📓 The Next Most Useful Thing

Tom Critchlow talks about going beyond the right answer to instead positing the ‘next most useful thing’.

I’ve been using this phrase “the next most useful thing” as a guiding light for my consulting work – I’m obsessed with being useful not just right. I’ve always rejected the fancy presentation in favor of the next most useful thing, and I simply took my eye off the ball with this one. I’m not even sure the client views this project as a real disappointment, there was still some value in it, but I’m mad at myself personally for this one. A good reminder not to take your eye off the ball. And to push your clients beyond what they tell you the right answer is.

This reminds me about Donald Winnicott’s notion of ‘good enough mother’.

Winnicott thought that the “good enough mother” starts out with an almost complete adaptation to her baby’s needs. She is entirely devoted to the baby and quickly sees to his every need. She sacrifices her own sleep and her own needs to fulfill the needs of her infant.

As time goes by, however, the mother allows the infant to experience small amounts of frustration. She is empathetic and caring but does not immediately rush to the baby’s every cry. Of course, at first the time-limit to this frustration must be very short. She may allow the baby to cry for a few minutes before her nighttime feeding, but only for a few minutes. She is not “perfect” but she is “good enough” in that the child only feels a slight amount of frustration.

So often when developing ideas, it can be easy to get caught up with the ideal, rather than coming up with an idea that responds to the situation at hand.

📓 Stages of a Revolution

Speaking about the inspiration to the title for his album , Brian Eno talks about Alexei Yurchak’s book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More and the two stages of revolutions:

I think the idea came from this book that revolutions always happen in two stages. The first stage is when everyone realizes something is wrong. So that’s where we’ve been now for a while, with the exception of a few ostrich holdouts. The second stage is when everyone realizes that everyone else realizes it as well. That’s the moment I think we’re heading towards. When the thing goes from being a liquid to a solid. Suddenly it’s a phase change.

📓 On Culture

Doug Belshaw explains that culture is continually remade:

As Kojo Koram from the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London, writes, however, culture is something that is continually remade by the people living it. These different conceptions mark the boundaries of the culture wars currently being played out in British politics and society.

Raymond Williams suggests that culture fluctuates between dominant, residual and emergent:

By ’emergent’ I mean, first, that new meanings and values, new practices, new relationships and kinds of relationship are continually being created. But it is exceptionally difficult to distinguish between those which are really elements of some new phase of the dominant culture (and in this sense ‘species-specific’) and those which are substantially alternative or oppositional to it: emergent in the strict sense, rather than merely novel.

Julian Stodd suggests the one word to describe ‘culture’ is violence:

If we had to choose a single word to describe culture, it would possibly be ‘violence’, not because the behaviours of culture are violent (although they may be), but rather because culture is held as a struggle at the intersection of systems. Tribal systems, formal systems, belief systems, knowledge systems, and specifically systems of power.

📓 War on Ukraine

There is so much being written about Ukraine. Here is my attempt to keep a list of some of the interesting pieces.

In The Month That Changed a Century, Michael Hirsh discusses the way in which Putin has unsettled the political status-quo:

In little more than a month, Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed the course of this young and already troubled century. He has resurrected the threat of territorial conquest and nuclear war. He has jolted Western Europe awake from its long postwar torpor, raising the prospect of rapid German rearmament. He has put the capstone on two decades of U.S. misdirection by defying American power and influence.

Above all, with his invasion of Ukraine, Putin is trying to complete work on a vast project of destruction implicitly supported by several other world leaders, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping. Together, these leaders want to break what they see as U.S. hegemony over the international system and undermine the notion that the world is bound by a common set of values embodied in international law and upheld by institutions such as the United Nations.

Rutger Bregman explains why Europe needs Ukraine as a reminder of the hope that the EU actually offers.

Ukraine, in short, chose Europe. And Putin found that intolerable. Now it is up to us to choose Ukraine. Yes, normally the road to EU membership is long and complicated, and with good reason. But these are not normal times. Millions of brave Ukrainians have reinvigorated the European ideal—of freedom, democracy, and cooperation—and many have paid with their lives.

