👓 Taking Sidwell Friends to the Supreme Court is about more than rich people problems | CNN

Read Taking Sidwell Friends to the Supreme Court is about more than rich people problems by David Perry (CNN)
A student can get a spectacular education at a wide variety of institutions, not just elite institutions. We are poorer as a nation when we spread myths that say otherwise, writes David Perry

👓 Adversarial interoperability: reviving an elegant weapon from a more civilized age to slay today’s monopolies | boingboing.net

Read Adversarial interoperability: reviving an elegant weapon from a more civilized age to slay today's monopolies (Boing Boing)
What made iWork a success—and helped re-launch Apple—was the fact that Pages could open and save most Word files; Numbers could open and save most Excel files; and Keynote could open and save most PowerPoint presentations. Apple did not attain this compatibility through Microsoft's cooperation: it attained it despite Microsoft's noncooperation. Apple didn't just make an "interoperable" product that worked with an existing product in the market: they made an adversarially interoperable product whose compatibility was wrested from the incumbent, through diligent reverse-engineering and reimplementation. What's more, Apple committed to maintaining that interoperability, even though Microsoft continued to update its products in ways that temporarily undermined the ability of Apple customers to exchange documents with Microsoft customers, paying engineers to unbreak everything that Microsoft's maneuvers broke. Apple's persistence paid off: over time, Microsoft's customers became dependent on compatibility with Apple customers, and they would complain if Microsoft changed its Office products in ways that broke their cross-platform workflow.
Replied to a tweet by John StewartJohn Stewart (Twitter)

I bookmarked a great post by Jim Luke (@econproph) a few weeks ago on scale and scope. I suspect that tech’s effect on education is heavily (if not permanently) scale-limited, but scope may be a better avenue going forward.

I also suspect that Cesar Hidalgo’s text Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies may provide a strong clue with some details. To some extent I think we’ve generally reached the Shannon limit for how much information we can pour into a single brain. We now need to rely on distributed and parallel networking among people to proceed forward.

Watched Generous Thinking: Sustainability, Solidarity, and the Common Good by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities Professor of English Michigan State UniversityKathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities Professor of English Michigan State University from Coalition for Networked Information | Vimeo

Generous Thinking: Sustainability, Solidarity, and the Common Good from CNI Vimeo Video Channel on Vimeo.

See cni.org/events/membership-meetings/past-meetings/spring-2019/plenary-sessions-s19#opening for more information.

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
Spring 2019 Membership Meeting
April 8-9, 2019
St. Louis, MO
cni.org/mm/spring-2019/

Joseph explores the extent to which discourses about community suggest an antidote to or escape from capitalism’s depredations, while distracting us from the supplementary role that community actually serves with respect to capital, filling its gaps and smoothing over its rifts in ways that permit it to function untrammeled. The alternative presented by community allows the specter of socialism, or genuine state support for the needs of the public, to be dismissed. This relationship becomes particularly clear in Joseph’s discussion of the role of non-profit organizations — entities highly likely to participate in and benefit from the idealized discourse of community — which often fill needs left behind by a retreating state, allowing that retreat to go unchallenged.

— Kathleen Fitzpatrick in Community, Privatization, Efficiency

Also cross reference: Strategy and Solidarity

From the video at timecode [22:05]:

…raises the key question of what it is we mean when we talk about community?
As Miranda Joseph argues in Against the Romance of Community, the concept is often invoked as a place holder for something that exists outside the dominant economic and institutional structures of contemporary life. A set of estensibly organic felt relationships that harken back to a mythical pre-modern moment in which people lived and worked in direct connection with one another  without the mediating forces of capitalism.
Now community is in this sense, in Benedict Anderson’s sense, an imagined relationship, and even an imaginary one. As its invocation is designed to yoke together bodies whose existence as a group is largely constructed. It’s a concept often used both idealistically and as a form of discipline. 
A claim of unity that smoothes over and thus suppresses  internal difference and disagreement. And as Joseph points out, the notion of community is often deployed  as if the relationships that it describes could provide an antidote to or an escape from the problems created by contemporary political and economic life. 
But this suggestion,  serves to distract us, she says, from the supplementary role that community, in fact, actually serves with respect to capitalism. Sort of filling its gaps and smoothing over its flaws in ways that permit it to function without real opposition. So we call upon the community to support projects  that the dominant institutions of the mainstream economy will not. And this is how we end up with social network-based fundraising campaigns to support people facing major health crises rather than demanding universal health care, and elementary school bake sales rather than full funding for education.
So community becomes, in this sense, an alibi for the creeping privatization of what should be social responsibilities.

Some interesting thought here with respect to economics, community, the commons, and education. While a large piece of the talk is about higher education, there are definitely some things that can be learned and used with respect to social media, and particularly the IndieWeb movement. I’d recommend everyone take a peek at it and think about how we can better deploy and give credit to some of our shared resources.

👓 Scale and Scope | Jim Luke

Read Scale and Scope by Jim LukeJim Luke (EconProph)
I’ve been saying for awhile now in discussions of the commons, OER, and higher education that a “commons doesn’t scale, it scopes”. Before I explain why I think a commons doesn’t scale very well, I probably need to briefly clarify what’s meant by scale and scope. Like many terms in economics, they’re both commonly used terms in both business and everyday life, but in economics they may carry a subtly different, more precise, or richer meaning. Both terms refer to the production of an increasing volume of output of some kind. Enthusiasts of particular good(s), be they an entrepreneur producing the a product they hope will make them rich or an open educator advocating for more open licensed textbooks because it will improve education, generally want to see their ideas scale. And by scale, they generally mean “be produced in larger and larger volumes”. Larger volume of output, of course, brings a larger volume of benefits to more users. More output –> more users –> more benefits. But it’s the behavior of costs that really intrigues us when we think of “scaling” as a way to increase output. More benefits is nice, but if more benefits also means an equal increase in costs, then it’s not so attractive.

I can see a relation to the economies of scope that Jim Luke is talking about here in relation to the IndieWeb principle of plurality. For a long time the IndieWeb community has put economies of scope first and foremost over that of scale. Scale may not necessarily solve some of the problems we’re all looking at. In fact, scale may be directly responsible for many of the problems that social has caused in our lives and society.

I’m also reminded of a post I annotated the other day:

Data sharing and how it can benefit your scientific career (Nature)

Crowther offered everyone who shared at least a certain volume of data with his forest initiative the chance to be a co-author of a study that he and a colleague led. Published in Science in 2016, the paper used more than 770,000 data points from 44 countries to determine that forests with more tree species are more productive.

I suspect a similar hypothesis holds for shared specs, code, and the broader idea of plurality within the IndieWeb. More interoperable systems makes the IndieWeb more productive.

I also can’t help but think about a reply to a tweet by Chris Messina in relation to the IndieWeb related article in this week’s The New Yorker:

Boris is asking a problematic question not remembering early issues with the Model T, which Jim Luke reminds us of in his article:

Remember Henry Ford’s famous quote about “the customer can get [the Model T] in any color they want as long as it’s black”?

We’ve already got the Model Ts of social media–it’s called Facebook. It’s Twitter. It’s Instagram. And they’re all standardized–black– but they all require their own custom (toxic and limited) roads to be able to drive them! I can’t drive my Model Twitter in Facebookville.  My Instagramobile has long since broken down in Twittertown. Wouldn’t you rather “See The U.S.A. In Your [IndieWeb] Chevrolet“?!

The answer to Boris is that the IndieWeb has been working on the scope problem first knowing that once the interoperable kinks between systems can be worked out to a reasonable level that scale will be the easy part of the problem. Obviously micro.blog has been able to productize IndieWeb principles (with several thousands of users) and still work relatively flawlessly with a huge number of other platforms.  There have been tremendous strides towards shoehorning IndieWeb principles into major CMSes like WordPress (~500+ active users currently) and Drupal (~50+ active users) not to mention several dozens of others including Known, Perch, Craft CMS, Hugo, Kirby, etc., etc.

