Bookmarked Can You Digitally Disappear? (CityLab)

Not really. But there are ways to cover your tracks online and skirt urban surveillance.

Jessica Leigh Hester discusses the challenge of digitally disappearing. Sadly, the answer is that in today’s world of surveillance you cannot. Hester instead shares some stratagies for at least reducing what is shared. This is compared to washing your hands to improve personal hygiene.

Lee Tien advocates a certain degree of self-protection. He views these measures as a kind of digital hygiene—the “equivalent of washing your hands when you go to the bathroom,” or getting a flu shot. But he stresses that they’re only a partial prophylactic: “Nothing that will make you immune from the problem.”

This is something that I tried to capture in my post on being safe, secure and informed.

Liked The Sweetgreen-ification of Society

We are losing the spaces we share across socioeconomic strata. Slowly, but surely, we are building the means for an everyday urbanite to exist solely in their physical and digital class lanes. It used to be the rich, and then everyone else. Now in every realm of daily consumer life, we are able to efficiently separate ourselves into a publicly visible delineation of who belongs where.

We lost the lunch line. We lost the coffee cart. We’re losing the commute. Innovation has bestowed upon us an entire homescreen worth of transportation options that allow us to congest the roads and never brush elbows with those taking the subway. Meanwhile, the crumbling of the subways aren’t felt by an ever growing number of the somewhat well-to-do.

Bookmarked Dylan Wiliam: Teaching not a research-based profession (Tes)

Classrooms are just too complicated for research ever to tell teachers what to do. Teachers need to know about research, to be sure, so that they can make smarter decisions about where to invest their time, but teachers, and school leaders need to become critical consumers of research – using research evidence where it is available and relevant, but also recognising that there are many things teachers need to make decisions about where there is no research evidence, and also realising that sometimes the research that is available may not be applicable in a particular context.

What this means, I think, that those who call for “evidence-based education” are missing the point. Evidence is important, of course, but what is more important is that we need to build teacher expertise and professionalism so that teachers can make better judgments about when, and how, to use research.

Dylan William argues that education has too many variables to be directed by research. Although it may serve a purpose, it only does when it supports teacher with improving their individual practice:

If we accept that every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better, professional development becomes welcome – it is just the way we become better.

I am however reminder here of Jon Andrews adage, “I’m interested in development, not improvement.”

Replied to ‘This has caused significant stress’: NAPLAN computer errors anger teachers, students (ABC News)

Victorian schools are given the option to scrap online NAPLAN tests after computer glitches and broadband problems affected schools across the country.

What is slightly disconcerting is that it is hard to find anyone who was surprised by this, especially those who were around during the days of the Ultranet.
Bookmarked Tell Me, Learning Analytics… (Reflecting Allowed)

Learning analytics give us data on student behaviors, but they do not provide explanations for these behaviors, so they do not tell the whole story of the human being, what motivates them, what barriers/obstacles stand in their way. They do not get to the root of lack of engagement.

Maha Bali discusses the limitations of learning analytics and what information is left silent.


Learning analytics focus on observable and quantifiable behaviors that are easy for the LMS to collect. When someone logged in, how long they stayed, which tool they used. We don’t know for sure that if analytics tell me someone watched the same video 4 times… if this means they literally sat and watched it 4 times from beginning to end (though some systems do tell how many mins were watched) but we don’t know if they tried again because their internet connection was bad, or because they were distracted by something happening at home, or something else they were doing on their computer at the same time… we just don’t know. We can know that someone has not submitted their last two assignments. But we don’t know why they didn’t submit them, what kind of barriers they were facing, and how to motivate them in future?

Liked Google uses Gmail to track a history of things you buy — and it’s hard to delete (CNBC)

Google says it doesn’t use your Gmail to show you ads and promises it “does not sell your personal information, which includes your Gmail and Google Account information,” and does “not share your personal information with advertisers, unless you have asked us to.”