Timothy Snyder explains how The War In Ukraine Is a Colonial War.

Ukrainians assert their nation’s existence through simple acts of solidarity. They are not resisting Russia because of some absence or some difference, because they are not Russians or opposed to Russians. What is to be resisted is elemental: the threat of national extinction represented by Russian colonialism, a war of destruction expressly designed to resolve “the Ukrainian question.” Ukrainians know that there is not a question to be answered, only a life to be lived and, if need be, to be risked. They resist because they know who they are.

Phillips Payson O’Brien makes the case that the current campaign serves as the end of heavy and expensive military power.

The future shape of militaries is open to debate. What is clear, though, is that investing in large World War II–era materiel such as the heavy tank, enormous aircraft carrier, and super-expensive fixed-wing aircraft has never been riskier. As far less expensive but still lethal systems continue to improve, the investment that will be required to protect larger, more expensive weapons systems will be financially crippling, even for the American military. Instead, political and military leaders will need to start conceiving of an entirely different battlefield, full of lighter, smaller, more mobile, and in many cases autonomous or remotely operated weapons. In essence, they will need to prepare for the first wars of the 21st century.

Ilya Kaminsky collects together testimonies associated with life in Ukraine during wartime. The them that comes up again and again is ‘time’:

In occupied cities, time doesn’t exist, it is gone. War is not about time; time was completely destroyed in Gostomel, where the morning begins by chopping wood and lighting a fire to cook food. In the occupied city, we focus on those few hours when the generator is working. We are waiting for only two things—victory to be announced or the opportunity to escape.

For me, time has become a carousel: everything flashes, and you realize with a little effort that it is a certain hour, day of the week, and day of the month, and that it all belongs to Anno Domini 2022. During war, time is the location of the sun and stars and the season, rather than the numbers on the phone or the angle between the hands on the clock. On the one hand, wartime is timelessness, and on the other, it is filled with nervous attempts to look ahead.

Susan J. Wolfson makes the comparison between Volodymyr Zelensky and Lord Byron.

And so Volodymyr Zelensky—like Byron, a skilled public speaker, a satirist, an entertainer—fulfills one Byronic dream. If Byron was first a poet, then a celebrity, then a political activist in Italy, then a political force in a war of independence in the same time zone as Ukraine, Zelensky brings it all together as the genuine Byronic hero of our times. Here is a celebrity entertainer who played a fictional president on television, then was himself elected president, then in a national crisis used a comedian’s knack for concision and punch to become a leader of consequence, and an international hero.

Keith Gessen reflects upon war-termination theory and Russia’s not so ‘secret’ weapon and how it still serves as the great unknown.

In this situation, the secret weapon is nuclear. And its use carries with it the risk, again, of even greater involvement in the war by the U.S. But it could also, at least temporarily, halt the advance of the Ukrainian Army. If used effectively, it could even bring about a victory. “People get very excited about the front collapsing,” Goemans said. “But for me it’s, like, ‘Ah-h-h!’ ” At that point, Putin would really be trapped.

Responding to Putin’s call for mobilisation, Thomas Snyder posits that this puts more pressure on Russian politics than it does on the people of Ukraine:

There is a cleft both in elite and public opinion in Russia, and it is now becoming visible on television.  Some people think that the war is a holy cause and can be won if heads roll, leadership behaves honorably, and more men and materiel are sent to the front.  Among them are the military bloggers who are actually at the front, and whose voices are becoming more mainstream.  This is a trap for Putin, since he is already sending everything that he can.  Those voices make him look weak.  Other people think that the war was a mistake.  These voices will make him look foolish.  This is just the most basic of a number of contradictory positions that Putin now faces, from an exposed and weakened position.

📓 Modernism

Discussing Mrs Dalloway, Megan Garber defines modernism as being about rapture and exposure:

Modernism was a movement of resonant rupture. It grappled with war, sickness, institutional breakdown, individual despair, and the bleak notion that problems might be solved if people could only be persuaded to buy the right stuff. Its concerns are intensely familiar. But modernism was also a movement of exposure. It arose with the camera, and the motion picture. It was invested in finding new ways of seeing—other people, the world, the human soul.