I haven’t heard aggregate numbers recently, but I would guess that the current active IndieWeb user base is somewhere north of 10,000 people and individual websites.  Once the UI/UX issues have all been ironed out even a single platform like WordPress, which could easily add the individual pieces into its core product in just a few hours, would create a sea-change overnight by making more than 30% of the web which runs on it IndieWeb friendly or IndieWeb compatible.

Yes, friends, scale is the easy part. Plurality and scope are the the far more difficult problems. Just ask Zuck or Jack. Or their users products.

👓 Why Are So Many Longtime L.A. Bookstores Closing? | Hollywood Reporter

Read Why Are So Many Longtime L.A. Bookstores Closing? (The Hollywood Reporter)
Despite the recent shuttering of Circus of Books, Caravan Book Store and Samuel French, bookstore experts say the end for the city's brick-and-mortar stores isn't nigh: "There is a sea change happening, and it is noteworthy."

🎧 How Is Lead Still A Problem? | The Stakes | On the Media | WNYC Studios

Listened to How Is Lead Still A Problem? from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Once in a while, in this space, we offer you an episode of another podcast that we think is pretty aligned with our goals here at On the Media. This week, we’re offering you the first episode of a new podcast from WNYC Studios, called The Stakes. The angle is: we built the society we've got. And maybe it's time to build a new one.

You can and should subscribe to The Stakes wherever you get your podcasts (we are). But in the meantime, here's their first episode all about the pervasive problem of lead paint stillpoisoning children. The ancient Greeks knew lead is poisonous. Ben Franklin wrote about its dangers. So how did it end up being all around us? And how is it still a problem?

I knew lead paint was a huge problem, but didn’t know about some of the early history about why. It’s painful that this is still such a problem in current society. It’s deplorable that corporations can get away with exploiting society with externalities like this.

On the Media is one of the few podcasts that I don’t mind when they sneak other episodes of material into their feed because they have such a solid editorial voice of what does or doesn’t appear in their feed.

The general idea behind The Stakes is very solid. Their general premise makes me think they should potentially interview Mike Monteiro whose book Ruined by Designed I’ve recently begun reading

Another interesting episode idea for the show with this theme could cover surveillance capitalism and digital redlining potentially with interviews with academics/researchers like Chris Gilliard, Cathy O’Neil, and Tressie McMillan Cottom.

👓 Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures Show Over $1 Billion in Business Losses | New York Times

Read Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures Show Over $1 Billion in Business Losses by Russ Buettner (New York Times)
Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known.

Amazing businessman apparently = total failure. The numbers and statistics here are simply staggering!

📺 BOSS: The Black Experience in Business | PBS

Watched BOSS: The Black Experience in Business from PBS

Learn about the untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provide the backbone of this nation’s economic and social growth.

I’ve either seen or read about large portions of the stories in this documentary, but even then this goes into a bit more depth than some of the vignettes I’ve read about. It also does a great job of aggregating these stories into a broader story arc. A stunning bit of documentary work. I recommend this highly.

It is painful to watch the destruction of lives and value over several hundred years here however.

I was entertained to see the documentary re-appropriate The O’Jays song For The Love of Money to highlight African American entrepreneurship as it was obviously horrifically misused in NBC’s The Apprentice.

👓 In which I almost waste four dollars at Amazon | quomodocumque

Read In which I almost waste four dollars at Amazon (Quomodocumque)
Instructive anecdote. I needed a somewhat expensive book and the UW library didn’t have it. So I decided to buy it. Had the Amazon order queued up and ready to go, $45 with free shipping, then had a pang of guilt about the destruction of the publishing industry and decided it was worth paying a li...

