robertogreco + transcontextualism   20

THE THINKBELT: THE UNIVERSITY THAT NEVER WAS | Discover Society
"In this commentary, I revisit an article from New Society which evokes a moment in the development of British higher education in the post-war period but also, I argue, could still illuminate thinking on debates about the roles and responsibilities of universities within their wider social settings. The Potteries Thinkbelt piece, published in 1966, proposes an unbuilt project that today serves as a parable of what higher education did not become, of a path not taken. To contemporary eyes, aspects of the Thinkbelt proposal may seem fantastical; yet, if we can enable what Coleridge named ‘that willing suspension of disbelief’, it could offer us lessons about the relationship between universities and the cities or regions that host them.

The author of the Thinkbelt was Cedric Price, an architect with relatively few realized projects but who, through his teaching roles, writings and published drawings, has nonetheless exerted a deep influence on how leading members of a generation of architects think about architecture, and how their buildings sit within their wider social settings. In the Thinkbelt, Price outlined an ambitious project for a centre of higher education amongst the coal fields of Staffordshire. These pits originally served ceramics factories throughout the region but, by the early 1960s, had fallen into disuse – de-industrialisation came early to the Potteries. The landscape Price wished to regenerate spanned approximately 100 square miles, was triangular in shape, and stretched from Pitts Hill in the North, Madeley at its Western point and Meir to the East, with Stoke and Newcastle-Under-Lyme located at its heart.

The Thinkbelt would connect to outside rail, road and air networks via transfer areas at the points of the triangle. Industrial units at these points offered campus sites that could be reconfigured according to differing uses – so, in addition to public learning spaces, these units would also offer accommodation for visiting students and staff. The transfer sites would be connected together by continuously running railbuses using the disused railway network that previously had connected the pits with the potteries; Price was interested in enhancing the efficacy of the already there. Furthermore, the railbuses themselves could be reconfigured as learning spaces so that teaching might be carried out en route, with fold-out deck units offering more space for larger lectures and talks.

Price envisaged the Thinkbelt as offering education for 20,000 students, following mostly applied curricula in engineering and science subjects. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was an industrial undertaking in large part; its remit included working with regional industries as research and design centres, as well as offering re-training in new industries for local residents whose work in the pits and potteries had disappeared. The Thinkbelt was designed for 20,000 students, but with provision for 40,000 residential units that were flexible in form and adaptable to possible relocation and aggregation; Price wished to see student housing combined with local council tenancies. The four different forms of residential units were crudely named as sprawl, capsule, crate and battery housing, using terminology specifically intended to irritate professional designers.

The Thinkbelt rejected previous and contemporaneous ideas about appropriate university architecture, with Price’s aesthetic citing industrial forms such as the container, rather than what he perceived to be the pretensions of twentieth century university buildings. Typically, he viewed contemporaneous campus designs as aspiring to the medieval form of the castle (ivory towers included), making defensive spaces removed from the rest of their towns. Price made a virtue of his avoidance of the design principles that characterised the university movement in both pre-war and post-war periods. ‘While students’, he wrote in 1970, ‘are at present one of the most mobile social groups of technologically advanced societies the nature of their own particular production plants – schools, colleges and universities, is static, intro-spective, parochial, inflexible and not very useful’ (1).

If Price cared little for university architecture, he cared even less for the principles of university education, taking care to avoid the use of the word in his scheme. Certainly his scheme for such a large cohort of students by contemporaneous standards worked against the exclusivity typical of the sector at that time; his preference for science and engineering spoke to the idea that education should be seen as serving wider societal uses, rather than purely for the fulfilment of individuals from elite social groupings. The Thinkbelt sought to correct an imbalance in the esteem paid to ‘applied’ rather than ‘pure’ knowledge, through an architecture which was functional, flexible and impermanent rather than ornamental, fixed in purpose and inert.

The Thinkbelt was to be a site of learning premised on patterns of mobility, at individual, collective and even infrastructural scales. This mobility, embedded within the physical buildings themselves, spoke to a wider understanding of the word in debates about meritocracy and the opening out of higher education to a part of the population hitherto under-represented. Price’s project was far-sighted in its emphasis on flexibility within the curriculum, planning for access through life-long and part-time learning and hence alive to the needs of student groups that, as Paul Stanistreet has suggested, are often overlooked in contemporary debates. Certainly the Thinkbelt anticipates debates about whom and what higher education is for, pre-dating current arguments about the value of a university degree in terms of the ‘employability’ agenda for the individual learner and the value of an educated workforce for national industries. Price’s analysis of the social value of higher education more generally is incisive; towards the conclusion of the New Society piece he makes the case for student loans to become salaries, arguing that where ‘people are doing a job society wants them to do, they must be paid for it’.

Moreover, the Thinkbelt prompts consideration of the disjuncture that can arise between the places where we work and where we live. The combination of student residences with local council tenancies sought to integrate the student experience with that of the wider population, disrupting preconceived ideas about the housing of students on campus accommodation away from residents of the towns and cities that give universities their names. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was written in the shadow of early tensions, noted in the article itself, between managers and students at Keele, and the University’s apparent disregard for the surrounding region. In this magazine, Mary Stuart has questioned how alive universities are to their civic missions – the Thinkbelt, for all its hypothetical aspects, gives us a benchmark for thinking through such issues. Are our universities supplementary to the cities and regions that give them their names and that sustain them economically? How do academics and students engage with each other? And how do we interact with our neighbouring populations?

The Thinkbelt is an experiment in conceiving of a different type of learning environment; think about the dynamics of a lecture in a moving rail carriage, and how it might bring staff and students into contact in a way that we can all too easily avoid in the stratified spaces we build into our campus lives. The Thinkbelt is premised on a different social and political settlement for higher education to that which we labour under today; in its own time, it did not attract the attention of policy makers, falling as it did by the margins of planning for the University of the Air – later to become the Open University. Yet its focus on place remains of interest. In returning to the Thinkbelt here, my argument is not that Price’s proposal offers us answers to our debates about the public role of universities today – there are too many questions around the complexities of academic freedom, architectural design and political context to claim that. Nonetheless, as Samantha Hardingham reflects, ‘if there is a use for presenting this material again, here and now, it may be to ask whether we are looking at something we already know, or looking for something we still cannot see yet’ (2).

Whether Price’s proposal can offer clues about a future we cannot yet see is interesting for a number of reasons, not least in raising the question of why we find it difficult to imagine our futures in quite the same ways, with quite the same optimism as he did. At the beginning of this commentary, I suggested that adopting a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ might be useful in approaching the Thinkbelt; for Coleridge, the suspension of disbelief is necessary to enable what he understood as ‘poetic faith’. Poetry and faith – it strikes me that these are qualities too often missing from thinking about higher education, and its planning; by these I mean a belief in the potential of universities to actively shape socially just economies and societies (rather than accelerating the reproduction of inequalities, as Stephen McKay and Karen Rowlingson argue), and the lyrical licence to imagine how they might do this."
darylmartin  2014  thinkbelt  cedricprice  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  architecture  education  rail  transportation  unschooling  deschooling  cities  urban  urbanism  disbelief  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Spadework | Issue 34 | n+1
"By the time I started organizing so much that it felt like a full-time job, it was the spring of 2016, and I had plenty of company. Around the country there were high-profile efforts to organize magazines, fast-food places, and nursing homes. Erstwhile Occupiers became involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined the exploding Democratic Socialists of America, whose members receive shabby business cards proclaiming them an “official socialist organizer.” Today’s organizers — not activists, thank you — make clear that they are not black bloc participants brawling with police or hippies plotting a love-in. They are inspired by a tradition of professional revolutionaries, by Lenin’s exhortation that “unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.” Organizing, in other words, is unembarrassed about power. It recognizes that to wield it you need to persuade untold numbers of people to join a cause, and to begin organizing themselves. Organizing means being in it to win.

