robertogreco + progress   181

Editorial - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"Syllabi are theory’s infrastructure. While they are not the same as the essays, lectures, books, case studies, films, and other media organized by them, they can and should be seen as theoretical contributions in their own right, and subjected to the same degree of critical reflection, scrutiny, and innovation. Syllabi set a program for study, give structure to vast networks of ideas, and define an interpretative stance on the world. Focusing attention on syllabi—which texts they include, and how they are organized and framed—offers a window into larger problems facing the field of architectural theory today.

Architectural theory went through an academic renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s, with scholars forging new links with groundbreaking theoretical movements of the time, from feminism and postcolonialism to semiotics, phenomenology, and deconstructivism. New syllabi were formed in architecture curricula that incorporated contemporary discursive practices, positions, and sensibilities. Yet the syllabi for such classes have not developed significantly since then. Architectural theory in academic curricula today is often addressed either through a history of theoretical concerns—from mimesis, analogy, beauty, honesty, and utopia to modernity, alienation, authenticity, regionalism, contextualism, autonomy, and postmodernity—a tabulation of theoretical frameworks—from structural linguistics, marxism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology to feminism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism—or a roster of authors—from Vitruvius, Alberti, Laugier, Perrault, Boullée, Durand, and Ruskin to Le Corbusier, Loos, Meyer, Jacobs, Alexander, Banham, Venturi, Scott-Brown, Norberg-Schulz, Rowe, Rossi, Tafuri, Eisenman, Jencks, and Koolhaas.

Academic courses that address more urgent contemporary issues and diverse geographies are too often allocated to specialized fields, institutions, or spaces of study, such that they rarely come to challenge the canon of architectural theory’s increasingly standard model. Theory is one of the necessary ingredients for the maintenance of the discipline of architecture as a synthetic manifestation connecting history, criticism, and practice. Therefore, theory must overcome the institutional inertia of pedagogical reproduction, the neoliberalization of intellectual labor, and the disorientation of informational media, and rearticulate its necessary role. At an infrastructural level of knowledge production, theory must attend to the changing nature of cultural communication, globalization and calls for inclusivity within the social space of discourse, and the economic logics driving planetary collapse.

The starting point for any reformulation of architectural theory should be the ways we learn. The conditions of contemporary thought itself have been transformed over the past decades by new media platforms and the emergent practices of surveillance capitalism. The old attentional economy that once sustained reflective and critical thought has been replaced by an economy of distraction. The work of analyzing difficult texts has become alien to digital natives young and old, who are habituated to a culture of instant access, skimming, and the hypnotic rhythm of clicks, taps, and swipes. When video tutorials appear more engaging and specific than the seemingly dated writing styles of even a decade ago, the habits of reading, thinking, and writing common to theory’s past must be re-imagined.

This expanding space of communications has accompanied intensified intercultural exchanges brought about by global economic integration, migration, and the resultant pressing together of different peoples, cultures, and ways of life. Theory’s debt to a Western tradition of philosophical, historical, and critical reason has been brought into question. Architecture’s theoretical discourse needs to respond to the critique of Western-centrism and the calls for its provincialization. It must address the question of opening up to alternative epistemologies and broader methods of discourse production, be they poetic, practical, symbolic, moral, magical, or mythic as much as philosophical or metaphysical. Provincializing Western architectural theory is one way to address the social struggles and conflicts between identity groups that have intensified with the proverbial shrinking of the world. In this vein, theory must reflect on who constructs architecture’s theoretical canon, who speaks as a theorist, who theory speaks about, and who theory addresses as its audience. While embracing the concrete political gains in the social redistribution of power among different genders, races, sexualities, and class backgrounds, theory should also question the role of identity as an operator within discourses, institutions, and national politics, and critically reflect on both its essentializations and constructed nature.

The globalization of culture is, for better or worse, supported by global, transnational, and neoliberal economic practices and their consequent forms of ecological destruction. As much as the global can provincialize theory, the global can also further focus theory upon the new ethico-political demand created by the explicit awareness of technological convergence and impending planetary collapse. With the recent granting of a new geological epoch to our species, we have passed a threshold of irreversible awareness that modern dreams of progress, infinite economic growth, and unlimited consumerist self-expression produce the counter-effects that turn dreams into nightmares. Yet while causes remain global, their effects are often local and asymmetrical, demanding that we theorize both a new hermeneutics of our technological being and a new ethics and politics of the earth.

In challenging architectural theory, these historical factors hold the capacity to reenergize and rethink its relationship to its traditional concerns, frameworks, authors, organizations, and geographies that shape its curricula. They might even force the most basic of existential questions for architectural theory itself: what is it for, today? At its very minimum, we can understand theory to be an instrument for socializing architects into a shared vocabulary and tradition, both within and outside of the discipline, as well as a means for providing a forum for ideological debate between the many conflicting practices that compose the field of architecture. But should architectural theory seek to renew the projective avant-garde project which it was understood to be a couple of decades ago, one capable of challenging and reorienting studio culture and professional practice more widely? Or should it keep a critical distance from design, and instead focus its lens upon the formation of the subjectivity, critical consciousness, ethical comportment, and civic duty of the architect themselves?

Theory’s Curriculum is an extra-academic initiative that seeks to provide theory with a means to challenge its existing methods of pedagogical reproduction. It seeks to build a collaborative project that brings together isolated laborers to pool ideas and methods across dispersed institutions and geographies, to compare inherited models, to detect received assumptions, and to ask fundamental questions about what and how we should teach and learn when we teach and learn architectural theory.

Collaboration is inevitably a heuristic fiction, promising what is often difficult to sustain against the dominant structures of modern individuation, today’s entrepreneurialization of the self, and the semiotic capital of discourse. It inevitably cuts across the values of wage-labor and attribution, and blurs the boundaries between professional roles, friendship, and community spirit. Yet, as McKenzie Wark has argued, the conditions of intellectual laboring in the academy today necessitate that we adopt a more realist approach to theorizing as the cumulative task of many smaller efforts, rather than the great leaps forward once marked by grand philosophical systems or public intellectuals. With these syllabi, Theory’s Curriculum seeks to reconceptualize intellectual work as the function of a general intellect, an ecology of contributions on particular themes and ideas that, when exchanged and debated, evolve as a collective project.

These syllabi aim to indicate potential avenues for progress, and in so doing prompt a debate. They are far from exhaustive, yet are free to be used, recycled, hacked, and plundered. They are offered in the spirit of further collaboration, and with the hope that they will invite others to join this nascent enterprise in the rearticulation and teaching of architectural theory today. Ultimately, they suggest that pedagogy is not secondary to theory, but that rethinking how we teach and learn theory might be central to how we theorize anew."
syllabus  syllabi  curriculum  architecture  education  highered  deign  highereducation  academia  theory  nickaxel  josephbedford  nikolaushirsch  mckenziewark  collaboration  individuation  labor  progress  pedagogy  anthropocene  neoliberalism  globalization  economics  migration  thecanon 
5 days ago by robertogreco
Project MUSE - On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales
"Because computers zoom across magnifications, it is easy to conclude that both knowledge and things exist by nature in precision-nested scales. The technical term is “scalable,” the ability to expand without distorting the framework. But it takes hard work to make knowledge and things scalable, and this article shows that ignoring nonscalable effects is a bad idea. People stumbled on scalable projects through the same historical contingencies that such projects set out to deny. They cobbled together ways to make things and data self-contained and static, and thus amenable to expansion. In European New World plantations, the natives were wiped out; coerced and alienated plants and workers came to substitute for them. Profits were made because extermination and slavery could be discounted from the books. Such historically indeterminate encounters formed models for later projects of scalability. This essay explores scalability projects from the perspective of an emergent “nonscalability theory” that pays attention to the mounting pile of ruins that scalability leaves behind. The article concludes that, if the world is still diverse and dynamic, it is because scalability never fulfills its own promises."

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

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

[PDF here: ]

"I can’t say enough how good Anna Tsing’s essay on nonscalabilty is. “On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales.” Common Knowledge 18, no. 3 (September 19, 2012): 505–24. "

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

"On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing" ]

[See also:
"“On Nonscalability” of teaching and learning"
annalowenhaupttsing  scale  scalability  slow  small  2012  difference  diversity  capitalism  knowledge  expansion  growth  degrowth  culture  technology  progress  labor  work  biology  humanism  humanity  sustainability  environment  sugar  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  antigrowth 
14 days ago by robertogreco
The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Building Learning Societies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Rethinking the Peace Culture [The Pearl Magazine]
"Last September, our university made significant progress by moving from the 39th to the 22nd position in the US News Ranking of the Best Liberal Art Colleges in the country. Soka also lands at #1 in Study Abroad and #2 in Faculty Resources. However, statistics alone cannot tell the whole story. When evaluating a college, we should also take into consideration the extent to which it achieves its mission statement. Does a national ranking mean that the university succeeds in achieving its goal to “foster a steady stream of global citizens who committed to living a contributive life”?

The core value of Soka—pursuing a peaceful culture—somehow contributes to a lack of engagement in the community. This issue was reflected in the First-Year Class Senate election this year. In comparison to the rising tension in the US political climate, our election could not have been more “peaceful.” Candidates weren’t required to give speeches about their plans. No campaigns or lobbies were launched. The process only required an application that was put in a booklet and sent to all the first-year students. Students were given one week for online voting—and then the new officers were announced.

The silence of the process surprised me. In my high school in Vietnam, to run for student council, we had to run campaigns and give presentations about our plans to win votes from students and teachers. Here, an election for the most critical student organization was unexpectedly quiet.

I’d argue that one of the unexpected results of the peace culture is that students become silent and passive when it becomes necessary to speak personal opinions. As we do not want to be excluded from the community or be seen as “too aggressive,” we easily come to an agreement even if it is not what we really think. The pressure to please other people and maintain a peaceful atmosphere makes us hesitant to express ourselves and fight for what we believe. We want to be “global citizens,” but we stop at the border of disagreement because we are afraid that we will cause trouble if we cross that boundary. How can multi-cultural understanding be developed without the clash of ideas and interactive debates? How can truth and progress can be achieved if everyone is not willing to speak up?

From the bottom of my heart, I do not regret choosing Soka as my college. I understand the importance of pacifism to the world. However, we cannot have a “happy peace” on campus without encouraging freedom of idea-exchanging and structural discourses. As life goes on, conflicts are unavoidable. The best way to solve them is not by ignoring them, but by seriously discussing them to find a solution that works for the community."

[Goes well with:
"The Biden Fallacy: Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how America produced the conditions for its greatest social reforms." by

"There’s something odd about the self-described moderates and centrists considering a run for president. If “moderation” or “centrism” means holding broadly popular positions otherwise marginalized by extremists in either party, then these prospective candidates don’t quite fit the bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the nation’s largest fortunes is very popular, according to recent polling by Morning Consult, with huge support from Democrats and considerable backing from Republicans. But Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who has flirted with running for president as a moderate Democrat, rejects the plan as an extreme policy that would put the United States on the path to economic ruin. “If you want to look at a system that’s noncapitalistic, just take a look at what was once, perhaps, the wealthiest country in the world, and today people are starving to death. It’s called Venezuela,” he said during a January trip to New Hampshire. He is similarly dismissive of the idea of “Medicare for all,” warning that it would “bankrupt us for a very long time.”

Likewise, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, has staked out ground as a moderate politician, even as he opposes similarly popular ideas. A substantial majority of the public favors proposals to greatly expand college access or make it free outright. In a January op-ed for The Washington Post, McAuliffe dismissed “universal free college” as a misuse of tax dollars. “Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.”

And let’s not forget Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks chief executive who might run for president as an independent, who characterizes himself as a “centrist” despite holding positions that have little traction among the public as a whole. “We have to go after entitlements,” he has said, referring to the unpopular idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare to shrink the federal deficit.

In each case, these moderate politicians have positioned themselves against broad public preference. What then makes a moderate, if not policies that appeal to the middle?

You’ll find the answer in two comments from Joe Biden, who served two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama and is mulling a third run for the Democratic nomination. The first is from a speech in 2018, the second from more recent remarks to the United States Conference of Mayors. Speaking last May at the Brookings Institution, Biden rejected the confrontational language of some other Democrats. “I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders,” he said. “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. I get into a lot of trouble with my party when I say that wealthy Americans are just as patriotic as poor folks.”

Speaking a month ago, Biden defended his praise for Fred Upton, the electorally embattled Republican congressman from Michigan whom he commended in a paid speech last year. Republicans used these comments to bolster Upton in campaign advertising, helping him win a narrow victory over his Democratic challenger. Biden’s response to critics was defiant. “I read in The New York Times today that I — that one of my problems is if I ever run for president, I like Republicans,” he said. “O.K., well, bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Biden hasn’t endorsed a “Medicare for all” plan, but if he runs, he won’t be running on deficit reduction or modest tweaks to existing programs. He supports free college and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. He wants to triple the earned-income tax credit, give workers more leverage and raise taxes on the rich. This is a liberal agenda. And yet Biden is understood as a “moderate” like Bloomberg, McAuliffe and Schultz.

What connects them (and similar politicians) is a belief that meaningful progress is possible without a fundamental challenge to those who hold most of the wealth and power in our society. For Biden, you don’t need to demonize the richest Americans or their Republican supporters to reduce income inequality; you can find a mutually beneficial solution. Bloomberg, a billionaire, may have a personal reason for rejecting wealth taxes, but he may also see them as unnecessary and antagonistic if the goal is winning powerful interests over to your side. McAuliffe governed Virginia with an eye toward the business community. Sweeping social programs might be popular, but they might alienate that powerful constituency. And Schultz wants a Democratic Party less hostile to those he calls “people of means,” who otherwise back goals like gun control.

But this is a faulty view of how progress happens. Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how Americans produced the conditions for its greatest social accomplishments like the creation of the welfare state and the toppling of Jim Crow. Without radical labor activism that identifies capitalism — and the bosses — as the vector for oppression and disadvantage, there is no New Deal. Without a confrontational (and at times militant) black freedom movement, there is no Civil Rights Act. If one of the central problems of the present is an elite economic class that hoards resources and opportunity at the expense of the public as a whole, then it’s naïve and ahistoric to believe the beneficiaries of that arrangement will willingly relinquish their power and privilege.

If there’s a major division within Democratic politics, it’s between those who confront and those who seek to accommodate. Because we lack a varied vocabulary in mainstream political discourse, we call the latter “moderates” or “centrists,” which doesn’t capture the dynamic at work.

Anna Julia Cooper was an author, activist and public intellectual, a prominent voice in the struggle for black liberation. In her 1892 book, “A Voice From the South,” she ruminates on what’s necessary for “proper equilibrium” in society:
Progressive peace in a nation is the result of conflict; and conflict, such as is healthy, stimulating, and progressive, is produced through the coexistence of radically opposing or racially different elements.

Antagonism, indignation, anger — these qualities don’t diminish democracy or impede progress. Each is an inescapable part of political life in a diverse, pluralistic society. And each is necessary for challenging our profound inequalities of power, wealth and opportunity.

“The child can never gain strength save by resistance,” Cooper wrote, a little later in that volume, “and there can be no resistance if all movement is in one direction and all opposition made forever an impossibility.”]
2018  peace  hongthuy  democracy  community  governance  government  silence  passivity  jamellebouie  us  politics  progressive  progress  change  michaelbloomberg  terrymcauliffe  howardschultz  juliacooper  antagonism  indignation  anger  pluralism  society  conflict  conflictavoidance  diversity  resistance  joebiden  elizabethwarren  democrats  2019  barackobama  fredupton  moderates  centrists  accommodation  statusquo  inequality  civilrights  power  privilege  discourse  civility  race  wealth  opportunity  sokauniversityofamerica  thepearl  soka 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Coddling of the American Mind review – how elite US liberals have turned rightwards | Books | The Guardian
"The style that does befit an expert, apparently, is the style of TED talks, thinktanks and fellow Atlantic writers and psychologists. The citations in this book draw a circle around a closed world. In offering a definition of “identity politics”, a term coined by the black socialist lesbians of the Combahee River Collective (and the subject of a recent book edited by Yamahtta-Taylor), Lukianoff and Haidt quote “Jonathan Rauch, a scholar at the Brookings Institution”. They tell their readers to read Pinker, whose fulsome blurb appears on their book jacket.

The book ends with a list of recommendations for fixing young people and universities. “We think that things will improve, and may do so quite suddenly at some point in the next few years,” they conclude, suddenly cheery. Why? “As far as we can tell from private conversations, many and perhaps most university presidents reject the culture of safetyism,” even if “they find it politically difficult to say so publicly”. Based on conversations with high school and college students, the authors believe that most of them “despise call-out culture”.

“Private conversations” that they cannot describe seem like thin evidence from a social scientist and a lawyer whose motto is “Carpe datum!” A few chapters earlier, they bewail the ethos of “customer service” that has led universities to coddle students, but here they are confident that “if a small group of universities is able to develop a different sort of academic culture … market forces will take care of the rest”.

Who will fix the crisis? The people who are already in charge. How? Simply by being open about what they already secretly believe. The rhetorical appeal, here, shares a structure with the appeal that carried the enemy in chief of political correctness to the White House: “That’s just common sense.”

Lukianoff and Haidt go out of their way to reassure us: “Neither of us has ever voted for a Republican for Congress or the presidency.” Like Mark Lilla, Pinker and Francis Fukuyama, who have all condemned identity politics in recent books, they are careful to distinguish themselves from the unwashed masses – those who also hate identity politics and supposedly brought us Donald Trump. In fact, the data shows that it was precisely the better-off people in poor places, perhaps not so unlike these famous professors in the struggling academy, who elected Trump; but never mind. I believe that these pundits, like the white suburban Dad in the horror film Get Out, would have voted for Barack Obama a third time.

Still, they may protest too much. In the midst of what Fukuyama, citing his colleague Larry Diamond, calls a “democratic recession”, the consensus that has ruled liberal institutions for the past two decades is cracking up. The media has made much of the leftward surge lifting Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But as this new left-liberalism gains strength, a growing number of white men who hold power in historically liberal institutions seem to be breaking right.

As more and more Americans, especially young Americans, express enthusiasm for democratic socialism, a new right-liberalism answers. Its emerging canon first defined itself in reaction to new social movements highlighting the structural or systemic elements of identity-based oppression. By deriding those movements as “clicktivism” or mere “hashtags”, right-liberal pundits also, implicitly, expressed frustration at how web platforms were breaking up their monopoly on discourse. In January 2015, weeks after a wave of massive Black Lives Matter protests, Jonathan Chait decried Twitter as the launch pad of a “new pc movement”. In the conclusion of The Once and Future Liberal, Lilla singled out Black Lives Matter for special condemnation, calling it “a textbook example of how not to build solidarity”. Andrew Sullivan has criticised “the excesses of #MeToo”. Just last week, Harper’s and the New York Review of Books published long personal essays in which men accused of serial sexual harassment and assault defended themselves and described their sense of persecution by online “mobs”.

Lukianoff and Haidt share some benefactors and allies with the well-established right that funded Bloom and D’Souza. (Lukianoff works at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit group that receives funding from the Scaife and Olin families.) But, reading The Coddling of the American Mind, I was more struck by their points of proximity to the newer Trumpist right.

Like Trump, the authors romanticise a past before “identity” but get fuzzy and impatient when history itself comes up. “Most of these schools once excluded women and people of colour,” they reflect. “But does that mean that women and people of colour should think of themselves as ‘colonised populations’ today?” You could approach this question by looking at data on racialised inequality in the US, access to universities, or gendered violence. They don’t. They leave it as a rhetorical question for “common sense” to answer.

Their narrow perception of history severely limits the explanations Lukianoff and Haidt can offer for the real problems they identify. Can you understand the “paranoia” middle-class parents have about college admissions without considering how many of their children are now downwardly mobile? How are college teachers supposed to confidently court controversy when so many of them have zero security in jobs that barely pay above poverty wages?

Just as they appear to lack a clear explanation of why the “terrible ideas” that are “harming students” have taken hold, they don’t seem to have a theory of how good ideas cause change. At one point, they note that Pauli Murray, one of their exemplars of “common humanity identity politics”, recently had a college at Yale named after her, as if this proved that in an unregulated market, the right ideas do win in the end. But Yale did not just happen to remember this law school graduate, half a century later; Yale named Pauli Murray College following countless student protests around Black Lives Matter – and after a cafeteria worker named Corey Menafee, who got sick of looking at pictures of happy slaves in Yale’s Calhoun College, put his broom through a stained glass window, and his union came to his defence.

For all their self-conscious reasonableness, and their promises that CBT can master negative emotion, Lukianoff and Haidt often seem slightly hurt. They argue that intersectionality theory divides people into good and bad. But the scholars they quote do not use this moral language; those scholars talk about privilege and power. Bad is how these men feel when someone suggests they have had it relatively easy – and that others have had to lose the game that was made for men like them to win. Their problem with “microaggressions” is this framework emphasises impact over intentions, a perspective that they dismiss as clearly ludicrous. Can’t these women and minorities see we mean well? This is the incredulity of people who have never feared being stereotyped. It can turn to indignation, fast.