🔖 How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr

Bookmarked How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel ImmerwahrDaniel Immerwahr (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A pathbreaking history of the United States’ overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire

We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories―the islands, atolls, and archipelagos―this country has governed and inhabited?

In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century’s most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.

In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major and compulsively readable work of history.

hat tip: On the Media: Empire State of Mind

👓 Universities should be working for the greater good | Kathleen Fitzpatrick | Times Higher Education

Read Universities should be working for the greater good by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Times Higher Education (THE))
Friendly competition can push us all to do better. But when the competitiveness that fuels excellence and prestige becomes based in the logic of the market, universities lose sight of their true purpose, writes Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Kudos Kathleen! This! This is the type of university I would want to be a part of.

This article reminds me a lot of the thesis in Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson’s book American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper. There they indicate that America’s economy isn’t one of pure capitalism and competition, but that we’ve gotten here by a healthy dose of having a mixed economy. Higher education needs a lot of that same mixed economy perspective to fix the wrongs of decades of to much direct competition which is having far too many unexpected consequences and emergent behaviors which we didn’t expect, anticipate, and now have trouble attempting to fix.

This article is so important, just this once, I’ll recommend that those who hit the website’s paywall and don’t want to register, use a read it later service like Pocket or Instapaper which should give you the full text or you can use your browser’s functionality for “viewing source” to get a marked up version.

📑 YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant

Annotated YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant by Mark Bergen (Bloomberg)
The idea was to reward video stars shorted by the system, such as those making sex education and music videos, which marquee advertisers found too risqué to endorse.  

This is an interesting concept. Too often, too many people are “shorted by the system”.

A brief reflection on Kate Bowles’ keynote at OER 19

Kate Bowles gave a great Keynote at the Open Education Resources 2019 (OER19) conference in Galway last night. In it she indicates how politicians, economists and even universities themselves measure their growth at the level of imports/exports and even compare it with mining in a cynical way to describe the movement of their educational resources and students.

Slide from Bowle's talk with an image of a heavily mined and damaged site. The slide is entitled "This is how the expanded university talks" and contains the quote:'What do iron ore, coal and Australia'sinternational education sector have in common? They're the top three exports for Australia, with recent international trade data showing that the international education sector contributed AUS$32.2 billion (US$24.7 billion) dollars to the economy in 2017' --ICEF Monitor, 2018

Slide from Bowle's talk with an image of a heavily mined and damaged site. The slide is entitled "This is how the expanded university talks" and contains the quote: '81 per cent of Australians grasp that international education makes a major contribution to national prosperity. This overwhelming public support rises again--to 85 per cent--when Australians learn exactly how much income this sector brings into the Australian economy each year.'--Universities Australia, March 2019
A slide from

“What a chilling thing to say about young people crossing the world to learn.” –Kate Bowles (in response to the slide immediately above)

The fact that businesses, governments, and even universities themselves would take such an ugly standpoint on teaching and learning is painful. It reminds me that one of the things that I think the open IndieWeb movement gets right is that it is people-centric first and foremost. If you can take care of people at the most base level, then hopefully what gets built upon that base–while still watching it carefully–will be much more ethical.

The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.

As a result of this people-centric vision, I’m seeing a lot less of the sort of ills, unintended consequences, and poor emergent behaviors caused by the drive toward surveillance capitalism within the giant social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.

I’m reminded of a part of the thesis that Cesar Hidalgo presents in Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order from Atoms to Economies of the idea of the personbyte and what that looks like at a group level, then a corporate level, and I wonder how it may grow to the next level above that. Without ultimately focusing on the person at the bottom of the pyramid however, we may be ethically losing sight of where we’re going and why. We may even be building an edifice that is far more likely to crumble with even worse unintended consequences.

Here’s her talk in full. I highly recommend it.

👓 College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street | Bloomberg

Read College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street by Claire Boston (Bloomberg)
Instead of taking out loans, students can agree to hand over part of their future earnings in return for investment.