Category: General (page 1 of 2)

Issue #311: Under canvas

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“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”

(Terry Pratchett)

“You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere”

I confess to not have heard of Abby Wambach, a recently-retired US soccer player, until Laura Hilliger brought her to my attention in the form of Wambach’s commencement speech to the graduates of Barnard College.

The whole thing is a fantastic call to action, particularly for women, but I wanted to call out a couple of bits in particular:

If you’re not a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere.

People either look to you for guidance, or they don’t. You’re either the kind of person that steps up when required, or you don’t. Fortunately, I had a great role model in this regard in the shape of my father. He perhaps encouraged me a little too much to be a leader, but his actions, particularly when I was younger, spoke louder than his words.

You can’t be a leader at work without being a leader at home. And by ‘leader’ I don’t think Wambach is talking about ‘bossing’ everyone, but about stepping up, being counted, and supporting/representing others.

She also writes:

As you leave here today and everyday going forward: Don’t just ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” Ask yourself: “WHO do I want to be?” Because the most important thing I’ve learned is that what you do will never define you. Who you are always will.

Absolutely! Decide on your values and live them. I find reading Aristotle useful in this regard, particularly his views on Eudaimonia. Choose what you stand for, and articulate the way you’d like to be. Then seek out opportunities that chime with that.

Source: Barnard College (via Freshly Brewed Thoughts)

Estonia goes for free public transport

Estonia is pretty much already the home of free public wifi, so this is a logical next step. The council of the capital city, Tallinn, provided free public transport to citizens for the last five years after a referdendum. Now the idea is to extend that to everyone — including tourists.

This article mainly comprises of an interview with Allan Alaküla, the Head of Tallinn European Union Office. He makes a couple of important points:

 A good thing is, of course, that it mostly appeals to people with lower to medium incomes. But free public transport also stimulates the mobility of higher-income groups. They are simply going out more often for entertainment, to restaurants, bars and cinemas. Therefore they consume local goods and services and are likely to spend more money, more often. In the end this makes local businesses thrive. It breathes new life into the city.

In other words, allowing people to move around the city without thinking about the cost encourages people to do so. This has economic and social benefits.

Before introducing free public transport, the city center was crammed with cars. This situation has improved — also because we raised parking fees. When non-Tallinners leave their cars in a park-and-ride and check in to public transport on the same day, they [not] only use public transport for free, but also won’t be charged the parking fee. We noticed that people didn’t complain about high parking fees once we offered them a good alternative.

This is great, joined-up thinking: make it really easy for visitors to the city to do the right thing. Estonia really is at the forefront of citizen and pro-social innovation, as anyone familiar with their e-Residency scheme will be aware.

Source: Pop-Up City

Albert Camus quotation

I’ve long admired the “invincible summer” quotation from Camus. The longer version, however is much better.

After I couldn’t find anywhere to buy a version that met my requirements (simple aesthetic longer quotation) I decided to order a custom wall decal.

This evening, I put it up on the wall above the monitor on my standing desk. If you’re wondering where the author attribution is, well… I didn’t get that bit quite right, so it’s in the bin!

The tenets of ‘Slow Thought’

The slow movement began with ‘slow food’ which was in opposition to, unsurprisingly, ‘fast food’. Since then there’s been, with greater and lesser success, ‘slow’ versions of many things: education, cinema, religion… you name it.

In this article, the author suggests ‘slow thought’. Unfortunately, the connotation around ‘slow thinking’ is already negative so I don’t think the manifesto they provide will catch on. They also quote French philosophers…

In the tradition of the Slow Movement, I hereby declare my manifesto for ‘Slow Thought’. This is the first step toward a psychiatry of the event, based on the French philosopher Alain Badiou’s central notion of the event, a new foundation for ontology – how we think of being or existence. An event is an unpredictable break in our everyday worlds that opens new possibilities. The three conditions for an event are: that something happens to us (by pure accident, no destiny, no determinism), that we name what happens, and that we remain faithful to it. In Badiou’s philosophy, we become subjects through the event. By naming it and maintaining fidelity to the event, the subject emerges as a subject to its truth. ‘Being there,’ as traditional phenomenology would have it, is not enough. My proposal for ‘evental psychiatry’ will describe both how we get stuck in our everyday worlds, and what makes change and new things possible for us.