But how do you win? Historical materialism holds that crises of capitalism spark revolts, perhaps even revolutions, as witnessed in the eruption of Occupy and Black Lives Matter; uprisings in Spain, Greece, and Egypt; and the British student movement against tuition fees. But there’s no guide for what happens in the long aftermath, as the left has often learned the hard way.

In previous moments of upheaval and promise the left has often turned to Antonio Gramsci, who sought to understand why working-class revolts in Europe following the Russian Revolution had led to fascism. Gramsci concluded that on some level people consent to subservience, even take it for granted, when the order in which they live comes to seem like common sense. Hegemony was subtler than outright coercion, more pervasive, permeating the tempos of daily life.

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”"



"The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay."



"Realizing that it was not enough for people to like me was revelatory. I had to learn to be more comfortable with antagonism and disagreement, with putting a choice in front of people and letting them make it instead of smiling away tension and doing the work myself. I had to expect more from other people. With other organizers, I role-played the conversations I feared most before having them; afterward, I replayed them over and over in my head. I struggled to be different: the version of myself I wanted to be, someone who could move people and bend at least some tiny corner of the universe.

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one."



"The relationality of organizing is maybe the hardest thing to understand before you’ve done it. But it is the most important. This is not because people are governed by emotions instead of reason, though they sometimes are. It’s because the entire problem of collective action is that it’s rational to act collectively where it’s not to act alone. And you build the collective piece by piece.

Organizing relationships can be utopian: at their best, they offer the feminist dream of intimacy outside of romance or family. In the union, I loved people I did not know very well. In meetings I was often overcome with awe and affection at the courage and wisdom of the people there with me. I came to count many of the people I organized with as my dearest friends. When I needed help, there were always people I could call, people who would always pick up the phone, people I could and did talk to about anything. These relationships often served as a source of care and support in a world with too little of those things. But they were not only friendships, and not only emotional ballast. The people I looked to for support would also push me when it was called for, as I would them; that, I knew, was the deal.

Our relationships forged the practical commitments to one another that held the union together. They made us accountable to each other. They were difficult and multifaceted, often frustrating, intensely vulnerable, and potentially transformative but no less prone than any other relationship to carelessness, hurt, and betrayal, and always a lot of work. We were constantly building them and testing their limits, pushing each other harder the closer we got. They had to bear a lot of weight. In more abject moments, I wondered whether they were anything more than instrumental. More often, though, I wondered what was so menacing about usefulness that it threatened to contaminate all else.

The word comrade, Jodi Dean argues, names a political relationship, not a personal one: you are someone’s comrade not because you like them but because you are on the same side of a struggle. Comrades are not neighbors, citizens, or friends; nor are they any kind of family, though you might call them brother or sister. The comrade has no race, gender, or nation. (As one meme goes: “My favorite gender-neutral pronoun is comrade.”) Comrades are not even unique individuals; they are “multiple, replaceable, fungible.” You can be comrades with millions of people you have never met and never will. Your relationship is ultimately with the political project you have in common. To many noncommunists, Dean readily admits, this instrumentalism is “horrifying”: a confirmation that communism means submitting to the Borg. But the sameness of the comrade is a kind of genuine equality.

Being an organizer is like being a comrade in some ways but different in others. The people you organize alongside may be comrades, but the people you are organizing often aren’t; the point of organizing, after all, is to reach beyond the people who are already on your side and win over as many others as you can. So you can’t assume the people you organize share your values; in fact, you should usually assume they don’t. This means that unlike comrades, organizers aren’t interchangeable. It matters who you are. McAlevey’s theory of the organic leader is that people have to be organized by people they know and trust, not by strangers who claim to have the right ideas. The SNCC looked for “strong people” — not necessarily traditional leaders, but people who were respected and trusted among their peers, on the logic that people would only take risky political action alongside people they trusted. When organizers reflect the people they organize, they win: when women of color organize other women of color, a 2007 paper by Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren shows, they win almost 90 percent of elections. This cuts both ways: when women and people of color led the organizing in my department, we often struggled to get white men to take us seriously.

Yet the comradely element of organizing can also open up space for building relationships with people beyond those boundaries. It’s not that class and race and gender disappear, transcended by the cause — … [more]
alyssabattistoni  organizing  academia  academics  highereducation  highered  2019  labor  work  unions  thatcherism  reaganism  margartthatcher  communism  ronaldreagan  capitalism  meritocracy  hegemony  stuarthall  busyness  antoniogramsci  comrades  relationships  relationality  utopia  hierarchy  instrumentalism  equality  leadership  politics  class  race  gender  school  schooliness  schooling  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
may 2019 by robertogreco
S U N U en Instagram: "Clip of musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron explaining the meaning behind “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” on an episode of PBS’ “The 90s” discussing race and racism."
"The revolution wasn't televised in the 60s. Is it gonna it be televised in the 90s?"

“Well, you know, the catch phrase, what that was all about (“The revolution will not be televised.”) that was about the fact that the first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move. So, when we said that the revolution will not be televised, we were saying that, like, that the thing that’s going to change people is something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It’ll just be something that you see and all of a sudden you realize, “I’m on the wrong page,” or “I’m on the right page, but on the wrong note and I’ve got to get in sync with everyone else to understand what's happening in this country.” But I think that the Black Americans have been the only real die-hard Americans here because we’re the only ones who’ve carried the process through the process. That everyone else has sorta, like, skipped stages. We’re the ones who marched…"
gil-scottheron  1990s  unschooling  thirdloop  transcontextualization  enlightenment  thinking  cognitiveleaps  transcontextualism  paradigmshift  race  racism 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Against Productivity – The Message – Medium
"Here is what really happened in Puerto Rico four years ago: I fell into a funk, beat myself up a bit, and spent the rest of the time wandering around (mostly to the same places) and daydreaming. I wrote a few strange blog posts which no one read. I went a bit further into credit card debt. My days themselves were pretty quiet. I began to really think hard about what the internet does to society by just being the internet. I wrote out some of what I’d seen, and replayed them in my mind while I wandered around the beach. I made a video about being a robot in a Japanese blues bar asking if anyone could really see a singularity from inside of it. I tried to imagine 2010 me without the net. I tried to imagine 1989 me with the net. I talked about how the internet does and doesn’t change things in a place like PR. I read about Rwanda, and about the trade union history of PR and read and talked more about the history of coffee. Puerto Ricans are big on coffee. And then I left. I don’t remember where I went next.

But it all means something else now. When I look back on not only the wasted time in PR, but the couple of unproductive years around it I see it differently now. When I wasn’t beating myself up for not being productive enough, I was thinking about and interacting with the world. I was laying the first stones of a new foundation, a new way of thinking about networked culture, and even about our place on this planet. Instead of getting things done I was learning, smiling at people I didn’t share a language with, and cross-connecting the notions of my brain and the experiences of my life. It all lay fallow in me for a long time, as notes on my blog, snatches of poems, story bits to never be written. The pieces of this change were pieces of lyrics I wasted time writing on post-it notes I promptly lost, and articles I read instead of working and bits of conversation and pop songs that clung like ribbons and buttons and bits of flowers stuck all over my psyche.