If there is a new right-liberal dispensation, the two-step from shame to rage about shame may be what brings it closest to the Trumpists. Hints of elective affinities between elite liberalism and the “alt-right” have been evident for a while now. The famous essay that Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos wrote in 2016, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right”, cites Haidt approvingly. At one point Lukianoff and Haidt rehearse a narrative about Herbert Marcuse that has been a staple of white nationalist conspiracy theories about “cultural Marxism” for decades. Nassim Taleb, whose book Antifragile Haidt and Lukianoff credit with one of their core beliefs and cite repeatedly as inspiration, is a fixture of the far right “manosphere” that gathers on Reddit/pol and

The commonality raises questions about the proximity of their enthusiasm for CBT to the vogue for “Stoic” self-help in the Red Pill community, founded on the principle that it is men, rather than women, who are oppressed by society. So, too, does it raise questions about the discipline of psychology – how cognitive and data-driven turns in that field formed Haidt and his colleagues Pinker and Jordan Peterson. Lilla admits to envying the effectiveness of the “right-wing media complex”. It is hard to imagine that Haidt does not feel some such stirrings about Peterson, who is, after all, selling more copies of self-help books marketed as civilisational critique. Lukianoff and Haidt quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago as an epigraph and key inspiration; Peterson, who frequently lectures on the book, wrote the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition Penguin will publish in November.

Predictably, Lukianoff and Haidt cite Martin Luther King as a spokesperson for “good” identity politics – the kind that focuses on common humanity rather than differences. But there was a reason the speech they quote was called “I Have a Dream” and addressed to people marching for jobs. Keeping faith with the ideal that all humans are created equal means working to create conditions under which we might, in fact, thrive equally. In the absence of this commitment to making the dream come true, insisting that everyone must act as if we are already in the promised land can feel a lot like trolling. Why are you making such a big deal about identity, Lukianoff and Haidt ask again and again, of people whose identities, fixed to their bodies by centuries of law and bureaucracy and custom make them vastly more likely to be poor or raped, or killed by the police, or deep in debt. Seize the data! But not all kinds of data.

In his book, The Reactionary Mind, the political theorist Corey Robin paraphrases Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: since Edmund Burke, effective reactionaries … [more]
moiraweigel  liberalism  neoliberalism  2018  greglukianoff  jonathanhaidt  allanbloom  rogerkimball  dineshd'souza  stevenpinker  jonathanauch  brookingsinstitution  marklilla  francisfukuyama  academia  blacklivesmatter  coreyrobin  giuseppetomasidilampedusa  edmundburke  davidreminck  stevebannon  identitypolitics  politics  society  change  progress 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Offering a more progressive definition of freedom
"Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is a progressive Democrat, Rhodes scholar, served a tour of duty in Afghanistan during his time as mayor, and is openly gay. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone [ ], Buttigieg talked about the need for progressives to recast concepts that conservatives have traditionally “owned” — like freedom, family, and patriotism — in more progressive terms.
You’ll hear me talk all the time about freedom. Because I think there is a failure on our side if we allow conservatives to monopolize the idea of freedom — especially now that they’ve produced an authoritarian president. But what actually gives people freedom in their lives? The most profound freedoms of my everyday existence have been safeguarded by progressive policies, mostly. The freedom to marry who I choose, for one, but also the freedom that comes with paved roads and stop lights. Freedom from some obscure regulation is so much more abstract. But that’s the freedom that conservatism has now come down to.

Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.

Clean drinking water is freedom. Good public education is freedom. Universal healthcare is freedom. Fair wages are freedom. Policing by consent is freedom. Gun control is freedom. Fighting climate change is freedom. A non-punitive criminal justice system is freedom. Affirmative action is freedom. Decriminalizing poverty is freedom. Easy & secure voting is freedom. This is an idea of freedom I can get behind."
petebuttigieg  freedom  democracy  2018  jasonkottke  everyday  life  living  progressive  progress  progressivism  education  water  healthcare  universalhealthcare  health  climatechange  politics  policy  poverty  inequality  decriminalization  voting  affirmitiveaction  guncontrol  liberation  work  labor  salaries  wages  economics  socialism  policing  police  lawenforcement  consent  patriotism  wealth  family 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @ecomentario: "p.31…… p.49… […]"
[on Twitter: ]

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

[“Rethinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis" edited by C.A.Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf ]
isabelrodíguez  paulofreire  ivanillich  wendellberry  subcomandantemarcos  gandhi  2018  gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  deschooling  colonialism  future  environment  sustainability  cabowers  frédériqueapffel-marglin  education  campesinos  bolivia  perú  pedagogyoftheoppressed  globalization  marinaarratia  power  authority  hierarchy  horizontality  socialjustice  justice  economics  society  community  cooperation  collaboration  politics  progress  growth  rural  urban  altruism  oppression  participation  marginality  marginalization  karlmarx  socialism  autonomy  local  slow  small  capitalism  consumerism  life  living  well-being  consumption  production  productivity  gustavoterán  indigeneity  work  labor  knowledge  experience  culture  joannamacy  spirituality  buddhism  entanglement  interdependence  interbeing  interexistence  philosophy  being  individualism  chiefseattle  lutherstandingbear  johngrim  ethics  morethanhuman  multispecies  humans  human  posthumnism  transhumanism  competition  marxism  liberation  simplicity  poverty  civilization  greed  p 
june 2018 by robertogreco
On how to grow an idea – The Creative Independent
"In the 1970s, a Japanese farmer discovered a better way to do something—by not doing it. In the introduction to Masasobu Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution, Frances Moore Lappé describes the farmer’s moment of inspiration:
The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to the ground… Once he has seen to it that conditions have been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.

Fukuoka’s practice, which he perfected over many years, eventually became known as “do nothing farming.” Not that it was easy: the do-nothing farmer needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the land and seasons than a regular farmer. After all, Fukuoka’s ingenious method was hard-won after decades of his own close observations of weather patterns, insects, birds, trees, soil, and the interrelationships among all of these.

In One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka is rightly proud of what he has perfected. Do-nothing farming not only required less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer—it also enriched the soil year by year, while most farms depleted their soil. Despite the skepticism of others, Fukuoka’s farm yielded a harvest equal to or greater than that of other farms. “It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain,” he wrote. “The proof is ripening right before your eyes.”

One of Fukuoka’s insights was that there is a natural intelligence at work in existing ecosystems, and therefore the most intelligent way to farm was to interfere as little as possible. This obviously requires a reworking not only of what we consider farming, but maybe even what we consider progress.

“The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.”

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka


In my view, Fukuoka was an inventor. Typically we associate invention and progress with the addition or development of new technology. So what happens when moving forward actually means taking something away, or moving in a direction that appears (to us) to be backward? Fukuoka wrote: “This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window.”

This practice of fitting oneself into the greater ecological scheme of things is almost comically opposite to the stories in John McPhee’s Control of Nature. There, we find near-Shakespearean tales of folly in which man tries and fails to master the sublime powers of his environment (e.g. the decades-long attempt to keep the Mississippi river from changing course).

Any artist or writer might find this contrast familiar. Why is it that when we sit down and try to force an idea, nothing comes—or, if we succeed in forcing it, it feels stale and contrived? Why do the best ideas appear uninvited and at the strangest times, darting out at us like an impish squirrel from a shrub?

The key, in my opinion, has to do with what you think it is that’s doing the producing, and where. It’s easy for me to say that “I” produce ideas. But when I’ve finished something, it’s often hard for me to say how it happened—where it started, what route it took, and why it ended where it did. Something similar is happening on a do-nothing farm, where transitive verbs seem inadequate. It doesn’t sound quite right to say that Fukuoka “farmed the land”—it’s more like he collaborated with the land, and through his collaboration, created the conditions for certain types of growth.

“A great number, if not the majority, of these things have been described, inventoried, photographed, talked about, or registered. My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by George Perec


I’ve known for my entire adult that going for a walk is how I can think most easily. Walking is not simply moving your thinking mind (some imagined insular thing) outside. The process of walking is thinking. In fact, in his book Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, David Abram proposes that it is not we who are thinking, but rather the environment that is thinking through us. Intelligence and thought are things to be found both in and around the self. “Each place is a unique state of mind,” Abram writes. “And the many owners that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and the tree frogs no less than the human—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.”

This is not as hand-wavy as it sounds. Studies in cognitive science have suggested that we do not encounter the environment as a static thing, nor are we static ourselves. As Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch put it in The Embodied Mind (a study of cognitive science alongside Buddhist principles): “Cognition is not the representation of a pre-given world by a pre-given mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind… “ (emphasis mine). Throughout the book, the authors build a model of cognition in which mind and environment are not separate, but rather co-produced from the very point at which they meet.


“The Telegarden is an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”


Ideas are not products, as much as corporations would like them to be. Ideas are intersections between ourselves and something else, whether that’s a book, a conversation with a friend, or the subtle suggestion of a tree. Ideas can literally arise out of clouds (if we are looking at them). That is to say: ideas, like consciousness itself, are emergent properties, and thinking might be more participation than it is production. If we can accept this view of the mind with humility and awe, we might be amazed at what will grow there.

breathing [animation]


To accompany this essay, I’ve created a channel on called “How to grow an idea.” There you’ll find some seeds for thought, scattered amongst other growths: slime molds, twining vines, internet gardens, and starling murmurations. The interview with John Cage, where he sits by an open window and rejoices in unwritten music, might remind you a bit of Fukuoka, as might Scott Polach’s piece in which an audience applauds the sunset. The channel starts with a reminder to breathe, and ends with an invitation to take a nap. Hopefully, somewhere in between, you might encounter something new."
intelligence  methodology  ideas  jennyodell  2018  masasobufukuoka  francesmoorelappé  farming  slow  nothing  idleness  nature  time  patience  productivity  interdependence  multispecies  morethanhuman  do-nothingfarming  labor  work  sustainability  ecosystems  progress  invention  technology  knowledge  johnmcphee  collaboration  land  growth  georgesperec  walking  thinking  slowthinking  perception  language  davidabram  cognitivescience  franciscovarela  evanthompson  eleanorrosch  buddhism  cognition  johncage  agriculture 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Capitalism and the Family
"Issues of gender and sexuality are dominating the American public in a way that has few precedents in the recent past. From the alarmingly open misogyny of the president to the cascading revelations of sexual attacks in the workplace on one side, to the energy behind the historic women’s marches on the other, gender relations have risen to the top of the political debate. In a wide-ranging conversation, historian Stephanie Coontz places the current juncture in historical perspective, and offers her thoughts on how gender relations have been affected by the recent stagnation in working-class incomes and skyrocketing inequality. She closes with an eloquent plea to integrate gender politics into a broader progressive political vision."
capitalism  families  history  us  economics  gender  sexism  feminism  2018  stephaniecoontz  politics  labor  work  inequality  class  donaldtrump  women  marriage  society  stability  independence  progressive  progress  via:samir 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Survival of the Kindest: Dacher Keltner Reveals the New Rules of Power
"When Pixar was dreaming up the idea for Inside Out, a film that would explore the roiling emotions inside the head of a young girl, they needed guidance from an expert. So they called Dacher Keltner.

Dacher is a psychologist at UC Berkeley who has dedicated his career to understanding how human emotion shapes the way we interact with the world, how we properly manage difficult or stressful situations, and ultimately, how we treat one another.

In fact, he refers to emotions as the “language of social living.” The more fluent we are in this language, the happier and more meaningful our lives can be.

We tackle a wide variety of topics in this conversation that I think you’ll really enjoy.

You’ll learn:

• The three main drivers that determine your personal happiness and life satisfaction
• Simple things you can do everyday to jumpstart the “feel good” reward center of your brain
• The principle of “jen” and how we can use “high-jen behaviors” to bootstrap our own happiness
• How to have more positive influence in our homes, at work and in our communities.
• How to teach your kids to be more kind and empathetic in an increasingly self-centered world
• What you can do to stay grounded and humble if you are in a position of power or authority
• How to catch our own biases when we’re overly critical of another’s ideas (or overconfident in our own)

And much more. We could have spent an hour discussing any one of these points alone, but there was so much I wanted to cover. I’m certain you’ll find this episode well worth your time."
compassion  kindness  happiness  dacherkeltner  power  charlesdarwin  evolution  psychology  culture  society  history  race  racism  behavior  satisfaction  individualism  humility  authority  humans  humanism  morality  morals  multispecies  morethanhuman  objects  wisdom  knowledge  heidegger  ideas  science  socialdarwinism  class  naturalselection  egalitarianism  abolitionism  care  caring  art  vulnerability  artists  scientists  context  replicability  research  socialsciences  2018  statistics  replication  metaanalysis  socialcontext  social  borntobegood  change  human  emotions  violence  evolutionarypsychology  slvery  rape  stevenpinker  torture  christopherboehm  hunter-gatherers  gender  weapons  democracy  machiavelli  feminism  prisons  mentalillness  drugs  prisonindustrialcomplex  progress  politics  1990s  collaboration  canon  horizontality  hierarchy  small  civilization  cities  urban  urbanism  tribes  religion  dogma  polygamy  slavery  pigeons  archaeology  inequality  nomads  nomadism  anarchism  anarchy  agriculture  literacy  ruleoflaw  humanrights  governance  government  hannah 
march 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."

"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 250
"I wrote a book review this week of Brian Dear’s The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold History of of PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture. My review’s a rumination on how powerful the mythologizing is around tech, around a certain version of the history of technology – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” as I’ve called this elsewhere – so much so that we can hardly imagine that there are other stories to tell, other technologies to build, other practices to adopt, other ways of being, and so on.

I was working on the book review when I heard the news Tuesday evening that the great author Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away, I immediately thought of her essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” – her thoughts on storytelling about spears and storytelling about bags and what we might glean from a culture (and a genre) that praises the former and denigrates the latter.
If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. “Technology,” or “modern science” (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the “hard” sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.

The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.

(Something like this, I wonder: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.)

Elsewhere in the history of the future of technology: “Sorry, Alexa Is Not a Feminist,” says Ian Bogost. “The People Who Would Survive Nuclear War” by Alexis Madrigal.

There are many reasons to adore Ursula K. Le Guin. And there are many pieces of her writing, of course, one could point to and insist “you must read this. You must.” For me, the attraction was her grounding in cultural anthropology – I met Le Guin at a California Folklore Society almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Folklore Studies – alongside her willingness to challenge the racism and imperialism and expropriation that the field engendered. It was her fierce criticism of capitalism and her commitment to freedom. I’m willing to fight anyone who tries to insist that Sometimes a Great Notion is the great novel of the Pacific Northwest. Really, you should pick almost any Le Guin novel in its stead – Always Coming Home, perhaps. Or The Word for the World is Forest. She was the most important anarchist of our era, I posted on Facebook when I shared the NYT obituary. It was a jab at another Oregon writer who I bet thinks that’s him. But like Kesey, his notion is all wrong.

Fewer Heroes. Better stories about people. Better worlds for people.

Yours in struggle,
audreywatters  ursulaleguin  2018  anarchism  sciencefiction  scifi  technology  edtech  progress  storytelling  care  community  caring  folklore  anarchy  computing  siliconvalley  war  aggression  humanism  briandear  myth  heroes  science  modernscience  hardsciences  economics  growth  fiction  tragedy  apocalypse  holocaust  future  conquest  domination  weapons  destruction  disruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Home • Advancement Project
[via: "California Today: How Progressive Is the Golden State?" ]

[See also: "RACE COUNTS: Advancing Opportunities For All Californians: WINTER 2017" [.pdf]


Reinventing California to work for everyone.
We work alongside our partners to transform public systems and shift investments to achieve racial equity."

"California can lead the way for our country by demonstrating what it means to have power shared equitably by its people. This is why we champion the fair distribution of opportunities and privileges so that every Californian can thrive. We work alongside community activists and policymakers to generate momentum for evidence-based solutions that produce more just outcomes for all.

The Educational Equity program expands educational opportunities and ensures appropriate school facilities for low income and disadvantaged children from birth through high school graduation. In recent years, our education work has concentrated on ensuring that there are adequate facilities for students to learn and that early care and education (ECE) opportunities are expanded and improved to provide a springboard for future academic success.

Current Key Issues
• Early Care & Education
• Dual Language Learners
• Family & Community Engagement
• K-12 Education Policy

Impact of Our Work:
• Elevate the needs of California’s youngest learners in policymaking through Water Cooler • • • • Network convenings
• Renovated a million classroom spaces in California because of additional funding
• Helped pass the California English Learner roadmap, reversing the harmful effects of Proposition 227 (198) that placed nearly all English learners in English-only classrooms

The Health Equity Program brings about real change in the well being of low-income people of color who suffer disproportionately from chronic health conditions and other negative health outcomes. This change comes by ensuring neighborhoods, schools, and health services support and enable healthy choices throughout California via grassroots, data-driven advocacy campaigns.

Current Key Issues:
• Access to Health Care
• Transportation Equity

Impact of Our Work:
• Launched newest version of, which features curated data on equity and new mapping tools
• Helped secure funding to end traffic-related deaths in Los Angeles through the Vision Zero Alliance

We partner with low-income communities of color to advance their goals by ensuring budgets align with their priorities, while also building their power and expertise to be high-impact advocates. Through trainings, research, and policy analysis, we empower communities to leverage their understanding of public budgets and build partnerships with policymakers to create vibrant and healthy communities for all California families.

Current Key Issues:
• Justice System Reform
• Land Use & Infrastructure
• K-12 Education
• Youth Development

Impact of Our Work:
• Trained advocates to understand and shift government funding to their neighborhoods
• Developed campaigns to move funds to support high-need students
• Identified funding streams to support the development of parks, safe housing and water projects

Political Voice works to make state and local governments more participatory and representative of the communities they serve. Our goal is that all community members are able to genuinely participate in the making of effective public policy, in ways that go beyond just voting, and that governments respond equitably to community concerns. To accomplish this goal, we advocate for racially and economically just democracy reforms.

Current Key Issues:
• Public Participation in Governance
• 2020 Census
• Fair Elections
• Fair District Lines

Impact of Our Work:
• Convened the Census Policy Advocacy Network (CPAN) and secured $3 million in the 2017-18 • CA state budget to support 2020 Census planning
• Revealed racial disparities in political participation through Unequal Voices, a two-part report that analyzed voting and other forms of political engagement"
california  future  progress  health  politics  policy  education  justice  socialjustice  funding  inequality  equity  race 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin - Los Angeles Review of Books
"How do you feel about ebooks these days?

When I started writing about ebooks and print books, a lot of people were shouting, “The book is dead, the book is dead, it’s all going to be electronic.” I got tired of it. What I was trying to say is that now we have two ways of publishing, and we’re going to use them both. We had one, now we have two. How can that be bad? Creatures live longer if they can do things in different ways. I think I’ve been fairly consistent on that. But the tone of my voice might have changed. I was going against a trendy notion. There’s this joke I heard. You know what Gutenberg’s second book was, after the Bible? It was a book about how the book was dead."

"You once clarified your political stance by saying, “I am not a progressive. I think the idea of progress an invidious and generally harmful mistake. I am interested in change, which is an entirely different matter.” Why is the idea of progress harmful? Surely in the great sweep of time, there has been progress on social issues because people have an idea or even an ideal of it.

I didn’t say progress was harmful, I said the idea of progress was generally harmful. I was thinking more as a Darwinist than in terms of social issues. I was thinking about the idea of evolution as an ascending staircase with amoebas at the bottom and Man at the top or near the top, maybe with some angels above him. And I was thinking of the idea of history as ascending infallibly to the better — which, it seems to me, is how the 19th and 20th centuries tended to use the word “progress.” We leave behind us the Dark Ages of ignorance, the primitive ages without steam engines, without airplanes/nuclear power/computers/whatever is next. Progress discards the old, leads ever to the new, the better, the faster, the bigger, et cetera. You see my problem with it? It just isn’t true.

How does evolution fit in?

Evolution is a wonderful process of change — of differentiation and diversification and complication, endless and splendid; but I can’t say that any one of its products is “better than” or “superior to” any other in general terms. Only in specific ways. Rats are more intelligent and more adaptable than koala bears, and those two superiorities will keep rats going while the koalas die out. On the other hand, if there were nothing around to eat but eucalyptus, the rats would be gone in no time and the koalas would thrive. Humans can do all kinds of stuff bacteria can’t do, but if I had to bet on really long-term global survival, my money would go to the bacteria."
usulaleguin  2017  evolution  progress  change  diversity  differentiation  diversification  complication  difference  ebooks  publishing  writing  sciencefiction  scifi 
november 2017 by robertogreco
James Baldwin’s Lesson for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil | The New Yorker
"Baldwin delivered the talk on the heels of the March on Washington, where he was famously pulled from the list of speakers because organizers—who knew the writer’s habit for speaking extemporaneously—were unsure if he would stay on message. “A Talk to Teachers” is emblematic of Baldwin’s proclivity for candor over political appeasement, and, like much of his work, focusses on history and the American consciousness. “It is almost impossible for any Negro child to discover anything about his actual history,” he writes. Young people are constantly absorbing—through media, textbooks, and policy—the myths of American exceptionalism; for black children, this means that what they are taught in class does not match the world that they navigate daily. “On the one hand he is born in the shadow of the Stars and Stripes and he is assured it represents a nation which has never lost a war,” Baldwin continues. “But on the other hand he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization—that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.”

A more honest reckoning with history is necessary, Baldwin insists. Of slavery, he says, “it was not an accident, it was not an act of God, it was not done by well-meaning people muddling into something which they didn’t understand. It was a deliberate policy hammered into place in order to make money from black flesh. And now, in 1963, because we have never faced this fact, we are in intolerable trouble.”

It’s this focus on history that rearranged my thinking. In Baldwin’s view, it is the only thing that can help disabuse black children of the stereotypes that have been projected onto their community—and it is necessary for white children, too, who oftentimes serve as the purveyors of these myths, and who do not know the truth about their history, either.

