital we are all given fake money in the form of credit - that we can then use to get rewards, which keep us happy and passive. Those same technologies that feed us the fake money can also be used to monitor us in extraordinary detail. And that information is then used used to nudge us gently towards the right rewards and the right behaviours - and in extremis we can be cut off from the rewards.

The only problem with that system is that the pigeons may be getting restless. That not only has the system not worked properly since the financial crash of 2008, but that the growing inequalities it creates are also becoming a bit too obvious. The elite is overdoing it and - passive or not - the masses are starting to notice.

Which makes the alternative - the vision put forward by Lewis Mumford in the film, and which inspired Murray Bookchin - and the Kurds, seem more interesting as an alternative.

Here is Mumford from the film. He starts by criticising the managed utopia - how it turns people into sleepwalkers. He has a great quote:

“You reward them. You make people do exactly what you want with some form of sugar-coated drug or candy which will make them think they are actually enjoying every moment of it.

This is the most dangerous of all systems of compulsion. That’s why I regard Skinner’s utopia as another name for Hell. And it would be a worse hell because we wouldn’t realise we were there.

We would imagine we were still in Heaven.”

Mumford then goes on to describe eloquently the alternative, a system of direct democracy where we would all awake and become genuinely empowered - able to take part properly in deciding our destiny.

It is a powerful and optimistic vision of a new kind of progressive politics. But it has one very serious problem.

It means we would have to spend a lot of time going to meetings."
anarchism  2014  kurds  iraq  kobane  isis  murraybookchin  abdullahocalan  labor  marxism  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontality  anarchy  oppression  revolution  optimism  jellobiafra  capital  capitalism  wagelabor  work  power  control  bfskinner  economics  domination  exploitation  gender  socialism  liberation  lewismumford  utopia  politics  oligarchy  neoliberalism  elitism  conditioning  compulsion  autonomy  behaviorism  hermankahn  hudsoninstitute  technocrats  1983  technocracy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto | Project Hieroglyph
"It’s hard out here for futurists under 30.

As we percolated through our respective nations’ education systems, we were exposed to WorldChanging and TED talks, to artfully-designed green consumerism and sustainable development NGOs. Yet we also grew up with doomsday predictions slated to hit before our expected retirement ages, with the slow but inexorable militarization of metropolitan police departments, with the failure of the existing political order to deal with the existential-but-not-yet-urgent threat of climate change. Many of us feel it’s unethical to bring children into a world like ours. We have grown up under a shadow, and if we sometimes resemble fungus it should be taken as a credit to our adaptability.

We’re solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair.

The promises offered by most Singulatarians and Transhumanists are individualist and unsustainable: How many of them are scoped for a world where energy is not cheap and plentiful, to say nothing of rare earth elements?

Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.

And yes, there’s a -punk there, and not just because it’s become a trendy suffix. There’s an oppositional quality to solarpunk, but it’s an opposition that begins with infrastructure as a form of resistance. We’re already seeing it in the struggles of public utilities to deal with the explosion in rooftop solar. “Dealing with infrastructure is a protection against being robbed of one’s self-determination,” said Chokwe Lumumba, the late mayor of Jackson, MS, and he was right. Certainly there are good reasons to have a grid, and we don’t want it to rot away, but one of the healthy things about local resilience is that it puts you in a much better bargaining position against the people who might want to shut you off (We’re looking at you, Detroit).

Solarpunk punkSolarpunk draws on the ideal of Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, Ghandi’s ideal of swadeshi and subsequent Salt March, and countless other traditions of innovative dissent. (FWIW, both Ghandi and Jefferson were inventors.)

The visual aesthetics of Solarpunk are open and evolving. As it stands, it’s a mash-up of the following:

• 1800s age-of-sail/frontier living (but with more bicycles)
• Creative reuse of existing infrastructure (sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes present-weird)
• Jugaad-style innovation from the developing world
• High-tech backends with simple, elegant outputs

Obviously, the further you get into the future, the more ambitious you can get. In the long-term, solarpunk takes the images we’ve been fed by bright-green blogs and draws them out further, longer, and deeper. Imagine permaculturists thinking in cathedral time. Consider terraced irrigation systems that also act as fluidic computers. Contemplate the life of a Department of Reclamation officer managing a sparsely populated American southwest given over to solar collection and pump storage. Imagine “smart cities” being junked in favor of smart citizenry.