Replied to Thoughts on Wikity for WordPress by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (boffosocko.com)

Doing this set up as a theme and leveraging posts seems like a very odd choice. From my reading, Mike Caulfield was relatively new to WordPress development when he made this. Even if he was an intermediate developer, he should be proud of his effort, including his attention to some minute bits of UI that others wouldn’t have considered. To make this a more ubiquitous solution, it may have been a better choice to create it as a plugin, do a custom post type for wiki cards and create a separate section of the database for them instead of trying to leverage posts. This way it could have been installed on any pre-existing WordPress install and the user could choose their own favorite theme and still have a wiki built into it. In this incarnation it’s really only meant to be installed on a fresh stand-alone site.

Chris, I really enjoyed your thoughts and reflections on Wikity. I haven’t really used it for a while. In some ways it was a part of my first tinkering with the idea of a commonplace book. I eventually brought my posts there into my ‘collect’ blog.

I really like your idea about a plugin and would definitely be up for that. It reminds me of what Alan LevineAlan Levine has done with the Splots Writer plugin. This is also how EdublogsEdublogs have built wikis their version of WordPress.

Scott Morrison urges teachers to open schools amid coronavirus so parents can put ‘food on the table’

Cameron Malcher responds to Morrison’s ‘plead’ for teachers to reopen. He highlights that schools as such have never shut, focusing on ‘heroes’ avoids on the government bodies who actually make the decisions.

The point is that is any Australian family who finds themselves in a position of having to choose between their employment and their child’s education is in that situation, in no small part, because of the specific approach to stimulus and economic support that the PM has chosen. (link)

Like with the wartime rhetoric, he appears to be shifting responsibility to a group in society with less power than himself (teachers) for any difficulty faced by Australians, despite the fact those difficulties could have been directly alleviated by the PM/govt.(link)

Also, I want to point out what an odd notion it is that families would have to choose between employment and education. First, as schools are open to students, no parent has to make that choice. Second, that choice would only arise if a child can’t go to school…(link)

For Malcher, this is not about ‘teachers’ but a message to the Victorian government.

The conflict between the Federal LNP govt. and the Victorian Labor govt. has been at the fore of the national COVID-19 response. Victoria, where term 1 ended earlier, closed schools early by bringing forward and extending schools holidays while strategies were developed

This Victorian action happened at a time when the PM was talking about keeping schools open. Though even the LNP Pemiere of NSW was, at the time, talking about implementing stricter measures that Fed govt. requirements – the tension between state and feds was evident. (link)

Jane Caro questions why educators need the guilt trip when schools are open and teachers are going above and beyond.

That’s a hell of a responsibility to be laying at your average teacher’s feet. And, as the elected leader of our country, is it really fair of him to hold teachers responsible for the economy? Is it reasonable to ask them to choose between their own health and that of their families and keeping the engine of commerce alive?

Gillian Light provides two responses to Morrison’s appeal to teachers. Firstly, that as a teacher it is not her decision about whether to return to school or not. Secondly, schools in Victoria have never actually closed

The most important reason I won’t tell you whether I think schools should be open or closed is because it doesn’t matter – it’s not my decision. I’m an employee of a state Education Department and I do what I’m told. I was told, at the end of Term 1, to prepare for the possibility of remote teaching. So I did. And continued to prepare during school holidays. At the end of the holidays, I was told to begin remotely teaching my students which I’m now doing to the best of my ability. I’ve worked harder in this last 2 weeks than I ever have before, something I didn’t actually think possible. I was also asked if I was willing and able to go on a roster to supervise children of those who are unable to work from home (while continuing to remotely teach the rest) which I have also done and continue to do.

Some suggest that this is all a form of gaslighting, while others like Paul Kelly speaking on the Coronacast podcast suggest that schools are more controllable:

Norman Swan: So Keli asks, on schools, why are we reopening schools when social distance is so important? And I suppose the add-on to Kelly’s question I’d ask is, well, how do you socially distance when you’ve got 14-year-olds in the playground?