Baldwin understands that learning this history can leave students in a state of cognitive dissonance and frustration. Imagining his own hypothetical students, he writes, “I would try to teach them—I would try to make them know, that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.” Here, Baldwin, with literary sleight of hand, adopts the terminology used to pathologize black people and applies it to the system in which they operate. What follows is a medley of lessons that is disquieting in its contemporary applicability. “I would try to make him know that just as American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it, so is the world larger, more daring, more beautiful and more terrible, but principally larger—and that it belongs to him,” he writes, adding, “I would teach him that he doesn’t have to be bound by the expediencies of any given administration, any given policy, any given morality, that he has the right and the necessity to examine everything.”

After reading “A Talk to Teachers,” I altered my approach, placing less emphasis on the standardized tests and using literature to help my students examine their world. I realized that rigorous lessons were not mutually exclusive from culturally and politically relevant ones. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” did not have to be sacrificed in order to make room for a discussion on community violence. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” did not have to be abandoned in order to tackle immigration. “A Talk to Teachers” showed me that a teacher’s work should reject the false pretense of being apolitical, and, instead, confront the problems that shape our students’ lives.

The most quoted line from “A Talk to Teachers” may be this one: “The paradox of education is precisely this—that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” A teacher, Baldwin believed, should push students to understand that the world was molded by people who came before, and that it can be remolded into something new."
jamesbaldwin  teaching  2017  clintsmith  1963  pedagogy  decolonization  change  progress  politics  race  slavery  racism  ralphellison  immigration 
september 2017 by robertogreco
We’ve Hoped Our Way Into Our Current Crisis | On Being
"Those are some of my oldest memories, my literal “dark night of the soul.” The heightened turmoil we’re living through these days echoes my despair from that time. I think of it when so often we’re urged to embrace hope as an antidote. Hope for a brighter day. Hope for justice. Hope for peace. Hope that compassion will win out. But speaking for myself, I’m giving up hope.

Not that I don’t understand the impulse. It’s tempting to think that looking to the future will get me through hardship. But in my life’s struggles, hope hasn’t worked out that way. Too often hope has hardened into anticipation and expectation for specific outcomes. At times, I’ve believed that if only I could reach that next achievement — an age, a job, a relationship, a house, a car, an academic degree, a lifestyle — then I’d be content.

Similarly, our culture encourages us to believe that reaching the next societal goal will create the utopia (or a reasonable facsimile) that we crave. Getting this court decision, passing that law, having this candidate elected will mean we’ve finally arrived. We’ll become in reality the country we’ve always pretended to be.

But I think we’ve hoped our way into this current crisis. Rather than facing the hard truths about our historical and continuing inequality and doing the hard work of examining our institutions, our traditions, and ourselves, we’ve floated along hoping things would inevitably get better. We’ve lived too much in the rosy future and far too little in the messy present. And we’ve allowed the hope-turned-expectation of progress to blind us.

This oblivious hope explains why so many were blindsided by rising racist rhetoric, by the videos of police shootings, by last year’s election, and by the national dissension that has exploded since November. People marginalized by racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression have tried to get the nation’s attention for decades.

The response? “We’re America. Have hope.” Before our eyes, that view is being unmasked for the fantasy it is.

But if not hope, then what? Do we let ourselves wallow in bitterness and despair, throw up our hands and resign ourselves to injustice and oppression?

I have no one-size-fits-all prescription; that’s been part of our problem — and part of the problem with hope. It encourages us to think that if we do certain things, take certain steps, achieve certain milestones, we will get the outcomes we want. It assumes that we have the solutions and we can control the future.

That’s not how the universe works. Nothing we can do will give us complete control. If history has taught us anything, it should have taught us that. Hoping and despairing about what we can’t control only distracts us from what we can: our actions in the present. Right now.

When I recall the asthmatic child I once was, I remember that though I had hopes and dreams about the future, that’s not what kept me going. I read incessantly: books and newspapers, my mother’s Ladies Home Journal and Redbook, Catholic missionary magazines and comic books. I began writing stories and journals while in elementary school. I watched films, inhaling the structures of narrative, the music of language. I listened to how people talked: their accents and inflections, their changes of register and style, their ways of arguing, praying, cursing. I thought about why people did what they did, what motivated them. I spent time alone, walking in nature, reflecting on and wrestling with myself.

At the time I didn’t know I was making myself a writer. I just responded to what called me.

Parenting, too, has taught me about hope. Like so many parents, I’ve indulged hopes about how my children will be at a given point in their lives. But, children being children, things turn out differently. Eventually I learned that I feel calmer and parent better when I focus on what they need in the present. I spend less time mentally playing sepia-toned, soft focus futures of achievement, and concentrate on clothing them, feeding them, and giving them boundaries and the love they need right now. I realized that if I valued being a good parent, if I loved them, I had no other choice.

You see, whether I get what I want turns out to not actually be my business. This insight came as quite a surprise, living as we do in a culture of control (not to say domination), a culture that deifies power over people, nature, possessions, aging, time, even death. But I don’t control whether I get what I want because I don’t control the universe; I live within it.

So I don’t need hope (or control) to act. I don’t need hope to figure out what I should do and how I should live. I have values. I have beliefs. I can examine whether they’re grounded in reality. And I can use those values to ask myself with each choice, “Am I being — right now — the person I believe I should be? Am I acting in line with truth, with reality, with the way I think life should be lived?”

If I believe in justice, do I express that belief? Do I work against injustice? Do I choose to undermine oppression or further it? Not because I know I’ll “win” or “succeed,” but because I’ve committed myself to living the way I think I should live.

At my best, I answer what each moment and my values call me to do. Sometimes it’s to rest, to reflect. Sometimes it’s to play. Sometimes it’s to connect with friends and loved ones. Sometimes it’s to struggle, critique, speak out. Sometimes to listen. Sometimes to celebrate. Sometimes to grieve. Each moment makes its demand, and I’m seeking the kind of life where I hear and answer that need as often as I can.

Contrary to our control-obsessed culture, the alternative to hope isn’t passivity or despair. It’s living. It’s being humble and real. It’s being here."
miguelclarkmallet  hope  everyday  passivity  despair  2017  life  living  engagement  justice  integrity  control  domination  power  humanism  parenting  achievement  injustice  oppression  marginalization  us  utopia  society  progress  progressivism  present  presence 
september 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
When Did The Fight for Human Rights Begin? de Innovation Hub | Escúchalo gratis en SoundCloud
"Human rights are hotly-debated, but when did that debate begin? UCLA’s Lynn Hunt talks about what might have been the formative moment for human rights - and how we’re constantly changing our definition of equality."

[via: "The origins of human rights theory & its ties to the 18th c. novel. Historian Lynn Hunt on @IHubRadio:"

"And writers, fiction & non-fiction: take heart here about the power of words to enact new realities. Messy, asynchronous, but effectual." ]

[See also:

"Professorship in Historiography, with a response by Professor Sandra Fredman (Rhodes Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for FutureGenerations),University of Oxford, May 2014.

Declarations of rights, Professor Hunt argues in her lecture, do not emerge from long historical developments but rather from an acute sense of outrage. In other words, rights only become rights when they are claimed, and they are only claimed when they are violated. This poses a problem for the assertions of 'timelessness' and 'self-evidence' that often accompany declarations of rights. Professor Hunt argues that in the case of universal rights, an emotional epiphany comes before reason. Professor Sandra Fredman gives a response to Professor Hunt's lecture, building on the ideas raised as a way of looking at the future of human rights."

via: "If you want more Lynn Hunt on human rights theory, here you go. Force of nature, this scholar." ]
lynnhunt  humanrights  history  novels  literature  2017  writing  whywewrite  empathy  understanding  humanities  change  changemaking  progress 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Art of Teaching
[via: "The slide deck for the workshop is superb. Such a great experience, so grateful to @tchoi8 & the other participants."

referencing also: "How I learn to build things. Something I created for @tchoi8’s Art of Learning workshop at @eyeofestival." ]

[video: "Absence is Presence with Distance"

"As an artist, I work with technology and narrative – formal and relational projects. As an activist, I examine personal and political – practice and praxis. As an educator, I create feedback between plastic and elastic – learning and unlearning. My talk is set at the dawn. We are waiting for the sun to rise and we are full of questions. What’s the role of an artist as an activist now? How can we critique oppressive systems that create the sense of ‘others’ based on ability and legal status? What’s kind of pedagogy can we experiment through alternative schools? How can we create a community among those who have nothing in common? By creating art, we can give form to our intentions, contribute to making the world we want to live in.

( For a companion posting to this talk visit: )]
taeyoonchoi  education  teaching  purpose  routine  ritual  silence  flow  conflict  communication  structure  nurture  authority  kojinkaratani  jean-lucnancy  community  howweteach  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  eyeo2017  unlearning  curriculum  syllabus  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  art  craft  beauty  utility  generosity  sfsh  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  classideas  cv  reciprocity  gifts  kant  discretion  instruction  discipline  johndewey  bmc  blackmountaincollege  justice  annialbers  stndardization  weaving  textiles  making  projectbasedlearning  materials  progress  progressive  unschooling  deschooling  control  experimentation  knowledge  fabrication  buckminsterfuller  constructivism  constructionism  georgehein  habit  freedom  democracy  paulofreire  judithbutler  sunaurataylor  walking  christinesunkim  uncertainty  representation  intervention  speculation  simulation  christopheralexander  objectives  outcomes  learningoutcomes  learningobjectives  remembering  creativity  evaluation  application  analysis  understanding  emancipation  allankaprow  judychicago  s 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Remeasuring Stephen Jay Gould
"At its core, Mismeasure argues that the twentieth century’s IQ tests share a desire to justify race and class hierarchies with the nineteenth century’s more primitive measures of cranial features and theories of criminal physiognomy. In both eras, researchers rationalized the status quo with the premise of immutable, hereditary intelligence and the fallacy of reification, which held that intelligence can be reduced to a single number and those numbers used to rank people on a linear scale."

"At the end of their article, Lewis et al. wrote, “were Gould still alive, we expect he would have mounted a defense of his analysis of Morton.” This is a virtual certainty: Gould openly acknowledged his errors throughout his career and called “factual correction . . . the most sublime event in intellectual life.” Gould cannot defend himself, but, since Lewis et al. can, it’s curious that they have not responded to more recent peer-reviewed studies that refute key aspects of their work."

"Gould wrote his 1989 book, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, in large part to counteract the bias toward experimental science. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia includes the greatest repository of fossils from the Cambrian explosion, the dawn of multicellular life. As Gould’s book notes, scientists working with these fossils radically changed paleontology’s core concepts. Contrary to earlier studies, many of the shale’s fossils do not have known ancestors. This means that life was, in crucial ways, more diverse at the outset of the multicellular period than since. Current species evolved from only a few “lucky” surviving lineages.

Because the work involved “mere” description and no experimental work, the new interpretations did not make headlines. Gould contrasts this with the other great paleontological development of the late twentieth century, the “Alvarez hypothesis,” which holds that dinosaur extinction resulted from extraterrestrial impact.
The impact theory has everything for public acclaim — white coats, numbers, [Alvarez’s] Nobel renown and location at the top of the ladder of status. The Burgess redescriptions, on the other hand, struck many observers as one funny thing after another — just descriptions of some previously unappreciated, odd animals from early in life’s history.

Both discoveries told the same compelling story; both “illustrat[ed] . . . the extreme chanciness and contingency of life’s history,” yet only the “Alvarez hypothesis” made the cover of Time magazine.

The same privileging of “hard” science explains why media outlets picked up the attack on Gould’s analysis but not his subsequent vindication. These reports all emphasized that Lewis et al. had literally remeasured hundreds of skulls in the Morton collection (presumably while wearing white lab coats). As one more recent critique noted, however, “from the standpoint of evaluating Gould’s published claims, the re-measurement was completely pointless.” “Gould never claimed that Morton’s [later] shot-based measurements, which is what Lewis et al. compared their new measurements to, were unreliable.” Confirming their bias toward experimental methods, “Lewis et al. are . . . falsifying (their word) a claim Gould never made.” Such a glaring conceptual problem should prompt us, as it would have prompted Gould, to inquire into this supposed controversy’s historical context."

"In Wonderful Life, Gould argued that the evolution of intelligent life represents such a unique and improbable outcome, that, if you started life over at the beginning of the Cambrian explosion, different early organisms would have survived the period’s decimation, and we would never have existed at all:
Homo sapiens, I fear, is a “thing so small” in a vast universe, a wildly improbable evolutionary event well within the realm of contingency. Make of such a conclusion what you will. Some find it depressing; I have always regarded it as exhilarating, and a source of both freedom and consequent moral responsibility.

Gould’s sense of moral responsibility figures in his column’s other main project — what Marxists would recognize as his critique of ideology and what he called “the social implications of the scientific assault upon pervasive biases of Western thought.”

Gould listed four such biases: “progress, determinism, gradualism, and adaptationism.” They persist because they serve as a great comfort to many. Determinism and adaptationism tell us that we are meant to be here and are well suited for survival; gradualism and progress tell us that change occurs in predictable ways. In short, these biases teach us that everything happens for a reason.

As Gould pointed out, even progressive causes like the environmental movement fall prey to these biases’ hubris. Green activists too often assume that the earth is so delicate that we can destroy it and that, therefore, we shoulder the responsibility of saving it. With a New Yorker’s sarcasm, Gould responded, “We should be so powerful!”

He insisted that humans — not the earth — are the ones in danger. But this view does not make climate change any less of a crisis. As he put it:
Our planet is not fragile at its own time scale, and we, pitiful latecomers in the last microsecond of the planetary year are stewards of nothing in the long run. Yet no political movement is more vital and timely than modern environmentalism — because we must save ourselves (and our neighbor species) from our own immediate folly.

With his leftist organizing experience and his awareness of the consequences of human development on our own survival, you might expect that Gould would have devoted numerous columns to the ecological crisis. But he waited, he explained, until he could contribute something more than a repetition of “the shibboleths of the movement.”

In his essay on the extinction of the land snail Partula on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, Gould argued that we should grieve for the scientist Henry Crampton whose lifetime of dedication to studying Partula on a remote island under adverse circumstances was erased by the unintended consequences of introducing predatory creatures into the environment. Though Gould was also an expert on land snails, as he explains it, the point is that we need a humanistic ecology too, “both for the practical reason that people will always touch people more than snails do or can, and for the moral reason that humans are legitimately the measure of all ethical questions — for these are our issues not nature’s.”"

"It is tempting to label these remarks as Pollyannaish, but Gould was not naïve. The philosopher in him spoke of the “Great Asymmetry”: one destructive act can undo years of careful effort, but decent people still vastly outnumber their counterparts. At the same time, the veteran political organizer in Gould knew it would take concerted action. His essay on Papa Joe closes:
We will win now because ordinary humanity holds a triumphant edge in millions of good people over each evil psychopath. But we will only prevail if we can mobilize this latent goodness into permanent vigilance and action.

The call for “permanent vigilance and action” under the rubric of “tough hope” in response to the work of reactionary extremists who reject modernity was Gould’s final theme as a public intellectual. With the Left returning to its duty to organize and remembering its roots in the projects of the Enlightenment and modernity, we must commit ourselves to Gould’s legacy of “tough hope.”"
stephenjaygould  politics  history  2017  jasonlewis  samuelmorton  sociology  learning  certainty  uncertainty  correction  vigilance  action  racism  hope  humanism  sustainability  climatechange  ecosystems  ecology  progress  determinism  gradualism  adaptationism 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Organizing for Action
"We aren’t the first to fight for progressive change and we won’t be the last.


Organizing for Action is a movement of millions of Americans, coming together to fight for real, lasting change.

We’re community organizers, and we’re proud of it.

With more than 250 local chapters around the country, OFA volunteers are building this organization from the ground up, community by community, one conversation at a time—whether that’s on a front porch or on Facebook. We’re committed to finding and training the next generation of great progressive organizers, because at the end of the day, we aren’t the first to fight for progressive change, and we won’t be the last.

This is bigger than just one person or one cause.

The 5 million Americans who’ve taken action with OFA are part of a long line of people who stand up and take on the big fights for social justice, basic fairness, equal rights, and expanding opportunity.

That means turning up the heat on climate change deniers, because the stakes are too high not to act.

It means calling for lawmakers to stop standing in the way of comprehensive immigration reform.

We’re helping people get health coverage, and telling the stories of the millions who are seeing the life-saving benefits of Obamacare.

We’re the ones rallying around the simple principle that love is love and that no one should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or whom they love.

We organize because too often a woman’s health care is debated as a political issue, not as a basic right.

And we believe that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules deserves a fair shot at the American dream.

That kind of progress is never easy. But we’re not here for the easy fights.

In the face of partisan gridlock and powerful, deep-pocketed interests, we refuse to be cynical about what we can accomplish. We have a history of proving the naysayers wrong, and we look forward to doing it again."
climatechange  immigration  us  policy  politics  government  organization  healthcare  progress  discrimination  reform  barackobama 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Forget 'developing' poor countries, it's time to 'de-develop' rich countries | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
"growth isn’t an option any more – we’ve already grown too much."

"We should look at societies where people live long and happy lives at relatively low levels of income and consumption not as basket cases that need to be developed towards western models, but as exemplars of efficient living.

How much do we really need to live long and happy lives? In the US, life expectancy is 79 years and GDP per capita is $53,000. But many countries have achieved similar life expectancy with a mere fraction of this income."

"People sense there is something wrong with the dominant model of economic progress and they are hungry for an alternative narrative."

'Perhaps we might take a cue from Latin Americans, who are organising alternative visions around the indigenous concept of buen vivir, or good living. The west has its own tradition of reflection on the good life and it’s time we revive it. Robert and Edward Skidelsky take us down this road in his book How Much is Enough? where they lay out the possibility of interventions such as banning advertising, a shorter working week and a basic income, all of which would improve our lives while reducing consumption."
jasonhockel  2017  growth  consumerism  consumption  sustainability  happiness  gdp  economics  progress  buenvivir 
april 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger on Ways of Seeing, being an artist, and Marxism (2011) - Newsnight archives - YouTube
"John Berger - artist, writer, critic and broadcaster - has died at the age of 90. His best-known work was Ways of Seeing, a criticism of western cultural aesthetics. For Newsnight, Gavin Esler, met him back in 2011."
johnberger  spinoz  descartes  gavinesler  2011  marxism  waysofseeing  seeing  storytelling  lenses  correction  iteration  bento'ssketchbook  looking  culture  aesthetics  future  progress  justice  dignity  capitalism  growth  storytellers  art  artists 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 - YouTube
"Clip from Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000 (Alain Tanner, 1976); history teacher Marco explains time. These concepts are also set out in the historical note to Pig Earth by John Berger."

[via: ]
johnberger  alaintanner  1976  towatch  capitalism  progress  history  time  work  hierarchy  labor  society 
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." ]

"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."

"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
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Why Audrey Watters Thinks Tech Is a Trojan Horse Set to ‘Dismantle’ the Academy - The Chronicle of Higher Education
[audio: ]

"Q. What do you mean when you say there’s a "Silicon Valley narrative," and what do you most want people to understand about it?

A. This certainly comes from my background of having spent a lot of time thinking about culture. My master’s degree was in folklore, and so that’s very much about ethnography, culture, people, and stories that we tell. I’m also really interested in systems and institutions. I want people to really think about, What is technology doing? I think we really like the story that technology is inevitable, that technology is wrapped up in our notions of progress, and that somehow progress is inevitable itself and is positive. I think that there are lots of ways in which we can scrutinize the way in which technology is changing the world, changing our culture, changing our institutions, that aren’t necessarily about progress. Or to put a political bent on it, about progressive change."

"I think that one of the things that really interests me, and this is connected I would say to the Silicon Valley narrative, is the way in which we talk a lot about personalization through technology. And one of the values, I think, that Americans in particular tend to really privilege is individualism. There’s something really appealing, culturally, for us with this notion that we’re going to have software, and it isn’t just educational software, but we’re going to have software systems that are individualized and personalized to meet our needs. Amazon says it does this. Netflix says it does this. Facebook says it does this.

I think that we as Americans really like the idea that the world is about us as individuals. I think that it’s important to recognize that that’s a cultural value. Individualism is a cultural value. It’s not a natural way of being. But there’s something about the classroom that also involves a collective experience. We learn from one another. It isn’t simply just a matter of things being personalized or individualized to meet our needs. What happens when we decide that we’re going to all be on our individual computing devices working through lessons at our own individual pace? What happens to dialogue? What happens to discussion? What happens to debate? We sort of describe education as these polar opposites — that it’s either a math lecture or it’s this sort of individualized, personalized experience. I think those are sort of extremes on both ends.