My wasteful and unproductive time was the only time I asked: What should I be doing? What is a worthwhile life? And so it followed that was the only time when I could start to answer those questions. What is good work? Is any of this worth it? What makes life worth living? What good can I do in this world?

What is this world anyway?

I am only now beginning to harvest what was sown in that wasted and unproductive time. But now there are so many threads and ideas from that time, I can’t possibly follow them all. I see the world differently now. I like it more, and I see, just a tiny bit better, how it fits together.

Wisdom takes time. It takes staring out into the rain, It takes service to others. It takes getting nothing done to make us human again. To see the connections between things requires studying the blank spaces between them, days that slip into boredom and loneliness with only a person and their senses and their imagination to keep them company. I can now see that much of what I’ve written in the past year started in 2010, in Puerto Rico. I can see how the time around it allowed me to work the stories of 2011 and 2012 with an insight and understanding that I couldn’t have gotten without the failures to produce that shaped my 2009 and 2010. I can now see that my productive work — at least the good stuff, comes from my unproductive time, from my empty yearning to understand the world.

In many ways foolishness isn’t the opposite of wisdom, but its absence. Productivity is the opposite of wisdom. Humanity is a creature of time and imagination. From these things our fruits are born more than manufactured. Productivity is a quality of perfect robots. Stories, adventures and all new things still have to come from messy humans.

We should spend more time wasting time. We all need to be bored more. We all need to spend more time looking quizzically at birds we don’t recognize. We all need a little more time to connect the dots and see if they matter. I don’t know how much more, but sometimes you have to do things without knowing how much you need.

As for me, I want to go back to Puerto Rico."
productivity  life  philosophy  quinnorton  2017  slow  slowness  writing  idleness  transcontextualism  internet  web  networkedculture  purpose  transcontextualization 
november 2017 by robertogreco
my friend pokey — futures market
"(ed. note: stephen died while writing this, may his sinful heart now rest in peace)

I think that every work implies an audience, i think that projected audience will be perpetually dreamlike and strange since it’s drawn not from human consciousness but from a form of same which has been distorted through embodiment in alien material. Refracted by some “medium” and then existing as a transferable, reproducible object and living an object life separable from the human circumstances by which it was produced. And I think that when we evaluate a work part of what we evaluate is this audience and the prospect of belonging to it, the possibility of a community with those assumptions and those values. The saying “give people what they want” always confuses me in this context because surely part of what they want is the possibility of wanting something else, of being a person who wants something else. Advertisements famously sell not just a product but also the prospect of being the kind of person who likes that product. Even the most conservative works pull a bait and switch in this regards in that part of what they suggest is the prospect of being a person who already knows what they want, of having character and qualities that persist in time rather than being a shapeless blob of experiences.

Avant-garde work could be said to be that which prioritises the formation of new audiences, or the possibility of forming new audiences, above any actual qualities which those audiences would have. It draws on the utopian aspect of creating new social structures, new communities, where whatever form they ultimately end up taking the fact that they can be made at all is in some way a celebration of agency and the possibility of new futures. But the other side of things is that even as the appeal of these imaginary communities comes partly from their distance from our real ones, they’re also evaluated on the basis of their feasibility - their power comes not just from a list of bloodless alternities but from possessing a transformative quality, the real possibility of enactment which is used to make demands on the contemporary. Not just a future but one already germinating in the present. And though I like and respect a lot of these works it’s also hard, for this reason, not to feel a little uneasy about them - because the imagery of an imminent, transfigurative break from the present has been so co-opted as a way to conceal the fundamental limitations and eerie inertia of capitalism that I think it’s hard for anything drawing on that tradition to escape lending credibility to it, even when its interests are directly opposed. 20+ years of an increasingly threadbare neoliberal consensus in the face of problems which grow more and more obvious mean the notion of an unexpected, miraculous shift in the causal order grows more and more central, from the vague sense that someone will invent, like, a moss or something which will stop global warming in the nick of time to the idea that the same clumsy, stupid videogames we’ve been bonking against invisible walls in for decades now will any minute now transmogrify into the effortless freefloating virtual lucid dreams of legend. And in fact videogames provide a constant running example of just how profitably this perception can be managed - - from a medium which from inception built upon a certain futuristic quality coming both from the historically new level of consumer access to computer technology and from decades of science-fiction representations of same, and which leveraged that into a perennial suggestion that the bright new day was always just around the corner - that by playing videogames now you were securing a kind of early-investor bragging rights to the media singularity to come. If there’s anything historically new about videogames it’s the extent to which the very suggestion of potential developments to be had later on was finally recognised as more profitable than any intrinsic qualities of the form itself.

And I think all this raises some problems when we think about avant-garde and experimental videogames, not just because in replicating some of the assumptions of the industry they risk being assimilated by it - you can’t game-design your way out of late capitalism, there are no final aesthetic solutions to economic problems etc - but because by repeating those assumptions they risk being judged by the standard of contribution to this same monolithic vidcon future, and then discarded accordingly when “the future” changes according to stockholder diktats. I mean that when you see these works as yet more expressions of “the medium” it’s harder for them to survive when that status is taken away again, and that at this point it’s difficult to conceive of a future of videogames that doesn’t in some way just flow back into the orthodox one still being sold.

Why does this matter. I think the videogame market will crash again because that’s what markets do, and when it does I believe it’ll be blamed on small engines, on unity and rpgmaker, on asset-flipping and joke simulators and walking games and political games rather than e.g. the incessant boom-bust cycles of capitalism or the fact that the particular interactive media singularity that videogames have invested so much image, money and energy into identifying themselves with looks more and more dated and less likely to happen. I think there’ll be more gamergate bullshit from people who invested in the stupid, stupid videogame dream and got told by youtube millionaires that it was being undermined from within by sjw fifth columnists making pug dating games. I think that just as places like YouTube have shown a willingness to quietly cut down on who’s able to make money through their service places like Steam will do the same thing, particularly after already raising the prospect of exponentially increasing the cost of using the store for small developers already. I think middlebrow columnists at the Atlantic will cash checks saying well, a lot of those games weren’t pushing the medium forward anyway, and that the whole thing will end up being recast as a morality tale about an overcrowded, overdiverse market, and that a lot of valuable work people are doing now will be just wiped from the record in the same way as a lot of pre-2007 indie games were, or flash games, or interactive CD-ROMs, or whatever the fuck.

I think that when this happens experimental games or avant garde games or alternative games will be seen less as possible alternatives to the mainstream tradition than as offshoots of it which got pruned, and I’m not sure how much help they will really be to anyone trying to figure out ways to make these things without getting pulled into the endless churning blood rotor of existing videogame culture.