Tumblr lit up within the last week from this post envisioning a form of solar punk with an art nouveau Edwardian-garden aesthetic, which is gorgeous and reminds me of Miyazaki. There’s something lovely in the way it reacts against the mainstream visions of overly smooth, clean, white modernist iPod futures. Solarpunk is a future with a human face and dirt behind its ears."

[via: https://twitter.com/jqtrde/status/519152576797745153 ]
solarpunk  future  futures  jugaad  green  frontier  bikes  biking  technology  imagination  nearfuture  detroit  worldchanging  ted  ngos  sustainability  singularitarianism  individuality  cyberpunk  steampunk  ingenuity  generativity  independence  community  punk  infrastucture  resistance  solar  chokwelumumba  resilience  thomasjefferson  yeomen  ghandi  swadeshi  invention  hacking  making  makers  hackers  reuse  repurposing  permaculture  adamflynn  denial  despair  optimism  cando  posthumanism  transhumanism  chokweantarlumumba 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Poly-Technic
[via: https://twitter.com/KatePahl/status/518992037740568576 ]

"The Poly-Technic is the collaborative arts practice of Steve Pool and Kate Genever. It is grown from a set of key principles, is not buildings based, geographically specific or funding reliant. It aims to provide a melting pot for ideas, exploring how knowledge is found in places and people as well as books and the internet. The ambition is to bring people together to think around the intersection between art, places, research and in doing so build what we call a “Generative Space”.

Our Manifesto includes ideas such as: Conflict can be generative, Stuff comes from stuff, Abandon what you think you know and It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes. The Poly-Technic is an idea which can change shape while maintaining it’s form and works across disciplines with the aim of developing and promoting the idea of Wider World Artists [WWA]. We offer a mentoring service and have to date offered opportunities such as bursaries, a summer school, residencies and a commissions scheme."

[See also: http://kategenever-stevepool.blogspot.co.uk/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/news/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/publications/ ]

["How to learn from people"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-R_S83EY84 ]

[Manifesto
http://poly-technic.co.uk/manifesto-2/ ]

"Abandon what you think you know: It’s not easy to gradually let go of well developed expertise, at the Poly-Technic we suggest that it’s best to abandon it all in one go. Disciplinary boundaries can only be collapsed when we stop holding onto disciplinary knowledge.

It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes: We are not afraid to part with or transform ideas into something new. Polytechnic projects are always “In-Process”.

Trust in the process: Trust yourself and trust in others, trust you will be surprised, trust you will be interested, trust in the future. Trust and belief depend on optimism; without which we are lost.

Meaning is negotiated: The author died in 1967, his children carry on trying to make sense of just about everything.

Conflict can be generative: Work hard to learn the difference between good conflict and bad conflict. But like cholesterol its difficult to know the difference between the good and the bad until it’s too late.

Stuff comes from stuff: trying, helping, working, making, talking – new ideas come from doing.

Make through thinking: the opposite of ‘stuff comes from stuff’, but its still active, its rigorous thinking

Be playful – improvise: Play games, play serious games – Nabeel Hamdi

Craft your practice: We could have said follow your line. The line is not to be broken, it is not marked on a short or long term strategic plan it flows from your feet and hands and entwines us with the world.

Feel your way: The artist’s business is to feel, although he may think a little sometimes… when he has nothing better to do. (John Ruskin)

Question everything: through deep reflection.

It is ambition enough to be employed as an under labourer in clearing ground a little, and removing some rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge. [John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1689.] As such we hope to beat a path through the nettles to a light dappled clearing in the woods and have a nice cup of tea.

Kate Genever and Steve Pool. 2012"
poly-technic  art  stevepool  kategenever  glvo  rolisoen  learning  howwelearn  trickster  knowledge  conflict  manifestos  play  unknowing  notknowing  interdisciplinary  antdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  process  meaning  making  howwework  thinking  ideas  practice  johnruskin  feeling  reflection  questioning  questionasking  skepticism  ambition  johnlocke  optimism  askingquestions 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Future Library – Framtidsbiblioteket – Katie Paterson
"Scottish artist Katie Paterson has launched a 100-year artwork - Future Library - Framtidsbiblioteket - for the city of Oslo in Norway. The prizewinning author, poet, essayist and literary critic Margaret Atwood has been named as the first writer to contribute to the project.

