robertogreco + separation   6

2, 6: Neighborhoods, the Anti-Algorithm
"So what does this have to do with my neighborhood?

G.K. Chesterton, in a collection of essays titled Heretics, wrote:
"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men…In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized society groups come into existence founded upon sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery."

That was 1905. Long before the internet would give us the largest community of all. Yet, the oft-cited "filter bubble" of the internet is Chesterton's community of choice. The easy community. The one that just happens because we want what we want. And in a less troubled world, that wouldn't be much to fuss about. But in our world, the "filter bubble" is dangerous. It makes fear, hatred, and oppression all the more abundant, both online and off. Before the internet, we called "filter bubbles" segregation. We call them "filter bubbles" now because its easier to see them as a manifestation of technology than the effect of our choices. Because if we saw them for what they truly are, we'd have to call them segregation again. We thought we left that behind. But, no, we haven't. Segregation, of every kind, is the entropy against which we all struggle, the product of bodies living in time, wired down to our cells to survive at all costs, responding to their loudest signal, fear. Chesterton understood that the principal challenge we humans are given to work out in this life is each other, and that nowhere better than next door is that challenge met.

But in Facebook's world, next-door has no greater offer of intimacy than across town, or state, or country. In the large community, as Chesterton said, we can choose our companions. That's the appeal of the network. Community on my terms. Forget that we know it's not good for us. Or that it's dangerous. Forget that it's a shinier, faster form of segregation. Forget that it's invisible and layered, making it easier to explain away. None of this is Facebook's fault. If it wasn't them, then it would be AOL, or Friendster, or MySpace, or any of the many networks that came before it. We can't blame them — any of them — for segregation, however technological its 21st century incarnation may be. But we can blame them for selling it. The economic benefit of segregation is nothing new; it makes selling things easier. But segregation is Facebook's secret sauce. It's an economic imperative. Like just about every "platform" of the internet today, it is ruthlessly driven to box each one of us in. To confine us to an echo-chamber. Not for our own benefit, but for theirs. Because it makes it easier for them to control us. And no, not to usher in some dramatic, Illuminati-style new world order. It's hardly that interesting! It's to sell tiny display ads and make heaps of money. That's it. Controlling us is simply an act of inventory management.

Of course, it's easy to look past all of this. To point at the good that thrives on the network — and of that, there is plenty. The lonely who are no longer lonely because of it. The oppressed who grow more powerful when bound together. But to celebrate the network's role in that only heightens my awareness that it is something we could have — should have — without it. It's too easy, also, to celebrate the engines of our ingenuity. See this? Look what we have made! But that we are as enamored with the algorithm as we so clearly are is an indicator that our hearts are way out of sync with our minds. We have engineered such sophisticated tools for connecting, ordering, and studying ourselves; it's an astounding achievement. It's one we might even celebrate if it were truly an open project for the common good. But it isn't. Not even close. So why do we pretend that it is? The network is not ours. It's the other way around. We are the network's. To sell. That is, unless we get off the network. Or at least spend a whole lot less time there.

My neighbors have convinced me that community is not only of the network. Saying such a thing sounds trite. But it's another thing entirely to live it. Here's an example: Last year, the doctor and his wife down the street decided to organize weekly neighborhood dinners. Each Sunday evening, someone hosts dinner for the neighborhood. When I first heard the idea, I was aghast. Weekly! As in, every week? No, I thought, monthly, maybe. But we went to a few, then we hosted one of our own — which wasn't nearly as much work as we thought it would be — and we've regularly gone to most of the others since. It's not obligatory. It's not like if you go to one, you must go to them all. Or even that if you go to one, you must host one. Few people have gone to every dinner, but many of us have gone to most of them. And many of us have hosted one.

Spending this time together — committing to it — is how the work gets done, not the Facebook group. It's through being together, in each other's homes, in real life. Don't get me wrong, it's no utopia. People get on each other's nerves. Not everyone will become best friends. We're talking about people here. But that's the point. The network can't sell that. It can sell our attention, but the less of our lives we live on the network, the less our attention feels like us. That's the control we still have. Eventually, hopefully, leveraging that control could change the economics of the network. Consider the neighborhood the anti-algorithm."
2015  chrisbutler  facebook  socialnetworks  gkchesterson  difference  filterbubbles  algorithms  neighborhoods  discovery  community  communities  understanding  empathy  small  attention  feeds  segregation  diversity  technology  separation  togetherness  companionship  sympathy 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Is it time to cut adrift from island thinking? – Libby Robin – Aeon
"Island-mindedness is born in island places, but the islands of the mind have a broad appeal. Is this hard-wired? Recognising an island of safety and refuge might have enabled our hominin ancestors to find stepping stones out of Africa in times of environmental stress. The concept of the island has long been prominent in literature and useful in science: biologists and geographers, national park managers and archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and evolutionary theorists have all turned at times to the model of the island. Yet it might no longer be a great model for the new needs and concerns of our rapidly globalising century."