I’ve written before that the game scenes which interest and excite me most are things like FNAF fangames, Undertale fangames, Unity horror games, RPG Maker games, hyperspecific utility pieces like the Prosperity Path orbs, less for any particular aesthetic or design qualities than for them being videogames which manage to escape some of the awful binary of Producer/Consumer and the ideas of “importance” which evolve later to help justify that perverse dynamic. Like what does it mean to experience a game if it’s just part of a big stack of almost interchangeable things and anyway you’re only absently going through it when searching for more stuff to steal for your own interchangeable thing. Which is healthier and more interesting than “art”. But I think part of it too is the sense of having a specific audience to bounce against, even if it’s just of people looking to take your Secret Of Mana midis, and the way that the concreteness of that audience helps defuse the kind of creeping tendency towards cultural speculation that comes with the belief in a big medium-wide payout somewhere down the line that’d justify the time and energies of everyone involved. I don’t think it’s enough to say people should make an effort to criticise games for what they are as opposed to what they might be, or whatever, insofar as that’s even possible. I think being able to appreciate what they are is dependent on recognizing that they have an audience which is similarly settled, similarly “just there”. And I think working towards constructing that kind of space would mean, yes, a sort of concession of “the future” to the stockholders of industry, renouncing the right to eventually reap that dread crop. But in the process being able to better engage with the present and all the disparite forces and strands within it who have similarly been lopped off that grand narrative, or were never part of it to begin with, and navigate all the ambiguities and potentials of that space. I think the future of videogames is the same kind of desperate, self-willed dream as those years worth of Twitter shares, for a company which has never actually been profitable, or the horrible locked-down image of infinity that sees new Rocket Racoon movies coming out every year til 2099, I think those dreams are ones that emerge and grow stronger as the actual basis for them either materially or affectively grows ever more decrepit, I think however overwhelming they get they can only really be strangled in the present.

As they say… no futur-what! what are you doing in my house! no-aieee!! (manuscript abruptly cuts off)"
via:tealtan  videogames  capitalism  avantgarde  audience  audiences  potential  invention  utopia  games  gaming  media  neoliberalism  2017  possibility  transcontextualism  alternative  art  future  markets  economics  alternities  transformation  change  fandom  agency  moss  transcontextualization 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Final Boss Form — We produce, learn, adapt, repeat, and perpetuate...
"We produce, learn, adapt, repeat, and perpetuate ways not to have to think or to act consistently, from one context to the next. New York’s “stop and frisk policy,” which regularly subjected minorities to arbitrary humiliation and abuse in the name of public safety, was considered reasonable until very recently, not only by the Bloomberg mayoral administration but also by many white people who felt “safer” because of it. The Black Lives Matter movement has had to insist on the value of black lives, as opposed to “all” lives, because black lives have not registered as valuable, in the manner of “all” lives, to the white majority. When I taught at a large, private, urban university, all of the food court workers in the student union building and all of their student clientele were in their late teens and twenties; strikingly, and yet somehow invisibly, all of the food servers were black, and most of the students were white. Closer to home, most of the universities I know of, including my own, rely on the labor of adjunct professors whose names we never learn because they are not “really” our colleagues.

We are incredibly good at not knowing what we know, and so were the Victorians. The same culture that developed and embraced modes for representing inequality and injustice could be horribly blind to its own oppressive practices. The same Dickens who wrote humanitarian epics wrote deeply racist essays. The same narrator in Jane Eyre who famously makes common cause with slaves describes Bertha in stock racist terms. Elizabeth Gaskell undercuts her representation of the suffering working classes in Mary Barton with caveats about the “dumb and inarticulate” masses. There are many, many examples any of us here could cite of Victorian disjointedness – so many that we tend to expect them. “Blind spots” like these are so normal that they themselves have become easy to ignore.[i]"

—Carolyn Betensky, “Notes on Presentism and the Cultural Logic of Dissociation”

[full text here: http://www.boundary2.org/2016/10/carolyn-betensky-notes-on-presentism-and-the-cultural-logic-of-dissociation/ ]
carolynbetensky  race  racism  context  transcontextualism  oppression  inequality  discrepancy  injustice  blacklivesmatter  elizabethgaskell  janeeyre  victorian  disjointedness  blindspots  doublebind  highered  highereducation  adjuncts  labor  universities  colleges  servicework  2016  us  transcontextualization 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist | Gardner Writes
"I’ve been mulling over this next post for far too long, and the results will be brief and rushed (such bad food, and such small portions!). You have been warned.

The three strands, or claims I’m engaging with (EDIT: I’ve tried to make things clearer and more parallel in the list below):

1. The computer is “just a tool.” This part’s in partial response to the comments on my previous post. [http://www.gardnercampbell.net/blog1/?p=2158 ]

2. Doug Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” [http://www.dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html ] is “difficult to understand” or “poorly written.” This one’s a perpetual reply. 🙂 It was most recently triggered by an especially perplexing Twitter exchange shared with me by Jon Becker.

3. Engelbart’s ideas regarding the augmentation of human intellect aim for an inhuman and inhumane parsing of thought and imagination, an “efficiency expert” reduction of the richness of human cognition. This one tries to think about some points raised in the VCU New Media Seminar this fall.

These are the strands. The weave will be loose. (Food, textiles, textures, text.)

1. There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results, or perhaps a “tuser” (pronounced “TOO-zer”). I believe those two words are neologisms but I’ll leave the googling as an exercise for the tuser. The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” This answer was particularly easy to imagine inside Second Life, where metaphors become real within the irreality of a virtual landscape. In fact, I first came up with the game while leading a class in Second Life–but that’s for another time.

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings.

To complicate matters further, the computer is an unusual tool, a meta-tool, a machine that simulates any other machine, a universal machine with properties unlike any other machine. Earlier in the seminar this semester a sentence popped out of my mouth as we talked about one of the essays–“As We May Think”? I can’t remember now: “This is your brain on brain.” What Papert and Turkle refer to as computers’ “holding power” is not just the addictive cat videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I imagine), but something weirdly mindlike and reflective about the computer-human symbiosis. One of my goals continues to be to raise that uncanny holding power into a fuller (and freer) (and more metaphorical) (and more practical in the sense of able-to-be-practiced) mode of awareness so that we can be more mindful of the environment’s potential for good and, yes, for ill. (Some days, it seems to me that the “for ill” part is almost as poorly understood as the “for good” part, pace Morozov.)

George Dyson writes, “The stored-program computer, as conceived by Alan Turing and delivered by John von Neumann, broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our universe would never be the same” (Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe). This is a very bold statement. I’ve connected it with everything from the myth of Orpheus to synaesthetic environments like the one @rovinglibrarian shared with me in which one can listen to, and visualize, Wikipedia being edited. Thought vectors in concept space, indeed. The closest analogies I can find are with language itself, particularly the phonetic alphabet.

The larger point is now at the ready: in fullest practice and perhaps even for best results, particularly when it comes to deeper learning, it may well be that nothing is just anything. Bateson describes the moment in which “just a” thing becomes far more than “just a” thing as a “double take.” For Bateson, the double take bears a thrilling and uneasy relationship to the double bind, as well as to some kinds of derangement that are not at all beneficial. (This is the double-edged sword of human intellect, a sword that sometimes has ten edges or more–but I digress.) This double take (the kids call it, or used to call it, “wait what?”) indicates a moment of what Bateson calls “transcontextualism,” a paradoxical level-crossing moment (micro to macro, instance to meta, territory to map, or vice-versa) that initiates or indicates (hard to tell) deeper learning.
It seems that both those whose life is enriched by transcontextual gifts and those who are impoverished by transcontextual confusions are alike in one respect: for them there is always or often a “double take.” A falling leaf, the greeting of a friend, or a “primrose by the river’s brim” is not “just that and nothing more.” Exogenous experience may be framed in the contexts of dream, and internal thought may be projected into the contexts of the external world. And so on. For all this, we seek a partial explanation in learning and experience. (“Double Bind, 1969,” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, U Chicago Press, 2000, p. 272). (EDIT: I had originally typed “eternal world,” but Bateson writes “external.” It’s an interesting typo, though, so I remember it here.)