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

Margaret Atwood comments on being the inaugural writer for Future Library: “I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

A ceremony in 2015 will mark the handover of Margaret Atwood’s manuscript.

The manuscripts will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the New Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2018 in Bjørvika, Oslo. Intended to be a space of contemplation, this room - designed by the artist - will be lined with wood from the forest. The authors’ names and titles of their works will be on display, but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading – until their publication in one century’s time. The library room design is in collaboration with Lund Hagem Architects and Atelier Oslo.

Support for this 100-year long artwork has been given by the City of Oslo, who are working with the artist and Future Library Trust to ensure the protection of the forest and manuscripts until 2114.

Guiding the selection of authors is the Future Library Trust, whose trustees include the artist, Literary Director of the Man Booker Prize Ion Trewin, Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton Simon Prosser, former Director of the Deichmanske Bibliotek Liv Sæteren, Publishing Director of Forlaget Press Håkon Harket, Editor in Chief of Oktober Press, Ingeri Engelstad, Director of Situations Claire Doherty and Anne Beate Hovind, Bjørvika Utvikling's Project Manager for the Slow Space Programme.

Katie Paterson's 100-year-long project is one of four public artworks produced for Slow Space a programme of public artworks for Bjørvika Oslo's former container port, and commissioned by Bjørvika Utvikling. For Anne Beate Hovind, Bjørvika Utvikling’s, Project manager, “Future Library is beyond what we could ever imagine or hope for. The longevity of this artwork will make it resonate with the people of Oslo for the next 100 years and it holds a treasure for future generations to enjoy.”

Conceived by Katie Paterson, Future Library is commissioned and supported by Bjørvika Utvikling, produced by UK-based Situations, and managed by the Future Library Trust. Supported by the City of Oslo, Agency for Cultural Affairs and Agency for Urban Environment.

Katie Paterson has created a limited edition artwork - a certificate that entitles the owner to one complete set of the texts printed on the paper made from the trees after they are fully grown and cut down in 2114. Please contact the artist's galleries in the UK (Ingleby Gallery, Parafin) or the USA (James Cohan Gallery)."

[introductory video: https://vimeo.com/97512418 ]
Margaret Atwood video: https://vimeo.com/104917141 ]
katiepaterson  art  2014  2114  time  future  libraries  oslo  norway  books  margaretatwood  print  forests  optimism  nature  slow  longnow  futurelibrary  longevity 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency” - Salon.com
"TF: So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

CW: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

TF: That’s exactly what everyone was saying at the time.

CW: That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.

TF: Yeah. That’s what everyone was saying.

CW: And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.



"TF: What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

CW: I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything."



TF: One last thing, where are we going from here? What comes next?

CW: I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep. Thank God for the new wave of young and prophetic leadership, as with Rev. William Barber, Philip Agnew, and others. But look who’s around the presidential corner. Oh my God, here comes another neo-liberal opportunist par excellence. Hillary herself is coming around the corner. It’s much worse. And you say, “My God, we are an empire in decline.” A culture in decay with a political system that’s dysfunctional, youth who are yearning for something better but our system doesn’t provide them democratic venues, and so all we have are just voices in the wilderness and certain truth-tellers just trying to keep alive some memories of when we had some serious, serious movements and leaders.

TF: One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like they’re going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time there’ll be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

CW: It’d be about over then, brother. I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point it’s even too hard to contemplate.

TF:I know, I always like to leave things on a pessimistic note. I’m sorry. It’s just my nature.

CW: It’s not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren’t pessimistic. We’re prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That’s different."
cornelwest  barackobama  progressivism  liberalism  billclinton  hillaryclinton  us  thomasfrank  2008  2014  blues  hope  pessimism  optimism  alsharpton  democrats  neoliberalism  militaryindustrialcomplex  security  surveillance  drones  war  inequality  ferguson  class  race  statusquo  politics  policy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (Breakfast With My Mentor)
"A few days ago I had breakfast with a man who had been one of my mentors in college, who participated in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s and has devoted much of the rest of his life in pursuit of equal opportunity for minorities, the poor, women, gays, immigrants — and also for average hard-working people who have been beaten down by the economy. Now in his mid-80s, he’s still active.

