Bookmarked The Digital Poorhouse (Harper's magazine)
Think of the digital poorhouse as an invisible web woven of fiber-optic threads. Each strand functions as a microphone, a camera, a fingerprint scanner, a GPS tracker, a trip wire, and a crystal ball. Some of the strands are sticky. Along the threads travel petabytes of data. Our activities vibrate the web, disclosing our location and direction. Each of these filaments can be switched on or off. They reach back into history and forward into the future. They connect us in networks of association to those we know and love. As you go down the socioeconomic scale, the strands are woven more densely and more of them are switched on.
Virginia Eubanks compares the restrictive nature of the poorhouses of the nineteenth century with the digital spaces of today:

The differences between the brick-and-mortar poorhouse of yesterday and the digital one of today are significant. Containment in a physical institution had the unintended result of creating class solidarity across the lines of race, gender, and national origin. If we sit at a common table to eat the same gruel, we might see similarities in our experiences. But now surveillance and digital social sorting are driving us apart, targeting smaller and smaller microgroups for different kinds of aggression and control. In an invisible poorhouse, we become ever more cut off from the people around us, even if they share our suffering.

The digital poorhouse has a much lower barrier to expansion. Automated decision-making systems, matching algorithms, and predictive risk models have the potential to spread quickly.

In conclusion, Eubanks suggests that we need to work together to build a solution:

If there is to be an alternative, we must build it purposefully, brick by brick and byte by byte.

This reminds me of the point Brent Simmons made in regards to Micro.blogs:

We’re discovering the future as we build it.

Bookmarked China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious (The Atlantic)
As private enterprise takes an increasingly prominent role in the creation and management of ostensibly public urban space, as neo-authoritarianism spreads unchecked, and as pervasive technology weaves itself ever more intimately into all the sites and relations of contemporary life, all of the material conditions are right for Chinese-style social credit to spread on other ground. Consider what Sidewalk Labs’ neighborhood-scale intervention in Toronto implies—or the start-up Citymapper’s experiments with privatized mass transit in London, or even Tinder’s control over access to the pool of potential romantic partners in cities around the world—and it’s easy to imagine a network of commercial partners commanding all the choke points of urban life. The freedoms that were once figured as a matter of “the right to the city” would become contingent on algorithmically determined certification of good conduct.
Adam Greenfield discusses China’s move to measure ‘social credit’. He explains that there is nothing within the context that would stop it spreading globally. This is a position supported by Bruce Sterling.

One of the consequences that Greenfield shares is the impact such changes would have on urban environments:

A dominant current of urbanist thought in the West sees order in cities as uncontrived—an emergent outcome of lower-level processes. Canny observers like Georg Simmel, Jane Jacobs, and Richard Sennett hold that virtually everything that makes big-city life what it is—and big-city people who they are—arises from the necessity of negotiating with the millions of others with whom city dwellers share their daily environments. In cities that are set up to afford this kind of interaction, people learn to practice what the sociologist Erving Goffman called “civil inattention.” They acknowledge the presence of others without making any particular claim on them. This creates the streetwise, broadly tolerant urban character of big, bustling cities from Istanbul to Berlin to Dakar, Senegal.

I am reminded of Steven Johnson and his discussion of where good ideas come from.


via Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked Next Big Thing in Education: Small Data (pasisahlberg.com)
It is becoming evident that Big Data alone won’t be able to fix education systems. Decision-makers need to gain a better understanding of what good teaching is and how it leads to better learning in schools. This is where information about details, relationships and narratives in schools become important. These are what Martin Lindstrom calls Small Data: small clues that uncover huge trends. In education, these small clues are often hidden in the invisible fabric of schools. Understanding this fabric must become a priority for improving education.
The ‘compulsive collector of clues, Martin Lindstrom, defines Small data as:

Seemingly insignificant behavioral observations containing very specific attributes pointing towards an unmet customer need. Small data is the foundation for break through ideas or completely new ways to turnaround brands.

Sahlberg takes this concept and applies it to education. Some ‘small data’ practices he suggests include:

  • Focus on formative assessment over standardised testing
  • Develop collective autonomy and teamwork in schools
  • Involve students in assessing and reflecting their own learning and then incorporating that information into collective human judgment about teaching and learning

This move away from standardisation is something championed by people like Greg Whitby.

