📓 Utopias, Dystopias and Neartopias

Reflecting on the extremes of utopian and dystopian imaginings, Mike Caulfield calls for another possibility, Neartopias:

Neartopias are not utopias. They have problems. They have to have problems because problems are what drive plots. And on another level problems are just interesting in a way that non-problems are not. They also aren’t post-scarcity Star Treks, or visions of a perfect 6030 A.D. They are “near”-utopias both in the sense that they lack perfection and in that they seem near-enough to be achievable.
Neartopias also have blindspots. Each neartopia pulls from cultural assumptions that will be eventually — like all things — be revealed as problematic. The Golden Age of sci-fi produced some neartopias, for instance, but had a relationship with technological progress and industry, for example, that was — well, let’s say underdeveloped.

Reflecting upon The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson reflects upon the break often associated with utopias:

One weakness I’ve become aware of is how often the authors of utopias set them after a break in history that allows their societies to start from scratch. In the 16th century, Sir Thomas More began the use of this device with a physical symbol: His utopia’s founders dug a Great Trench, cutting a peninsula in two and creating a defensible island. Other kinds of fresh start appear in utopias throughout the centuries, always clearing space for a new social order. Even Le Guin’s Annares is founded by exiles from Urras.

Bookmarked The gardens where ideas grow by Austin Kleon (austinkleon.com)

Many musicians who use recording technology as a compositional tool refer to their studios as gardens. It’s an interesting contrast to Motown, which was conceived as a factory, or Warhol’s studio, which was actually named The Factory.

Austin Kleon discusses gardening as a metaphor for creativity, referencing artists such as Prince and Brian Eno. I have written about gardening in regards to learning before and the way in which a garden never stops growing, even if you stop caring for it. Michael Caulfield uses the metaphors of the garden and the stream to discuss the web, with the garden being rhizomatic in nature without a centralised structure, whereas the stream brings everything together. Amy Burvall considers the cycles that exist within the garden, suggesting that there is a time to grow and a time to flower. I am interested in investigating the different sorts of ideas and creativity within the garden. I wonder about the propagation of covering other artists? Is this borrowing second-rate? Where does this fit within the cycle? Or is it a reminder that we need dots to make new dots.
Bookmarked Silicon Valley Has Failed to Protect Our Data. Here’s How to Fix It by Paul Ford (Bloomberg.com)

The activist and internet entrepreneur Maciej Ceglowski once described big data as “a bunch of radioactive, toxic sludge that we don’t know how to handle.” Maybe we should think about Google and Facebook as the new polluters. Their imperative is to grow! They create jobs! They pay taxes, sort of! In the meantime, they’re dumping trillions of units of toxic brain poison into our public-thinking reservoir. Then they mop it up with Wikipedia or send out a message that reads, “We take your privacy seriously.”

Paul Ford proposes the creation of a Digital Protection Agency to clean up the toxic data spill. This touches on what Mike Caulfield calls Info-Environmentalism.

A quote from Paul Ford on the toxic data spill
Background Image via “CIMG5200” by Phil LaCombe https://flickr.com/photos/phillacombe/3625101565 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Liked Publishers and Platforms Need to Label Genres. Now, Please. by mikecaulfield (Hapgood)

It’s true that people do like having a standard interface for the feed, but the feed needs to figure out ways to parse this information and add the genre labels and indicators back in … The fact that it is 2018 and we’re still having this conversation is bizarre

Liked Four Moves (Four Moves)

The Four Moves blog is maintained by Mike Caulfield, who has been helping teachers integrate digital citizenship skills into the classroom for over 10 years. It is based on research conducted by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, which found that students lack knowledge of basic web techniques for verification and source assessment, which puts them at the mercy of misinformation.