I asked him if he thought America would ever achieve true equality of opportunity.

“Not without a fight,” he said. “Those who have wealth and power and privilege don’t want equal opportunity. It’s too threatening to them.They’ll pretend equal opportunity already exists, and that anyone who doesn’t make it in America must be lazy or stupid or otherwise undeserving.”

“You’ve been fighting for social justice for over half a century. Are you discouraged?”

“Not at all!” he said. “Don’t confuse the difficulty of attaining a goal with the urgency of fighting for it.”

“But have we really made progress? Inequality is widening. The middle class and the poor are in many ways worse off than they were decades ago.”

“Yes, and they’re starting to understand that,” he said. “And beginning to see that the distinction between the middle class and poor is disappearing. Many who were in the middle have fallen into poverty; many more will do so.”

“And, so?”

He smiled. “For decades, those at the top have tried to convince the middle class that their economic enemies are minorities and the poor. But that old divide-and-conquer strategy is starting to fail. And as it fails, it will be possible to create a political coalition of the poor and the middle class. It will be a powerful coalition! Remember, demographics are shifting. Soon America will be a majority of minorities. And women are gaining more and more economic power.”

“But the 400 richest Americans are now wealthier than the bottom 150 million Americans put together — and have more political influence than ever.”

“Just you wait,” he laughed. “I wish I had another fifty years in me.”"
robertreich  optimism  class  inequality  economics  comingrevolution  2014  middleclass  socialjustice  society  us 
august 2014 by robertogreco
MICHEL SERRES – 032c Workshop
"MICHEL SERRES is a French philosopher who specializes in the history of science and whose work attempts to reclaim the art of thinking the unthinkable. Born in 1930 in Lot-et-Garonne, Serres is a member immortel of L’Académie française and has been a professor at Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, since 1984. He’s authored more than 60 volumes that range in topics from parasites to the “noise” that lingers in the background of life and thought. Serres’ writing is like a slow night of constant drinking, taking us irreversibly to places we didn’t know we were heading towards.

In 1985 he published Les cinq sens, a lament on the marginalization of the knowledge we gain from our fives senses through science and the scientific mind. So it came as somewhat of a surprise for his observers when Serres came out in unrestrained support of online culture, particularly Wikipedia, in the first years of the 2000s. “Wikipedia shows us the confidence we have in being human,” he said in 2007. Whether through technology or our own bodies, the world of information is only ever accessible through mediation (Serres often deploys the Greek god Hermes and angels in his writing). His most recent book, Petite Poucette (2012), or “Thumbelina,” is an optimistic work that discusses today’s revolution in communications and the cognitive and political transformations it’s brought about. “Army, nation, church, people, class, proletariat, family, market … these are abstractions, flying overhead like so many cardboard effigies,” Serres writes in Petite Poucette. It’s been on the French bestseller list since its release and has sold more than 100,000 copies. It’s a sort of love letter to the digital generation, and surprising in many ways. One of these is that almost no one in the English-speaking world has ever heard of it. In this conversation with 032c’s contributing editor Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serres muses on the dawn of our new era."



"HUO: You’ve often collaborated with others, and conversation is an important practice in your philosophy. Do you believe that we can invent new forms through collaboration, or even through friendship?

MS: Yes. Certainly. I think it can be done. The key to inventing through conversation is to ensure that the conversation is not … a sort of fight to the death between two set opinions. Each participant in the conversation must be free and open."
michelserres  hansulrichobrist  interviews  2014  digitalnatives  communication  optimism  petitpoucette  adamcurtis  revolution  tocqueville  21stcentury  micheldemontaigne  wikileaks  julianassange  wikipedia  knowledge  mobile  phones  quasi-objects  objects  future  society  conversation  philosophy  resistance  technology  justice  ecologicjustice  politics  montaigne  collaboration 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The future of ed tech is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — Futures Exchange — Medium
"Using design fiction to cut through the relentless TEDTalk-like optimism of ed tech marketing"



"People talk about the future of technology in education as though it’s right around the corner, but for most of us we get to that corner and see it disappearing around the next. This innovation-obsessed cycle continues as we are endlessly dissatisfied with how little difference these promises make to the people implicated in these futures. These products and practices, cloaked in the latest buzzwords and jargon, often trickle down to non-western geographic regions after they’ve been tried and rejected, yet still adopted as the new and advanced “western” methodology that will solve the “problem” of education.