It does seem to me, very often, that we do our best to purge our learning environments of opportunities for transcontextual gifts to emerge. This is understandable, given how bad and indeed “unproductive” (by certain lights) the transcontextual confusions can be. No one enjoys the feeling of falling, unless there are environments and guides that can make the falling feel like flying–more matter for another conversation, and a difficult art indeed, and one that like all art has no guarantees (pace Madame Tussaud).

2. So now the second strand, regarding Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” Much of this essay, it seems to me, is about identifying and fostering transcontextualism (transcontextualization?) as a networked activity in which both the individual and the networked community recognize the potential for “bootstrapping” themselves into greater learning through the kind of level-crossing Bateson imagines (Douglas Hofstadter explores these ideas too, particularly in I Am A Strange Loop and, it appears, in a book Tom Woodward is exploring and brought to my attention yesterday, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking. That title alone makes the recursive point very neatly). So when Engelbart switches modes from engineering-style-specification to the story of bricks-on-pens to the dialogue with “Joe,” he seems to me not to be willful or even prohibitively difficult (though some of the ideas are undeniably complex). He seems to me to be experimenting with transcontextualism as an expressive device, an analytical strategy, and a kind of self-directed learning, a true essay: an attempt:

And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers–whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years.

A list worthy of Walt Whitman, and one that explicitly (and for me, thrillingly) crosses levels and enacts transcontextualism.

Here’s another list, one in which Engelbart tallies the range of “thought kernels” he wants to track in his formulative thinking (one might also say, his “research”):

The “unit records” here, unlike those in the Memex example, are generally scraps of typed or handwritten text on IBM-card-sized edge-notchable cards. These represent little “kernels” of data, thought, fact, consideration, concepts, ideas, worries, etc. That are relevant to a given problem area in my professional life.

Again, the listing enacts a principle: we map a problem space, a sphere of inquiry, along many dimensions–or we should. Those dimensions cross contexts–or they should. To think about this in terms of language for a moment, Engelbart’s idea seems to be that we should track our “kernels” across the indicative, the imperative, the subjunctive, the interrogative. To put it another way, we should be mindful of, and somehow make available for mindful building, many varieties of cognitive activity, including affect (which can be distinguished but not divided from cognition).

3. I don’t think this activity increases efficiency, if efficiency means “getting more done in less time.” (A “cognitive Taylorism,” as one seminarian put it.) More what is always the question. For me, Engelbart’s transcontextual gifts (and I’ll concede that there are likely transcontextual confusions in there too–it’s the price of trancontextualism, clearly) are such that the emphasis lands squarely on effectiveness, which in his essay means more work with positive potential (understanding there’s some disagreement but not total disagreement about… [more]
dougengelbart  transcontextualism  gardnercampbell  2013  gregorybateson  marshallmcluhan  socraticmethod  education  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  hammerhand  technology  computers  computing  georgedyson  food  textiles  texture  text  understanding  tools  secondlife  seymourpapert  sherryturkle  alanturing  johnvonneumann  doublebind  waltwhitman  memex  taylorism  efficiency  cognition  transcontextualization 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Christopher Emdin SXSWedu 2017 Keynote - YouTube
"Merging theory and practice, connecting contemporary issues to historical ones, and providing a deep analysis on the current state of education, Dr. Emdin ushers in a new way of looking at improving schools and schooling. Drawing from themes in his New York Times Bestselling book, and the latest album from rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Emdin offers insight into the structures of contemporary schools, and highlights major issues like the absence of diversity among teachers, the ways educators of color are silenced in schools, the absence of student voice in designing teaching and learning, and a way forward in addressing these issues."
christopheremdin  education  2017  sxswedu2017  schools  diversity  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  studentvoice  listening  socialjustice  service  atribecalledquest  dinka  culture  adjustment  maladjustment  ptsd  psychology  voice  transcontextualism  johndewey  doctorseuss  traditions  children  race  racism  trauma  trayvonmartin  violence  schooling  schooltoprisonpipeline  technology  edtech  pedagogy  disenfranchisement  technosolutionism  commoncore  soul  liberation  conversation  paulofreire  credentialism  stem  coding  economics  expectations  engagement  neweconomy  equity  justice  humility  quantification  oppression  whitesupremacy  cosmopolitanism  hiphoped  youthculture  hiphop  youth  teens  appropriation  monetization  servicelearning  purpose  context  decontextualization  tfa  courage  inequality  inequity  normalization  community  curriculum  canon  complexity  chaos  nuance  teachforamerica  transcontextualization 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Learning how to learn
"Bateson himself uses the analogy of movement:

• Learning 0 is direct experience: I put my hand in the fire – it gets burned

Learning 0 is like the position of an object

• Learning I is what we routinely refer to as "learning": generalisation from basic experiences. I have experienced "hand in fire" and "being burned", and I won't do it again. This is straightforward and compatible even with behavioural views, as well as the cycle of experiential learning.

Learning I is its speed when it moves

• Learning II (which he sometimes called "Deutero-Learning") contextualises Learning I experiences. It is about developing strategies for maximising Learning I through the extraction of implicit rules, and also putting specific bits of Learning I in context: I don't generally risk getting burned, but I might do so to save someone else from a fire.

Learning II is acceleration (or deceleration)—a change in speed

• Learning III contextualises Learning II, and is not understood, but it may be the existential (or spiritual) level: What does it say about me that I would risk getting burned in order to ...?

Learning III is a change in the rate of acceleration — a change in the change of the change of position... The higher the level, the less we understand about the process, and although such higher level learning undoubtedly takes place, the more difficult it is deliberately to manage it.

Note that levels of learning are different from levels of understanding, as exemplified in Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives, and also to be distinguished from the similar terminology of Gagné.

This account does not do justice to Bateson's very complex thinking, which starts from posing the question why people get better with practice at doing fairly meaningless tasks such as remembering nonsense syllables.
The interesting question for academic practice is the qualitative shift required to move from Learning 1 to Learning II, which some people find more difficult than others, perhaps in specific subject areas. How do we help them to achieve it? This may be the biggest remaining problem in in pedagogic/andragogic practice.

Some clues are contained in

• reflection, in
• problem-based learning and action learning,
• situated learning,
• and even in intelligence,

but we still don't have reliable answers.

Rant

This is more properly located on my personal site, but I can't contain myself. In the UK, we have this misbegotten, patronising, arrogant, (insert whatever other insulting adjectives you favour) idea of "teaching" "key skills" at college level.

"Key skills"—derived from the generic skills employers say that they want—include "Communication" and "Application of Number" [the comparative of "numb"—sorry, but I am ranting] (what are the schools supposed to have been teaching for eleven years before students reach further education?) and "teamworking" and "improving own learning" etc.

Note that I refer above to "the generic skills employers say that they want"; there is some evidence, which I can't presently be bothered to look up, which suggests that there is a mismatch between what employers actually go for when appointing their staff, and what they say they go for when asked by trade and official bodies.
What is more, it is routine for universities to require the specification of key skills outcomes on the templates even for post-graduate courses. How patronising and infantilising can you get? Fortunately, most academics treat such requirements with the contempt they deserve.

It has been my misfortune for several years to have to observe some very gifted student teachers wrestling with the thankless task of getting learners to provide evidence of "key skills" competence. They have stopped an animated discussion in class, for example, to get students to "discuss"—in a very desultory fashion—some topic in which they have no interest whatever, in order to be able to tick a box on a competence check-list. It is even more stupid than the idea of "Liberal Studies", which is where I started my teaching career: at least that was "high-minded" in its conception.