But what happens when we do lose the ability to spend time as groups, talking and working through material together? I think university professors see technologies — with the exception of folks who adopt them on their own — as something that’s done to them, that’s imposed upon them, that’s not really their decision to make, that somebody else makes the decision about the technology. Somebody else decides whether the room is going to have a projector, or the computers in the teaching facility have Windows or Macs. I really feel as though technology is something that gets done to the classroom and isn’t really interesting to many, many professors. It seems like an obligatory thing."
audreywatters  technology  education  edtech  learning  community  teaching  howwelearn  howweteach  technosolutionism  2016  siliconvalley  siliconvalleynarrative  highered  highereducation  culture  individualism  personalization  individualization  systemsthinking  inevitability  progress 
may 2016 by robertogreco
From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy [.pdf]
Gustavo Esteva
Madhu S. Prakash
Dana L. Stuchul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"IV. Resisting Love: The Case Against Education

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

"For clarifying the issues of this essay, we chose to reflect on the life, the work, and the teachings of Gandhi, Subcommandante Marcos and Wendell Berry. Purposely, we juxtapose them to exacerbate their radical and dramatic differences. Is it absurd to even place them under the umbrella of public and private virtues we dwell on as we … [more]
gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  liberation  pedagogy  pedagogyoftheoppressed  wendellberry  solidarity  care  love  caring  carlossalinas  neoliberalism  teaching  howweteach  education  conscientization  liberationtheology  charity  service  servicelearning  economics  oppression  capitalism  mediators  leadership  evangelization  yvonnedion-buffalo  johnmohawk  legibility  decolonization  colonialism  karlmarx  ivanillich  technology  literacy  illegibility  bankingeducation  oraltradition  plato  text  writing  memory  communication  justice  modernism  class  inequality  humility  zapatistas  comandantemarcos  parochialism  globalphilia  resistance  canon  gandhi  grassroots  hope  individuality  newness  sophistication  specialization  professionalization  dislocation  evolution  careerism  alienation  self-knowledge  schooling  schools  progress  power  victimization  slow  small 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Douglas Coupland: Escaping the superfuture -
"I find myself reading books of short stories these days. Short stories don’t take as long to read as novels, and if you read a few in a row it feels just like binge-watching Netflix. I’ve also found that when it comes to reading, and if you really want to annoy someone, just tell them you’re taking a week off to do nothing but read. Their eyes will goggle and their reptile cortex will flare with envy. A whole week?

To read? Make it worse by saying you’re also going offline for your Reading Week. You may as well tell them you’re spending the week snorkelling on the Amalfi coast with Brangelina. Taking time off solely to read has become something akin to temporal eco-tourism, a visit to a mindspace that seems ever more distant by the day.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a new temporal sensation that’s odd to articulate, but I do think is shared by most people. It’s this: until recently, the future was always something out there up ahead of us, something to anticipate or dread, but it was always away from the present.

But not any more. Somewhere in the past few years the present melted into the future. We’re now living inside the future 24/7 and this (weirdly electric and buzzy) sensation shows no sign of stopping — if anything, it grows ever more intense. Elsewhere I’ve labelled this experience “the extreme present” — or another label for this new realm might be “the superfuture”. In this superfuture I feel like I’m clamped into a temporal roller coaster and, at the crest of the first hill, I can see that my roller coaster actually runs off far into the horizon. Wait! How is this thing supposed to end?

Is it ever going to end? Help! I want a pill called 1995! I want a one-year holiday from change! But that’s not going to happen.

. . . 

The future is always supposed to be a mess, isn’t it? I think it’s funny the way people have an almost impossible time envisioning a future that isn’t a dystopian waste-scape. Growing up in the 1970s, the year 2016 was to have been a wasteland populated by a rifle-toting Charlton Heston, zombies and the Statue of Liberty poking out of a beach. Both oil and fresh water would be non-existent. No politics; just anarchy. But by many measurable statistical standards, right now is the best time ever in our history . . . and yet mostly we bitch, complain and worry — it’s what we do as humans. I think the biggest surprise for a 1970s Rip Van Winkle awaking in 2016 might probably be oil: cheap and plentiful oil. Wait — how did that happen? And look at the variety and quality of produce in even the most dismal grocery store . . . and cars look smashing and don’t belch blue smoke and gays seem to be part of society at large. And . . . wait, this is 2016? Count me in!
 . . . 

It’s hard to accept that our new superfuture mind state is permanent and that it’s not going away — how could it? Our devices that cause it aren’t going to go away. They’ll just get better and faster and we’re going to embed ourselves in the superfuture ever more deeply.

It makes me wonder if the most important thing we could invent right now would be a technology that takes away our bottomless fear of missing out, our need to read the latest news update, our latest hook-up or our latest upgrade.

What kind of technology would that be? How would it free us from our current superfuture prison? How could it convince us that everything is OK? How do we invent our way out of this mess?

 . . .

Human beings weren’t built for progress — maybe a bit of change here and there, a bit of adaptability, but not for what we’re now collectively enduring. No animal is built that way. Until recently we lived in a cave or a hut and you assumed our great-great-grandchildren would be living in the same cave or a hut identical to our own; their lives would be in no way different from ours. When did that end — 1850? Dear Industrial Revolution: thanks for nothing.

 . . .

Last month I was visiting an editor friend in Toronto and I asked her, “So Anne, what’s killing publishing this week?” and she said, “Oh that’s easy. TV binge-viewing.” She wasn’t being facetious; people now measurably use the time they once spent reading novels to binge-watch Netflix or HBO. And then the next day at work they discuss what they’re watching the same way people used to discuss novels. What season are you on? Which episode? No spoilers! They might as well have been by the water cooler discussing The Catcher in the Rye in 1951.

A few paragraphs back I asked what sort of technology it would be that would help rescue us from this nonstop trapped-inside-the-future nagging buzz we all share living in the 21st century. This was a trick question because we already have this technology: it’s called books. But there’s another twist here and it’s this: it’s harder to read books these days. We all know it. It is a very rare and very honest person who’ll cop to the truth that they don’t read half as much fiction as they did 10 years ago. People seem to be buying novels but they just join the pile beside the bed that topples over when you go to plug in the laptop’s power cord.

. . . 

For a recent museum show I made T-shirts that read “i miss my pre-internet brain”. We photographed them on 17-year-old models and everybody had a good laugh. Me, I don’t miss my pre-internet brain. I no longer remember it, and that may be a necessary step to survive in the upcoming 100 years. Nostalgia for your pre-2005-ish brain may be actively holding you back from living a better life right now. Who’s to say? The world only spins forward. If you do want a portal back to The Way Things Were, you can read a book, but the moment you finish it you’ll be right back here. And that’s better than nothing."

[via: ]
superfuture  douglascoupland  present  future  2016  technology  internet  web  online  progress  change  thenewnormal 
march 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
Transcend Education
"Transcend is a national nonprofit dedicated to accelerating innovation in the core design of “school”

Our Core Values

“Casserian Engeri?” – Daily Masai greeting, meaning “And how are the children?”

We constantly ask ourselves this question, mindful that innovation only matters if it creates a fundamentally better answer, for all children.

Diverse Voices
“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation.” – Cesar Chavez

We act from the conviction that the best innovation emerges from diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.

Play Big
“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

We imagine bold possibilities, muster the courage to go after them, and consider system implications from the start.

Perpetual Beta
“What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?” – Carol Dweck

We strive to be constant learners, always seeking to grow and improve.

“All great achievements require time.” – Maya Angelou

We play the long-game and prioritize what has the greatest long-term impact for kids.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

Relationships and genuine connection are at the heart of our work."

"Now is the time to innovate.

The traditional design of schooling – known as the “industrial model” – was created for a time that is long behind us. The model served important purposes, and committed educators have worked tirelessly to squeeze out every drop of value to benefit countless children.

And yet. Despite decades of “reforms,” most U.S. schools still fail to sufficiently prepare students academically, let alone address broader goals. Students from low-income backgrounds and students with learning differences get especially underserved. Even our highest performing schools struggle with sustainability, scaling, and long term success for all students.

On top of this, our world is fast changing. It’s becoming more complex. More interconnected. It desperately needs leaders. In this world, our children need more than academic skills and content knowledge. They also need learning mindsets, creativity, communication and collaboration abilities, and personal leadership.

Together, these conditions call for fundamentally new learning environments – tweaks around the edges just won’t cut it.

Eight great leaps in the design of “school”
New models will make eight great leaps from the old design of schools.

Transcend does not believe in just one single, new model of “school.” Rather, we advocate for eight great leaps from the past to new models. These leaps serve as design principles to animate all our work. Click through in the graphic below to see each leap: [image]

It's never been more possible

We are at the dawn of a new era, enabled by six conditions that make breakthroughs more possible than ever:

Research in learning science. Findings from cognition, motivation, and brain development can transform how we understand learning.

Growth of design thinking. Applying human-centered design thinking holds tremendous potential to put students and families truly at the center.

Technology advancement. Technology can never replace caring educators connecting with students. But when applied well, it can enhance those connections, creating dramatic possibilities.

Insights about diversity and equity. There is a growing recognition of the importance of culturally responsive practices, intentionally diverse communities, and restorative orientations to behavior.

Lessons from high‐performing classrooms and schools. In recent decades, students in thousands of classrooms and schools have proved what is possible academically and illuminated crucial practices (such as data-informed instruction).

Better policy and funding conditions. More districts, states, and funders are creating conditions that enable new designs to come about. This will grow as promising examples emerge and communities demand more.

Together, these conditions have never existed in history. We are at a unique moment in time – let’s build on it!"

"In Dissatisfied Yet Optimistic: Moving Faster Toward New Models, Transcend co-founders, Aylon Samouha and Jeff Wetzler, along with two Transcend board members, Stacey Childress and Diane Tavenner, describe a vision for better school models that prepare and inspire all students for long-term success, and an emerging theory of change for what it would take to support their design and spread in the coming years."
education  schools  change  innovation  diversity  progress  lcproject  openstudioproject 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 1: progress dogma
"Despite the name, Crap Futures is not all gloom and doom. We may view notions of progress with a sceptical eye, but we still subscribe - heartily, even - to the pursuit of a better world, however small our contribution might be.

In that spirit of improvement - and to introduce the first in our new series on constraints - let us turn for a moment to Ray Bradbury, the presiding Crap Futures muse. In his short story ‘A Sound of Thunder’ (1952), the protagonist, Eckels, travels back to the Late Cretaceous period to track and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The slogan of the company that organises these tours, Time Safari, Inc., is straightforward: ‘Safaris to any year of the past … we take you there, you shoot it.’ Time Safari’s main job, aside from organising tours, is making sure each hunter leaves no footprint, literally or figuratively, in or on the past (or future - whatever, it’s confusing).

The spark in Bradbury’s cautionary tale is Time Safari’s meticulous treatment of the prehistoric ecosystem. With the vast timeframes involved, minute changes to a particular point in the past - increasing exponentially through time - can lead to dramatic differences in everything proceeding from that point. To avoid contaminating the past and altering the future, an ‘anti-gravity metal’ path hovers above the prehistoric jungle, from which hunters are instructed never to stray in even the slightest. The possible impact of any deviation from the path is conveyed in dramatic terms by the tour guide: ‘Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.’ The hunters even wear special ‘oxygen helmets’ to avoid introducing ‘bacteria into the ancient atmosphere’.

Naturally enough, however, Eckels panics at the sight of the Tyrannosaurus and accidentally steps off the path. This leads to a typically Bradburyesque climax - which we won’t spoil here for those of you who haven’t read it.

The key message of Constraint No. 1 is that unlike Time Safari, most of those with a hand in ‘how the future happens’ have no motivation to think about long term consequences of their actions. So blinded are they, in fact, by the bright lights of progress and its successor innovation that any potentially negative impact is ignored. This positivistic message about technology is endemic, and is only being exacerbated by the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’ culture of the social network. Unfortunately, as we know, life is complicated and unforeseen negative outcomes happen.

Progress dogma keeps us on the current technological trajectory - it is belief as a motivational force of change. It gives this trajectory huge momentum, meaning that is is virtually impossible to change course. If you’ll pardon the bleak image, it’s a bit like the Titanic sailing directly into potentially fatal waters without a care in the world.

Once we remove the constraints of positive thinking, it becomes possible to more realistically apprehend the future in (some of) its complexity, helping us to figure out what to avoid as well as where to aim. So, how can we rethink progress to identify possible implications? How can we disconnect from the utopian mantra and twentieth-century mindset of positivist corporate culture?'
crapfutures  raybradbury  design  titanic  dinosaurs  sciencefiction  scifi  innovation  constraints  progress  technology  systemsthinking  time  longnow  bighere  skepticism  timesafari  implications  consequences  caution  positivism  future  duediligence  diligence  change  ecosystems  californianideology  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
toxic design : Index Gaia
Torino is a city on the move. The tradition forms of representation are obsolete or inadequate to depict the current reality and the dynamics in progress.

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

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

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

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

The theme, proposed in collaboration with the Urban Center Metropolitano of Torino, aims to produce visualisations in the form of diagrams and maps of relationships that induce a new way of viewing human-city interaction, and also useful for outlining new criteria for its development."
gaiascagnetti  place  torino  progress  2008  legibility  comprehension  understanding  cities  urban  urbanism  maps  mapping  networks  geography  communication  visualization  christiannold  jimsegers  donatoricci  paolociuccarelli  giuseppevaccario  andrewridge  tomziora  aliciahorvathola  federicamessina  veronicafilice 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Orion Magazine | Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
"I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.

II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.

III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.

IV. The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.

V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes.

VI. The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all.

VII. We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

VIII. Nor did we foresee that the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to “rogue nations”, dissident or fanatical groups and individuals – whose violence, though never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be illegitimate.

IX. We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good, including our homelands and our lives.

X. We had accepted too the corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by “national defense”

XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.

XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global “free trade”, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate.

XIV. This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought, always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and citizens alike. It is hard for ordinary citizens to know what is actually happening in Washington in a time of such great trouble; for all we know, serious and difficult thought may be taking place there. But the talk that we are hearing from politicians, bureaucrats, and commentators has so far tended to reduce the complex problems now facing us to issues of unity, security, normality, and retaliation.

XV. National self-righteousness, like personal self-righteousness, is a mistake. It is misleading. It is a sign of weakness. Any war that we may make now against terrorism will come as a new installment in a history of war in which we have fully participated. We are not innocent of making war against civilian populations. The modern doctrine of such warfare was set forth and enacted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who held that a civilian population could be declared guilty and rightly subjected to military punishment. We have never repudiated that doctrine.

XVI. It is a mistake also – as events since September 11 have shown – to suppose that a government can promote and participate in a global economy and at the same time act exclusively in its own interest by abrogating its international treaties and standing apart from international cooperation on moral issues.

XVII. And surely, in our country, under our Constitution, it is a fundamental error to suppose that any crisis or emergency can justify any form of political oppression. Since September 11, far too many public voices have presumed to “speak for us” in saying that Americans will gladly accept a reduction of freedom in exchange for greater “security”. Some would, maybe. But some others would accept a reduction in security (and in global trade) far more willingly than they would accept any abridgement of our Constitutional rights.

XVIII. In a time such as this, when we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult.

XIX. Even now we dare not forget that since the attack of Pearl Harbor – to which the present attack has been often and not usefully compared – we humans have suffered an almost uninterrupted sequence of wars, none of which has brought peace or made us more peaceable.

XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our perpetual “war to end war?”

XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.

XXII. The key to peaceableness is continuous practice. It is wrong to suppose that we can exploit and impoverish the poorer countries, while arming them and instructing them in the newest means of war, and then reasonably expect them to be peaceable.

XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us.

XXIV. Starting with the economies of food and farming, we should promote at home, and encourage abroad, the ideal of local self-sufficiency. We should recognize that this is the surest, the safest, and the cheapest way for the world to live. We should not countenance the loss or destruction of any local capacity to produce necessary goods.

XXV. We should reconsider and renew and extend our efforts to protect the natural foundations of the human economy: soil, water, and air. We should protect every intact ecosystem and watershed that we have left, and begin restoration of those that have been damaged.

XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now … [more]
via:anne  education  capitalism  economics  wendellberry  peace  war  terrorism  consumerism  food  farming  sustainability  9/11  violence  humanism  environment  children  parenting  responsibility  military  self-sufficiency  technology  technosolutionism  progress  innovation  nature  decentralization  newworldorder  growth  degrowth  prosperity  labor  work  poverty  freemarket  business  corporatism  freetrade  vulnerability  freedom  civilrights  government  security  peaceableness  islam  soil  air  water  thrift  care  caring  saving  conservation  agriculture 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech Might Make Things Worse... So Now What?
"Indeed, technology might actually make things worse, particularly for disadvantaged students, in part because of the type of tech and how it’s used in their classrooms. The OECD report found, for example, that “drilling” software has a negative effect on performance (that is, to be clear again, performance on the PISA). And yet this type of software, and more broadly computer-based math instruction, is much more commonly used for disadvantaged students.

Much of the press coverage of the OECD’s report latched on to the finding that “overexposure” to technology leads to poor academic performance (as well as to lower levels of well-being). But again, it’s worth asking what that technology usage actually involves. What are students doing when they’re “using computers” in the classroom? Are they “using computers” or is it, rather, that their teachers are? That phrase – “using computers in the classroom” – can mean a lot of things after all. “Using computers” how and “using computers” to what end – that is, what are the goals of increasing the amount of tech in the classroom? (A recent Education Week headline might give us a clue: “Chromebooks’ Rise in U.S. K–12 Schools Fueled by Online Testing.” Simply put: is increased tech usage a reflection of increased testing?)

“One interpretation of these findings,” the report’s executive summary reads, “is that it takes educators time and effort to learn how to use technology in education while staying firmly focused on student learning.” Yes, that is one interpretation, one that fits neatly into a narrative that teachers and schools have failed to “innovate.” But rather than allow the burden of addressing ed-tech’s “effectiveness” to be shifted to educators, let’s ask too why so much of ed-tech remains crap – exploitative and punitive crap that is well-funded by venture capitalists and heavily promoted by ed-tech enthusiasts, I might add. Ed-tech that, as this OECD report suggests, likely makes things worse. We cannot shrug and say “it’s not the technology’s fault.” Because what if it is?

“We expect schools to educate our children to become critical consumers of Internet services and electronic media,” the OECD report says, “helping them to make informed choices and avoid harmful behaviours.” But I think expecting schools to educate children to become consumers is a flawed approach to technology from the very start. (It’s one that surely enriches the ed-tech industry, who by all accounts are the ones most clearly benefitting from widespread adoption of tech in the classroom.) This is a flawed approach to education too, I’d argue – this notion that knowledge is something delivered either by teacher or machine and in turn consumed by students. If there is any agency in this equation at all, it’s the agency to buy, not the agency to build. Most ed-tech has done very little to support students’ agency as creators – not just as creators with digital technology but creators of digital technology.

But the same can be said, unfortunately, for most classrooms, with or without computers. Students are objects in the education system, shaped and molded by institutional and societal expectations. Framing students as “consumers” posits that the only place they gain subject status is when we reduce “learning” to a transaction – and in particular to an exchange of money or, increasingly, of personal data. And if that is the framework guiding ed-tech (its present and its future), it should be no surprise that the results will be profoundly unjust.

To its credit, the OECD report does make the following policy recommendation: “Improve equity in education first.”
In most countries, differences in computer access between advantaged and disadvantaged students shrank between 2009 and 2012; in no country did the gap widen. But results from the PISA computer-based tests show that once the so-called “first digital divide” (access to computers) is bridged, the remaining difference, between socio-economic groups, in the ability to use ICT tools for learning is largely, if not entirely, explained by the difference observed in more traditional academic abilities. So to reduce inequalities in the ability to benefit from digital tools, countries need to improve equity in education first. ****Ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services.**** (emphasis added)

It’s easy to dismiss the OECD report because it draws so heavily on the PISA framework – although no doubt that’s a good reason to be critical of “what counts” here as “learning outcomes.” And surely there are benefits to computers beyond what PISA can measure. But can we articulate what those are? And can we articulate what those are without using meaningless cliches like “innovation” and “collaboration” and “future ready”?

I confess, I’ve grown pretty tired of the response that “we must” use tech. It’s a surrender, too often and again, to this idea that we are required to interact, to connect, to think deeply through the confines of a certain kind of technology, of a certain kind of economic and social and institutional arrangement – as consumers of tech, and as the product itself.

Despite the insistence that digital technologies are “the future” and as such must be incorporated somehow into the classroom, “the future” remains an unknown. We cannot say with any certainty that “the future” will include any of the technologies that we use today. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, we might not have “Google” or “YouTube” or “Blackboard” or even “the World Wide Web” – we certainly will not in their current form. There is no inevitability to technology nor to the direction that “technological progress” might take.

And education technology in and of itself is surely not progressive."
edtech  audreywatters  2015  oecd  technology  teaching  education  pedagogy  pisa  testing  consumption  creation  chromebooks  progressivism  progress  inequality  inequity  schools 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Web Design - The First 100 Years
"Today I hope to persuade you that the same thing that happened to aviation is happening with the Internet. Here we are, fifty years into the computer revolution, at what feels like our moment of greatest progress. The outlines of the future are clear, and oh boy is it futuristic.

But we're running into physical and economic barriers that aren't worth crossing.

We're starting to see that putting everything online has real and troubling social costs.

And the devices we use are becoming 'good enough', to the point where we can focus on making them cheaper, more efficient, and accessible to everyone.

So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.

Unless we screw it up.

And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people."

"So while Moore's Law still technically holds—the number of transistors on a chip keeps increasing—its spirit is broken. Computers don't necessarily get faster with time. In fact, they're getting slower!

This is because we're moving from desktops to laptops, and from laptops to smartphones. Some people are threatening to move us to wristwatches.
In terms of capability, these devices are a step into the past. Compared to their desktop brethren, they have limited memory, weak processors, and barely adequate storage.

And nobody cares, because the advantages of having a portable, lightweight connected device are so great. And for the purposes of taking pictures, making calls, and surfing the internet, they've crossed the threshold of 'good enough'.

What people want from computers now is better displays, better battery life and above all, a better Internet connection.

Something similar happened with storage, where the growth rate was even faster than Moore's Law. I remember the state-of-the-art 1MB hard drive in our computer room in high school. It cost a thousand dollars.
Here's a photo of a multi-megabyte hard drive from the seventies. I like to think that the guy in the picture didn't have to put on the bunny suit, it was just what he liked to wear.

Modern hard drives are a hundred times smaller, with a hundred times the capacity, and they cost a pittance. Seagate recently released an 8TB consumer hard drive.

But again, we've chosen to go backwards by moving to solid state storage, like you find in smartphones and newer laptops. Flash storage sacrifices capacity for speed, efficiency and durability.