Paul Kelly: Very difficult. And I understand that. In fact two of my sisters are teachers, one of them currently working as the schools come back in New South Wales. So of course these things are challenging, and I think the point is you can do is best you can in terms of social distancing. There is certainly a lot you can do about hygiene around the school.

Tegan Taylor: Why can kids go to school but they are not allowed to play on public playgrounds?

Paul Kelly: Well, that’s a challenge, some of these things I can certainly see how it is difficult to maintain those two conflicting pieces of advice. I’d say this though, at least in schools we do know who is on the school playground and there is some ability within the school environment to increase those hygiene messages and cleaning, for example. Public playgrounds are a bit less of a controlled environment, more open to others coming in, so I think that’s part of it. But look, I think as we go forward, we’ve been so successful in dampening down the curve, flattening the curve and so few cases that in the next month we will be seeing the relaxation of many of those things that have been introduced.

Above all else, Jordan Baker highlights the stress that the federal – state divide in education has created throughout this crisis.

For Piccoli, COVID-19 has provided yet another argument for Australia following the lead of Canada, and dumping the federal education ministry altogether – a proposal also outlined by former Coalition opposition leader John Hewson last week. “In Canada, the provinces run their own systems, and to me that kind of competitive federalism is most effective,” says Piccoli. “Each jurisdiction learns off the other ones, from their successes and failures.

“When you try to standardise things, in education or anywhere else, I don’t think it works as well. NSW had a basic skills test, and the other states wanted to do the same thing, so they made it national [in the form of NAPLAN]. But once it’s national, you can’t change it. National bodies should set a strategy, and state regulators should be responsible for the implementation of that strategy.”

Evidence and Experience

Providing an account of the crisis unfurling around the world, an Italian doctor reflects on the life and death decisions being made:

Put aside statistics. Here is how it looks in practice. Most of my childhood friends are now doctors working in north Italy. In Milan, in Bergamo, in Padua, they are having to choose between intubating a 40-year-old with two kids, a 40-year old who is fit and healthy with no co-morbidities, and a 60-year-old with high blood pressure, because they don’t have enough beds. In the hallway, meanwhile, there are another 15 people waiting who are already hardly breathing and need oxygen.

While Craig Spencer provides a day in the life of an ER doctor.

Both highlight why social distancing is so important.

Ideas and Opinions

Building on this, Ed Yong explains that there are two groups of people in a pandemic: everyone involved in the medical response and those practicing social distancing.

Group A includes everyone involved in the medical response, whether that’s treating patients, running tests, or manufacturing supplies. Group B includes everyone else, and their job is to buy Group A more time. Group B must now “flatten the curve” by physically isolating themselves from other people to cut off chains of transmission. Given the slow fuse of COVID-19, to forestall the future collapse of the health-care system, these seemingly drastic steps must be taken immediately, before they feel proportionate, and they must continue for several weeks.

This is a point that Norman Swan elaborates on the Coronacast podcast.

Accounts from the Spanish Flu pandemic provide a historical evidence about the benefits. Tomas Pueyo says the challenge is to act now (which is always really yesterday).

If we reduce the infections as much as possible, our healthcare system will be able to handle cases much better, driving the fatality rate down. And, if we spread this over time, we will reach a point where the rest of society can be vaccinated, eliminating the risk altogether. So our goal is not to eliminate coronavirus contagions. It’s to postpone them.

For Yascha Mounk this means cancelling everything.

The responsibility for social distancing now falls on decision makers at every level of society.

Do you head a sports team? Play your games in front of an empty stadium.

Are you organizing a conference? Postpone it until the fall.

Do you run a business? Tell your employees to work from home.

Are you the principal of a school or the president of a university? Move classes online before your students get sick and infect their frail relatives.

Are you running a presidential campaign? Cancel all rallies right now.

Defining what is and is not appropriate when it comes to social distancing, Kaitlyn Tiffany explores a number of questions such as whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties, and gym sessions. Asaf Bitton explains how the current crisis is different to a ‘snow day’.