That being said, if only the author could state them more simple and standalone, I think the ‘seven proclamations’ do have value:

  1. Slow Thought is marked by peripatetic Socratic walks, the face-to-face encounter of Levinas, and Bakhtin’s dialogic conversations
  2. Slow Thought creates its own time and place
  3. Slow Thought has no other object than itself
  4. Slow Thought is porous
  5. Slow Thought is playful
  6. Slow Thought is a counter-method, rather than a method, for thinking as it relaxes, releases and liberates thought from its constraints and the trauma of tradition
  7. Slow Thought is deliberate

Isn’t this just Philosophy? In any case, my favourite paragraph is probably this one:

Slow Thought is a porous way of thinking that is non-categorical, open to contingency, allowing people to adapt spontaneously to the exigencies and vicissitudes of life. Italians have a name for this: arrangiarsi – more than ‘making do’ or ‘getting by’, it is the art of improvisation, a way of using the resources at hand to forge solutions. The porosity of Slow Thought opens the way for potential responses to human predicaments.

We definitely need more ‘arrangiarsi’ in the world.

Source: Aeon

 

"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." (Fred Rogers)

The punk rock internet

This kind of article is useful in that it shows to a mainstream audience the benefits of a redecentralised web and resistance to Big Tech.

Balkan and Kalbag form one small part of a fragmented rebellion whose prime movers tend to be located a long way from Silicon Valley. These people often talk in withering terms about Big Tech titans such as Mark Zuckerberg, and pay glowing tribute to Edward Snowden. Their politics vary, but they all have a deep dislike of large concentrations of power and a belief in the kind of egalitarian, pluralistic ideas they say the internet initially embodied.

What they are doing could be seen as the online world’s equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant – as well as governments whose surveillance programmes have fuelled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralised internet.

However, these kind of articles are very personality-driven, and the little asides made the article’s author paint those featured as a bit crazy and the whole idea as a bit far-fetched.

For example, here’s the section on a project which is doing some pretty advanced tech while avoiding venture capitalist money:

In the Scottish coastal town of Ayr, where a company called MaidSafe works out of a silver-grey office on an industrial estate tucked behind a branch of Topps Tiles, another version of this dream seems more advanced. MaidSafe’s first HQ, in nearby Troon, was an ocean-going boat. The company moved to an office above a bridal shop, and then to an unheated boatshed, where the staff sometimes spent the working day wearing woolly hats. It has been in its new home for three months: 10 people work here, with three in a newly opened office in Chennai, India, and others working remotely in Australia, Slovakia, Spain and China.

I get the need to bring technology alive for the reader, but what difference does it make that their office is behind Topps Tiles? So what if the staff sometimes wear woolly hats? It just makes the whole thing out to be farcical. Which of course, it’s not.

Source: The Guardian

"The point is... to live one's life in the full complexity of what one is, which is something much darker, more contradictory, more of a maelstrom of impulses and passions, of cruelty, ecstasy, and madness, than is apparent to the civilised being who glides in the surface and fits smoothly into the world." (Thomas Nagel)

How to build a consensual social network

Here’s another article that was linked to from the source of a post I shared recently. The paragraph quoted here is from the section entitled ‘Consent-Oriented Architecture’:

Corporations built to maximize profits are unable to build consensual platforms. Their business model depend fundamentally on surveillance and behavioral control. To build consensual platforms require that privacy, security, and anonymity be built into the platforms as core features. The most effective way to secure consent is to ensure that all user data and control of all user interaction resides with the software running on the user’s own computer, not on any intermediary servers.

Earlier in that section, the author makes the obvious (but nevertheless alarming point) that audiences are sorted and graded as commodities to be bought and sold:

Audiences, like all commodities, are sold by measure and grade. Eggs are sold in dozens as grade A, for example. An advertisers might buy a thousand clicks from middle-aged white men who own a car and have a good credit rating.

In a previous section, the author notes that those who use social networks are subjects of an enclosed system:

The profits of the media monopolies are formed after surplus value has already been extracted. Their users are not exploited, but subjected, captured as an audience, and instrumentalized to extract surplus profits from other sectors of the ownership class.

I had to read some sections twice, but I’m glad I did. Great stuff, and very thought-provoking.

In short, to ensure Project MoodleNet is a consensual social network, we need to ensure full transparency and, if possible, that the majority of the processing of personal data is done on the user’s own device.

Source: P2P Foundation