What the education control-freaks fail to realise is that some things are only learned by experience and practice. You can't short-circuit the process by teaching them.

Rant over! The relevance of this to the present topic is that the "soft" key skills project confuses Learning I and Learning II: you cannot address the key skills (which are Learning II) by simply adding on more Learning I competences: this is precisely the "category error" against which Bateson inveighs But the key skills advocates (and here I risk alienating my closest colleague and friend) seem to believe that all skills are at the same level. "Application of Number", and IT skills may be Learning I, but the "wider" key skills ("Working with Others", "Problem Solving", "Improving Own Learning and Performance") and even the central key skill of "Communication"—which includes the "discussion" requirement—are clearly Learning II, and although we know they can be learned, we do not know how to teach them in any meaningful way."
gregorybateson  learning  howwlearn  jamesatherton  2013  problemsolving  actionlearning  situatedlearning  reflection  intelligence  context  transcontextualism  bloomstaxonomy  education  experientiallearning  behavior  transcontextualization 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left
"“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  democracy  murraybookchin  via:anne  climatechange  anarchism  optimism  capitalism  progress  economics  ecology  growth  directdemocracy  egalitarianism  morality  ethics  hope  left  socialism  communism  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."

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

quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Devil’s Bargain — Medium
"The question Graeber wants to put to us is this: To what extent are our imaginations shaped — constrained, limited — by our having had to live with the technological choices made by the military-industrial complex — by industries and universities working in close collaboration with the government, in a spirit of subservience to its needs?

Or, to put it another way: How were we taught not even to dream of flying cars and jetpacks? — or, or for that matter, an end to world hunger, something that C. P. Snow, in his famous lecture on “the two cultures” of the sciences and humanities, saw as clearly within our grasp more than half-a-century ago? To see “sophisticated simulations” of the things we used to hope we’d really achieve as good enough?"



"As I noted earlier, this seems to cover a very different subject than his meditation on flying cars and the absence thereof — but it’s really about the same thing, which is: the impact of economic structures on imagination. For Graeber it could scarcely be accidental that a world devoted to utility-maximizing, acquisitive market-based behavior would create a theory that animals, indeed the very genes of creatures, invariably behave in a utility-miximizing, acquisitive way in the Great Market of Life."



"For those whose ideas have been shaped so thoroughly by the logic of capitalism, people like Prince Kropotkin who see mutual aid as a factor in evolution, or who would go still further and see play as simply intrinsic to being alive — Graeber doesn’t cite J. Huizinga’s Homo Ludens here, but he should — are just nuts. They’re not seeing the world as it obviously really is.

But, Graeber suggests, maybe what’s obvious from within the logic of late capitalism isn’t so obvious from another point of view; and maybe what’s nuts according to the logic of late capitalism is, again from another point of view, not necessarily nuts. Maybe there is more in heaven and earth, Professor Dawkins, than is dreamt of in your evolutionary biology.

In a famous passage from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek — the much-anthologized chapter called “Seeing” — Annie Dillard cites the naturalist Stewart Edward White on how to learn to see deer: “As soon as you can forget the naturally obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer.” That is, you have to learn to pick out certain now-and-for-you-insignificant elements in your visual field and reassign them to the realm of the significant. And this is true, not just for the visual but also for the mental field. But it is also and equally true that our constructions of the artificial obvious are not invariably reliable: sometimes they are wrong, and if we then forget that they are our constructions, and think of them as the natural obvious, as the way things just are … we’re screwed.

This is Graeber’s point. And you don’t have to agree with him about the playfulness of worms to see its importance. Our social and economic structures prompt us, every day and in a hundred different ways, to see certain elements of our mental field as significant while ever-so-gently discouraging us from noticing others at all. And when it comes to the constructions of our mental worlds, as opposed to our visual fields, we might be missing something more lastingly important than a guy in a gorilla suit.

All of these reflections started with my reading of a 1945 article about the entanglements of the arts with universities, at a time when universities were in danger of becoming what they have since largely become: “social and technical service stations.” Let’s try now to get back to those concerns."



"My point is: I don’t like seeing journalism being drawn so consistently into the same self-justifying, self-celebrating circles that the American university itself was drawn into during and following World War II. As R. P. Blackmur rightly feared, the intimacy between universities and government did not end when the war ended; it only intensified, and the fact that those universities became our chief patrons of the arts, especially literary writing, at the very moment that they crawled permanently into bed with government and industry, cannot be without repercussions for artists.

The best guide to the rise of creative programs in particular is Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, and it’s fascinating how McGurl repeatedly walks right up to the edge of a clearly articulated critique of this system without ever crossing it. In the penultimate sentence of his book he writes, “Is there not more excellent fiction being produced now than anyone has time to read?” Then he starts a new paragraph before giving us the book’s last sentence: “What kind of traitor to the mission of mass higher education would you have to be to think otherwise?” Oh clever man!

Yes, there is a great deal of skillfully written post-World-War-II fiction available to us, indeed more than we could ever read. But how much of it embodies the kind of imaginative otherness that, as David Graeber reminds us, our social/cultural/economic contexts militate against? How much of it, shaped as it is in institutions that owe their continued existence to their affiliation with the military-industrial complex, envisions ways of life radically other than the ones we now experience? How much of it offers more than increasingly sophisticated simulations of worlds we already know, can predict, feel comfortable in? How much, in shirt, is conducive to genuine hope?

I guess what I’m asking for is pretty simple: for writers of all kinds, journalists as well as fiction writers, and artists and academics, to strive to extricate themselves from an “artificial obvious” that has been constructed for us by the dominant institutions of our culture. Simple; also probably impossible. But it’s worth trying. Few things are more worth trying.

And I am also asking universities to realize and to reconsider their implication in those dominant institutions. I don’t demand that schools sever their ties with those institutions, since that would be financially suicidal, and economic times for higher education are hard enough as it is. But there need to be more pockets of resistance: more institutions with self-consciously distinctive missions, and within institutions more departments or even just informal discussion groups who seek to imagine the so-far unimaginable.

Finally, I am asking all this of myself. I’m fifty-five years old. I’ve probably got twenty or so years to think and write at the highest level I’m capable of, and in those years I want to surprise myself. I don’t want merely to recycle and redeploy the ideas I have inherited. I know that this is easier for me, a white American man with a secure job, than it is for many others. But then, that’s all the more reason for me to do it.

Fifty years ago, Jacques Derrida gave a lecture that would become very famous, and created a stir even as he presented it. When the talk ended, the first questioner was Jean Hyppolite, and he asked Derrida what his talk was “tending toward.” Derrida replied, “I was wondering myself if I know where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going.”"
2014  alanjacobs  education  culture  highereducation  highered  davidgraeber  whauden  rpblackmur  louisalthusser  adamkirsch  militaryindustrialcomplex  power  funding  academia  creativity  play  economics  imagination  richarddawkins  canon  corporatization  corporatism  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  homoludens  johanhuizinga  seeing  stewartendward  anniedillard  californiasundaymagazine  technology  siliconvalley  capitalism  latecapitalism  journalism  writing  jacquesderrida  jeanhyppolite  markmcgurl  context  resistance  utopia  pocketsofresistance  courage  possibility  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  althusser  transcontextualization 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Hypertext as an Agent of Change on Huffduffer
"Thomas Pynchon. The Anthropocene. Ferguson. Geoheliocentrism. Teju Cole. Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigms. Antigone. A wall. The sixth extinction.

