Bookmarked ‘Nothing to worry about. The water is fine’: how Flint poisoned its people by Anna Clark (the Guardian)

When the people of Flint, Michigan, complained that their tap water smelled bad and made children sick, it took officials 18 months to accept there was a problem.


Anna Clark provides a breakdown of the environmental disaster in Flint. Whether it be failure to deal with corrosion or the choice to change the water source, again and again the story comes back to money. It is a reminder that Adelaide’s water is not so bad after all.

What happened in Flint reveals a new hydra of dangers in civic life: environmental injustice, the limits of austerity, and urban disinvestment. Neglect, it turns out, is not a passive force in American cities, but an aggressive one.

Bookmarked 'Data is a fingerprint': why you aren't as anonymous as you think online by Olivia Solon (the Guardian)

More recently, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a computational privacy researcher, showed how the vast majority of the population can be identified from the behavioural patterns revealed by location data from mobile phones. By analysing a mobile phone database of the approximate locations (based on the nearest cell tower) of 1.5 million people over 15 months (with no other identifying information) it was possible to uniquely identify 95% of the people with just four data points of places and times. About 50% could be identified from just two points.

Olivia Solon demonstrates some of the problems that we face with privacy. This touches on some of the challenges that Michael Golumbia addresses in his post on personal data. Both authors come to the same conclusion, we are expecting too much of the consumer.

via Ian O’Byrne

Bookmarked Susan Sontag: At the Same Time (review) (Radio National)

“To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.

When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world.

The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched.

But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding — which is also the understanding of the novelist — to take this in.”

In an extract from At the Same Time, Susan Sontag discusses storytelling and the art of leaving things out. I wonder if the same could be said of music? For example, in a documentary reflecting on U2’s album The Joshua Tree, Brian Eno demonstrates through the mixing board how they would could have mimicked Depeche Mode. Or maybe music too is simply a form of storytelling?

via Brainpickings

Bookmarked Blog Case Study: Student Run Newspaper (The Edublogger)

A student run newspaper is one type of blog that can offer many advantages for students. This post showcases an impressive newspaper run by the students at Zurich International School in Switzerland (ZIS).

The Lion’s Journal is another example of a collaborative production to add to the many faces of blogging.
Bookmarked Facial-Recognition Systems Pitched as School-Safety Solutions, Raising Alarms (Education Week)

“If we had a student who committed some type of offense against the code of conduct, we can follow that student throughout the day to see maybe who they interacted with, where they were prior to the incident, where they went after the incident, so forensically we could also use the software in that capacity as well,” Rabey told the News in May.

Benjamin Herold reports on the introduction of facial recognition devices into schools. Many seem to be selling this as a means of creating a safe school environment. The concern raised by some is that this has not been thought out and until schools can actually think of a justified reason why then they should not engage with such technology, even if it is free.
Bookmarked Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet by Chris Aldrich (alistapart.com)

Breaking down the walls between the internet’s many social silos, Webmentions offer a new level of freedom for web interactions.

Chris Aldrich provides an introduction to webmentions. This includes unpacking the specification, the notion of mentions, the idea of kinds and way in which sites are potentially able to connect two-ways. This continues Aldrich’s efforts to document the IndieWeb, which has included a thorough overview of the IndieWeb and the future of feed readers. This introduction is different to Aaron Parecki’s guide to sending your first webmentions or breakdown of the oAuth standard.
Bookmarked 18 best practices for working with data in Google Sheets – Ben Collins (Ben Collins)

This article describes 18 best practices for working with data in Google Sheets, including examples and screenshots to illustrate each concept in action.

Ben Collins provides a guide for working with data in Google Sheets. Some of the useful steps that stood out were documenting the steps you takeadding an index column for sorting and referencing, creating named ranges for your datasets and telling the story of one row to check the data. Another tip I picked up from Jay Atwood has been to import data, if moving from Excel to Sheets, rather than simply copying and pasting.
Bookmarked How well do we ‘face up to’ racism? (Anne’s Angle)

Multiculturalism is not an outcome but a process.  Racism may not be deliberate BUT anti-racism is always deliberate.