Bookmarked The Anatomy of a Data Story by Nicole Hitner (datafloq.com)
It’s not the graph that makes the data interesting. Rather, it’s the story you build around it—the way you make it something your audience cares about, something that resonates with them—that’s what makes data interesting.
According to Ben Wellington, there are four features of a great data story:

Connect with people

If you don’t have a question to answer or artificial intelligence to point you to an interesting trend, you’ll likely have to do some data discovery and exploration to find a story worth telling.

Try to convey one idea

When designing your visuals, take clarity and conciseness over sizzle—but also consider what it is you want to emphasize … Anytime you can give your audience a more familiar point of reference, it can help drive an idea home.

Keep it simple

Once you have all your facts and figures, the first step in telling their story is considering your audience. After all, if your goal is to make the story resonate with the audience, you’ll need to consider its members’:

Explore a topic you know well.

When there are multiple campaigns designed to resolve the conflict and multiple ways of looking at each campaign, there can be a lot of data to review. In these cases, focus only on the visualizations that are essential to the narrative, or the story will dissolve into a humdrum boardroom presentation.


BONUS – Delivery

Consider your tone. Humor can utterly transform a story, but so can poignancy and earnestness. Giving the story some kind of tonal emphasis can give it the edge it needs to stand out from the rest.

via Tom Woodward

Liked Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It's time to make them stop by Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo (CNBC)
Google, Facebook hidden trackers follow users around the web at alarming rates, says DuckDuckGo's CEO Gabriel Weinberg. To make any real progress in advancing data privacy this year, we have to start doing something about them. Not doing so would be like trying to lose weight without changing your diet. Simply ineffective.
Listened IRL Podcast Episode 10: Face Value from irlpodcast.org
From Snapchat filters to Apple’s Face ID, biometric technology plays a growing role in our everyday lives. What do we actually give up when we upload our face to these apps? Steven Talley shares his experience as a victim of mistaken identity. Joseph Atick, a forefather of facial recognition technology, reckons with its future. We head to to China, where biometric data is part of buying toilet paper. And artist Adam Harvey investigates how racial bias seeps into big data sets.
In this episode of the IRL Podcast, Veronica Belmont leads a conversation about mistaken identity, the Art and Culture selfie and increase in the collection of biometric data in China.

Glynnis MacNicol questions what we are giving up in using our face to log-in to our phone or sharing online. He suggests that we should become face-less:

Everyone get your faces offline. Yes, I can’t … What evidence is there that this is a good idea? I mean, really? Is there literally any evidence that this is going to benefit us? Let me ask you, why would you post a selfie?

That has me again thinking about the use of such platforms as Facebook and Instagram to share school-based images.

For Adam Harvey, it comes back to race:

I tell people that facial recognition is really racial recognition, plus some additional metadata.

In an article in the New Yorker, Joy Buolamwini suggests that this is a coded gaze:

Just as the male gaze sees the world on its own terms, as a place made for men’s pleasure, the coded gaze sees everything according to the data sets on which its creators trained it.

This is very much a part of the discussion of ethics in the new machine age.

Bookmarked More on the mechanics of GDPR (Open Educational Thinkering)
Note: I'm writing this post on my personal blog as I'm still learning about GDPR. This is me thinking out loud, rather than making official Moodle pronouncements. 'Enjoyment' and 'compliance-focused courses' are rarely uttered in the same breath. I have, however, enjoyed my second week of learning from Futurelearn's
Doug Belshaw breaks down a number of points associated with the GDPR. During TIDE, he also makes the point that this will set a precedence moving forward in regards to the collection of data so will therefore have an influence on everyone. Eylan Ezekiel also provided a useful discussion a few months a go.
Bookmarked Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases by Alex Hern (the Guardian)
Data about exercise routes shared online by soldiers can be used to pinpoint overseas facilities
Alex Hern reports that Strava data inadvertently reveals a number of supposed military secrets. In response, Bill Fitzgerald also provides some interesting commentary on Twitter:

Arvind Narayanan also wrote a series of tweets:

Listened Digital dystopia: tech slavery and the death of privacy – podcast by an author from the Guardian
Jordan Erica Webber explores whether our privacy has been compromised by the tech giants whose business models depend on harvesting and monetising our data. We speak to cyborg rights activist Aral Balkan; the executive director of UK charity Privacy International Gus Hosein; and to Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine and author of The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.
In the first episode of our four-part miniseries, Jordan Erica Webber asks whether our digital selves are owned by tech firms in a new form of slavery? One of the interesting points made was that in the past, people were often private in public spaces, whereas today things have been reversed, where we are public in private places.