📰 Read Write Respond #045

Another month has flown on by. My family and I have just gotten back from some time away in Vanuatu. I think it is fair to say that Google and Uber have some work to do there in regards to implementing self-driving cars. It felt like there are two maps, one plotting where to go, the other documenting the multitude of pot-holes. I must admit it was nice to stop.

In regards to work, there are always changes going on. The focus though continues to be automating the process for on-boarding schools. I wrote a longer reflection about that here. My biggest takeaway is that:

Too often the conversation around technology is around efficiency – replacing work and saving time. However, my experience with supporting schools with setting up reports, timetables and attendance, and technology in general, has me feeling it often changes things. This touches on the reality that technology is a system. In saving in once spot, it often adds to another. As always, comments welcomes.

At the same time we are also grappling with how to best support schools already on. This is especially challenging when it comes to tasks like setting up a timetable that schools may only do once a year.

Personally, I have continued reading Why We Can’t Write. I also worked on my site. This included improving the search thanks to some help from John Johnston, as well as fix up the header images. In regards to my listening, I have been really getting into Lana Del Ray, Montaigne, Charli XCX, M83 and G Flip, as well as diving into the Switched on Pop podcast. I also watched the Chernobyl miniseries.

Learning and Teaching

Children’s books are tackling dark and taboo topics. Morris Gleitzman says that’s nothing to be afraid of

Morris Gleitzman and Jo Lampert spoke as part of a panel discussing the place of literature to tackle complex topics.

Why the Periodic Table of Elements Is More Important Than Ever

Bloomberg collects together a number of essays exploring the various elements of the periodic table.

Re-imagining Education for Democracy with Stewart Riddle

Stewart Riddle discusses the issue of democracy in education in an interview with Cameron Malcher on the TER Podcast.

Learning Science: The Problem With Data, And How You Can Measure Anything

Julian Stodd provides a useful introduction to quantitative and qualitative data.

One for the books: the unlikely renaissance of libraries in the digital age

Often the discussion around the future of libraries focuses on technology and spaces, however Jane Cadzow’s deep dive uncovers the more human side of libraries throughout Australia.


The Perfect User

Cherie Lacey, Catherine Caudwell and Alex Beattie discuss the ironic templated sense of identity perpetuated by the humane technology movement.

Privacy matters because it empowers us all

Carissa Véliz pushes back on the idea that anyone can say they have ‘nothing to hide’. Whether it be attention, money, reputation or identity, she argues that we all have something worth getting at.

EdTech Resistance

Ben Williamson provides a broad survey of the different ways that people have been critically engaging with technology in education.

Apps Script Pulse

Martin Hawksey has created a site to collate different Google App Script projects.

The Psychology of Silicon Valley

Antony Funnell speaks with Katy Cook on the RN Future Tense podcast about the many influences on Silicon Valley.


Media Accounting 101: Appholes and Contracts

Craig Mod explores the agreements we make that we may not always be aware that we are making.

Misogyny, male rage and the words men use to describe Greta Thunberg

Camilla Nelson and Meg Vertigan survey the way in which males have responded to Greta Thunberg.

Kate O’Halloran made a mistake on Twitter. But admitting it wasn’t enough for trolls

Kate O’Halloran reflections on her experience of being trolled online after a mistake made on Twitter.

The Cost of Next-Day Delivery: How Amazon Escapes The Blame For Its Deadly Last Mile

Caroline O’Donovan and Ken Bensinger provide a picture of what is involved in having things delivered the next day.

Malcolm Gladwell Reaches His Tipping Point

In a review of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Talking to Strangers, Andrew Ferguson unpacks Gladwell’s pivot from rules and biases to unanswered questions.