Anna Del Conte provides some take-aways from a course on racism. Some of the activities included what racism is, a timeline of diversity in Australia and listening to stories. Another resource I am reminded of is Dan Haesler’s interview with Stan Grant. In part this stemmed from Grant’s speech addressing racism.
Bookmarked We Don’t Know What ‘Personal Data’ Means – uncomputing (uncomputing)

It’s Not Just What We Tell Them. It’s What They Infer. Many of us seem to think that “personal data” is a straightforward concept.  In discussions about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, GDPR, and the rest of the data-drenched world we live in now, we proceed from the assumption that personal data means something like “data about myself that I provide to a

David Golumbia provides a list of six types of personal data: provided, observed, derived, inferred, anonymised and aggregate. In unpacking the work of Virginia Eubank and Cathy O’Neil, he warns about what we share only when we do not really know who is collecting such information.

Yes, we should be very concerned about putting direct personal data out onto social media. Obviously, putting “Democrat” or even “#Resist” in your public Twitter profile tells anyone who asks what party we are in. We should be asking hard questions about whether it is wise to allow even that minimal kind of declaration in public and whether it is wise to allow it to be stored in any form, and by whom. But perhaps even more seriously, and much less obviously, we need to be asking who is allowed to process and store information like that, regardless of where they got it from, even if they did not get it directly from us. source

Golumbia says that governments need to get on top of issues associated with data, because the public is struggling.

Bookmarked You can’t buy an ethical smartphone today (Engadget)

Right now, it’s impossible to buy a smartphone you can be certain was produced entirely ethically. Any label on the packaging wouldn’t stand a chance of explaining the litany of factors that go into its construction. The problem is bigger than one company, NGO or trade policy, and will require everyone’s effort to make things better.

Daniel Cooper explains the challenges associated with buying an ethical smartphone. He touches on the challenges associated with the construction (often in the Shenzhen province) and the number of rare materials involved.

Devices vary, but your average smartphone may use more than 60 different metals. Many of them are rare earth metals, so-called because they’re available in smaller quantities than many other metals, if not genuinely rare.

There is also limitations on the ability to recycle or refurbish devices, with significant challenges associated with replacing parts. This is also something that Adam Greenfield discusses in his book Radical Technologies.

via Douglas Rushkoff

Bookmarked Learning To Code By Writing Code Poems (Smashing Magazine)

In all languages, there is probably a word for love. You kinda know what it means, but not really, because it is so subjective. But still, there is a word for it.

But in JavaScript, there is no “love,” until you say there is. It can be whatever you want it to be.

Murat Kemaldar discusses the connections between coding and poetry. He re-imagines the various rules and constructs in a more human form. This continues a conversation started between Darrell Branson, Tony Richards and Ian Guest on Episode 234 of the Ed Tech Team Podcast about whether everyone should learn poetry and coding. This is also something Royan Lee shares.
Bookmarked My iPhone Photography Kit (jordanmerrick.com)

iPhone photography is more than just the performance of a CMOS sensor though. It’s also the ecosystem of third-party apps and accessories that can be used to help produce great photos. As I’ve become a more experienced iPhone photographer, some of these have become an essential part of my hobby.

Jordan Merricks reflects on the various applications and additions to support iPhone photography. This includes apps for editing, as well as lenses to improve the quality.
Bookmarked Incredibles 2 boosts working mothers – at the expense of stay-home dads | Hanna Flint by Hanna Flint (the Guardian)

As the film and television industry works harder to create female characters that are more representative of today’s working women, it’s time they gave working dads the same sort of treatment. Maybe that would help to dispel the stigma that stops so many men taking paternity leave, or help them to feel secure in earning less than their partners in order to spend more time looking after their children.

Mums are superheroes, but dads like mine are too. Incredibles 2 does them a disservice – let’s give them a bit more credit.

I really enjoyed the second installment of Incredibles, but the setup of Mr Incredible as ironically pathetic is a little bit frustrating. This is all to common and I agree with Hanna Flint that we need something more.
Bookmarked Unfollowing Everybody by Anil Dash (Anil Dash)

Keeping in mind that spirit of doing necessary maintenance, I recently did something I’d thought about doing for years: I unfollowed everyone on Twitter.