I realize that not everyone can do everything. But we have to try our absolute best as a community, starting today. Enhancing social distancing, even by one day, can make a large difference.

 

While David Truss questions whether the idea of social distancing is better understood as ‘physical distancing’.

Since then I’ve come across the term ‘Physical Distancing’ a lot more. This is really the issue. Reducing or actually eliminating our physical proximity to others long enough that the virus doesn’t spread. However, we can still be social in the digital world. Video helps. It’s nice to see the people we connect with.

Amy Hoy provides a simulation game to play with some basic rules associated with social distancing.

  • Avoid large gatherings — including religious services
  • Cancel kids’ parties, sleepovers, sports, playdates, etc.
  • Don’t shake hands, hug, or kiss anyone who doesn’t live with you (and if they’re not social distancing… cut back!)
  • Don’t attend parties, concerts, film showings, or other public events
  • Skip the gym, dining out, bar scene, sitting at a café, club
  • Limit visits to stores — buy more than you typically would to reduce trips, go on off-hours
  • Get curb-side pickup, carry-out, or local delivery if possible
  • Don’t go to other people’s homes — including your close friends and family
  • Don’t have guests over to your home — including your close friends and family
  • Cancel or reschedule any non-urgent outside appointments such as physicals, hair appointments, physical trainers, etc.
  • Cancel or reschedule any in-home appointments you can, such as home maintenance and cleaning
  • As much as possible, get longer refills on your prescriptions, and use drive-through pick-up or delivery
  • As much as possible, work from home, keep your kids home, encourage your housemates to stay home
  • Encourage your elderly and at-risk loved ones to stay home; arrange deliveries etc. for them if possible
  • Text, call, video chat, host a virtual watch party, play online games together, form a digital supper club!
  • Keep in contact with your loved ones as much as possible… just don’t share air space.

In regards to visuals, Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre visualise the positive impact of social distancing in an animation of matchsticks catching fire.

Gregg Gonsalves the same metaphor in a still image.

Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris animate the ‘Flatten the Curve‘ graph.

Covid-19-curves-graphic-social-v3.gif

They also represent the spread interrupted by social distancing as a tree diagram.

Spinoff

Brian Iselin represents the difference between infecting 2.5 people (the average) and 1.25 people.

The Ohio Department of Health uses mouse traps and ping pong balls to show powerful message: ‘Social distancing works’.

Clive Thompson shares a sensor that tells you if you are too close to somebody else.

Geoff Song shared a ‘free’ cure:

Art and Literature

From a literary perspective, Samuel L Jackson reads a new version of Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fk to Sleep called Stay the FK at Home.

While Jessie Gaynor rewrites the opening lines to ten classic novels based on social distancing.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be hoarding toilet paper. – Pride and Prejudice

Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler created a series of images as a way of spreading the importance of social distancing.

The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson shows her characters social distancing

 

A choice cover during this time.

Pedro Mezzini also reimagined Finding Waldo in the social distancing age:

Finding Waldo in the Social Distancing Age

Luis Azevedo made a short supercut of moments in Anderson’s movies where the characters are practicing good social distancing techniques.

Jim Malloy reimagines Dr Seuss in light of the coronavirus:

Cat in the Hazmat

Docs in Smocks

Horton Hears a W.H.O.

Paul Donoughue shares some classic album covers reimagined

Abbey Road

Bianca Padró Ocasio shares a video of social distanced salsa:

📓 On Writing

Craig Mod quotes Philip Roth on really reading:

If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don’t read the novel really.” Meaning: To truly read (and, I might add, write) is to commit and maintain focus long enough to live fully within the world of the book (as opposed to ten second dips in and out, as we mostly do with much online media).(source)

This has me thinking about Philip Glass’ discussion at the end of Words with Music where he talks about different worlds and whether reading is such a place?

Discussing Black Swans, Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about literature and the essay not having boundaries:

Literature should not have explicit boundaries: the confines of the subject are internal and may remain elusive and hard to express in words. Nor should literature have institutions formalizing and commoditizing things. And I wanted to do my own version of what is called literature. Literature must be idiosyncratic.

