Tag: ideas (page 1 of 2)

Good ideas become colonised and domesticated

I’ve got this thought about how every good idea becomes colonised and domesticated. While domestication can be a good thing, because it potentially makes it more accessible to all, it also robs the idea of its radical, transformatory power.

Colonisation, however, is never a positive thing. It’s about renegotiating existing relationships, often through the lens of power, capital, and hegemonic power.

How related the above two paragraphs are to this article in The New Yorker is questionable. But, to me, it’s related. Centralised social media is colonised and domesticated.

Laptop with goo coming out

Once upon a time, the Internet was predicated on user-generated content. The hope was that ordinary people would take advantage of the Web’s low barrier for publishing to post great things, motivated simply by the joy of open communication. We know now that it didn’t quite pan out that way. User-generated GeoCities pages or blogs gave way to monetized content. Google made the Internet more easily searchable, but, in the early two-thousands, it also began selling ads and allowed other Web sites to easily incorporate its advertising modules. That business model is still what most of the Internet relies on today. Revenue comes not necessarily from the value of content itself but from its ability to attract attention, to get eyeballs on ads, which are most often bought and sold through corporations like Google and Facebook. The rise of social networks in the twenty-tens made this model only more dominant. Our digital posting became concentrated on a few all-encompassing platforms, which relied increasingly on algorithmic feeds. The result for users was more exposure but a loss of agency. We generated content for free, and then Facebook mined it for profit.

“Clickbait” has long been the term for misleading, shallow online articles that exist only to sell ads. But on today’s Internet the term could describe content across every field, from the unmarked ads on an influencer’s Instagram page to pseudonymous pop music designed to game the Spotify algorithm. Eichhorn uses the potent term “content capital”—a riff on Pierre Bourdieu’s “cultural capital”—to describe the way in which a fluency in posting online can determine the success, or even the existence, of an artist’s work. Where “cultural capital” describes how particular tastes and reference points confer status, “content capital” connotes an aptitude for creating the kind of ancillary content that the Internet feeds upon. Since so much audience attention is funnelled through social media, the most direct path to success is to cultivate a large digital following. “Cultural producers who, in the past, may have focused on writing books or producing films or making art must now also spend considerable time producing (or paying someone else to produce) content about themselves and their work,” Eichhorn writes. Pop stars log their daily routines on TikTok. Journalists spout banal opinions on Twitter. The best-selling Instapoet Rupi Kaur posts reels and photos of her typewritten poems. All are trapped by the daily pressure to produce ancillary content—memes, selfies, shitposts—to fill an endless void.

Source: How the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines | The New Yorker

Explaining ideas

This comes at things from a branding/advertising perspective, but I appreciate the focus on clarity of language. After all, clarity of language is clarity of thought.

Ideas are thoughts but not all thoughts are “ideas.” Here’s an example of the use of the word “idea” in an agency setting: “I have an idea — let’s do something with augmented reality or Blockchain or make a special lens.” This isn’t wrong; it’s sloppy.

In the traditional industry sense, “idea” means a novel concept. But when it’s used as in this example, it masks the lack of an actual idea  —  like when someone dumps in the word “strategic” before they say something that’s not strategic. It ups the importance of what comes next. The problem: sometimes this works as a meeting tactic but does not lead to good or clear thinking.

Compare this thought with the use of the word “idea” as a novel concept: “I have an idea  —  I want to create a tool that runners can use to track how far they’ve run and then compete with each other by sharing their achievements via the Internet. They’ll track it via this technology in their shoe which will talk to their computer.”

Source: How to explain an idea: a mega post | Mark Pollard

When we ask for advice we are usually looking for an accomplice

Changing the Letter, 1908, by Joseph Edward Southall. The subject is taken from the poem 'The Man Born to be King' from William Morris's 'The Earthly Paradise'. The sealed letter is addressed 'To The Governor'

🏡 What can we learn from the great working-from-home experiment? — “A few knowledge jobs, such as IT support, are properly systematised to allow focused work without endless ad hoc emails. [Cal] Newport believes that others will follow once we all wise up. Or we may find that certain kinds of knowledge work are too unruly to systematise. Improvisation will remain the only mode of working — and, for that, face-to-face contact seems essential.”

I disagree with this, having spent almost a decade doing creative, improvisational work, mostly from my home office.

They left Mozilla to make the internet better. Now they’re spreading its gospel for a new generation. — “Plenty of older tech companies spawned networks of industry leaders. Mozilla has, too, only it’s a different kind of group: a collection of values-driven engineers, marketers, program managers and founders. Most of them share a common story: Looking for a sense of purpose in tech, they took a financial hit for the chance to become part of the company’s cult-like obsession with openness and privacy. Though the company had its flaws, they left feeling deep loyalty to the mission, and a sense of betrayal from those who went on to work for the tech giants Mozilla has been battling. “

Some companies act as a filter for a certain type of person. Mozilla is like that, and while I was there I worked with some of the most ethical and awesome people I’ve ever come across.

🤪 Why It’s Usually Crazier Than You Expect — “The idea that people like (or hate) what other people like (or hate) is important, because it lets small ideas grow bigger than you’d guess if you assume everything is ranked by quality alone. Social momentum is hard to model on a spreadsheet, so it’s hard to predict or think about in terms that seem rational. But it’s so powerful.”

The standard economic model is that people act in their individual and group self-interest. But humans are much more complicated than that.

🎓 Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom — “Some will process this as a kind of whining, supposing that all we should really be concerned about is whether people are outright dismissed. However, elsewhere a hostile work environment is considered a breach of civil rights, and as one correspondent wrote, “It isn’t just fear of firing that motivates professors and grad students to be quiet. It is a desire to have friends, to be part of a community. This is a fundamental part of human psychology. Indeed, experiments examining the effects of ostracism highlight what a powerful existential threat it is to be ignored, excluded, or rejected. This has been documented at the neurological level. Ostracism is a form of social death. It is a very potent threat.”

Given how conservative humanity has been for the past tens of thousands of years, and given how radical we need to be to fix the world, I don’t have lots of sympathy with this view. Especially when tenured professors have the kind of job security most people can only dream of.

👩‍💻 Where we are with digital learning adoption — “We should have less big bang summative exams sat in big rooms with invigilators, there are plenty of alternatives. Online assessment systems can at least allow for typing, which is more authentic, and why not also speaking, and drawing? And in the scenarios where an unseen timed assessment is the only option and it has to be online: sometimes proctoring might be useful. It shouldn’t be the default. But it might have a place, sometimes.”

I’m sharing this to +1,000,000 Amber’s suggestion that, for assessment purposes, speaking and drawing should be as authentic as typing and writing.

Quotation-as-title by Marquis de la Grange. Image: Changing the Letter, 1908, by Joseph Edward Southall