Focus on … MIT and Jeffrey Epstein

A quote from danah boyd
Image via “BrickForge Animals” by Dunechaser https://flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/1431005928 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Justin Peters maps the history associated with MIT, the birth of the Media Lab and the choice to soil its specialness, rather than support activists like Aaron Swartz. Evgeny Morozov labels it as moral bankruptcy. Audrey Watters calls it a plutocratic horror show. James Bridle questions the ethics of the Media Lab and their history in building products to improve people’s lives, only to then pivot into market gains. Ronan Farrow reports on the steps Joi Ito and others took to conceal Epstein’s involvement with the Media Lab. Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that Epstein’s intent in donating was not whitewashing, but rather to gain access to powerful men. Anand Giridharadas outlines why he resigned as a juror for MIT’s Disobedience Award. Heather Gold reflects on the problem of gender and power. danah boyd discusses the great reckoning ahead, where we are faced with the challenge of building rather than breaking the web.

Read Write Respond #045

So that was September for me, how about you? As always, happy to hear.
Bryan Mathers' sketch
Cover Image via JustLego101


Heather Gold reflects on Twitter on MIT and their association with Jeffrey Epstein. She explains that it simply highlights the problem of gender and power that has been present for so long, but people have learned to work within the constraints.

“You’re gonna have to take it.“

The sentiment of abuse.

The sick pleasure of abuse for the abuser. *Making* you. Your lack of safe choice.

It also applies to a million situations for women working in tech if they want access, belonging, work.(source)

This is something that danah boyd touches upon in her acceptance speech for Barlow/Pioneer Award.

Bookmarked danah boyd | apophenia » Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On (zephoria.org)

The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good. But it’s not enough to say that we’re going to do good; we need to collectively define — and hold each other to — shared values and standards.

People can change. Institutions can change. But doing so requires all who harmed — and all who benefited from harm — to come forward, admit their mistakes, and actively take steps to change the power dynamics. It requires everyone to hold each other accountable, but also to aim for reconciliation not simply retribution. So as we leave here tonight, let’s stop designing the technologies envisioned in dystopian novels. We need to heed the warnings of artists, not race head-on into their nightmares. Let’s focus on hearing the voices and experiences of those who have been harmed because of the technologies that made this industry so powerful. And let’s collaborate with and design alongside those communities to fix these wrongs, to build just and empowering technologies rather than those that reify the status quo.

Accepting the 2019 Barlow/Pioneer Award, danah boyd reflects on her journey through technology, her experiences of abuse and learning to stay small.

Let me be clear — this is deeply destabilizing for me. I am here today in-no-small-part because I benefited from the generosity of men who tolerated and, in effect, enabled unethical, immoral, and criminal men. And because of that privilege, I managed to keep moving forward even as the collateral damage of patriarchy stifled the voices of so many others around me. I am angry and sad, horrified and disturbed because I know all too well that this world is not meritocratic. I am also complicit in helping uphold these systems.

I am here today because I learned how to survive and thrive in a man’s world, to use my tongue wisely, watch my back, and dodge bullets. I am being honored because I figured out how to remove a few bricks in those fortified walls so that others could look in. But this isn’t enough.

This all comes on light of all those who have benefited from the ties with Jeffrey Epstein.

boyd explains that we are now faced with a challenge to build, rather than break, a better web.

The Great Reckoning is in front of us. How we respond to the calls for justice will shape the future of technology and society. We must hold accountable all who perpetuate, amplify, and enable hate, harm, and cruelty. But accountability without transformation is simply spectacle. We owe it to ourselves and to all of those who have been hurt to focus on the root of the problem. We also owe it to them to actively seek to not build certain technologies because the human cost is too great.

Bookmarked How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein (The New Yorker)

New documents show that the M.I.T. Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s status as a convicted sex offender, and that Epstein directed contributions to the lab far exceeding the amounts M.I.T. has publicly admitted.

Ronan Farrow reports on the steps Joi Ito and others took to conceal Jeffrey Epstein’s involvement with the MIT Media Lab.

Ito and other lab employees took numerous steps to keep Epstein’s name from being associated with the donations he made or solicited. On Ito’s calendar, which typically listed the full names of participants in meetings, Epstein was identified only by his initials.