In an attempt to cut through the relentless TED Talk-like optimism of ed tech marketing, this year at the HASTAC conference in Peru we presented a series of fictional case studies. These four design fiction based personas aimed to illustrate the possible impact on society and education, in both positive and negative ways, of not just emerging technologies but also global social and economic trends. They give brief snapshots of the lives of individuals in imagined futures from different geographic, ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, illustrating how each of them might interface and interact with the different technologies."

[See also: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed
Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20150630153225/http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed ]
savasahelisingh  timmaughan  designfiction  edtech  technology  education  dystopia  marketing  optimism  pessimism  2014  williamgibson  speculativefiction  futures  future  innovation  buzzwords  hastac  casestudies 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Technologists' Siren Song - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In July 1969—less than two weeks after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin cavorted on the moon—The New York Review of Books published a controversial essay by John McDermott, "Technology: The Opiate of the Intellectuals." In it, McDermott, a social scientist at the State University of New York, offered a sharp rejoinder to those who viewed the Apollo 11 mission as a harbinger of ever-more-­ambitious technological triumphs. The essay was in response to a report put out by Harvard University’s Program on Technology and Society, a grand interdisciplinary effort bankrolled to the tune of several million dollars by IBM. The Harvard report was sanguine, arguing, in McDermott’s words, that "technological innovation exhibits a distinct tendency to work for the general welfare in the long run." McDermott was having none of this "extravagant optimism."

The prevailing belief of technologists—in McDermott’s time and ours—is that technology is the solution to all problems. It is a view especially attractive to those best positioned to reap the benefits of innovation and avoid its unattractive consequences."



"Rarely do today’s most prominent tech intellectuals question the overall value of innovation. Why would they? They are in the innovation business, part of a corporate culture that boasts of its ability to thrive, not just survive, in a climate of constant disruption. But is innovation always beneficial? Plainly not. For starters, it can destroy jobs. From the 1920s through the 1950s, automation displaced tens of thousands of workers. Recall the conflict between Spencer Tracy (a proponent of automation) and Katharine Hepburn (an anxious reference librarian) in the 1957 film Desk Set.

What about broader societal benefits—in health care, for instance? Stanley Joel Reiser, a clinical professor of health policy at George Washington University, undertook a study of recent medical innovations. He concluded that patients are not always the winners, but rather hospital administrators, physicians, or Big Pharma. An especially compelling example he gave is the invention of the artificial respirator: While saving countless lives, this medical innovation also created ethical, legal, and policy debates over, literally, questions of life and death. Moreover, there is the broader question of whether it is better to spend large amounts of money on research and development that will benefit future generations if this means less funding to meet today’s medical needs with existing methods."



"Back in age of Apollo, scholar-critics like McDermott branded technology an opiate, one that seduced intellectuals with the idea that social and political problems could be solved with a technological fix. A similar observation applies today. We are dulled, lulled, and anesthetized by arguments from tech intellectuals that too often are glib, Panglossian, or in service of a corporate agenda. What this discourse needs is more-rigorous academic expertise on the history and social implications of technological change. But first we have to stop nodding off in the tech intellectuals’ opium dens."
technology  technosolutionism  systemsthinking  wpatrickmccray  2014  johnmcdermott  siliconvalley  californianideology  optimism  innovation  capitalism  well-being  society  progress 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Agony of Perfectionism - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic
"The fortress of classic economics was built on the slushy marsh of rational consumer theory. The once-popular belief that we all possess every relevant piece of information to make choices about buying fridges, TVs, or whatever, has since given way to a less commendable, but more accurate, description of buyers, which is that we basically have no freaking clue what we're doing most of the time. Prices, marketing, discounts, even the layout of store and shelves: They're all hazards strewn about the obstacle course of decision-making, tripping us up, blocking our path, and nudging us toward choices that are anything but rational.