The ways we transmit information—and the ways in which that information accumulates into narratives—is changing. And if we aren’t careful, it may not change in all the ways we want it to."

[Full text: http://aworkinglibrary.com/writing/hypertext-as-an-agent-of-change/ ]
mandybrown  change  dconstruct  dconstruct2014  storytelling  antigone  tejucole  thomaspynchon  anthropocene  2014  ferguson  michaelbrown  geoheliocentrism  thomaskuhn  perspective  paradigmshifts  context  framing  metcontexts  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Schooling: The Hidden Agenda
"I first began to focus my attention on the peculiarities of our own culture in the early 1960s, when I went to work for what was then a cutting-edge publisher of educational materials, Science Research Associates. I was in my mid-twenties and as thoroughly acculturated as any senator, bus-driver, movie star, or medical doctor. My fundamental acceptances about the universe and humanity's place in it were rock-solid and thoroughly conventional.

But it was a stressful time to be alive, in some ways even more stressful than the present. Many people nowadays realize that human life may well be in jeopardy, but this jeopardy exists in some vaguely defined future, twenty or fifty or a hundred years hence. But in those coldest days of the Cold War everyone lived with the realization that a nuclear holocaust could occur literally at any second, without warning. It was very realistically the touch of a button away.

Human life would not be entirely snuffed out in a holocaust of this kind. In a way, it would be even worse than that. In a matter of hours, we would be thrown back not just to the Stone Age but to a level of almost total helplessness. In the Stone Age, after all, people lived perfectly well without supermarkets, shopping malls, hardware stores, and all the elaborate systems that keep these places stocked with the things we need. Within hours our cities would disintegrate into chaos and anarchy, and the necessities of life would vanish from store shelves, never to be replaced. Within days famine would be widespread.

Skills that are taken for granted among Stone Age peoples would be unknown to the survivors--the ability to differentiate between edible and inedible foods growing in their own environment, the ability to stalk, kill, dress, and preserve game animals, and most important the ability to make tools from available materials. How many of you know how to cure a hide? How to make a rope from scratch? How to flake a stone tool? Much less how to smelt metal from raw ore. Commonplace skills of the paleolithic, developed over thousands of years, would be lost arts.

All this was freely acknowledged by people who didn't doubt for a moment that we were living the way humans were meant to live from the beginning of time, who didn't doubt for a moment that the things our children were learning in school were exactly the things they should be learning.

I'd been hired at SRA to work on a major new mathematics program that had been under development for several years in Cleveland. In my first year, we were going to publish the kindergarten and first-grade programs. In the second year, we'd publish the second-grade program, in the third year, the third-grade program, and so on. Working on the kindergarten and first-grade programs, I observed something that I thought was truly remarkable. In these grades, children spend most of their time learning things that no one growing up in our culture could possibly avoid learning. For example, they learn the names of the primary colors. Wow, just imagine missing school on the day when they were learning blue. You'd spend the rest of your life wondering what color the sky is. They learn to tell time, to count, and to add and subtract, as if anyone could possibly fail to learn these things in this culture. And of course they make the beginnings of learning how to read. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest an experiment. Two classes of 30 kids, taught identically and given the identical text materials throughout their school experience, but one class is given no instruction in reading at all and the other is given the usual instruction. Call it the Quinn Conjecture: both classes will test the same on reading skills at the end of twelve years. I feel safe in making this conjecture because ultimately kids learn to read the same way they learn to speak, by hanging around people who read and by wanting to be able to do what these people do.

It occurred to me at this time to ask this question: Instead of spending two or three years teaching children things they will inevitably learn anyway, why not teach them some things they will not inevitably learn and that they would actually enjoy learning at this age? How to navigate by the stars, for example. How to tan a hide. How to distinguish edible foods from inedible foods. How to build a shelter from scratch. How to make tools from scratch. How to make a canoe. How to track animals--all the forgotten but still valuable skills that our civilization is actually built on.

Of course I didn't have to vocalize this idea to anyone to know how it would be received. Being thoroughly acculturated, I could myself explain why it was totally inane. The way we live is the way humans were meant to live from the beginning of time, and our children were being prepared to enter that life. Those who came before us were savages, little more than brutes. Those who continue to live the way our ancestors lived are savages, little more than brutes. The world is well rid of them, and we're well rid of every vestige of them, including their ludicrously primitive skills."



"Within our cultural matrix, every medium tells us that the schools exist to prepare children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization (and are therefore failing). This is beyond argument, beyond doubt, beyond question. In Ishmael I said that the voice of Mother Culture speaks to us from every newspaper and magazine article, every movie, every sermon, every book, every parent, every teacher, every school administrator, and what she has to say about the schools is that they exist to prepare children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization (and are therefore failing). Once we step outside our cultural matrix, this voice no longer fills our ears and we're free to ask some new questions. Suppose the schools aren't failing? Suppose they're doing exactly what we really want them to do--but don't wish to examine and acknowledge?"



"What sells most people on the idea of school is the fact that the unschooled child learns what it wants to learn when it wants to learn it. This is intolerable to them, because they're convinced that children don't want to learn anything at all--and they point to school children to prove it. What they fail to recognize is that the learning curve of preschool children swoops upward like a mountain--but quickly levels off when they enter school. By the third or fourth grade it's completely flat for most kids. Learning, such as it is, has become a boring, painful experience they'd love to be able to avoid if they could. But there's another reason why people abhor the idea of children learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it. They won't all learn the same things! Some of them will never learn to analyze a poem! Some of them will never learn to parse a sentence or write a theme! Some of them will never read Julius Caesar! Some will never learn geometry! Some will never dissect a frog! Some will never learn how a bill passes Congress! Well, of course, this is too horrible to imagine. It doesn't matter that 90% of these students will never read another poem or another play by Shakespeare in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% of them will never have occasion to parse another sentence or write another theme in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% retain no functional knowledge of the geometry or algebra they studied. It doesn't matter that 90% never have any use for whatever knowledge they were supposed to gain from dissecting a frog. It doesn't matter that 90% graduate without having the vaguest idea how a bill passes Congress. All that matters is that they've gone through it!

The people who are horrified by the idea of children learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it have not accepted the very elementary psychological fact that people (all people, of every age) remember the things that are important to them--the things they need to know--and forget the rest. I am a living witness to this fact. I went to one of the best prep schools in the country and graduated fourth in my class, and I doubt very much if I could now get a passing grade in more than two or three of the dozens of courses I took. I studied classical Greek for two solid years, and now would be unable to read aloud a single sentence."
danielquinn  education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  schooling  culture  ishmael  powerofculture  counterculture  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
august 2014 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Adaptive Learning Is An Infinite iPod That Only Plays Neil Diamond
"If all you've ever heard in your life is Neil Diamond's music, you might think we've invented something quite amazing there. Your iPod contains the entire universe of music. If you've heard any other music at all, you might still be impressed by this infinite iPod. Neil wrote a lot of music after all, some of it good. But you'll know we're missing out on quite a lot also.

So it is with the futurists, many of whom have never been in a class where math was anything but watching someone lecture about a procedure and then replicating that procedure twenty times on a piece of paper. That entire universe fits neatly within a computer-adaptive model of learning.

But for math educators who have experienced math as a social process where students conjecture and argue with each other about their conjectures, where one student's messy handwritten work offers another student a revelation about her own work, a process which by definition can't be individualized or self-paced, computer-adaptive mathematics starts to seem rather limited.

Lectures and procedural fluency are an important aspect of a student's mathematics education but they are to the universe of math experiences as Neil Diamond is to all the other amazing artists who aren't Neil Diamond.