Mason Currey shared Slavoj Žižek’s process of tricking himself into writing:

I have a very complicated ritual about writing. It’s psychologically impossible for me to sit down [and do it], so I have to trick myself. I elaborate a very simple strategy which, at least with me, it works: I put down ideas. And I put them down, usually, already in a relatively elaborate way, like the line of thought already written in full sentences, and so on. So up to a certain point, I’m telling myself: No, I’m not yet writing; I’m just putting down ideas. Then, at a certain point, I tell myself: Everything is already there, now I just have to edit it. So that’s the idea, to split it into two. I put down notes, I edit it. Writing disappears.

Source: Slavoj Žižek on his writing – How does he trick himself on YouTube

🗒️ Why Education

Inspired by the work of Yuval Noah Harari, Mike Crowley argues that education needs to allow learner to have a say and make a difference.


For Juliet Revell it all comes back to relationships and connections.


Michael Anderson argues that we are losing our why with the focus on testing:

For schools and school leaders this means interrogating everything through the prism of deep learning. Is the curriculum, leadership and organization focused on learning or is it focused on extrinsic forces such as logistics and bus timetables? For instance the division of ‘curricula’ and ‘co-curricula’ activities makes no sense from a learning perspective. There is deep learning in netball, AFL and the dance ensemble about collaboration and communication but often schools partition these off from the curriculum.

📓 Shit Posting

In light of the release of the supposed maniphesto from the NZ shooter, Brenton Tarrent, Robert Evans from Bellingcat defines ‘shitposting’ as:

Shitposting is the act of throwing out huge amounts of content, most of it ironic, low-quality trolling, for the purpose of provoking an emotional reaction in less Internet-savvy viewers. The ultimate goal is to derail productive discussion and distract readers. “The Great Replacement” is a clear and brutally obvious example of this technique.

📓 Thinking about Coding and the Web

In a post unpacking the development of a database, Ryan Barrett discusses the difference between writing and using code:

I’m a strong believer in Peter Norvig’s maxim that All code is liability. Every line of code takes work to write, maintain, and eventually replace. Every line can have a bug, a security hole, or worse. It’s easy to think our job is to write code, but in practice, I believe our mandate is to create results. Code is our usual tool, but if we can get the same results with less code, or even none, so much the better.

Reflecting on the vagaries of social media, Chris Aldrich calls for a renaissance of humanism:

Let’s band together to create better people-centric, ethical solutions.

Douglas Rushkoff reflects on the change to power and authority over timeL

In the renaissance, the way the will of the elite was inflicted on the people was through law. Today, the way the will is inflicted on the people is through code. (60 mins

It is often stated that code is the new literacy of the 21st century. One of the problems with this is that code and is not the same as literature. As Peter Seibel describes:

Code is not literature. We don’t read code, we decode it. We examine it. A piece of code is not literature; it is a specimenSource

It is interesting to considering this in lieu of Doug Belshaw’s eight elements of digital literacies.

🗒️ Ideas

James Somers discusses the notion of ‘Collaborative Circles’ and ideas focusing on the work on coders Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat:

After years of sharing their working lives, duos sometimes develop a private language, the way twins do. They imitate each other’s clothing and habits. A sense of humor osmoses from one to the other. Apportioning credit between them becomes impossible. But partnerships of this intensity are unusual in software development. Although developers sometimes talk about “pair programming”—two programmers sharing a single computer, one “driving” and the other “navigating”—they usually conceive of such partnerships in terms of redundancy, as though the pair were co-pilots on the same flight. Jeff and Sanjay, by contrast, sometimes seem to be two halves of a single mind. Some of their best-known papers have as many as a dozen co-authors. Still, Bill Coughran, one of their managers, recalled, “They were so prolific and so effective working as a pair that we often built teams around them.”source

📓 Gatherings

Ian Guest outlines the methodological approach associated with CPDin140. He describes this as ‘gatherings’:

I call these chapters ‘Gatherings,’ drawing on the work of a number of authors, but predominantly Law (2004a: 160), for whom Gathering is:

[…] a metaphor like that of bundling in the broader definition of method assemblage. It connotes the process of bringing together, relating, picking, meeting, building up, or flowing together. It is used to find a way of talking about relations without locating these with respect to the normative logics implied in (in)coherence or (in)consistency.