Or else we put our data in 'the cloud', which has vast capacity but is orders of magnitude slower.

These are the victories of good enough. This stuff is fast enough.

Intel could probably build a 20 GHz processor, just like Boeing can make a Mach 3 airliner. But they won't. There's a corrollary to Moore's law, that every time you double the number of transistors, your production costs go up. Every two years, Intel has to build a completely new factory and production line for this stuff. And the industry is turning away from super high performance, because most people don't need it.

The hardware is still improving, but it's improving along other dimensions, ones where we are already up against hard physical limits and can't use the trick of miniaturization that won us all that exponential growth.

Battery life, for example. The limits on energy density are much more severe than on processor speed. And it's really hard to make progress. So far our advances have come from making processors more efficient, not from any breakthrough in battery chemistry.

Another limit that doesn't grow exponentially is our ability to move information. There's no point in having an 8 TB hard drive if you're trying to fill it over an AT&T network. Data constraints hit us on multiple levels. There are limits on how fast cores can talk to memory, how fast the computer can talk to its peripherals, and above all how quickly computers can talk to the Internet. We can store incredible amounts of information, but we can't really move it around.

So the world of the near future is one of power constrained devices in a bandwidth-constrained environment. It's very different from the recent past, where hardware performance went up like clockwork, with more storage and faster CPUs every year.

And as designers, you should be jumping up and down with relief, because hard constraints are the midwife to good design. The past couple of decades have left us with what I call an exponential hangover.

Our industry is in complete denial that the exponential sleigh ride is over. Please, we'll do anything! Optical computing, quantum computers, whatever it takes. We'll switch from silicon to whatever you want. Just don't take our toys away.
But all this exponential growth has given us terrible habits. One of them is to discount the present.

When things are doubling, the only sane place to be is at the cutting edge. By definition, exponential growth means the thing that comes next will be equal in importance to everything that came before. So if you're not working on the next big thing, you're nothing.

A further symptom of our exponential hangover is bloat. As soon as a system shows signs of performance, developers will add enough abstraction to make it borderline unusable. Software forever remains at the limits of what people will put up with. Developers and designers together create overweight systems in hopes that the hardware will catch up in time and cover their mistakes.

We complained for years that browsers couldn't do layout and javascript consistently. As soon as that got fixed, we got busy writing libraries that reimplemented the browser within itself, only slower.

It's 2014, and consider one hot blogging site, Medium. On a late-model computer it takes me ten seconds for a Medium page (which is literally a formatted text file) to load and render. This experience was faster in the sixties.

The web is full of these abuses, extravagant animations and so on, forever a step ahead of the hardware, waiting for it to catch up.

This exponential hangover leads to a feeling of exponential despair.

What's the point of pouring real effort into something that is going to disappear or transform in just a few months? The restless sense of excitement we feel that something new may be around the corner also brings with it a hopelessness about whatever we are working on now, and a dread that we are missing out on the next big thing.

The other part of our exponential hangover is how we build our businesses. The cult of growth denies the idea that you can build anything useful or helpful unless you're prepared to bring it to so-called "Internet scale". There's no point in opening a lemonade stand unless you're prepared to take on PepsiCo.

I always thought that things should go the other way. Once you remove the barriers of distance, there's room for all sorts of crazy niche products to find a little market online. People can eke out a living that would not be possible in the physical world. Venture capital has its place, as a useful way to fund long-shot projects, but not everything fits in that mold.

The cult of growth has led us to a sterile, centralized web. And having burned through all the easy ideas within our industry, we're convinced that it's our manifest destiny to start disrupting everyone else.

I think it's time to ask ourselves a very designy question: "What is the web actually for?"
I will argue that there are three competing visions of the web right now. The one we settle on will determine whether the idiosyncratic, fun Internet of today can survive.


This is the correct vision.


This is the prevailing vision in Silicon Valley.


This is the insane vision. I'm a little embarrassed to talk about it, because it's so stupid. But circumstances compel me.

There's a William Gibson quote that Tim O'Reilly likes to repeat: "the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet."

O'Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions.

I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let's see how much we can do with what we already have.

Let's reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they've imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.

The Web belongs to us all, and those of us in this room are going to spend the rest of our lives working there. So we need to make it our home.

We live in a world now where not millions but billions of people work in rice fields, textile factories, where children grow up in appalling poverty. Of those billions, how many are the greatest minds of our time? How many deserve better than they get? What if instead of dreaming about changing the world with tomorrow's technology, we used today's technology and let the world change us? Why do we need to obsess on artificial intelligence, when we're wasting so much natural intelligence?

When I talk about a hundred years of web design, I mean it as a challenge. There's no law that says that things are guaranteed to keep getting better.

The web we have right now is beautiful. It shatters the tyranny of distance. It opens the libraries of the world to you. It gives you a way to bear witness to people half a world away, in your own words. It is full of cats. We built it by accident, yet already we're taking it for granted. We should fight to keep it! "
technology  web  webdesign  internet  culture  design  history  aviation  airplanes  planes  2014  constraints  growth  singularity  scale  webdev  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  boeing  intel  microsoft  cloud  raykurzweil  elonmusk  williamgibson  inequality  mooreslaw  timoreilly  software  bloat  progress  present  future  manifestdestiny 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Debating the Gig Economy: Going Past Industrial...
"Yesterday Hilary Clinton mentioned the “gig economy” in a speech. She said
Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

This is of course a topic I have been speaking and writing about a lot. Like Fred [ ], I think that this is a discussion we need to have. I think the framing though of the question has to be quite different. We need to move past traditional concepts of work and jobs towards an era of economic freedom enabled by a universal basic income and something akin to what I have called the right to be represented by a bot.

As long as we frame the debate in terms of “work-place protections” and a “good job” we are still caught in the industrial system. The hallmark of the industrial system is what I call the job loop: most people sell their time and receive a wage in return — they then use that wage to buy products and services, which in turn are made by people selling their time. This job loop has been extraordinarily successful. In combination with relatively free markets it has given us incredible progress. But it is now breaking down due to automation and globalization.

The rise of the gig economy is a part of this break down of the job loop. Instead of trying to fix it and to imprint traditional work and labor thinking on these new platforms I propose an entirely different approach: truly and deeply empower individuals to participate on their own terms. Just imagine for a moment a world in which everyone can take care of basic needs such as housing, clothing, food, healthcare and education.

In such a world any and all participation in “gigs” will be entirely voluntary. People will have real walk away options from gigs that don’t pay enough. That also includes “jobs” at McDonalds, or Walmart or the local nail salon. In such a world there is no need to distinguish between a W2 employee and a 1099 contractor.

Such a world is now possible thanks to the productivity gains we have made over many years and the ones that are just now emerging. If you want some good numbers on the economic feasibility of a Universal Basic Income I propose reading this piece by Scott Santens. You can also listen to and read about a discussion from a few weeks back at Civic Hall which includes additional thoughts on funding.

Empowering individuals economically through a Universal Basic Income is just the start though. We also need to give individuals informational freedom. This means that if I am a driver for Uber I should have the right to access Uber through a third party app that strictly represents me. In the open web era that was the browser (not by accident referred to as a “user agent” in the http protocol). We need the equivalent for apps.

The combination of economic and informational freedom for individuals will be a far better check on the power of platforms such as Uber, Etsy, Airbnb, etc. then any attempt to have government regulate directly what these companies can and cannot do.

So this is a perfectly good time to suggest you watch my TEDxNewYork talk on basic income and the right to be represented by a bot.

[video: ]

If you prefer to read, there is a transcript [ ] instead. I am also happy to report that my book (which will really be a long essay) on this topic is making good progress."
economics  universalbasicincome  2015  albertwenger  socialsafetynet  work  labor  technology  freedom  scottsantens  fredwilson  automation  gigeconomy  freelancing  hillaryclinton  uber  etsy  airnbn  policy  jobs  progress  inequality  agency  motivation  politics  ubi 
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 
june 2015 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."

"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Aeon Ideas - Siva Vaidhyanathan on Has "innovation"...
"Progress was such a strong part of 18th century Enlightenment thought that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution instructed Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” via copyright and patent law. Today, those who advocate stronger intellectual property protection do so in the name of “innovation,” as do advocates of weaker intellectual property protection. Neither side argues for progress.

Progress is out-of-fashion. It’s almost embarrassing to invoke it. The grand mega-projects of the 20th century – dams, highways, national parks, public universities, and the occasional concentration camp – seem as distant from our current collective imaginations as pyramids and the Taj Mahal. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was devoted to marking the technological progress since Columbus landed in the New World, and its grand exhibit featured the power of electricity. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York described “the World of Tomorrow.” And the 1964 World’s Fair in New York boasted of the imminent coming of world peace through “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” We are still waiting for that."

"Innovation differs from progress in many ways. Innovation lacks a normative claim of significant betterment. It emerges from many small moves rather than grand, top-down schemes. Innovation does not contain an implication of a grand path or a grand design of a knowable future. It makes no claim on the future, except that it always exists in that future, just out of reach of the now. And innovation always seems to come from the distributed commercial world rather than from grand, planned policies engineered from a strong central state. States are now encouraged to innovate rather than solve big problems or correct for market failures. The ultimate goal of innovation seems to be more innovation.

“Innovation” is everywhere today. You can’t peruse a copy of the Harvard Business Review or Inc. Magazine without sliding by multiple uses of “innovation.” Universities large and small boast of new “innovation centers” and programs devoted to unleashing “innovation” in their students as well as their libraries and laboratories. Everyone is expected to innovate. Those who raise questions about the wisdom of a policy or technology are quickly dismissed as anti-innovation.

The use of “innovation” in published books, as measured by the Google NGrams project, surged in 1994, just as the Internet entered public life and the dot-com boom started. Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen’s use of the term “disruptive innovation” has dominated debates about management in both public and private sectors since the 1997 publication of his book The Innovators’ Dilemma. Even though historian Jill Lepore dismantled the poor logic and methodology of Christensen’s book in a 2014 New Yorker article, its influence has not waned. Innovation, especially the disruptive kind, has become a religious concept, immune to criticism."

"Modesty is a virtue, of course. And in many ways the focus on innovation instead of progress is refreshing. A belief that progress is definable and inevitable became hard to maintain by the turn of the 21st century as we confronted the efficient dehumanizing brutality of slavery, the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and the Final Solution.

Like with innovation, progress could be the locus of debate for two completely opposed policies. Historian David Brion Davis has written that appeals to progress were used by both advocates of expanding slavery and those who fought it. Davis identifies three aspects to the ideology of progress: A belief that historical change is not governed by chance or that historical events mesh in a meaningful pattern that reflects the principles of the natural sciences; A belief that the overall trajectory of history bends toward the better; And a prediction that the future will necessarily improve on the past, either through faith in human reason or divine providence.

Ecology has dealt perhaps the strongest blow to the ideology of progress. Ecological historians have charted the ways that humans have burned through their habitat, rendering much of it denatured and fragile, and improving crop yields through fossil-fuel-burning machinery and fossil-fuel-based fertilizers. So progress for some, such as an escape from the Malthusian trap of population outstripping food production, could mean devastation for all at some later date as the entire agricultural system collapses like an abandoned coal mine.

So perhaps the small-bore appeals to innovation are slightly preferable to the grand boasts of progress. But innovation can’t be our goal as a species. We actually do face grand problems like climate change, widespread abuse of people, threats to political liberty, and communicable diseases. It’s not unhealthy or even intellectually invalid to agree that we can and should make progress (with a very small “p”) against Ebola, HIV, rape, racism, and the melting of the polar ice caps.

Somewhere between the tiny vision of innovation and the arrogance of grand progress lies a vision of collective destiny and confidence that with the right investments, a strong consensus, and patience we can generate a more just and stable world. We passed right by that point in the rush from the 20th to the 21st centuries. We must reclaim it."
innovation  progress  via:anne  2015  sivavaidhyanathan 
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 [ ] 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:

[ ]

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
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
No legal merit | A Working Library
"In happier news, The Verge reports on Amazon’s shameless enforcement of non-competes for low-wage temporary workers, and Amazon rapidly about-faces. Nevermind pageviews and reading time, let’s measure publishing success by the actual change we bring about. Metrics could include unjust laws repealed, despicable company policies reversed, social welfare improved, centimeters of sea level increase averted, pseudo-science rejected, reduction in atmospheric carbon, happy children, puppies with loving homes. I’m only half-kidding. Business metrics are critical, but they’re not why we pour our hearts into this work, and we can’t ever let the numbers obscure that."

"An interesting aside: media Twitter was understandably aghast at Facebook’s new initiative, while seemingly unmoved by similar patterns on YouTube. I suspect this is because we have feels about words that we don’t have with video. It’s worth noting that while the web has become the de facto distribution method for video, the internet—that is, the open network of hypertext documents—privileges words over images. HTML is words annotating words. Words are foundational to HTML; images and video are not. Even our relationship to images is driven by language: one can “read” a picture, and our interpretation of images is constrained by words. I’m tempted to think our angst about the economy of letters should be directed at the underlying economic concerns—of which publishing is only one victim—and away from the words themselves. The words will be fine."
2015  mandybrown  metrics  journalism  activism  justice  policy  politics  business  measurement  publishing  success  change  changemaking  socialwelfare  society  law  legal  progress  climatechange  science  education  happiness  ellenpao  gender  inequality  amazon  labor  exploitation  women  facebook  html  text  images  video  youtube 
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
Morality and the Idea of Progress in Silicon Valley | Berkeley Journal of Sociology
"Silicon Valley’s amorality problem arises from the blind faith many place in progress. The narrative of progress provides moral cover to the tech industry and lulls people into thinking they no longer need to exercise moral judgment."

"The progress narrative has a strong hold on Silicon Valley for business and cultural reasons. The idea that technology will bring about a better world for everyone can be traced back to the Enlightenment aspiration to “master all things by calculation” in the words of Max Weber.[3] The successes of science and technology give rise to a faith among some that rationality itself tends to be a force for good.[4] This faith makes business easier because companies can claim to be contributing to progress while skirting the moral views of the various groups affected by their products and services. Most investors would rather not see their firms get mired in the fraught issue of defining what is morally better according to various groups; they prefer objective benefits, measured via return on investment (ROI) or other metrics. Yet, the fact that business goals and cultural sentiments go hand in hand so well ought to give us pause.

The idea of progress is popular because it ends up negating itself, and as a result, makes almost no demands upon us. In Silicon Valley, progress gets us thinking about objectively better, which suggests that we come up with some rational way to define better (e.g., ROI). But the only way to say that something is better in the sense we associate with progress is to first ask whether it is moral. Morality is inherently subjective and a-rational. Suggesting that a technology represents progress in any meaningful, moral sense would require understanding the values of the people affected by the technology. Few businesses and investors would be willing to claim they contributed to progress if held to account by this standard. If people are concerned with assessing whether specific technologies are helpful or harmful in a moral sense, they should abandon the progress narrative. Progress, as we think of it, invites us to cannibalize our initial moral aspirations with rationality, thus leaving us out of touch with moral intuitions. It leads us to rely on efficiency as a proxy for morality and makes moral discourse seem superfluous."

"We would like progress to be defined in moral terms. Yet, because not everyone shares the same morals, businesses and governments try to redefine progress in objective terms. Because we fear charges of subjectivity, we look to rational means and rational measures for pursuing objective goals. Besides, moral goals would, in many cases, make it impossible to serve everyone (to “scale,” in the local parlance). As a result, we take a technocrat’s approach to progress: we try to define it in objective terms and pursue it through rational means.[9] Yet, the only criteria we have for better (i.e., progress) are informed by subjective, moral intuitions. How we might define and measure better, even in an economic sense (e.g., cost-of-living adjusted income or reduced income disparity), is informed by moral intuitions. If we deny the importance of these moral intuitions, we cannot say much, if anything, about whether something is good or bad.[10] In our culture, progress is self-negating because we define and pursue progress solely in objective, rational terms, thus ignoring our inherently subjective moral intuitions and allowing them to atrophy. It is a classic story of the means overtaking the ends."

"There are alternatives to the progress narrative for making work in technology meaningful. Many people find meaning in their work through a narrative about making a contribution. Rather than thinking about contribution in a historic sense (i.e., progress), contribution can be thought in terms of specific groups of people.[13] People in many fields—teachers, cooks, doctors, among others—find meaning in their work through making a contribution to specific people. In tech, some might define the affected group more broadly, for example, programmers who rely on a software development tool, the users of a word processor, or the people who enjoy a particular game. The point is that knowing who will be affected by our work keeps us honest in terms of what we think is a contribution.

There is a second benefit to thinking of contribution in terms of specific people or groups rather than human progress generally. Knowing a group through individuals rather than via market segments prevents professionals from inadvertently imposing one set of values on groups with disparate values. In other words, thinking about contributions in terms of specific groups encourages understanding the people within those groups.[14] Many of the complaints about Silicon Valley’s service and social media tools focus on the fact that they reflect the concerns and interests of privileged young urbanites. Tools developed with the idea of contributing to specific groups would do less to encourage convergence of views about what constitutes the “good life.”[15]

None of this is to say that there are no do-gooders in tech. There are people who have a clear idea of how the technologies they are developing will serve specific groups – whether pursuing social justice in the United States or for providing better medical care in poorer nations. The morality of these causes does not stem from their association with progress – it flows from the desire to bring about real benefits that real people affected would say are good. Although it would be ideal if everyone could pursue such causes, that day is a long way off.

That does not leave everyone else off the hook. Everyone can, at a minimum, ask whether they are doing more harm than good. The trouble in Silicon Valley is that many talented, highly educated young people seem relatively unconcerned with the potential for harm. To be more aware of not harming people, much less helping them, we need to cultivate moral intuitions by discussing the consequences of our work for specific people.[16] The search for solidarity with specific people, not some objectively better moment in human history, keeps us exercising our moral intuitions."
siliconvalley  morality  business  progress  ericagiannella  technology  technosolutionism  mexweber  capitalism  economics  rationality 
march 2015 by robertogreco
▶ Struggle, success and celebrating Selma - YouTube
"In this episode of The Illipsis, Jay Smooth honors the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement marches in Selma, Alabama and explains how the struggles of activists and leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. can inform how we make progress today. (It’s not always easy.) “When you commit some part of your life to activism…you’re basically committing to a lifetime of work that might, if you’re lucky, contain a few fleeting moments of triumph,” he says. “In those last years of Martin Luther King’s life, he was struggling…[but] he kept showing up even though he knew that there would be no more perfect plans, no more grand victory. He knew there was no more glory to be found but he kept picking himself back up and showing up every day because he knew now more than ever, this was the work, and this was the only way we get to true justice and true equality.”"

[text via: ]
jaysmooth  civilrightsmovement  selma  ferguson  2014  vision  activism  time  martinlutherkingjr  generations  effort  longview  progress  inequality  struggle  mlk 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Hearing Is Believing -
"The aural/oral revolution won’t mean the end of the book any more than the e-book did. Besides, the “non-text-based” work of literature has a long tradition. “In the history of mankind, words were heard before they were seen,” wrote Albert B. Lord, the author of “The Singer of Tales,” a classic work of scholarship that traced oral literature from Homer through “Beowulf” and the tales, still recited today, of Balkan poets capable of reciting thousands of lines of verse by heart.

Progress doesn’t always mean going forward."
audio  books  ebooks  audiobooks  podcasts  progress  aural  oral  orality  text  literature  oraltradition  2015  jamesatlas 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Meta is Murder - Mills Baker's Internet Haus of Cards
"There’s enormous and increasing pressure on humans to achieve reach in their ideas, designs, morals, and policies. Despite having evolved in small groups with small-group habits of cognition and emotion, we now live in a global group and must coordinate hugely complex societies. The problems we face are problems at scale. Thus: reach is mandatory. A taxation, software design, or criminal justice solution that cannot be deployed at scale isn’t useful to us anymore; indeed, even opinions must scale up. For personal, political, governmental, commercial, literary, expediency-oriented, and many other reasons, we must have solutions that work for more human (H) units / instances, and H is always increasing (even as every sub-member of H is determined to be respected according to her or his unpredictable inimitability, range of action, moral agency, autonomy, freedom, etc.).

This pressure often inclines people to accept induction- or correlation-based models or ideas, which are inaccurate to varyingly significant degrees, in lieu of explanatory models. That is: in many situations, we’ll accept aggregates, groups, central plans, reductions, otherings, dehumanizations, short-hand-symbols, and so on because (1) they serve our ends, sometimes without any costs or (2) we have nothing else. In order to have explanations with reach in areas where we have no models, we commit philosophical fraud: we transact with elements and dynamics we cannot predict or understand and we hope for the best (better, it seems, than admitting that “I don’t know”). How we talk about speculative models, reductive schema, and plural entities —peoples, companies, generations, professions, events even— reveals a lot about how much we care for epistemological accuracy. And not caring about it is a kind of brutality; it means we don’t care what happens to the lives inaccurately described, not captured by our model, not helped by our policies, unaided by our designs, not included in our normative plan.

In politics, design, art, philosophy, and even ordinary daily thinking, being consciously aware of this tension, and of the pressure to exchange accuracy for reach, is as important as recognizing the difference between “guessing” and “knowing.” Otherwise, one is likely to adopt ideas with reach without recognizing the increased risk of inaccuracy that comes with it. One will be tempted to ignore the risk even if one knows it, tempted by how nice it is to have tidy conceptions of good and evil, friend and foe, progress and failure.