But, for reasons that still aren’t clear, it’s pulling that information out of your Gmail and dumping it into a “Purchases” page most people don’t seem to know exists. Even if it’s not being used for ads, there’s no clear reason why Google would need to track years of purchases and make it hard to delete that information.

Replied to Digitally Literate #197 by an author

This transparency is good, but we need to question how transparent all of these companies are with our data. The takeaway is that they’re still collecting your data. They’re still using it to teach machine learning engines. Some will sell (or hand off) your data to others. Data breaches and hacks will happen. Business will continue as they seek to redefine privacy in an attempt to pacify user concern and angst on the topic.

Ian, I love your response to calls for privacy from Zuckerberg and Pichai. For me this feels like both a distraction and a way of avoiding liability. It is interesting to this about this while reading Ruined by Design:

Cooperation and regret is noted, but it doesn’t excuse the conduct. At some point in their lives, the people who helped Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Travis Kalanick execute their schemes may regret what they’ve done, they may even cooperate in undoing it. But, like the judge said—it won’t excuse the conduct.

Liked Why Technology’s Early Adopters Are Opting Out (Medium)

Today, each new device we purchase is a conscious decision to share an intimate piece of ourselves with a company whose goals may not align with our own. This exchange represents a fundamental shift in our relationship with technology and the companies that produce it. Adoption is no longer an ephemeral transaction of money for goods. It’s a permanent choice of personal exposure for convenience—and not just while you use the product. If a product fails, or a company folds, or you just stop using it, the data you provided can live on in perpetuity. This new dynamic is the Faustian bargain of a connected life, and it changes the value equation involved in choosing to adopt the next.

Bookmarked Opinion | Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again (

What is to be done? Designing phones and other devices to be more privacy-protected would be start, and government regulation of the collection and flow of data would help slow things down. But this is not the complete solution. We also need to start passing laws that directly regulate the use of computational inference: What will we allow to be inferred, and under what conditions, and subject to what kinds of accountability, disclosure, controls and penalties for misuse?

Zeynep Tufekci explains that with the use of computational inference, purchasing of data and the creation of shadow profiles, companies know more about use than what we maybe explicitly sharing online.
Bookmarked Opinion | It’s Time to Panic About Privacy (

We claim to want it, companies claim to provide it, but we all just accept that, well, you have no privacy online.

This interactive post from the New York Times is a useful provocation to think about privacy, data and the internet of things. For more resources on the topic, read Chris Croft’s spring clean and Ian O’Byrne’s series on digital hygiene.
Replied to Data Obfuscation and Facial Recognition Faceoff: Possible #Netnarr Field Guide Topics (CogDogBlog)

Do the assignments you assign? I blabbed about this recently for the Ontario Extend mOOC I was facilitating, so it’s also appropriate for the Networked Narratives course I co-teach with Mia Z…

Alan, I wonder about obfuscating data via mobile browser? I am also interested in the way that our participation with things such as facial recognition ironically is what makes them possible. For examples, I was reading about how DNA testing is partly dependant on past tests, while Turn It In works because institutions allow us to turn our work into billions for others.
Liked How DNA ancestry testing can change our ideas of who we are (The Conversation)

The bigger picture that’s emerging from DNA ancestry testing is that we’ve underestimated the extent of mixing between ancestral groups throughout human history.

Looking at the pie chart might give you the impression that there are discrete borders within you and boundaries between your different ancestries, but as Aeromexico so eloquently put it, “there are no borders within us”.

Bookmarked Vast amounts of data about our children are being harvested via apps used by schools. This is what is being collected and stored (AARE)

A major problem with creating reports like this is that they only judge students on a small number of behaviours that ‘count’. They ignore, and even deter, diversity. For example, teachers have to identify behaviours they want students to exhibit so they can monitor them using ClassDojo. Default options include working hard, on-task, and displaying grit. This list has to be limited to a number of behaviours that is manageable by the teacher to track. The selected behaviours end up being the ones that count, others are ignored, thus promoting conformity.