Anil Dash discusses the steps he took to unfollow everyone on Twitter and start again. There are some interesting ideas in this piece, such as archiving a list of people you are following. Might be one to come back to.
Bookmarked

Stewart Riddle discusses the five steps, which every failing teacher can follow to improve not only their students’ test scores, but also their lives, relationships and financial success:

  1. Focus on the learner
  2. Teach them some stuff
  3. Check that they learnt some stuff
  4. Teach them some more stuff
  5. Enjoy your amazing new successful look

Here’s a testimonal from a ‘real’ teacher:

“I tried Learner-Based-Learning™️ in my classroom and it completely transformed me overnight!”

Bookmarked Can Reading Make You Happier? (The New Yorker)

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. “Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines,” the author Jeanette Winterson has written. “What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.”

Ceridewn Dovey takes a look at bibliotherapy and the act of reading as a cure. Some argue that readers are more empathetic, while others suggest that it provides pleasure, whatever the particular outcome maybe, reading has shown to provide many health benefits. As Kin Lane suggests, when in doubt, read a book.

As a side, the article opens with a nice description of reading:

In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself. As Woolf, the most fervent of readers, wrote, a book “splits us into two parts as we read,” for “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” while promising “perpetual union” with another mind.

Bookmarked Cory Doctorow: Zuck’s Empire of Oily Rags (Locus Online)

For 20 years, privacy advocates

Cory Doctorow provides a commentary on the current state of affairs involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Rather than blame the citizens of the web, he argues that the fault exists with the mechanics in the garage and the corruption that they have engaged with. The question that seems to remain is if this is so and we still want our car fixed, where do we go?

Marginalia

Cambridge Analytica are like stage mentalists: they’re doing something labor-intensive and pretending that it’s something supernatural. A stage mentalist will train for years to learn to quickly memorize a deck of cards and then claim that they can name your card thanks to their psychic powers. You never see the unglamorous, unimpressive memorization practice. source

The comparison between Cambridge Analytica (and big data in general) with the stage mentalist is intriguing. I am left wondering about the disappointment and disbelief in the truth. Sometimes there is a part of us that oddly wants to be mesmerised and to believe.


It’s fashionable to treat the dysfunctions of social media as the result of the naivete of early technologists, who failed to foresee these outcomes. The truth is that the ability to build Facebook-like services is relatively common. What was rare was the moral recklessness necessary to go through with it. source

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica raise the question of just because we can, it doesn’t mean we should.


Facebook doesn’t have a mind-control problem, it has a corruption problem. Cambridge Analytica didn’t convince decent people to become racists; they convinced racists to become voters. source

In relation to the question of mind-control verses corruption, I wonder where the difference exists. Does corruption involve some element of ‘mind-control’ to convince somebody that this is the answer?

Bookmarked Flexible Classrooms: Research Is Scarce, But Promising | Edutopia (Edutopia)

Classroom flexibility, isolated from other measured factors, appears to be roughly as important as air quality, light, or temperature in boosting academic outcomes.

What is interesting about this report is that rather than discussing furniture in isolation, it is considered as a part of a wider conversation about learning and environment.

Flexible classrooms are successful because they go hand in hand with a change in pedagogy.

The impact of flexible spaces though can be almost incidental at times, as is with the case of Maths:

Flexible, welcoming spaces had a startlingly large effect on learning in math—73 percent of the students’ progress that was attributed to classroom design was traced back to flexibility and student ownership. The reasons are a mystery, but Barrett and his team hazarded a guess: Academic subjects that provoke anxiety—in math, that’s a known issue—are better addressed in classrooms that feel comfortable and familiar to students.

This speaks of agency as much as it does of the chairs in the classroom.

Bookmarked Survival of the Richest – Future Human – Medium by douglas rushkoff (Medium)

At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.

Douglas Rushkoff reflections on the desire of some in technology to escape the world. This touches on the notion of technology as a system. In closing he suggests that the answer is stop worrying about how you might inoculate yourself against tomorrow, but start building relationships today in part so tomorrow does not occur.