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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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



"Surtsey is still bleak and black, but mosses and lichens, windswept grasses and stunted shrubs now soften its edges. All its creatures still live as much with the global systems of winds and storms as on the precious fragment of land that erupted 50 years ago. Surviving on such a remote island is, paradoxically, a mark of cosmopolitanism. Only plants and animals that travel easily will flourish there."
libbyrobin  via:anne  2014  iceland  islands  science  isolation  cosmopolitanism  judithschalansky  picoiyer  surtseyisland  peterveth  charlesdarwin  alfredrusselwallace  galápagos  alexandervonhumboldt  newzealand  australia  bali  lombok  ecology  biology  life  robertmacarthur  edwardowilson  ecosystems  discreetness  nature  wilderness  complexity  extinction  dispersal  invasion  adaptation  competition  biogeography  geography  lordhoweisland  yrjöhaila  equilibrium  conservation  adrianmanning  jakobvonuexküll  flows  circulation  borders  people  humans  separation  anthropocene  darwin 
december 2014 by robertogreco
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
Fallen Idols - NYTimes.com
"Tobias Wolff was a literary hero to Saunders. “Toby was the first great writer I ever met and what the meeting did for me was disabuse me of the idea that a writer had to be a dysfunctional crazy person,” Saunders said. “Toby was loving, gentle, funny, kind, wise — yet he was producing these works of great (sometimes dark) genius. It was invigorating to be reminded that great writing was (1) mysterious and (2) not linked, in any reductive, linear way, to the way one lived: wild writing could come from a life that was beautifully under control. Watching him, I felt: O.K., nurture the positive human parts of yourself and hope they get into your work, eventually.”

Writers and their books will always be inextricably connected, but the relationship between them isn’t simple. As Saunders told me, “A work of art is something produced by a person, but is not that person — it is of her, but is not her. It’s a reach, really — the artist is trying to inhabit, temporarily, a more compact, distilled, efficient, wittier, more true-seeing, precise version of herself — one that she can’t replicate in so-called ‘real’ life, no matter how hard she tries. That’s why she writes: to try and briefly be more than she truly is.”

Maybe, as a reader, that is what I keep falling in love with — not the author, but the art of reaching."

[Similar to Tobias Wolff and George Saunders as creative people not having to be "a dysfunctional crazy person": Robert Irwin and Dave Brubeck]
georgesaunders  creativity  tobiaswolff  2013  howwework  art  writing  writers  relationships  books  reaching  goodpeople  goodness  separation 
july 2013 by robertogreco
dConstruct2011 videos: The Transformers, Kars Alfrink
"In this talk, Kars Alfrink – founder and principal designer at applied pervasive games studio Hubbub – explores ways we might use games to alleviate some of the problems wilful social self-seperation can lead to. Kars looks at how people sometimes deliberately choose to live apart, even though they share the same living spaces. He discusses the ways new digital tools and the overlapping media landscape have made society more volatile. But rather than to call for a decrease in their use, Kars argues we need more, but different uses of these new tools. More playful uses."

[See also: http://2011.dconstruct.org/conference/kars-alfrink AND http://speakerdeck.com/u/dconstruct/p/the-transformers-by-kars-alfrink ]

"Kars looks at how game culture and play shape the urban fabric, how we might design systems that improve people’s capacity to do so, and how you yourself, through play, can transform the city you call home."
monocultures  rulespace  self-governance  gamification  filterbubble  scale  tinkering  urbanism  urban  simulationfever  animalcrossing  simulation  ludology  proceduralrhetoric  ianbogost  resilience  societalresilience  division  belonging  rioting  looting  socialconventions  situationist  playfulness  rules  civildisobedience  separation  socialseparation  nationality  fiction  dconstruct2011  dconstruct  identity  cities  chinamieville  design  space  place  play  gaming  games  volatility  hubbub  howbuildingslearn  adaptability  adaptivereuse  architecture  transformation  gentrification  society  2011  riots  janejacobs  karsalfrink  simulations  from delicious
december 2011 by robertogreco
Suburbs and Cubicles : peterme.com
"The cubicle farm strikes me as the real-world embodiment of the dehumanization represented in org charts. I’m reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Life, Inc., about the rise of corporatism. He mentions the flight to the suburbs (also mentioned in The McDonaldization of Society) and I wondered about the connection between the suburbs and the cubicle farm. Both contributed to the individualizing of America, our separation from one another.. Both strike me as products of Weberian rationalization, in that tract homes and cubicle farms are models of efficiency and quantifiability from the stand point of production… but ultimately isolating and damaging from the perspective of those who have to live in and use them."
suburbs  suburbia  cubicles  perermerholz  work  workplace  structures  industrialage  deschooling  unschooling  community  communities  separation  individualized  individualism  collaboration  corporatism  lcproject  tcsnmy  hierarchy  petermerholz  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco

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