Today, rather than consider consumers to be a monolith of reason, some economists and psychologists prefer to think of us as falling into two mood groups: maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers are perfectionists. They want the best of everything, and they want to know they have the best of everything. Satisficers are realists. They want what's good enough, and they're happy to have it.

The trouble with perfectionists is that, by wanting the best, they aspire to be perfectly rational consumers in a world where we all agree that's impossible. It's a recipe for dissatisfaction, way too much work, and even depression.

In "Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that maximizers are more likely to be have regret and depression and less likely to report being happy, optimistic, or have high self-esteem.

To be a maximizer requires an "impossible" and "exhaustive search of the possibilities," that invariably ends with regret when the person realizes, after the purchase, that there might have been a better choice. This regret actually "[reduces] the satisfaction derived from one’s choice." The paradox of caring too much about having the perfect version of everything is that you wind up feel dissatisfied with all of it.

A new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research further illuminates the onerous woe of perfectionism. Maximizers apply for more jobs, attend more job interviews, spend more time worrying about their social status, and wind up less happy, less optimistic, "and more depressed and regretful" than everybody else.

In a battery of tests designed to prime subjects to act like maximizers and satisficers, the researchers validated just about every stereotype about perfectionists: They work harder, search more deeply, and perform better in their jobs, but the emotional byproducts of their accomplishments are regret and dissatisfaction. (You might say that hard-earned success in life is wasted on the people least likely to appreciate it.)

Both papers concluded that the Internet is a briar patch of misery for maximizers. Not only does it allow them to more easily compare their lot to the sepia-toned success stories of their peers on Facebook and Instagram, but also it makes comparison shopping hell. From the first paper's discussion section:
The proliferation of options [online] raises people’s standards for determining what counts as a success, [from] breakfast cereals to automobiles to colleges to careers. Second, failure to meet those standards in a domain containing multiple options encourages one to treat failures as the result of personal shortcomings rather than situational limitations, thus encouraging a causal attribution for failure that we might call “depressogenic.” [ed: had to look that one up.]

In short: The Internet doesn't have to make you miserable. But if you insist on comparing your choices and your life to every available alternative accessible through a Google search, it will.

For consumers, this means embracing the limitations of classical economics. We don't know everything. We don't have everything. And that's okay. Pretending otherwise is, in fact, anything but rational."

[See also: http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bschwar1/maximizing.pdf ]
choice  choices  paradoxofchoice  perfectionists  satisficers  economics  rationality  reason  2014  unhappiness  happiness  depression  jobhunting  perfectionism  optimism  regret  worry  anxiety  possibilities  satisfaction  caring  self-esteem  realism  derekthompson  advertising  internet  infooverload  information  comparison 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Wed 8.14.13 | Memory and the Radical Imagination | Against the Grain: A Program about Politics, Society and Ideas
"Global capitalism, far from being only an economic phenomenon, affects and influences how we think, including what and how we think about the past. Max Haiven reveals how neoliberal-era initiatives frame human cooperation and collective action; he also emphasizes the importance of what he calls "commoning memory.""
capitalism  memory  economics  maxhaiven  neoliberalism  cooperation  collective  collectiveaction  collectivism  commoningmemory  2013  history  radicalimagination  radicalism  well-being  labor  work  commodification  colonization  conviviality  biopoliticalproduction  via:caseygollan  walterbenjamin  communism  politics  utopia  possibility  past  present  future  humans  human  optimism  society  imagination  complexity  unfinished  pessimism  fascism  courage  1968  patriarchy  socialmovements  revolution  change  activism  utopiandream  struggle 
august 2013 by robertogreco
"Envisioning a Sustainable World" by Donella H. Meadows [.pdf]
"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture. We talk about our fears, frustrations, and doubts endlessly, but we talk only rarely and with embarrassment about our dreams. Environmentalists have been especially ineffective in creating any shared vision of the world they are working toward -- a sustainable world in which people live within nature in a way that meets human needs while not degrading natural systems. Hardly anyone can imagine that world, especially not as a world they’d actively like to live in. The process of building a responsible vision of a sustainable world is not a rational one. It comes from values, not logic. Envisioning is a skill that can be developed, like any other human skill. This paper indicates how."