Reach is innately personally pleasing in part because it privileges the knower, whose single thought describes thousands or millions of people, whose simple position circumscribes civilization’s evolution, the history of religion, the nature of economics, the meaning of life. Exceptions be damned! But in general, if an idea has significant reach, it must be backed by an explanatory model or it will either be too vague or too inaccurate to be useful. And if it’s a political or moral idea, the innocent exceptions will be damned along with the guilty. Hence the immorality of reduction, othering, and inaccurate ideas whose reach makes them popular."
millsbaker  internet  scale  small  2014  politics  design  technology  reach  accuracy  knowing  guessing  induction  correlation  economics  globalization  dehumanization  othering  centralization  systems  systemsthinking  autonomy  freedom  agency  inimitability  notknowing  caring  progress  epistemology  thinking 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why has human progress ground to a halt? – Michael Hanlon – Aeon
"Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?"

"Yet there once was an age when speculation matched reality. It spluttered to a halt more than 40 years ago. Most of what has happened since has been merely incremental improvements upon what came before. That true age of innovation – I’ll call it the Golden Quarter – ran from approximately 1945 to 1971. Just about everything that defines the modern world either came about, or had its seeds sown, during this time. The Pill. Electronics. Computers and the birth of the internet. Nuclear power. Television. Antibiotics. Space travel. Civil rights.

There is more. Feminism. Teenagers. The Green Revolution in agriculture. Decolonisation. Popular music. Mass aviation. The birth of the gay rights movement. Cheap, reliable and safe automobiles. High-speed trains. We put a man on the Moon, sent a probe to Mars, beat smallpox and discovered the double-spiral key of life. The Golden Quarter was a unique period of less than a single human generation, a time when innovation appeared to be running on a mix of dragster fuel and dilithium crystals.

Today, progress is defined almost entirely by consumer-driven, often banal improvements in information technology. The US economist Tyler Cowen, in his essay The Great Stagnation (2011), argues that, in the US at least, a technological plateau has been reached. Sure, our phones are great, but that’s not the same as being able to fly across the Atlantic in eight hours or eliminating smallpox. As the US technologist Peter Thiel once put it: ‘We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters.’

Economists describe this extraordinary period in terms of increases in wealth. After the Second World War came a quarter-century boom; GDP-per-head in the US and Europe rocketed. New industrial powerhouses arose from the ashes of Japan. Germany experienced its Wirtschaftswunder. Even the Communist world got richer. This growth has been attributed to massive postwar government stimulus plus a happy nexus of low fuel prices, population growth and high Cold War military spending.

But alongside this was that extraordinary burst of human ingenuity and societal change. This is commented upon less often, perhaps because it is so obvious, or maybe it is seen as a simple consequence of the economics. We saw the biggest advances in science and technology: if you were a biologist, physicist or materials scientist, there was no better time to be working. But we also saw a shift in social attitudes every bit as profound. In even the most enlightened societies before 1945, attitudes to race, sexuality and women’s rights were what we would now consider antediluvian. By 1971, those old prejudices were on the back foot. Simply put, the world had changed."

"Lack of money, then, is not the reason that innovation has stalled. What we do with our money might be, however. Capitalism was once the great engine of progress. It was capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries that built roads and railways, steam engines and telegraphs (another golden era). Capital drove the industrial revolution.

Now, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. A report by Credit Suisse this October found that the richest 1 per cent of humans own half the world’s assets. That has consequences. Firstly, there is a lot more for the hyper-rich to spend their money on today than there was in the golden age of philanthropy in the 19th century. The superyachts, fast cars, private jets and other gewgaws of Planet Rich simply did not exist when people such as Andrew Carnegie walked the earth and, though they are no doubt nice to have, these fripperies don’t much advance the frontiers of knowledge. Furthermore, as the French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in Capital (2014), money now begets money more than at any time in recent history. When wealth accumulates so spectacularly by doing nothing, there is less impetus to invest in genuine innovation."

"But there is more to it than inequality and the failure of capital.

During the Golden Quarter, we saw a boom in public spending on research and innovation. The taxpayers of Europe, the US and elsewhere replaced the great 19th‑century venture capitalists. And so we find that nearly all the advances of this period came either from tax-funded universities or from popular movements. The first electronic computers came not from the labs of IBM but from the universities of Manchester and Pennsylvania. (Even the 19th-century analytical engine of Charles Babbage was directly funded by the British government.) The early internet came out of the University of California, not Bell or Xerox. Later on, the world wide web arose not from Apple or Microsoft but from CERN, a wholly public institution. In short, the great advances in medicine, materials, aviation and spaceflight were nearly all pump-primed by public investment. But since the 1970s, an assumption has been made that the private sector is the best place to innovate."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs:

"I’m not sure this essay by Michael Hanlon on the lack of technical and scientific progress over the past 40 years adds much to other recent speculations on the same theme: Tyler Cowen’s book The Great Stagnation, talks by Neal Stephenson on our lack of visionary imagination, and so on.

But it’s an indication at least of a growing awareness that, despite the determined efforts of the advertising world to suggest that everything is getting better all the time, our society is stuck in something of a technological rut, especially with regard to travel and, more important, medical care. Flying is a more frustrating experience than it has ever been and is only getting worse; only Google and Elon Musk are even trying to innovate in automobiling; and, as Hanlon points out, a person getting cancer today will receive treatment not fundamentally different than he or she would have received in 1970, and doesn’t stand a much greater chance of beating the disease.

So why aren’t we doing better? Hanlon offers a few fairly vague suggestions, as does Cowen, but this is an inquiry in its early stages. Let me just offer my two cents — precisely two.

Cent number one: Litigiousness. Every technological development in every field, but especially in health care, is hamstrung by the need to perform due diligence, and then beyond-due diligence, and then absurdly-over-the-top diligence, before putting a product on the market lest the developing company be sued by someone unhappy with their results. How many times have you read about some exciting new cancer treatment — and then never hear about it again, as it disappears into the endless Purgatory of tiny clinical trials that dying people beg (usually unsuccessfully) to be allowed to participate in?

Cent number two: Self-soothing by Device. I suspect that few will think that addition to distractive devices could even possibly be related to a cultural lack of ambition, but I genuinely think it’s significant. Truly difficult scientific and technological challenges are almost always surmounted by obsessive people — people who are grabbed by a question that won’t let them go. Such an experience is not comfortable, not pleasant; but it is essential to the perseverance without which no Big Question is ever answered. To judge by the autobiographical accounts of scientific and technological geniuses, there is a real sense in which those Questions force themselves on the people who stand a chance of answering them. But if it is always trivially easy to set the question aside — thanks to a device that you carry with you everywhere you go — can the Question make itself sufficiently present to you that answering is becomes something essential to your well-being? I doubt it." ]
science  technology  progress  michaelhanlon  tylercowen  attention  distraction  litigiousness  law  legal  funding  economics  capitalism  research  society  channge  inequality  innovation  riskaversion  risktaking  risk  medicine  healthcare 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Parable of the Polygons - a playable post on the shape of society
"1. Small individual bias → Large collective bias.
When someone says a culture is shapist, they're not saying the individuals in it are shapist. They're not attacking you personally.

2. The past haunts the present.
Your bedroom floor doesn't stop being dirty just coz you stopped dropping food all over the carpet. Creating equality is like staying clean: it takes work. And it's always a work in progress.

3. Demand diversity near you.
If small biases created the mess we're in, small anti-biases might fix it. Look around you. Your friends, your colleagues, that conference you're attending. If you're all triangles, you're missing out on some amazing squares in your life - that's unfair to everyone. Reach out, beyond your immediate neighbors."

"Our cute segregation sim is based off the work of Nobel Prize-winning game theorist, Thomas Schelling. Specifically, his 1971 paper, Dynamic Models of Segregation. We built on top of this, and showed how a small demand for diversity can desegregate a neighborhood. In other words, we gave his model a happy ending.

Schelling's model gets the general gist of it, but of course, real life is more nuanced. You might enjoy looking at real-world data, such as W.A.V. Clark's 1991 paper, A Test of the Schelling Segregation Model.

There are other mathematical models of institutionalized bias out there! Male-Female Differences: A Computer Simulation shows how a small gender bias compounds as you move up the corporate ladder. The Petrie Multiplier shows why an attack on sexism in tech is not an attack on men.

Today's Big Moral Message™ is that demanding a bit of diversity in your spaces makes a huge difference overall. Look at Plz Diversify Your Panel, an initiative where overrepresented speakers pledge not to speak on panels without diverse representation.

Our "playable post" was inspired by Bret Victor's Explorable Explanations and Ian Bogost's procedural rhetoric."
diversity  games  racism  society  visualization  simulation  2014  vihart  nickycase  segregation  integration  bias  individualbias  equality  progress  anti-biases  math  modeling  simulations  videogames 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition - Hybrid Pedagogy
"The entire enterprise of education is too often engaged in teaching that is not pedagogical. There are a whole host of other words I’d use to describe this work: instruction, classroom management, training, outcomes-driven, standards-based, content delivery. Pedagogy, on the other hand, starts with learning as its center, not students or teachers, and the work of pedagogues is necessarily political, subjective, and humane.

What is Critical Pedagogy?
Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

• Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
• Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
• Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
• Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
• Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Each of these registers distinguishes Critical Pedagogy from pedagogy; however, the current educational climate has made the terms, for me, increasingly coterminous (i.e. an ethical pedagogy must be a critical one). Pedagogy is praxis, insistently perched at the intersection between the philosophy and the practice of teaching. When teachers talk about teaching, we are not necessarily doing pedagogical work, and not every teaching method constitutes a pedagogy. Rather, pedagogy necessarily involves recursive, second-order, meta-level work. Teachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning. Critical Pedagogy suggests a specific kind of anti-capitalist, liberatory praxis. This is deeply personal and political work, through which pedagogues cannot and do not remain objective. Rather, pedagogy, and particularly Critical Pedagogy, is work to which we must bring our full selves, and work to which every learner must come with full agency.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire argues against the banking model, in which education “becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” This model emphasizes a one-sided transactional relationship, in which teachers are seen as content experts and students are positioned as sub-human receptacles. The use here of “sub-human” is intentional and not exaggeration; for in the tenets set out in Freire’s work (and the work of other Critical Pedagogues, including bell hooks and Henry Giroux), the banking model of education is part and parcel with efforts most clearly summed up in the term dehumanization. The banking model of education is efficient in that it maintains order and is bureaucratically neat and tidy. But efficiency, when it comes to teaching and learning, is not worth valorizing. Schools are not factories, nor are learning or learners products of the mill.

I immediately become deeply skeptical when I hear the word “content” in a discussion about education, particularly when it is accompanied by the word “packaged.” It is not that education is without content altogether, but that its content is co-constructed as part of and not in advance of the learning.

Critical Pedagogy is concerned less with knowing and more with a voracious not-knowing. It is an on-going and recursive process of discovery. For Freire, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Here, the language echoes the sort of learning Freire describes. With a flurry of adjectives and clauses separated by commas, his sentence circles around its subject, wandering, pushing restlessly at the edges of how words make meaning — not directly through literal translation into concepts, but in the way words rub curiously against one another, making meaning through a kind of friction. Knowledge emerges in the interplay between multiple people in conversation — brushing against one another in a mutual and charged exchange or dialogue. Freire writes, “Authentic education is not carried on by ‘A’ for ‘B’ or by ‘A’ about ‘B,’ but rather by ‘A’ with ‘B’.” It is through this impatient dialogue, and the implicit collaboration within it, that Critical Pedagogy finds its impetus toward change.

In place of the banking model, Freire advocates for “problem-posing education,” in which a classroom or learning environment becomes a space for asking questions — a space of cognition not information. Vertical (or hierarchical) relationships give way to more playful ones, in which students and teachers co-author together the parameters for their individual and collective learning. Problem-posing education offers a space of mutual creation not consumption. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” This is a lively and intimate space of creativity and inquiry — a space of listening as much as speaking."

"We are better users of technology when we are thinking critically about the nature and effects of that technology. What we must do is work to encourage students and ourselves to think critically about new tools (and, more importantly, the tools we already use). And when we’re looking for solutions, what we most need to change is our thinking and not our tools.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

• centers its practice on community and collaboration;
• must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
• will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
• must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

A Critical Digital Pedagogy demands that open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full agents of their own learning.

Critical Pedagogy is as much a political approach as it is an educative one. As Sean Michael Morris writes, it is “a social justice movement first, and an educational movement second.”

So, Critical Digital Pedagogy must also be a method of resistance and humanization. It is not simply work done in the mind, on paper, or on screen. It is work that must be done on the ground. It is not ashamed of its rallying cry or its soapbox. Critical Digital Pedagogy eats aphorisms — like this one right here — for breakfast. But it is not afraid to incite, to post its manifestos, to light its torches."
criticalpedagogy  paulofreire  2014  jessestommel  criticalthinking  criticism  education  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  content  process  inquiry  collaboration  community  digital  pedagogyoftheoppressed  critique  agency  empowerment  reflection  cv  henrygiroux  seanmichaelmorris  kathiinmanberensjohndewey  history  future  democracy  richardshaull  praxis  change  progressive  progress  socialmedia  mooc  moocs  politics  highered  highereducation  humanism  resistance  learning  tcsnmy 
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
Stop waiting, start making: Lessons in liveability from Jeanne van Heeswijk | Design Indaba
"A lot of your work spans a long period of engagement, often five, six years. What is the value of time in your design process?

I think spending time is a very important design element – to learn about the situation; to learn about the questions. Sometimes you have to hear things ten times just to understand the nuances of the way things are articulated. Quite often, when you enter a community for the first time or do work within a community, the first people you meet are already organised in one way or another. So they are often outspoken and they have a certain way to speak about the situation that is either angry or optimistic, depending whose side they are on. Spending time gives you the opportunity to hear more people’s opinion and different nuances of the same thing.

For example in Anfield, Liverpool, [where a housing renewal scheme meant people’s homes where bought up by the state for redevelopment that never took place] people repeatedly said: “We don’t like what is happening in our area. We don’t like these boarded-up houses. We are angry with the council.” But it was not until someone said that they were “sick of the waiting” that we really came to the crux of the matter. And what we’re talking about here is two things: waiting as an activity and not feeling well about it. In an area where you want to encourage living well, it is interesting to start working with this idea: to stop the waiting and to start making. This might seem like a very simple idea, but it is about the way it is formulated. We could have said: “Ok, you don’t like the boarded-up houses, let’s open up the houses again” but actually I don’t think that would have created the same process in order to stop the waiting.

By creating something collectively, by doing and making, whether it is a building or a loaf of bread, once you start producing again, it moves people from waiting into action. For me it is a very important condition for all my projects: to co-produce change, to co-produce an environment. And for that you need to work together and learn together and you basically just need to spend time. In practical terms that doesn’t mean I necessarily stay around all the time. Sometimes it is good to go back and forth. Often I spend of chunk of time, three to four months at a time, working on a specific project.

You work in communities across the globe. How do you overcome being an outsider?

I don’t believe in the local as a fixed unity. Locality is a mix of what I call local experts. A local expert can be someone who lives there but it can also be someone who works there. For example in the Afrikanerwijk, Rotterdam, the market stallholders, who are only there on market days, are very important for what happens in the area. They come from all over the Netherlands and even outside the Netherlands but they have an expertise because they know what it means to be at that market. This is an important dynamic. Sometimes certain localities have certain emergent issues that need experts to come from outside because they don’t have that specific expertise on location.

What are the ingredients for successful participation?

I think there is no recipe for it. That is the thing. Too often we want to try to package participation into recipes, strategies or deliverables so that we can easily tick the boxes at the end of the day. In my work I set up a situation where we can start producing again. You have to set up camp; set up shop; set up your studio there. Start working on site with people in the conditions that are there.

I think it is vital that all projects should be site-specific, context-specific, people-specific. There is no recipe for that because every situation is really different. Although there are some global trends and the pressure of capitalism drives the need for renewal everywhere, every situation is so specific: of course you have to work with the people who are there. I don’t think you should enter into a process completely blind: I do my research very well, but you have to go in there with the ability and the desire to learn about the situation and not with a preconceived plan or criteria or ideas. You can’t arrive with something and say: “Oh, I already drew something that you might like … ”

If capitalism has made us passive consumers, then how can we become active producers? How do you overcome passivity and bring people to action?

You keep poking them. Sometimes this is the hardest thing for people to do; to step over that boundary, to leave that passive consumerism behind and really start taking part. It is hard because becoming an active participant in producing an environment means taking risks. If you take risks, you make mistakes. People might not like what you produce, so you are continuously confronted with “the other” and confrontation is not something that makes us comfortable. But it is something we need in order to have a relationship with anyone or anything.

We need to confront and negotiate the difference; the different perception of what self and identity is or what we are together or can be together. The future you imagine and my vision might look completely different, yet here we are sitting together on this couch and we have to figure it out.

What is the value of making or producing?

To make is very important. Almost in a Marxist way we need to reclaim the right and means of production. I think at this moment in time we need to claim the right to produce culture; to produce cultural relationships and the cultural sphere. We need to reclaim this right from advertising, mass media and consumerism. I am an old-fashioned believer in the idea that we have to make things ourselves in order to get a grip on reality."

[See also: ]
jeannevanheeswijk  art  making  production  participatory  2013  local  participation  consumerism  marxism  capitalism  identity  self  learning  howwelearn  outsiders  time  progress  urbanrenewal  gentrification  risks  risktaking 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC
[video here: ]

"No doubt, we have witnessed in the last few years an explosion in the ed-tech industry and a growing, a renewed interest in ed-tech. Those here at ALT-C know that ed-tech is not new by any means; but there is this sense from many of its newest proponents (particularly in the States) that ed-tech has no history; there is only now and the future.

Ed-tech now, particularly that which is intertwined with venture capital, is boosted by a powerful forms of storytelling: a disruptive innovation mythology, entrepreneurs' hagiography, design fiction, fantasy.

A fantasy that wants to extend its reach into the material world.

Society has been handed a map, if you will, by the technology industry in which we are shown how these brave ed-tech explorers have and will conquer and carve up virtual and physical space.


We are warned of the dragons in dangerous places, the unexplored places, the over explored places, the stagnant, the lands of outmoded ideas — all the places where we should no longer venture. 

Hic Sunt Dracones. There be dragons.

Instead, I’d argue, we need to face our dragons. We need to face our monsters. We need to face the giants. They aren’t simply on the margins; they are, in many ways, central to the narrative."

"I’m in the middle of writing a book called Teaching Machines, a cultural history of the science and politics of ed-tech. An anthropology of ed-tech even, a book that looks at knowledge and power and practices, learning and politics and pedagogy. My book explores the push for efficiency and automation in education: “intelligent tutoring systems,” “artificially intelligent textbooks,” “robo-graders,” and “robo-readers.”

This involves, of course, a nod to “the father of computer science” Alan Turing, who worked at Bletchley Park of course, and his profoundly significant question “Can a machine think?”

I want to ask in turn, “Can a machine teach?”

Then too: What will happen to humans when (if) machines do “think"? What will happen to humans when (if) machines “teach”? What will happen to labor and what happens to learning?

And, what exactly do we mean by those verbs, “think” and “teach”? When we see signs of thinking or teaching in machines, what does that really signal? Is it that our machines are becoming more “intelligent,” more human? Or is it that humans are becoming more mechanical?

Rather than speculate about the future, I want to talk a bit about the past."

"To oppose technology or to fear automation, some like The Economist or venture capitalist Marc Andreessen argue, is to misunderstand how the economy works. (I’d suggest perhaps Luddites understand how the economy works quite well, thank you very much, particularly when it comes to questions of “who owns the machinery” we now must work on. And yes, the economy works well for Marc Andreessen, that’s for sure.)"

"But even without machines, Frankenstein is still read as a cautionary tale about science and about technology; and Shelley’s story has left an indelible impression on us. Its references are scattered throughout popular culture and popular discourse. We frequently use part of the title — “Franken” — to invoke a frightening image of scientific experimentation gone wrong. Frankenfood. Frankenfish. The monster, a monstrosity — a technological crime against nature.

It is telling, very telling, that we often confuse the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, with his creation. We often call the monster Frankenstein.

As the sociologist Bruno Latour has argued, we don’t merely mistake the identity of Frankenstein; we also mistake his crime. It "was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology,” writes Latour, "but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself.”

The creature — again, a giant — insists in the novel that he was not born a monster, but he became monstrous after Frankenstein fled the laboratory in horror when the creature opened his “dull yellow eye,” breathed hard, and convulsed to life.

"Remember that I am thy creature,” he says when he confronts Frankenstein, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good— misery made me a fiend.”

As Latour observes, "Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.”

Our “gigantic sin”: we failed to love and care for our technological creations. We must love and educate our children. We must love and care for our machines, lest they become monsters.

Indeed, Frankenstein is also a novel about education. The novel is structured as a series of narratives — Captain Watson’s story — a letter he sends to his sister as he explores the Arctic— which then tells Victor Frankenstein’s story through which we hear the creature tell his own story, along with that of the De Lacey family and the arrival of Safie, “the lovely Arabian." All of these are stories about education: some self-directed learning, some through formal schooling.

While typically Frankenstein is interpreted as a condemnation of science gone awry, the novel can also be read as a condemnation of education gone awry. The novel highlights the dangerous consequences of scientific knowledge, sure, but it also explores how knowledge — gained inadvertently, perhaps, gained surreptitiously, gained without guidance — might be disastrous. Victor Frankenstein, stumbling across the alchemists and then having their work dismissed outright by his father, stoking his curiosity. The creature, learning to speak by watching the De Lacey family, learning to read by watching Safie do the same, his finding and reading Volney's Ruins of Empires and Milton’s Paradise Lost."