Or put more concisely, Gatherings are ‘Forms of craftings. Processes of weaving.’ In an earlier post, I discussed assemblage, not as a noun, a settled and fixed entity, but an ongoing active process of entanglement. So too with the Gatherings I offer. Whereas Law proposed Gatherings as method assemblage, I offer Gatherings crafted and bundled from data, and to some extent, the literatures. They are of course obliged to be fixed at least temporarily within this thesis; ‘a local and momentary gathering or accomplishment, rather than something that stays in place’ (Law, 2004a, p.129).
Some might see this wilful avoidance of arranging findings into neatly defined packages as abrogating one’s responsibilities as researcher. One reason I present my analysis as Gatherings is that it is consistent with flânography, and how teachers experience Twitter professional development (TPD) which is often messy, not laid out as structured, planned CPD sessions might be. Although this presents challenges for analysis, the techniques of ‘plugging in’ and ‘reading data through data’ described in the previous post become important strategies. Insights which consider the implications of the data and speculate on possible consequences are woven through the Gatherings, but drawn together at the end of each.

In presenting the Gatherings, I have assembled a variety of actors and data, and through sociomaterial description, followed Decuypere and Simons (2016) in producing ‘an adequate account.’

[…] it is an account (not a neutral rendering of facts) that is aimed at being adequate (that is, that makes a description of the actors gathered in such a way that these actors can ‘speak for themselves’, instead of being ‘spoken about’).

To that end, the Gatherings in the thesis are rich with data in the form of tweets, quotes from blog posts and quotes from interviews. (In the following blog posts however, in keeping with the previous posts, I’ll be summarising rather than presenting the data in full). In Interviewing the nonhumans, I outlined five of Adams’ and Thompson’s (2016) heuristics; one of these was ‘gathering anecdotes.’ Gatherings as the means to present those anecdotes seems coherent therefore. The heuristics not only ‘help researchers attend to the role of thingly gatherings of research practices’ (Thompson & Adams, 2013) but in my case, encouraged me to produce thingly Gatherings. As such, my thingly Gatherings are ‘important actors, complicit in co-creating the happenings of the world’ (Thompson, 2016) and are of course, partial accounts of those happenings.

📓 Seams vs. Stitches

In an article discussing the state of Macbooks and iPads, Baldur Bjarnason discusses the difference between seams and stitches when it comes to design:

Seamlessness isn’t pretty; it’s opaque and obscures the underlying structures of the tool you are making.

A stitch or a seam isn’t ugly; it’s an affordance that exposes the design, construction, and make of what you’ve made in a way that lends itself to learning.

Beauty and uniformity are two entirely independent characteristics. Seamlessness can look ugly and stitches can be pretty.

Good design can only be seamless when it has just one job to do. Add more jobs and seamlessness becomes a hindrance.source

📓 Neo-Liberalism

In a discussion of NBC’s The Good Place, Robin James provides a definition of ‘neo-liberalism’:

Michael’s big moral surveillance apparatus is a correction, or perhaps update, of Sartre: hell isn’t other people, it’s neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the practice of transforming everything, even traditionally non-economic phenomena like friendship or learning, into deregulated, financialized markets. Financialized markets are ones built on investment rather than commodity exchange; deregulated markets nominally allow for any and all behavior, but tightly control background conditions so that only a limited range of behavior is possible. Privatizing formerly public things such as infrastructure or schools or prisons is a common method of transforming things into markets. Setting up the season 1 neighborhood so that the quartet of dead people torture each other, Michael is a technocrat  who effectively privatizes hell by contracting the work of abuse out to independent, uncompensated laborers. (After all, his whole approach is to disrupt eternal damnation by superficially flipping the good/bad script…It’s Uber, but for hell.)