If I could somehow convince the futurists to see math the same way, I imagine our conversations would become a lot more productive.

BTW. While I'm here, Justin Reich wrote an extremely thoughtful series of posts on adaptive learning last month that I can't recommend enough:

Blended Learning, But The Data Are Useless
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2014/04/blended_learning_but_the_data_are_useless.html

Nudging, Priming, and Motivating in Blended Learning
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2014/04/nudging_priming_and_motivating_in_blended_learning.html

Computers Can Assess What Computers Do Best
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2014/04/computers_can_assess_what_computers_do_best.html "
danmeyer  edtech  adaptivelearning  education  2014  blendedlearning  lectures  neildiamond  computing  computers  closedsystems  transcontextualization  via:lukeneff  transcontextualism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Squishy Not Slick - squishy not slick, the edtech futurist version / #thoughtvectors not call centers
"lots of rumblings lately, lots of connections

[most of this will just serve as placeholders until I have more time to fill in the missing pieces]

Is the future of educational technology going to look like a call center? (https://twitter.com/tressiemcphd/status/467867731254333441 )

Rob led me to Gardner Campbell’s talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIzA4ItynYw ) [who I just realized is a colleague of some of my favorite people on the internet, @jonbecker and @twoodwar who are working on the #thoughtvectors thing at VCU], in which he explains the point of all this as ”networked transcontextualism,” which is the way to escape “the double bind,” a term from Gregory Bateson. (https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=gregory+bateson&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C38&as_sdtp= )

In the same vein, Audrey Watters says all the right things (https://storify.com/rogre/more-audrey-watters-in-your-stream-please ) [and thanks to Rob for storifying it]

Seymour Papert (https://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_vis=1&q=seymour+papert&hl=en&as_sdt=1,38 ) keeps coming up [Campbell and Watters mention him]

Campbell’s “networked transcontextualism” especially reminded me of what Richard Elmore had to say about all this (http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4088865/richard-elmore-futures-school-reform ), that we’re moving from “nested hierarchy” to “networked relationships.”

Then Dan Meyer joined in, saying it with a Neil Diamond analogy. (http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2014/adaptive-learning-is-an-infinite-ipod-that-only-plays-neil-diamond/ )

This is all happens while I’m trying to make Sugata Mitra’s SOLE idea (http://www.ted.com/participate/ted-prize/prize-winning-wishes/school-in-the-cloud ), or something similar, happen in more traditional classrooms, an attempt at finding an alternate path, an escape from the call center version of our edtech future."
lukeneff  audreywatters  2014  gardnercampbell  jonbecker  tomwoodward  gregorybateson  danmeyer  seymourpapert  sugatamitra  sole  transcontextualism  edtech  education  learning  teaching  connections  networks  doublebind  richardelmore  transcontextualization 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning - YouTube
[See also: https://storify.com/audreywatters/ecologies-of-yearning-and-the-future-of-open-educa ]

[See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind and
PDF http://www.edtechpost.ca/readings/Gregory%20Bateson%20-%20Ecology%20of%20Mind.pdf ]

[References these videos by a student: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmFL4Khu2yJoR0Oq5dcY5pw ]

[via: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:e91b15f323b8

"In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video.) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”"]

"30:29 Bateson's Hierarchy of learning

30:52 Zero Learning:"receipt of signal". No error possible

31:37 Learning I: "change in specificity of response by correction of errors of choice within a set of alternatives". Palov, etc. Habituation, adaptation.

32:16 Learning II: Learning-to-learn, context recognition, "corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice is made, or.. in how the sequence of experience is punctuated". Premises are self-validating.

34:23 Learning III: Meta-contextual perspective, imagining and shifting contexts of understanding. "a corrective change in the system of sets of alternatives from which choice is made" Puts self at risk. Questions become explosive.

36:22 Learning IV: change to level III, "probably does not occur in any adult living organisms on this earth"

38:59 "Double bind"

44:49 Habits of being that might be counter-intuitive

51:49 Participant observers constructed Wordles of students' blogs"

[Comment from Céline Keller:

"This is my favorite talk online: Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning +Gardner Campbell

This is what I wrote about it 7 month ago:

"Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing." Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you care about education and learning don't miss listening to Gardner Campbell!

As described on the #edcmooc resource page:

"(This lecture)...serves as a warning that what we really want - our utopia - is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within)."
Love it."

I still mean it. This is great, listen."]

[More here: http://krustelkrammoocs.blogspot.com/2013/02/gardner-campbell-sense-of-wonder-how-to.html ]
2012  gardnercampbell  nassimtaleb  academia  web  participatory  learning  howwelearn  hierarchyoflearning  love  habituation  adaption  open  openeducation  coursera  gregorybateson  udacity  sebastianthrun  mooc  moocs  georgesiemens  stephendownes  davecormier  carolyeager  aleccouros  jimgroom  audreywatters  edupunk  jalfredprufrock  missingthepoint  highered  edx  highereducation  tseliot  rubrics  control  assessment  quantification  canon  administration  hierarchy  hierarchies  pedagogy  philosophy  doublebind  paranoia  hepephrenia  catatonia  mentalhealth  schizophrenia  life  grades  grading  seymourpapert  ecologiesofyearning  systems  systemsthinking  suppression  context  education  conditioning  pavlov  gamification  freedom  liberation  alankay  human  humans  humanism  agency  moreofthesame  metacontexts  unfinished  ongoing  lifelonglearning  cognition  communication  networkedtranscontextualism  transcontextualism  transcontextualsyndromes  apgartest  virginiaapgar  howweteach  scottmccloud  michaelchorost  georgedyson  opening  openness  orpheus  experience  consciousness  pur 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Maciej Ceglowski - Barely succeed! It's easier! - YouTube
"We live in a remarkable time when small teams (or even lone programmers) can successfully compete against internet giants. But while the last few years have seen an explosion of product ideas, there has been far less innovation in how to actually build a business. Silicon Valley is stuck in an outdated 'grow or die' mentality that overvalues risk, while investors dismiss sustainable, interesting projects for being too practical. So who needs investors anyway?

I'll talk about some alternative definitions of success that are more achievable (and more fun!) than the Silicon Valley casino. It turns out that staying small offers some surprising advantages, not just in the day-to-day experience of work, but in marketing and getting customers to love your project. Best of all, there's plenty more room at the bottom.

If your goal is to do meaningful work you love, you may be much closer to realizing your dreams than you think."
via:lukeneff  maciejceglowski  2013  startups  pinboard  culture  atalhualpa  larrywall  perl  coding  slow  small  success  community  communities  diversity  growth  sustainability  venturecapital  technology  tonyrobbins  timferris  raykurzweil  singularity  humanism  laziness  idleness  wealth  motivation  siliconvalley  money  imperialism  corneliusvanderbilt  meaning  incubators  stevejobs  stevewozniak  empirebuilders  makers  fundraising  closedloops  viscouscircles  labor  paulgraham  ycombinator  gender  publishing  hits  recordingindustry  business  lavabit  mistakes  duckduckgo  zootool  instapaper  newsblur  metafilter  minecraft  ravelry  4chan  backblaze  prgmr.com  conscience  growstuff  parentmeetings  lifestylebusinesses  authenticity  googlereader  yahoopipes  voice  longtail  fanfiction  internet  web  online  powerofculture  counterculture  transcontextualism  maciejcegłowski  transcontextualization 
march 2014 by robertogreco

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