One voice a part of the effort to lift the lid is Signe Swenson, a former a former development associate and alumni coordinator at the lab. She explains the how the message to keep Epstein’s donations secret came from the top. Another employee to speak up is Ethan Zuckerman, who recently resigned in protest:

In 2013, Zuckerman said, he pulled Ito aside after a faculty meeting to express concern about meetings on Ito’s calendar marked “J.E.” Zuckerman recalled saying, “I heard you’re meeting with Epstein. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” and Ito responding, “You know, he’s really fascinating. Would you like to meet him?” Zuckerman declined and said that he believed the relationship could have negative consequences for the lab.

Farrow highlights how Epstein’s association with élite institutions like MIT helped shield him.

The revelations about Epstein’s widespread sexual misconduct, most notably reported by Julie K. Brown in the Miami Herald, have made clear that Epstein used the status and prestige afforded him by his relationships with élite institutions to shield himself from accountability and continue his alleged predation.

In a Twitter thread, Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that Epstein’s intent in donating to MIT was not whitewashing, but rather to gain access to powerful men. This all highlights the moral rot and bankruptcy of the techno-elites.

Audrey Watters calls it a ‘plutocratic horror show’.

Rafranz Davis asks when we stop promoting MIT’s products?

Jay Rosen also asks why the New York Times did not publish the information?

Liked Scripting News: The heroes machine (Scripting News)

What Gates did after he achieved dominance is where it was no longer a matter of skill and determination. It was the old layer of technology trying to prevent the new layer from booting up. As the web was growing, when the people behind it were academics with little funding and inexperienced Silicon Valley startups, he tried to kill it. And he didn’t give up. It was Bill Gates vs the future.

Liked HEWN, No. 320 (hewn.substack.com)

The problem isn’t just the Media Lab either. (Although my god, let’s address this one right now. Is there any reason it should continue to exist in its current state?) Nor is the problem MIT, an institution that’s repeatedly shown it’s willing to take money from just about anyone to do just about anything, no matter how militaristic, authoritarian, or stupid. The plutocrat-backed neoliberal technocracy is being manufactured at universities around the world, and its corrupt ideology is being laundered by publications and think tanks funded by these same, unethical billionaires. And plenty of folks look the other way because they’re more committed to being in networks with the “innovators” than they are in building a world that is caring and just.

Liked Why Joi Ito needs to resign | The Tech (The Tech)

MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, recently released an apology for the Institution’s ties to Epstein. I’m happy that the Institution acknowledges its role in the scandal. However, I find it ironic that the Institution took money that hurt these women, and their response is to throw money back. Money to non-profits is useful, but what will truly make change is a change of leadership and a strict precedent set for this to never happen again. Taking money from Epstein once is a mistake. Taking it over many years is not.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 318 (hewn.substack.com)

Much of my work in the past has been to uncover the networks of powerful people who fund education technology and education reform. I believe that money shapes a product; it doesn’t just underwrite it. And I’ve hoped that educators and administrators would think more critically about the affinities that lay beneath and within the tools they mandate students and school use. (Like, say, if a “personalized learning” platform is backed by a dude who thinks the Nineteenth Amendment was a bad idea. I mean, WTF.)

Audrey Watters reflects upon the associated of MIT Media Lab with Jeffrey Epstein and the subsequent resignations of Ethan Zuckerman and visiting scholar Nathan Matias.
Liked What It Was Like to Be a Scientist in Jeffrey Epstein’s Circle (Slate Magazine)

Based on his reading of this week’s story in the Times, Schank now wonders if maybe Epstein changed his mind and decided that the mothers of his children should all live with him (and one another) in New Mexico. “The fact that he came up with a new plan is not surprising to me,” Schank said.

He was intent on clarifying that he always felt Epstein’s intentions, even with the women, were benign. “This guy was actually not a bad guy,” Schank told me at the end of our conversation. “I mean, put the 14-year-olds out of the picture. Those even make me think he was a bad guy. But to my knowledge he was not a bad guy. He was a good guy.”

Liked HEWN, No. 316 (hewn.substack.com)

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.