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.

👓 Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis | The New York Times

Read Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis (New York Times)
Russian meddling, data sharing, hate speech — the social network faced one scandal after another. This is how Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg responded.

📺 The Facebook Dilemma (Part 2) | Frontline | PBS

Watched The Facebook Dilemma (Part 2) from FRONTLINE | PBS

A major, two-night investigation of the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.

SEASON 37: EPISODE 4: The promise of Facebook was to create a more open and connected world. But from the company’s failure to protect millions of users’ data, to the proliferation of “fake news” and disinformation, mounting crises have raised the question: Is Facebook more harmful than helpful? On Monday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, FRONTLINE presents The Facebook Dilemma. This major, two-night event investigates a series of warnings to Facebook as the company grew from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room to a global empire. With dozens of original interviews and rare footage, The Facebook Dilemma examines the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.

This documentary focuses on just one of the major failings of Facebook and its attendant effects on society. If you’re using Facebook, you should watch both parts before continuing to support them.

I’m not quite sure what to label this particular type of failure. Tragedy of the commons? It’s painfully obvious that Facebook not only has no real idea how to solve this problem, but it’s even more telling that they don’t seem to have any desire or drive to solve it either.  The more I watch what they’re doing to their product and their users, the more I think that they have absolutely no ethics or morality at all. In particular Mark Zuckerberg  is completely tone deaf in these areas, and as a result the entire fish stinks from the head.

The only solution may be massive regulation. The sadder part is that with both their financing and lobbying power, not to mention their social influence power which could be leveraged completely via dark posts, they could have a painfully out-sized influence on elections to get their own way.

I’m really worried that things will get far worse before they get better.

👓 Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons by Aral Balkan

Read Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons by Aral Balkan (ar.al)
Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto outlines his vision for a centralised global colony ruled by the Silicon Valley oligarchy. I say we must do the exact opposite and create a world with individual sovereignty and a healthy commons.

The verbiage here is a bit inflammatory and very radical sounding, but the overarching thesis is fairly sound. The people who are slowly, but surely building the IndieWeb give me a lot of hope that the unintended (by the people anyway) consequences that are unfolding can be relatively quickly remedied.

Marginalia

We are sharded beings; the sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities.

To some extent, this thesis could extend Cesar Hidalgo’s concept of the personbyte as in putting part of one’s self out onto the internet, one can, in some sense, contain more information than previously required.

Richard Dawkin’s concept of meme extends the idea a bit further in that an individual’s thoughts can infect others and spread with a variable contagion rate dependent on various variables.

I would suspect that though this does extend the idea of personbyte, there is still some limit to how large the size of a particular person’s sphere could expand.


While technological implants are certainly feasible, possible, and demonstrable, the main way in which we extend ourselves with technology today is not through implants but explants.


in a tiny number of hands.

or in a number of tiny hands, as the case can sometimes be.


The reason we find ourselves in this mess with ubiquitous surveillance, filter bubbles, and fake news (propaganda) is precisely due to the utter and complete destruction of the public sphere by an oligopoly of private infrastructure that poses as public space.

This is a whole new tragedy of the commons: people don’t know where the commons actually are anymore.

Book Review: Charles Seife’s “Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception”

Read Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception (Penguin)
Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception Book Cover Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception
Charles Seife
Mathematics, Popular Science
Penguin
September 23, 2010
Hardcover
320

The bestselling author of Zero shows how mathematical misinformation pervades-and shapes-our daily lives. According to MSNBC, having a child makes you stupid. You actually lose IQ points. Good Morning America has announced that natural blondes will be extinct within two hundred years. Pundits estimated that there were more than a million demonstrators at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C., even though roughly sixty thousand were there. Numbers have peculiar powers-they can disarm skeptics, befuddle journalists, and hoodwink the public into believing almost anything. "Proofiness," as Charles Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side. It is used to bring down beloved government officials and to appoint undeserving ones (both Democratic and Republican), to convict the innocent and acquit the guilty, to ruin our economy, and to fix the outcomes of future elections. This penetrating look at the intersection of math and society will appeal to readers of Freakonomics and the books of Malcolm Gladwell.

Charles Seife doesn’t prove that mathematics is essential for a democracy, but he certainly shows how the lack of proper use of mathematics can fray heavily at the edges!

Proofiness was a great book to have read over a long Fourth of July holiday. Though many people may realize some of the broad general concepts in the book, it’s great to have a better structure for talking about concepts like Potemkin numbers, disestimation, fruit packing, cherry picking, apple polishing, comparing apples to oranges, causuistry, randnumbness, regression to the moon, tragedy of the commons, and moral hazard among others. If you didn’t think mathematics was important to daily life or our democratic society, this book will certainly change your mind.

Seife covers everything from polls, voting, politics, economics, marketing, law, and even health to show how numbers are misused in a modern world that can ill-afford to ignore what is really going on around us.

This is a fantastic book for nearly everyone in the general public, but I’d highly recommend it for high school students while taking civics.

Original review posted on GoodReads.com on 7/9/12.

Reading Progress
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