Jamie Manolev, Anna Sullivan and Roger Slee explore the sensitive data collected on students, teachers and schools by educational apps. The authors document some of these points:

This data includes

  • First and last names
  • Student usernames
  • Passwords
  • Students’ age
  • School names
  • School addresses
  • Photographs, videos, documents, drawings, or audio files
  • Student class attendance data
  • Feedback points
  • IP addresses
  • Browser details
  • Clicks
  • Referring URL’s
  • Time spent on site
  • Page views
  • Teacher parent messages

Moreover, ClassDoJo says it ‘may also obtain information, including personal information, from third-party sources to update or supplement the information you provided or we collected automatically’.

This reminds me of Ben Williamson’s point about Class Dojo that sensitivity is produced over time:

The ‘sensitive information’ contained in ClassDojo is the behavioural record built up from teachers tapping reward points into the app.

I think that it needs to be noted that although there is a focus on ‘wellbeing’ the affordances of the application can be used in different ways. For example, Bianca Hewes has used it to monition 21st century learning.

Bookmarked Suggestion Box History: The Small Data Before Big Data by an author (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

How the suggestion box, once a simple tool for giving feedback, played a role in the weirder and darker data-hungry present for many companies.

Ernie Smith provides a dive into the world of the suggestion box. This seems in contrast to Megan Ward’s investigation of feedback and computational thinking. Smith seems to capture both worlds, however it is confusing as a to whether they are they are actually the same or if feedback is in fact different for different people.
Liked Time Magazine: Data, Privacy, Politics and the Mess We Are In by an author (Kevin’s Meandering Mind)

Roger McNamee lays out some major topics and areas of concern where Facebook may be a threat to a civil and civic society:

  • Democracy (see, election interference)
  • Privacy (see, data surveillance of every click and view and share by Facebook)
  • Data (see, sale of data to third-party vendors)
  • Regulation (see, not any to speak of)
  • Humanization (see, or lack thereof)
  • Addiction (see, the world around you)
  • Children (see, bullying and alarm bells about the brain)
Bookmarked Why Data Is Never Raw (The New Atlantis)

“Raw data is both an oxymoron and a bad idea; to the contrary, data should be cooked with care.” “Raw” carries a sense of natural or untouched, while “cooked” suggests the result of cognitive processes. But data is always the product of cognitive, cultural, and institutional processes that determine what to collect and how to collect it. In this sense, “raw data” is indeed a contradiction in terms. In the ordinary use of the term “raw data,” “raw” signifies that no processing was performed following data collection, but the term obscures the various forms of processing that necessarily occur before data collection. (Summary via Tom Woodward)

Sometimes I wonder if I write just to be glad when I find my thought more clearly articulated by somebody else. As I wrote elsewhere, data ain’t data, it is never raw, instead it is always involves some sort of bias and interpretation.

Assumptions inevitably find their way into the data and color the conclusions drawn from it. Moreover, they reflect the beliefs of those who collect the data. As economist Ronald Coase famously remarked, “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.” And journalist Lena Groeger, in a 2017 ProPublica story on the biases that visual designers inscribe into their work, soundly noted that “data doesn’t speak for itself — it echoes its collectors.”

via Tom Woodward

Replied to My Instagram Problem (bavatuesdays)

I never planned to get on Instagram, and I was even less inclined to enjoy it. But 616 posts and 18 months later I’m realizing I am deeper in then I ever intended. I tell myself I can quit anytime, but now that Twitter holds little joy for me and Mastodon feels like a temporary rebound relationship, Instagram has quietly become my go to.

It is interesting having gone somewhat quiet on social media. I think what you highlight in this post is the power and presence of a personal community in driving the connections. I am finding that although I may have certain values if the consensus says something different then it does it really matter.

At work, I refused to share my contacts with WhatsUp (and Facebook Inc) and the answer has been that I am excluded from certain conversations. In this circumstance I have lost out?

I like your point about transferability and think that maybe as you point out that this maybe what matters most. This then allows for such projects as Manton Reece’s transfer of Instagram to or Jonathan LaCour’s move to transfer Facebook content using Micropub. A part of me wonders if I retired my Known instance to early?