Doug Belshaw explores some of the different iterations of neoliberalism, arguing that none of them are the answer:

We might be witnessing the end of progressive neoliberalism, but it’s not as if that’s being replaced by anything different, anything better. source

Quoted A Conversation with Brian Eno – Believer Magazine (Believer Magazine)

I always think that whenever you listen to a piece of music, what you are actually doing is hearing the latest sentence in a very long story you’ve been listening to—all the pieces of music you’ve ever heard. So what you are listening to are tiny differences, tiny innovations. Something new is added, something you’ve grown used to is omitted, something you thought you were familiar with sounds different.

Brian Eno reflects on sound and interpretation. He suggests that instead it is a case of continual forgetting and remembering.

I always think that whenever you listen to a piece of music, what you are actually doing is hearing the latest sentence in a very long story you’ve been listening to—all the pieces of music you’ve ever heard. So what you are listening to are tiny differences, tiny innovations. Something new is added, something you’ve grown used to is omitted, something you thought you were familiar with sounds different.source

📓 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.

📓 Ideology

Ideology is often used as a criticism, however, as Greg Thompson explains, saying something is ‘ideological’ misses the point:

I read it, everything we believe is already ideological because we are necessarily social (for example, through language). Saying this, however, does not imply that any position held is necessarily right or wrong, rather that within the ontological and epistemological assumptions of any belief system ideology invariable precedes consciousness. For this reason, I don’t mind being called ideological (of course I am) or suggesting that others are ideological (of course they are).source

Bernard Bull adds his own take on ideology:

I’ve come across this countless times in education, with any number of stakeholders declaring that the problem with education is ideology. If only we focused on scientific and evidence-based practice, then education would be in great shape. Only that statement represents an ideologysource

French Marxist Louis Althusser argued in his paper Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses that there is no beyond or outside within which we can exist. Instead, we are always already interpellated, called into existence.

Thus ideology hails or interpellates individuals as subjects. As ideology is eternal, I must now suppress the temporal form in which I have presented the functioning of ideology, and say: ideology has always-already interpellated individuals as subjects, which amounts to making it clear that individuals are always-already interpellated by ideology as subjects, which necessarily leads us to one last proposition: individuals are always-already subjects. Hence individuals are ‘abstract’ with respect to the subjects which they always already are. This proposition might seem paradoxical. source

Adding to this, Althusser highlights that there is no point outside of ideology:

What thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical
denial of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, “I am ideological.” Source

Coming from a different perspective, Michael Foucault discusses the challenges of identity in Archaeology of Knowledge where he states:

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.

📓 Signals

In a reflection on engaging with the #IndieWeb, Ian O’Byrne unpacks the signals that we share online, both seen and unseen:

In a digital space, we also create and share signals. For most people, these signals are very distinct. They include tweets or posts that you share on social networks. They also include your reactions (likes, favorites, love, haha, wow, angry, sad).

Many more of your signals are unseen, or at least unseen to you. These signals include metadata, or “data about data” that tracks you as you move across the web. This metadata could be descriptive, structural, or administrative. A good way to think about this is the card catalog system in a library. You have the actual book, but then you also have information in a system about the title, abstract, author and keywords (descriptive). The card catalog system will also include information about how many pages and chapters are included in the table of contents (structural). The library will also save information about whether the book is checked out, who last checked it out, and where is it located on the stacks if it is still available (administrative).

Discussing the act of sharing online, Donelle Batty poses some questions to consider to help reflect on our own signals:

So are you in control of the story of you? Before you even start sharing life events, your opinion and the ever loved cat video, you need to consider the social spaces you are in, what settings (and personal boundaries) you are putting in place to determine who sees your content and thoughts. You see social media is a great tool for connecting with people. It is through connecting with others (be it random or deliberate) that we gain insights into peoples lives, insights that we may not have had access to before. When we gain an insight into someones life is it what we expect? Is it something that makes you feel uncomfortable or comfortable? Does it change the way you interact with them? Let’s now flip the question and ask what might the perception be of you by those who follow, friend or connect with you?