Bookmarked HEWN, No. 333

It is mind-boggling — MIND-BOGGLING — that folks want to argue that the value of a technology company has little to do with its accrual of data. The argument for the past decade has been “data is the new oil” — its extraction and analysis necessary for predictions and profit. Now data is the new nothing-burger, I guess.

Audrey Watters discusses the news that private equity firm Thoma Bravo is to Acquire Instructure for $2 billion and asks how this cannot be about data.
Liked HEWN, No. 317

In the case of plagiarism detection and automated essay grading software, it’s not a future that values students’ thinking and students’ voices. It’s not one that, even as Google tries to rebrand its new product, encourages “original thinking.” Rather it’s a future where students will be compelled to conform to the rules of the machine — rules we know are deeply biased, based on extraction and profiteering and information imbalances that have put democracy at risk.

Liked HEWN, No. 329

I’m not sure what ISTE gains by buying Edsurge, to be honest. Edsurge, for its part, gains a lifeline. Despite years and years of losing millions and millions, the publication won’t go away. Not yet at least. There’s more, some seem to believe, to squeeze out of the brand. Apparently the ed-tech industry — and ISTE is certainly part of that industry, despite being a non-profit — has determined that its storytelling function is too valuable to go away. Or perhaps it’s just cheaper for the industry to fund one marketing vehicle rather than two. And that’s an interesting determination, considering all the pronouncements that finally! the ed-tech “revolution” has arrived.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 321

It’s not simply that the Silicon Valley positivity machine only rewards positive ideas. (“We build things,” someone once told me. “You just tear things down.”) Without a grounding in theory or knowledge or ethics or care, the Silicon Valley machine rewards stupid and dangerous ideas, propping up and propped up by ridiculous, self-serving men. There won’t ever be a reckoning if we’re nice.

Liked HEWN, No. 319

Anthony Burgess’s novel — a novel about a violent youth subculture, sure, but also one about behavioral modification — was published in 1962, a year after B. F. Skinner published his book The Analysis of Behavior, as well as his article “Teaching Machines.” The Stanley Kubrick film came out in 1971, the same year Skinner published Beyond Freedom and Dignity. (It’s odd, I find, when people today believe that behaviorism is wrong because it doesn’t work.)

Liked HEWN, No. 316

I’ve seen Epstein described elsewhere as a “stool pigeon,” tasked with ratting out other billionaire pedophiles as part of a deal he struck (or hopes to strike) with the government. It seems to me there are several stool pigeons here among his science cronies too, especially those who set out some decoy version of “intelligence” — dare I say “artificial intelligence” — hoping we don’t sense the danger or notice that their eyes and minds and hearts are sewn shut.

Liked HEWN, No. 312

Engineering is a social production not merely a scientific or technological one. And educational engineering is not just a profession; it is an explicitly commercial endeavor. For engineers, as historian David Noble has pointed out, are not only “the foremost agents of modern technology,” but also “the agents of corporate capital.”

“Learning engineers,” largely untethered from history and purposefully severed from the kind of commitment to democratic practices urged by Dewey, are now poised to be the agents of surveillance capital.

Liked HEWN, No. 298 (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter)

Technologists suck at predicting the future. They suck because they don’t understand the past; they’re blind to much of the present. They’re terrible at predicting the future because they fail to grasp the systems and practices surrounding their products, firm in their faith instead that their own genius (and their investors’ continued support) will be enough to muddle forward.

Replied to HEWN, No. 295 by an author (HEWN)

I’ve been off of social media for a week now. I don’t know if other people have noticed my absence, but the platforms sure have. Facebook now sends me daily emails, trying to lure me to log back in with vague references to what I’ve missed. One message. Nineteen notifications. Four mentions. Facebook wants me to know that Tommy has uploaded a photo, confident I suppose, that I need to use Facebook to see how his very first trip to the UK is going. (I don’t.) Facebook wants me to know that Tressie has commented on Tim’s status update. I haven’t talked to Tim in a while, and Tressie has a book coming out soon. I should email both of them. Thanks for the nudge, Facebook, but I won’t sign in.

The way in which platforms like Facebook and Pinterest send notifications is really annoying. Turning them off is even more frustrating. However, what disappoints me is why platforms whose model is subscription based continue with this trend. If there is a need to send a notification, especially by email, then why can’t it include all the information I need to know? For example, with Compass schools are able to notify users of update and/or information, but this then requires the user to log in and then click on the notification in order to find out something menial such as ‘sausage sizzle on tomorrow’
Liked HEWN, No. 279 (TinyLetter)

I am so fed up with Twitter. I have been for years now, no doubt. But it’s hard, as a self-employed writer, to ditch the site altogether. I use it to promote my work. (I’ll post a link to this newsletter there as soon as I hit “publish.”) And I find news and other writers’ stories there too – things that I wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon, thanks in no small part to the demise of RSS. Nevertheless, due to changes this week to Twitter’s API – changes that mean my desktop Twitter client of choice, Tweetbot, no longer really works – it is unlikely I’ll be on the site much for the foreseeable future.

Liked HEWN, No. 250 by Audrey Watters (TinyLetter)

The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.