"To be clear, my nod to the Luddites or to Frankenstein isn’t about rejecting technology; but it is about rejecting exploitation. It is about rejecting an uncritical and unexamined belief in progress. The problem isn’t that science gives us monsters, it's that we have pretended like it is truth and divorced from responsibility, from love, from politics, from care. The problem isn’t that science gives us monsters, it’s that it does not, despite its insistence, give us “the answer."

And that is problem with ed-tech’s monsters. That is the problem with teaching machines.

In order to automate education, must we see knowledge in a certain way, as certain: atomistic, programmable, deliverable, hierarchical, fixed, measurable, non-negotiable? In order to automate that knowledge, what happens to care?"

"I’ll leave you with one final quotation, from Hannah Arendt who wrote,
"Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.”

Our task, I believe, is to tell the stories and build the society that would place education technology in that same light: “renewing a common world.”

We in ed-tech must face the monsters we have created, I think. These are the monsters in the technologies of war and surveillance a la Bletchley Park. These are the monsters in the technologies of mass production and standardization. These are the monsters in the technologies of behavior modification a la BF Skinner.

These are the monsters ed-tech must face. And we must all consider what we need to do so that we do not create more of them."
audreywatters  edtech  technology  education  schools  data  monsters  dragons  frankenstein  luddites  luddism  neoluddism  alanturing  thomaspynchon  society  bfskinner  standardization  surveillance  massproduction  labor  hannaharendt  brunolatour  work  kevinkelly  technosolutionism  erikbrynjolfsson  lordbyron  maryshelley  ethics  hierarchy  children  responsibility  love  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  learning  politics  policy  democracy  exploitation  hierarchies  progress  science  scientism  markets  aynrand  liberarianism  projectpigeon  teachingmachines  personalization  individualization  behavior  behaviorism  economics  capitalism  siliconvalley 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Toward a Luddite Pedagogy - Hybrid Pedagogy
"In stark contrast to the fluffy talk of a thousand “revolutions” coming from plush conference halls in places like Long Beach, California – talk that reduces serious political discourse to the level of a sales pitch – the Luddites were willing to pay the ultimate price for a real revolution in the prevailing power relations, hoping to build a social order that forward-thinking people like the Luddites might be able to believe in.

A Luddite pedagogy for the 21st century

Just as the 19th century Luddism was interested far more in a forward-looking political agenda than in particular pieces of technology, so a 21st century Luddism in education will be concerned with more important issues than whether or not allowing pupils to use their own devices in class is a good idea. Like their political ancestors, the Luddite pedagogues will wield a hammer, but they won’t see any urgency in bringing it down on trivial things like touch-screen gadgetry. Instead, the targets lie elsewhere.

One place they lie is in the false talk of liberation that has gained popularity among people using the #edtech hashtag. A Luddite pedagogy is a pedagogy of liberation, and, as such, it clashes head on with the talk of liberation peddled by advocates of edtech. According to the latter, the child, previously condemned to all the unbearably oppressive restrictions of having to learn in groups, can now be liberated by the tech that makes a 1:1 model of education feasible, launching each and every child on an utterly personal learning journey. Liberation as personalisation – here the Luddite finds something that ought to be smashed.

But what needs to be smashed is less the pedagogy itself than the idea of freedom it rests on – the more general political notion that freedom is all about freeing individuals from social constraints so that they can pursue their personal projects unhampered by the claims of society. This is the essentially liberal idea championed by Sir Ken Robinson, for instance, for whom it is enough for individuals to find things to do that they enjoy and that allow them to develop a talent.

But we need to be clear here: Luddism doesn’t want to smash the concern for personal freedom, rather it wants to smash the idea that it is enough. The untruth of personalisation is its unjustified narrowing of the horizon of liberation."

"A Luddite pedagogy takes its cue from this need to build (and later maintain) a world – a society – of a certain sort. And in pursuing this end, the Luddite hammer has to be brought down again on a number of currently dominant assumptions about education.

One is the assumption that education must be child-centred. Luddites laugh at the assumption that education must have a single centre. No, it has two (as Hannah Arendt argued). It must also be centred on the needs of the society whose construction and maintenance depend partly on education. Rather than the ideal of letting the child pursue his or her curiosity unconstrained (an impossible ideal in any case), Luddite teachers are right to cultivate the broadest possible engagement with the world that children will find themselves bearing responsibility for in the future.

And this means that the education of children at its best is less about personalisation than socialisation. And, no, it is not a form of indoctrination beginning with infants being frogmarched around the schoolyard before being compelled to learn the Little Red Book off by heart.

This does not imply any antithesis to solitary work or personal choice or occasional use of 1:1 techniques. All it entails is the inclusion of these in the broader framework of an education taking place chiefly in a school outside the home, where children can be introduced to the habits, values, ideas and ways of thinking that are crucial to a free society.

Like all societies, that free society, at the very least needs to be able to use the pronoun “we”. We can only achieve freedom historically if we find ourselves among people similarly engaged by the questions of who we are, what we are doing, what we believe and what makes sense to us. As preparation for this, a crucial initial task of school is to enable children to feel that they are part of a larger whole beyond the family, and then to equip them and inspire them to carry on the dialogue about the beliefs and ideas and frameworks of sense that hold society together."

"Because of the centrality in that debate of the questions about who we are, what we are doing, what we believe the Luddite pedagogy entails what might be called a Delphic model of education (recalling the inscription outside the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Know Thyself), and it entails bringing the Luddite hammer down hard on the liberal taboo against what we would call an education in belief (and they would call indoctrination).

The broader liberal framework of personalising edtech requires keeping values out of education as much as possible, except as things to be studied “objectively” (e.g. in the form of comparative religion, where belief systems are presented without being questioned and evaluated). Only a minimal set of values are to be openly endorsed: chiefly the values of a respect for the facts and logic, combined with the minimal liberal agenda of tolerance, peace, and the value of a sort of idle critical thinking (idle because it is not really in earnest about criticising other systems of belief – that would be too illiberal).

A Luddite pedagogy puts the non-idle interrogation of values at the centre of the curriculum, at least in the high school, when children have a broad enough background to draw on when making their critical appraisals of ideas about value – the aim being to help children begin to think more deeply about what we believe and what makes sense and what doesn’t."
tornhalves  luddites  history  2014  luddism  edtech  education  socialization  democracy  learning  howwelearn  individualization  technology  1:1  kenrobinson  tcsnmy  freedom  collectivism  collectivity  debate  discourse  curriculum  walterbenjamin  hannaarendt  progress  disruption  mechanization  automation  atomization  subservience  revolution  neoluddism  society  unschooling  deschooling  personalization  schools  schooling  child-centered  children  1to1 
september 2014 by robertogreco
SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe: Modern Ruins 1:220 |
"Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene (Los Ferronautas) built their striking silver road-rail SEFT-1 vehicle to explore the abandoned passenger railways of Mexico and Ecuador, capturing their journeys in videos, photographs and collected objects. In their first London exhibition, SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe - Modern Ruins 1:220, commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and presented in partnership with Furtherfield in their gallery space in the heart of Finsbury Park, the artists explore how the ideology of progress is imprinted onto historic landscapes and reflect on the two poles of the social experience of technology - use and obsolescence."

[See also: ]
mexico  ivanpuig  andréspadilladomene  rail  railways  migration  art  seft-1  obsolescence  landscape  losferronautas  exploration  ecuador  2014  technology  progress  travel 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Discover The Road — Join a Community of People Who Wonder...
"Hi, my name is Kirk Wheeler. Discover the road is about finding a path in the chaos and learning what it means to live an authentic life. You can learn more about my reasons for starting this journey here: The First Step.

I don’t have all of the answers, but I believe that together we can learn how to ask better questions. An ongoing list of ideas on how to do just that can be found at the Rules of the Road."

"Question everything. … Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. … There is no failure, only feedback."

"Question everything. … Make progress. … Embrace the journey."

[See also: ]

[Listened to this one "On Chaos, Zen, Love and How To Remain Loyal To The Mystery" (several of the tags used for this bookmark are for that specific podcast: ]
via:ablaze  interviews  creativity  podcasts  life  spirituality  kirkwheeler  impermanence  death  questioning  stuarddavis  meditation  well-being  living  chaos  balance  multitasking  messiness  resilience  presence  sleep  self-knowledge  uncertainty  progress  questioneverything  skepticism  change 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Episode One Hundred: Taking Stock; And The New
"It took a while, but one of the early themes that emerged was that of the Californian Ideology. That phrase has become a sort of short-hand for me to take a critical look at what's coming out of the west coast of the USA (and what that west coast is inspiring in the rest of the world). It's a conflicting experience for me, because I genuinely believe in the power of technology to enhance the human experience and to pull everyone, not just some people, up to a humane standard of living. But there's a particular heady mix that goes into the Ideology: one of libertarianism, of the power of the algorithm and an almost-blind belief in a purity of an algorithm, of the maths that goes into it, of the fact that it's executed in and on a machine substrate that renders the algorithm untouchable. But the algorithms we design reflect our intentions, our beliefs and our predispositions. We're learning so much about how our cognitive architecture functions - how our brains work, the hacks that evolution "installed" in us that are essentially zero-day back-door unpatched vulnerabilties - that I feel like someone does need to be critical about all the ways software is going to eat the world. Because software is undeniably eating the world, and it doesn't need to eat it in a particular way. It can disrupt and obsolete the world, and most certainly will, but one of the questions we should be asking is: to what end? 

This isn't to say that we should ask these questions to impede progress just as a matter of course: just that if we're doing these things anyway, we should also (because we *do* have the ability to) feel able to examine the long term consequences and ask: is this what we want?"
danhon  2014  californianideology  howwethink  brain  algorithms  libertarianism  progress  technology  technosolutionism  ideology  belief  intention 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Against "Innovation" #CNIE2014
[See also: ]

"One culture values openness and collaboration and inquiry and exploration and experimentation. The other has adopted a couple of those terms and sprinkled them throughout its marketing copy, while promising scale and efficiency and cost-savings benefits. One culture values community, and the other reflects a very powerful strain of American individualism — not to mention California exceptionalism — one that touts personal responsibility, self-management, and autonomy."

"As I read Solnit’s diary about the changes the current tech boom is bringing to San Francisco, I can’t help but think about the changes that the current ed-tech boom might also bring to education, to our schools and colleges and universities. To places that have also been, in certain ways, a "refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists.”

Global ed-tech investment hit a record high this year: $559 million across 103 funding deals in the the first quarter of the year alone. How does that shape or reshape the education landscape?

In the struggle to build “a great hive,” to borrow Solnit’s phrase, that is a civil society and not just a corporate society, we must consider the role that education has played — or is supposed to play — therein, right? What will all this investment bring about? Innovation? To what end?

When we “innovate” education, particularly when we “innovate education” with technology, which direction are we moving it? Which direction and why?

Why, just yesterday, an interview was published with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, who’s now moving away from the MOOC hype and the promises he and others once made that MOOCs would “democratize education.” Now he says, and I quote, “If you’re affluent, we can do a much better job with you, we can make magic happen." Screw you, I guess, if you're poor.

I’ve gestured towards things so far in this talk that might tell us a bit about the culture of Silicon Valley, about the ideology of Silicon Valley.

But what is the ideology of “innovation.” The idea pre-dates Silicon Valley to be sure."

"See, as I started to gather my thoughts about this talk, as I thought about the problems with Silicon Valley culture and Silicon Valley ideology, I couldn’t help but choke on this idea of “innovation.”

So I’d like to move now to a critique of “innovation,” urge caution in chasing “innovation,” and poke holes, in particular, in the rhetoric surrounding “innovation.” I’d like to challenge how this word gets wielded by the technology industry and by extension by education technologists.

And I do this, I admit in part, because I grow so weary of the word. “Innovation” the noun, “innovative” the adjective, “innovate” the verb — they’re bandied about all over the place, in press releases and marketing copy, in politicians’ speeches, in business school professors’ promises, in economists’ diagnoses, in administrative initiatives. Um, in the theme of this conference and the name of this organization behind it.


What is “innovation”? What do we mean by the term? Who uses it? And how? Where does this concept come from? Where is it taking us?

How is “innovation” deeply ideological and not simply descriptive?"

"The technology innovation insurrection isn’t a political one as much as it is a business one (although surely there are political ramifications of that).

In fact, innovation has been specifically theorized as something that will blunt revolution, or at least that will prevent the collapse of capitalism and the working class revolution that was predicted by Karl Marx.

That's the argument of economist Joseph Schumpeter who argued most famously perhaps in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that entrepreneurial innovation was what would sustain the capitalist system — the development of new goods, new companies, new markets that perpetually destroyed the old. He called this constant process of innovation “creative destruction."

"The precise mechanism of the disruption and innovation in Christensen’s theory differs than Schumpeter’s. Schumpeter saw the process of entrepreneurial upheaval as something that was part of capitalism writ large — industries would replace industries. Industries would always and inevitably replace industries.

Schumpeter argued this process of innovation would eventually mean the end of capitalism, albeit by different processes than Marx had predicted. Schumpeter suggested that this constant economic upheaval would eventually cause such a burden that democratic countries would put in place regulations that would impede entrepreneurship. He argued that, in particular, “intellectuals” — namely university professors — would help lead to capitalism’s demise because they would diagnose this turmoil, develop critiques of the upheaval, critiques that would appealing and relevant to those beyond the professorial class.

That the enemy of capitalism in this framework is the intellectual and not the worker explains a great deal about American politics over the past few decades. It probably explains a great deal about the ideology behind a lot of the “disrupting higher education” talk as well."

"“The end of the world as we know it” seems to be a motif in many of the stories that we hear about what “disruptive innovation” will bring us, particularly as we see Christensen’s phrase applied to almost every industry where technology is poised to transform it. The end of the newspaper. The end of the publishing industry. The end of print. The end of RSS. The end of the Post Office. The end of Hollywood. The end of the record album. The end of the record label. The end of the factory. The end of the union. And of course, the end of the university.

The structure to many of these narratives about disruptive innovation is well-known and oft-told, echoed in tales of both a religious and secular sort:

Doom. Suffering. Change. Then paradise."

"Our response to both changing technology and to changing education must involve politics — certainly this is the stage on which businesses already engage, with a fierce and awful lobbying gusto. But see, I worry that we put our faith in “innovation” as a goal in and of itself, we forget this. We confuse “innovation” with “progress” and we confuse “technological progress” with “progress” and we confuse all of that with “progressive politics.” We forget that “innovation" does not give us justice. “Innovation” does not give us equality. “Innovation" does not empower us.

We achieve these things when we build a robust civic society, when we support an engaged citizenry. We achieve these things through organization and collective action. We achieve these things through and with democracy; and we achieve — or we certainly strive to achieve — these things through public education. "
audreywatters  2014  edtech  culture  technology  californianideology  innovation  disruption  highered  highereducation  individualism  google  googleglass  education  schools  learning  ds106  siliconvalley  meritocracy  rebeccasolnit  class  society  poverty  ideology  capitalism  novelty  change  transformation  invention  language  salvation  entrepreneurship  revolution  business  karlmarx  josephschumpeter  johnpatrickleary  claytonchristensen  sustainability  mooc  moocs  markets  destruction  creativedestruction  publiceducation  progress  justice  collectivism  libertarianism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
I Am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti : The Poetry Foundation
"I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

… [continues]"

[via: "thanks to @sarahmarriage for a bittersweet reminder that this poem exists:

sometimes I think ferlinghetti is holding on to a set of poems, to come out just after, which he will title "a middle village of the soul."

this is basically headcanon to me.

this is a thought I've had for awhile, only bolstered by a trip I took there in 2009. … (lots of details buried there) ]
poems  via:jannon  poetry  lawrenceferlinghetti  1958  waiting  hope  patience  progress  wonder  eternity  perpetuity  us  americas  newworld  nationalism  anarchy  newworldorder  salvation  rapture  purgatory  rebirth 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Other People's Pathologies - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"What's missed here is that the very culture Chait derides might well be the reason why I am sitting here debating him in the first place. That culture contained a variety of values and practices. "I ain't no punk" was one of them. "Know your history" was another. "Words are beautiful" was another still. The key is cultural dexterity—understanding when to emphasize which values, and when to employ which practices."

"No, they need to be taught that all norms are not transferable into all worlds. In my case, physical assertiveness might save you on the street but not beyond it. At the same time, other values are transferrable and highly useful. The "cultural norms" of my community also asserted that much of what my country believes about itself is a lie. In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and Malcolm X, it was my responsibility to live, prosper, and attack the lie. Those values saved me on the street, and they sustain me in this present moment.

People who take a strict binary view of culture ("culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail") are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll "middle-class values" to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and "Shorty, can I see your bike?" in the afternoon. It's very nice to talk about "middle-class values" when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one hood and your coworkers live another, you generally need something more than "middle-class values." You need to be bilingual."

"Chait's jaunty and uplifting narrative flattens out the chaos of history under the cheerful rubric of American progress. The actual events are more complicated. It's true, for instance, that slavery was legal in the United States in 1860 and five years later it was not. That is because a clique of slaveholders greatly overestimated its own power and decided to go to war with its country. Had the Union soundly and quickly defeated the Confederacy, it's very likely that slavery would have remained. Instead the war dragged on, and the Union was forced to employ blacks in its ranks. The end result—total emancipation—was more a matter of military necessity than moral progress."

"Ames was totally accurate. For the next century, the United States legitimized the overthrow of legal governments, the reduction of black people to forced laborers, and the complete alienation—at gunpoint—of black people in the South from the sphere of politics.

Chait's citation of the end of lynching as evidence of America serving as an "ally" is especially bizarre. The United States never passed anti-lynching legislation, a disgrace so great that it compelled the Senate to apologize—in 2005.

"There may be no other injustice in American history," said Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, "for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility." Even then, a half century after Emmett Till's murder, the sitting senators from Mississippi—the state with the most lynchings—declined to endorse the apology.

"You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches," said Malcolm X, "and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress."

The notion that black America's long bloody journey was accomplished through frequent alliance with the United States is an assailant's-eye view of history. It takes no note of the fact that in 1860, most of this country's exports were derived from the forced labor of the people it was "allied" with. It takes no note of this country electing senators who, on the Senate floor, openly advocated domestic terrorism. It takes no note of what it means for a country to tolerate the majority of the people living in a state like Mississippi being denied the right to vote. It takes no note of what it means to exclude black people from the housing programs, from the GI Bills, that built the American middle class. Effectively it takes no serious note of African-American history, and thus no serious note of American history.

You see this in Chait's belief that he lives in a country "whose soaring ideals sat uncomfortably aside an often cruel reality." No. Those soaring ideals don't sit uncomfortably aside the reality but comfortably on top of it. The "cruel reality" made the "soaring ideals" possible."

"James Baldwin was not being cute here. If you can not bring yourself to grapple with that which literally built your capitol, then you are not truly grappling with your country. And if you are not truly grappling with your country, then your beliefs in its role in the greater world (exporter of democracy, for instance) are built on sand. Confronting the black experience means confronting the limits of America, and perhaps, humanity itself. That is the confrontation that graduates us out of the ranks of national cheerleading and into the school of hard students.

Chait thinks this view is "fatalistic." I think God is fatalistic. In the end, we all die. As do most societies. As do most states. As do most planets. If America is fatally flawed, if white supremacy does truly dog us until we are no more, all that means is that we were unexceptional, that we were not favored by God, that we were flawed—as are all things conceived by mortal man.

I find great peace in that. And I find great meaning in this struggle that was gifted to me by my people, that was gifted to me by culture."
ta-nehisicoates  2014  jonathanchait  us  history  slavery  whitesupremacy  democracy  greatmess  pathology  culture  fatalism  cultureofpoverty  poverty  jamesbaldwin  progress  values  race 
april 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
#LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads | The Nation
"Even Chavismo is not immune to the deep-seated hatred for the poor barrio residents that such terms represent, and to a certain degree the feeling is mutual. Against the caricatured view that insists that radical popular organizations like colectivos are either blindly devoted or cheaply bought off, these are in reality among the most independent sectors of the revolution, those most critical of government missteps and hesitations, those most familiar with the repressive force of the state and those who demand above all that the social transformation under way move faster.

These forever victims of the state have nevertheless bet on its potential usefulness in the present, or at the very least have insisted that the alternative—handing the state machinery back over to traditional elites and voluntarily returning to a life on the defensive—is really no alternative at all. This is not a decision undertaken desperately or nostalgically, however, but instead with the most powerful optimism of the will, not premised on the good faith of individual leaders—although there are some who deserve this—but instead because to bet on the Bolivarian government is to bet on the people, to wager on the creative capacities of the poor that always exceeds that state.

Many loose threads remain, but few can be easily disentangled from this broad back-and-forth of revolution and reaction that spans decades. If the experience of April 2002 has taught us anything, however, it is to avoid facile explanations fueled by mediatic imagery. Every passing day reinforces this lesson—yesterday’s hyperbole is today’s discredited exaggeration, and while regrettable, the deaths that have occurred on both sides fall far short of what one would expect from reading Twitter. Despite opposition claims of impunity, an official from the Sebin, the government intelligence agency, has been arrested for firing his weapon and the agency head has been sacked. Leaked conversations have suggested coup plots, and even López’s wife admitted on CNN that the Venezuelan government had acted to protect her husband’s life in the face of credible threats.

The media question itself will be urgently debated in the coming days as the conflict between the government and CNN comes to a head. Here too the role of the private media in actively spearheading the 2002 coup looms large in the effort to strike a balance between press freedom and media responsibility (a tension that is not avoided by acting like it doesn’t exist). But these loose threads do not negate the urgency of the phrase that the revolutionary grassroots reserve for those who once governed them, and who today try to do so again, regardless of the death toll: no volverán, they shall not return.