"Beyond that we could occasionally take the social risk of displaying not our skepticism but our deepest desires. We could declare ourselves in favor of a sustainable, just, secure, efficient, sufficient world (and you can add any other "value word" you like to that list), even at the expense of being called idealistic. We could describe that world, as far as we can see it, and ask others to develop the description further. We could give as much credit to the times when we exceed our expectations as to the times when we fall short. We could let disappointments be learning experiences, rather than fuel for pessimism."



"Why is it that we can share our cynicism, complaints, and frustrations without hesitation with perfect strangers, but we can't share our dreams? How did we arrive at a culture that constantly, almost automatically, ridicules visionaries? Whose idea of reality forces us to "be realistic?" When were we taught, and by whom, to suppress our visions?"



"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture."

[via Nicole: https://readmill.com/nicoleslaw/reads/envisioning-a-sustainable-world ]

[video: https://vimeo.com/30752926 ]
vision  donellameadows  sustainability  1994  change  pessimism  skepticism  cynicism  culture  society  optimism  tcsnmy  visionaries  policy  process  idealism  pragmatism  naïvité 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Was America’s Economic Prosperity Just a Historical Accident?
"What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?"



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



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



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



"In 2007, Mexicans stopped emigrating to the United States. The change was not very big at first, and so for a few years it seemed like it might be a blip. But it wasn’t. In 2000, 770,000 Mexicans had come across the Rio Grande, but by 2007 less than 300,000 did, and by 2010, even though violence in Mexico seemed ceaseless, there were fewer than 150,000 migrants. Some think that more Mexicans are now leaving the United States than are coming to it. “We’re never going to get back to the numbers we had in the late nineties,” says Wayne Cornelius, a political scientist at UC–San Diego who has spent the past 40 years studying this cross-border movement. A small part of this story is the increase in border protection, but the dominant engine has been the economic shifts on both sides of the border—it has become easier for poor Mexicans to improve their quality of life in Mexico and harder to do so in the United States. Because migrants from a particular Mexican village often settle in the same American place, they provide a fast conduit of economic information back home: There are no jobs in construction or housing. Don’t come. The Pew Hispanic Center has traced the migration patterns to economic performance in real time: a spike of migration during 1999 and 2000, at the height of the boom; a brief downturn in border crossing after the 2001 stock-market crash followed by a plateau; then the dramatic emptying out after the housing industry gave way in 2006. We think of the desire to be American as a form of idealism, and sometimes it is. But it also has something to do with economic growth. We are a nation of immigrants to the extent that we can make immigrants rich."
cyborgs  economics  humanity  jobs  progress  sustainability  history  technosolutionism  benjaminwallace-wells  2013  robertgordon  ted  tedtalsk  optimism  pessimism  erikbrynjolfsson  labor  prosperity  wealthdistribution  industrialrevolution  capitalism  growth  demographics  immigration  migration  us  mexico  society  socialchange  upwardmobility  classmobility  future 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Departures - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I have not had any problems. At 8:45 I will board a ship. It will punch through the sky. At some point, God willing, that ship will emerge over airspace far from the beloved West Baltimore of my youth. Something is happening in this world. I think of my grandfather, lecturing from the daily newspaper, drowning in alcohol, addicted to violence. I think of my father, working all summer as a child, saving his funds for a collection of recordings that promised to teach him French. He didn't learn French, but he learned to compel his son to want to learn French. I think of my grandmother pushing up from the Eastern Shore of Maryland raising three daughters in the projects, somehow sending them all to college. 

I think of what these folks might have been had they not lived in world intolerant of black ambition. The world has changed. It has not changed totally, but it has changed significantly. When I fell out on the train, everyone on the car was white. So were all the paramedics and all the doctors and nurses. The challenge for someone trying to assess America, at this moment, is properly calibrating how far we've gone with how far we have to go. Too much optimism renders you naive; too much pessimism makes you cynical."
ta-nehisicoates  2013  progress  health  us  optimism  pessimism  naïvité  cynicism  race 
march 2013 by robertogreco
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