Bookmarked The New Octopus by K. Sabeel Rahman (Logic Magazine)
Taming technological power will require changing how we think about technology. It will require moving beyond Panglossian views of technology as neutral, apolitical, or purely virtuous, and seeing it as a form of power. This focus on power highlights the often subtle ways that technology creates relationships of control and domination. It also raises a profound challenge to our modern ethic of technological innovation.
K. Sabeel Rahman takes a look at changes in construct of power. He unpacks the way in platform capitalism has come to control many elements of society. These changes can be organised into three categories:

  • Transmission power: The ability of a firm to control the flow of data or goods (Amazon)
  • Gatekeeping power: Control of the gateway to an otherwise decentralized and diffuse landscape (Google Search)
  • Scoring power: ratings systems, indices, and ranking databases

Rahman provides a number of suggestions for how we can respond to this situation:

  • Public options
  • Structural restraints on data and power
  • Big data tax
  • Anti-trust movements

He gives the example of the New Deal and the way it broke up the oil monopolies. Another example is the response to Microsoft at the end of the 90’s. Whatever the solution(s), it will involve rethinking the way we see technology. Something that the Luddbrarian discusses in regards to Facebook.

via Ian O’Byrne

Bookmarked The haircut that threw a school into crisis by Henrietta Cook (The Age | Good Weekend)

This is far from just a story about a haircut. It's also a story of the inevitable tension between powerful school councils and the communities they serve. Should a school pursue a change agenda it thinks will benefit the community of tomorrow if the community of today – and yesterday – isn't happy about it? To what extent should today's students and parents dictate the direction in which a school heads?

It's also a story about the ongoing struggle at schools everywhere between pursuing academic success and the health and happiness of their charges. And finally, it's about people power, 21st-century style: how a group of children and their parents used a combination of traditional and social media to force those at the top of their institution to listen. Shocked to find that, despite paying up to $32,000 per student in annual fees, they had no power over the decisions of the council and principal, the school community went rogue, enlisting the power of the media to assert their claim – and win.

Henrietta Cook unpacks the saga around the sacking of Rohan Brown after he cut the hair of a student. What it highlights is the ability of social media to empower people, in this circumstance, young people, to have a say.

Spearheaded by year 12 leaders, the campaign is feverishly adopted by students across the senior school. Adept with technology, the kids set up an online petition, which quickly gathered more than 6000 signatures, and an Instagram account with even more followers and its own hashtag, #bringbrownieback. A co-author of this piece, Henrietta Cook, has the electronic invites to her wedding hacked and a message added for some of her guests: “Evict … the school council and principal.” Choppers hover over the school as TV journalists stake out spots at the entrance for their live crosses.

Bruce Dixon adds his own commentary on this, especially in regards to power and agency.

The Trinity case offers an insight into the current state of education, with a balance between wellbeing and academic results, as well as private verses public:

Striking the right balance between students’ wellbeing and academic results is something every school worries about. Dr Mark Merry, the head of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia and also the principal of Yarra Valley Grammar, says the rise of performance data, including NAPLAN and ATAR league tables, has made schools more publicly accountable than ever before. Choosing between a focus on intellect and identity is fraught with tension. “Are you getting the balance right? Everyone agonises over this,” Merry says. “You can’t hold your hand on your heart and say you got it right all the time.”

It is also a story of old boys and old power holding onto the past (and their blazers):

Parents might not rank alumni as a top priority, but the old boys’ network – which runs events, helps with fundraising and has a network of sporting teams – plays an important role in the lives of many former students, including Thomas Hudson. The 29-year-old corporate banker with curly red hair feels deeply about his old school. “I care about Trinity because I want others to have the same experience that I did,” he explains. Hudson was among dozens of former students who squeezed into their school blazers for a community meeting at Hawthorn Town Hall. It was here that the old boys threatened legal action if the council didn’t resign.

Cook shares the extremes that people go to get people into these schools:

Parents at similar schools around the country have been known to try enrolling their unborn children – using the day of their scheduled C-section as the date of birth – only to be told that the child does in fact need to be physically born. Even the review of Brown’s dismissal had a top-end-of-town flavour. This was no little internal inquiry but an external investigation headed by a former Federal Court judge and a commercial barrister. Would public interest in such a spat be as high if it had unfolded at a state school in Melbourne’s outer north, or in Sydney’s far west?

Interestingly, the rush to ‘private’ is supposedly flat-lining.

Liked Too Radical for Trust? Too Peripheral for Power? by Maha Bali (Reflecting Allowed)
We don’t need someone else to give us power to make a difference. We just need to trust in our own power. We do not need someone else to trust our vision if we are resourceful enough to trust our own vision and see it through. I’d rather have vision than position, especially if the position would suppress my vision.
Listened Three Great Potentials – China’s growing international role from Radio National
We take a look at three sectors in which China is beginning to dominate: trade, artificial intelligence and energy.
In this episode of Future Tense, Prof Nick Bisley, Will Knight and Tim Buckley discuss the investments that China is driving, whether it be opening up the Pakistan corridor or control of important resources and rare metals. Having travelled through some of South-East Asia in the past, it is amazing how much investment China has made.