Venezuela is indeed at a crossroads, having—in the words of the militant-intellectual Roland Denis—“llegado al llegadero, arrived at the inevitable.” It is the point at which the Bolivarian process itself—socialism in a capitalist society, thriving direct democracy in a liberal democratic shell—cannot survive without pressing decisively toward one side or the other: more socialist, more democratic, in short, more radical. This is not a crossroads simply between two possible forms of government from above: the Maduro government or its hypothetical right-wing alternative. It is instead a question of either pressing forward the task of building a revolutionary society, or handing the future back to those who can think of nothing but the past, and who will seek to fold the historical dialectic back onto itself, beaten and bloody if necessary.

The only salida is the first, the exit personified in the more than 40,000 communal councils blanketing Venezuela, in the workers’ councils, popular organizations, Afro and indigenous movements, women’s and gender-diverse movements. It is these movements that have struggled to make Venezuela, in the words of Greg Grandin, “the most democratic country in the Western Hemisphere.” And it is these movements that—shoulders to the wheel of history—are the only guarantors of progress."
2014  venezuela  socialism  radicalism  democracy  progress  rolanddenis  capitalism  chavismo  poverty  hugochávez  antonioledezma  nicolásmaduro  class  colectivos  government  politics  revolution  media 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Broken (with tweets) · ayjay · Storify
"I tried to bring together some of the best responses here, but Storify's search is br — um., somewhat inconsistent in its results."

[The tweets that sparked the conversation:]

"The vague use of "broken" is really problematic in an age of planned obsolescence. People used to fix broken things; now they're discarded. So to say "the economy is broken" or "higher ed. is broken" can be a way of evading the responsibility to make something better."

"Neither higher ed. nor the economy are broken. They're more like cars that run pretty well but are headed in the wrong direction. My point is: the language of "brokenness" breeds fatalism. Let's try a different and more precise set of descriptors."

Erin: "I think education could use a serious regression rather than innovation or 'disruption.' Too many promises broken."
alanjacobs  storify  audreywatters  erinkissane  language  words  meaning  corruption  compromise  jenniferhoward  ashergelzer-govatos  jrschmitt  justice  education  highered  highereducation  society  economics  fatalism  progress  obsolescence  change  innovation  disruption 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Links 2013 ["Bret Victor: It’s the end of 2013, and here’s what Bret fell in love with this year"]
"What is the difference between scientific and non-scientific thinking? Thinking within a consistent theory versus thinking haphazardly?

I'm crucially interested in the problem of representing theory such that intuitions are fruitful and theoretically sound, and representations suggest analogies that stay true to the theory. That's not diSessa's problem, but I feel that his viewpoint has some powerful clues."

"Hofstadter says that all thinking runs on analogy-making. Sounds good to me! If he's even partially correct, then it seems to me that a medium for powerful thinking needs to be a medium for seeing powerful analogies. And a medium for powerful communication needs to be designed around inducing the dance he's talking about up there."

Kieran Egan: "Thinking about education during this century has almost entirely involved just three ideas—socialization, Plato's academic idea, and Rousseau's developmental idea. We may see why education is so difficult and contentious if we examine these three ideas and the ways they interact in educational thinking today. The combination of these ideas governs what we do in schools, and what we do to children in the name of education.

Our problems, I will further argue, are due to these three ideas each being fatally flawed and being also incompatible with one other."

Bret Victor: "If you're going to design a system for education, it might help to understand the purpose of education in the first place. Egan points out how modern education is implicitly driven by a cargo-culty mish-mash of three lofty but mutually-incompatible goals. Good luck with that!"

"The cultural importance of the printing press doesn't have much to do with the technology -- the ink and metal type -- but rather how print acted as a medium to amplify human thought in particular ways.

Print was directly responsible for the emergence of a literate and educated society, which (for example) made possible the idea of societal self-governance. The US Constitution could only exist in a literate print culture, where (for example) the Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist papers could be debated in the newspapers.

As you read and watch Alan Kay, try not to think about computational technology, but about a society that is fluent in thinking and debating in the dimensions opened up by the computational medium.
Don't think about “coding” (that's ink and metal type, already obsolete), and don't think about “software developers” (medieval scribes only make sense in an illiterate society).

Think about modeling phenomena, modeling situations, simulating models, gaining a common-sense intuition for nonlinear dynamic processes. Then think about a society in which every educated person does these things, in the computational medium, as easily and naturally as we today read and write complex logical arguments in the written medium.

Reading used to be reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses. Today, it's just what everyone does. Think about a society in which science is not reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses, but is just what everyone does."

[Reading tips from Bret Victor:]

"Reading Tip #1

It’s tempting to judge what you read: "I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those."

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It’s almost certainly the case that you don’t fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say: "I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent."

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Reading Tip #2

Carver Mead describes a physical theory in which atoms exchange energy by resonating with each other. Before the energy transaction can happen, the two atoms must be phase-matched, oscillating in almost perfect synchrony with each other.

I sometimes think about resonant transactions as a metaphor for getting something out of a piece of writing. Before the material can resonate, before energy can be exchanged between the author and reader, the reader must already have available a mode of vibration at the author's frequency. (This doesn't mean that the reader is already thinking the author's thought; it means the reader is capable of thinking it.)

People often describe written communication in terms of transmission (the author explained the concept well, or poorly) and/or absorption (the reader does or doesn't have the background or skill to understand the concept). But I think of it more like a transaction -- the author and the reader must be matched with each other. The author and reader must share a close-enough worldview, viewpoint, vocabulary, set of mental models, sense of aesthetics, and set of goals. For any particular concept in the material, if not enough of these are sufficiently matched, no resonance will occur and no energy will be exchanged.

Perhaps, as a reader, one way to get more out of more material is to collect and cultivate a diverse set of resonators, to increase the probability of a phase-match.

Reading Tip #3

Misunderstandings can arise when an author is thinking in a broader context than the reader. A reader might be thinking tactically: :How can I do a better job today?" while the author is thinking strategically: "How can we make a better tomorrow?"

The misunderstanding becomes especially acute when real progress requires abandoning today's world and starting over.

We are ants crawling on a tree branch. Most ants are happy to be on the branch, and happy to be moving forward.


But there are a few special ants that, somehow, are able to see a bigger picture. And they can see that this branch is a dead end.


They can see that if we really want to move forward, we'll have to backtrack a long ways down.

They usually have a hard time explaining this to the ants that can only see the branch they're on. For them, the path ahead appears to go on forever.

bretvictor  brunolatour  andreadisessa  douglashofstadter  place  cognition  science  sherryturkle  kieranegan  terrycavanagh  stewartbrand  longnow  julianjaynes  davidhestenes  carvermead  paulsaffo  tednelson  dougengelbert  alankay  reading  toread  2013  gutenberg  printing  print  modeling  simulation  dynamicprocesses  society  progress  thinking  intuition  analogies  education  systemsthinking  howweread  learning  ideas  concepts  context  readiness  simulations 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The ambassadors of the hinterlands [Diplomacy influenced the literature of Vinicius de Moraes, Guimarães Rosa and João Cabral] | Revista Pesquisa FAPESP
"If there are differences among the authors, there is, nevertheless, one similar point: the three were diplomats. “More than a coincidence, diplomatic work, which entails coming into closer contact with the exterior aspects of a system, an opening to a set of differences in social, cultural and political life, enabled the articulation of the extremely heterogeneous projects of all three of them, with different esthetic pathways, but sharing a single concern: the tension between the line of discourse of the development-oriented Brazil of the elite and the line of discourse of the archaic and needy Brazil, whether rural or urban,” notes Menezes. These writers-diplomats corroded the notion of a closed, toughened regionalism, alien to any connection with the external world. At the same time, they go against the pretenses of a development-oriented State focused on the idea of national unity. Their texts emphasize the diverse identities of the country, Brazil’s multiplicity of cultures and of social needs,” he analyzes. Just as the movement of diplomatic writing is underscored by “de-territorialization.”

These writers-diplomats were travelers in a Brazil lost in the labyrinths of modernization. “The tension created in the spirit at the same time bureaucratic (they were civil servants) and also as travelers casts a piercing look upon those native ‘foreigners’ that wander around their country like the mass of post-war refugees seeking a home. The dislocation, the exile, the complex adaptation to different lands, which are part of the life of diplomats, contributed to the de-territorialization of their thinking,” assesses the researcher. The social reality revealed in their texts is addressed from an overseas viewpoint.

“Diplomatic writing is suspicious of a limited link with places. Cabral, Rosa and Vinicius know that they cannot write ‘from within,’ as they lack the speaking style of the peasant or the inhabitant of the shantytowns. That is why they created ‘spaces from without,’ in which they have voices that resonate from ‘within’. This boundary-based perspective, that comes neither within nor from without, pursues a constant dialogue among various propositions, giving rise to new reflections, new esthetic configurations,” notes Menezes.

On the itinerary of the reverberations of the writer diplomats, approximations and translations among the cultural production of several parts of the world arise, precisely during times when the country was experiencing its belated modernity, when local production was articulating itself with foreign manufacturing and the concepts of dependence started to be influenced by the concepts of cultural simultaneity, even though the idea of modernity in Brazil arose before the modernization process. Brasilia is a symbol of this, as the capital of an “avant-gardist” state in a nation in which many modernity values had not yet even been assimilated. “In this, the three writers were wise to resort to diplomatic writing, in particular to the use of affection for the ‘other’ in the acknowledgement of foreignness in relation to established places,” analyses the researcher.

Diplomatic work functions like an allegory of the process of literary creation that involves writing as a type of relation with otherness. Hence the empathetic image that the authors reflect about these “foreigners” to modernity moving about Brazil’s territory."

“The writer-diplomats, when dealing with the politics of writing, know that the most important political work is not tied to the visible physical frontiers, but to the means of separating the invisible lines of prejudice, of discrimination,” states Menezes. It is in this “minor place” that they try to corrode separation and exclusion. “In official diplomacy, the work is carried out via the political, legal and economic institutions. In ‘minor diplomacy,’ it is conducted, for example, by the representation of the simple folks exposed to the cruelty of reality, by their way of dealing with biopolitics, with the limits that they must cross every single day in order to survive,” he observes. “Translating internal needs into external possibilities to expand the power of control of a society over its destiny is, to my mind, the task of foreign policy,” wrote the diplomat and University of São Paulo professor Celso Lafer in O Itamaraty na cultura brasileira [The Brazilian Foreign Office in Brazilian culture] (Instituto Rio Branco, 2001).

“Rosa’s ability to use various linguistic registers was, on the literary plane, the perfect correlate of the first item on any diplomatic agenda: the establishment of borders, the basis of foreign policy, which assumes that there is a difference between that which is ‘internal’ (the national space) and that which is ‘external’ (the world),” Lafer analyzes. “He translated in his literature one of the basic principles of Brazilian diplomacy, a line of action geared toward transforming our borders from classical, separation borders into modern cooperation borders,” he assesses. Unlike Rosa and Cabral, who experienced the hinterlands during their childhoods, Vinicius only gets to know the North and the Northeast of the country at the age of 29, in 1942. He joined the foreign office when he was discovering the country and internalizing his new ‘Brazilianness’ and, as a result, his artistic production started being influenced by the social reality of Brazil and popular culture."

"“The writings of the trio are not based on class struggles, parties or power, but on mediations, on negotiations,” observes Menezes. In the text of the three diplomats, a number of uncomfortable images arise that clash with the discourse of the development-oriented nation symbolized by Brasilia, which the trio, each in his own way, was able to admire and to criticize.

“During a time when the country wanted to join the concert of nations, investing in modernization and in progress, they trusted in the future, but mistrusted the processes employed to lead the country into this new political and economic stage,” notes the researcher. So they ventured into the hinterlands, hills and to the outskirts of the cities, in an attempt to acknowledge the value of the popular culture and creations. “The ‘minor diplomacy’ and the ‘frontier poetics’ had to find something capable of forcing thinking to emerge from its interiority. “The movement toward the exterior of conventional places contributed to the development of the imagination and to the authors’ critical view,” says Menezes."
diplomats  diplomacy  writing  interstitialspaces  outsiders  joãoguimarãesrosa  guimarãesrosa  joãocabraldemeloneto  viniciusdemoraes  2012  translation  literature  otherness  brasil  brazil  borders  sertão  hinterlands  culture  prejudice  discrimination  separation  exclusion  biopolitics  celsolafer  carloshaag  mediations  negotiations  modernism  modernization  progress  ronieremenezes  interstitial 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Strategist Kilcullen: Warfare Is Changing In 3 Ways : NPR
"KILCULLEN: ...still tragic, but this is where I think the lessons are important because we did it by killing the city. We shut the city down. We brought in more than 100 kilometers of concrete T-wall. We put troops on every street corner. We got alongside people and try to make them feel safe. It was very, you know, sort of human intense and equipment intense. That option will not be open for us in the mega city. You won't be able to do that in Karachi or just obviously, hypothetical examples, Lagos or Dakar or any of the big cities. There are 20 million people...

INSKEEP: We're talking about 10 or 20 or 30 million people.

KILCULLEN: Yeah. You could lose the entire U.S. military that went to Iraq in one of the cities, and most people that lived there wouldn't even know. Counterinsurgency as practiced in Afghanistan and Iraq just won't be feasible in a large city on a coast line in the next 20 or 30 years.

As I look at all these future threats, I don't see a military solution to the vast majority of these challenges. There's very few environments where you would look at the problems and say, oh, yeah, obviously the solution is to send a lot of American troops in there. So I think we need to be looking fundamentally for nonmilitary solutions.

As I've looked at all the cities that are growing, one of the inescapable conclusions is you get conflict not where you have just basic income inequality. You get conflict where people are locked out of progress and they look at all these people having a good time and realize I'm never going to be part of that party and they decide to burn the house down. So a lot of it is about getting communities into collaborative approach to solving their own problems. And that's fundamentally the realm of, you know, social work and international assistance and diplomacy. It's not really a military function.

INSKEEP: Listening to you makes me think that you might believe the United States collectively, that we think about wars and conflicts the wrong way. We're a global power; we think about global threats. Used to think about communism, now we think about global Islam. We think about whole region, the Arab world.


INSKEEP: Is war actually more about local power, money, control?

KILCULLEN: Very much so. I had the opportunity to go to Mogadishu in the middle of 2012, looking at what had been going on after 20 years of civil war in Somalia. There is one and one only industrial facility that has survived for 20 years through all of that time, and that's the Coca-Cola factory just outside Mogadishu. And the reason for this is everyone chews this stimulant called khat...

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

KILCULLEN: ...or this kind of sort of leafy green thing that you chew, and it's very bitter.

INSKEEP: Kind of a drug.

KILCULLEN: It's a mild stimulant. It hops you up pretty dramatically when you chew it. But it's very bitter and so people want something sweet and fizzy to go with that. So all of the groups that are fighting each other about everything else, they can all agree on, hey, want to keep the Coke factory open.


KILCULLEN: And to me that's a great example. Right now we have what I would call a lot of conflict entrepreneurs. They're prolonging conflicts not because they want to win some political goal or because they want to change the form of government of a particular area, but just because they make a lot of money, they get a lot of power from conflict and they want to preserve that conflict to keep going. So I think part of it is about shifting people away from being conflict entrepreneurs to being stakeholders in a peaceful environment.

Right? How do we take that Coca-Cola factory example and broaden that out so that we create a set of common interests in a society...

INSKEEP: Oh, so that people who may have disparate views in the city realize that more and more of the city - not just the Coca-Cola factory - are worth saving, worth preserving.

KILCULLEN: Right. I mean if you like Coke you're going to love having water and you're going to love having education for your kid. You know, to say, you know, there's actually a broader way of thinking about a common set of interests. But again, like we're way outside the realms of what would be classically defined as military here. And then military, I think, has a role in providing enough stability and peace that people feel safe enough to engage in these kinds of discussions. But beyond that it's really civilians have to take the next step."
davidkillcullen  war  economics  cities  citystates  steveinskeep  2013  military  warfare  coca-cola  khat  us  policy  afghanistan  iraq  progress  inequality  disparity  urban  urbanism  mogadishu  somalia  goverment  money  capitalism  greed  business  socialwork  diplomacy 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The Paradox of a Great University: Frederick Wiseman's 'At Berkeley,' Reviewed : The New Yorker
"As I watched the movie, I wondered—where are the rebels? Where’s the anger? Where’s the innate sense of rebellion, of resistance to authority, not on any principled opposition to specific policies but to the mere fact of authority itself? Wiseman didn’t go into the dormitories in search of hedonism, riot, or argument, didn’t look for partiers or revelers or malcontents or the ornery, contentious, solitary, disaffected students. He reveals the university as a great institution for the focussing of intellectual energy, the generation of virtually infinite possibilities of mind and invention, the transmission of a progress-oriented sense of values—but one that, ultimately, depends on a sort of energy that the university itself can’t transmit and that, for its very survival, needs to find a way to suppress, divert, or co-opt. In “At Berkeley,” Wiseman, looking admiringly at the historic seat of student radicalism, comes up against the impossibility of a radical university—because real radicalism isn’t something that responsible administrators unwilling to renounce the proper administration of the university itself, and maybe even to put its very existence at risk, can foster.

The paradox of the movie is that of the good student—the better the university does its job, the less likely its students are to defy the institution and the wider set of values and policies that it embodies and, ultimately, reinforces. And that’s why my nightmare is also, in a way, Wiseman’s own."
ucberkeley  radicalism  rebellion  revolution  protest  institutions  highered  highereducation  2013  film  documentary  frederickwiseman  atberkeley  education  unschooling  deschooling  invention  administration  dissent  progress  richardbrody  authority  resistance  policy  opposition  stagnation 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming | Books |
"Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open."
books  libraries  fiction  literature  2013  neilgaiman  literacy  writing  empathy  invention  creativity  learning  freedom  access  discontent  change  agency  progress 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Being a loving resistance fighter from Neil Postman's "Technopoly"
(from Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology)

""You must try to be a loving resistance fighter. ... By 'loving' I mean that, in spite of the confusion, errors, and stupidities you see around you, you must always keep close to your heart the narratives and symbols that once made the United States the hope of the world and that may yet have enough vitality to do so again. ...

... Which brings me to the 'resistance fighter' part of my principle.

Those who resist the American Technopoly are people

who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked, and why;
who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;

who have freed themselves from the belief in the magical powers of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;

who refuse to allow psychology or any 'social science' to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense;

who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding;

who do not regard the aged as irrelevant;

who take seriously the meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they 'reach out and touch someone,' expect that person to be in the same room;

who take the great narratives of religion seriously and who do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth;

who know the difference between the sacred and the profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity's sake;

who admire technological ingenuity but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement.

A resistance fighter understands that technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, that every technology--from an IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a computer--is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore require scrutiny, criticism, and control.

In short, a technological resistance fighter maintains a epistemological and psychic distance from any technology, so that it always appears somewhat strange, never inevitable, never natural.""

[via: ]
resistance  neilpostman  technology  crapdetection  philosophy  policy  politics  criticalthinking  progress  technopoly  information  understanding  commonsense  truth  judgement  efficiency 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Hullabaloo: California Dreaming
"New Rule: Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid -- very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can't the rest of the country stop us -- we're going to drag you along with us.

It wasn't that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable. But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown.

Since then, everything Republicans say can't or won't work -- gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail -- California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society -- universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana -- has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up."

[from: ]

"The truth is that it's very far from perfect here. It's not as if the Democrats in Sacramento, including Jerry Brown, are free from conflict and corruption. But for the most part, they aren't insane which makes a huge difference when you're trying to drag yourself out of a hole created by greedheads and kooks in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis. Just denying lunatics the power to create chaos is enough to allow for some modest government actions to turn the ship of state a few degrees toward normal. Lord knows they could have done more. But Maher is correct that we were able to at least keep the state from completely melting down by refusing to empower this right wing freakshow.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and our pudding tastes a lot better than it did a few years ago. Unfortunately, our national government will very likely be held hostage by the far right in the House for quite a long time to come with no hope of changing it. These fanatics have basically walled themselves off in gerrymandered districts with only FOX and Rush to keep them company and they're determined to hunker down and outlast the rest of us. Who knows what chaos they'll leave in their wake when this is all done?"
us  government  california  billmaher  politics  economics  policy  2013  progress 
october 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
READ AND WATCH: President Obama addresses the Trayvon Martin case
"On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with — with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. I doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues, and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union."

[Video also at: ]

[Heard this earlier in the morning: "How To Fight Racial Bias When It's Silent And Subtle" ]
barackobama  trayvonmartin  race  bias  racism  us  progress  judgement  hope  2013  society 
july 2013 by robertogreco
‘A perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things’ — The Double Dagger — Medium
"Here [ ], Ken MacLeod characterizes the science fiction of Iain Banks, who died recently, and far too young:
A multiverse in continuous creation, a perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things, was for him a happy and hopeful notion, and one that he at least affected to take seriously as a possibility. It is easy, and right, to see in it a reflection of his own boundless creative exuberance.
Iain Banks’s science fiction, his chronicle of the cosmos-spanning civilization he called the Culture, is a monument to the idea that there is a bigger story waiting for us somewhere far from here; that this, all of it, is just the beginning, these ten thousand years (so far) the first chapter of a very thick and very interesting book. Not even the first chapter! Just the throat-clearing introduction. The copyright page.

Iain Banks imagined
a perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things

and the only halfway-reasonable memorial is simply this: create."
iaianbanks  robinsloan  creativity  2013  making  glvo  creation  energy  hope  happiness  culture  perspective  time  civilization  progress 
june 2013 by robertogreco