Algorithms and Human Systems [...]

Writing about Facebook, Franklin Foer explores the concept of algorithms to highlight a more human element:

An algorithm is a system, like plumbing or a military chain of command. It takes knowhow, calculation and creativity to make a system work properly. But some systems, like some armies, are much more reliable than others. A system is a human artefact, not a mathematical truism. The origins of the algorithm are unmistakably human, but human fallibility isn’t a quality that we associate with it. (Source)

The post itself is a useful provocation for the wider discussion of digital technologies, hacking and algorithms.

Intimate Spaces [...]

Sometimes the strength of ideas and collaboration comes via the creation of appropriate spaces. Isaac Kohane discusses the importance of intimate spaces where people are about to come together.

Isacc Kohane says. “Even in the era of big science, when researchers spend so much time on the Internet, it’s still so important to create intimate spaces.”A new generation of laboratory architecture has tried to make chance encounters more likely to take place, and the trend has spread in the business world, too. (Source)

Discussing the power of ideas, David Culberhouse talks about the [learning well]

Authentic Dissent [...]

In a discussion of collaboration and group work, Jonah Lehrer highlights the power of disruption in pushing our thinking further. An example of this is the notion of authentic dissent where ideas are generated to purposely disrupt the thinking.

In a way, the power of dissent is the power of surprise. After hearing someone shout out an errant answer, we work to understand it, which causes us to reassess our initial assumptions and try out new perspectives. “Authentic dissent can be difficult, but it’s always invigorating,” Nemeth says. “It wakes us right up.” Criticism allows people to dig below the surface of the imagination and come up with collective ideas that aren’t predictable. And recognizing the importance of conflicting perspectives in a group raises the issue of what kinds of people will work together best (Source)

Diversity and Perspective [...]

Reflecting on a life within the technology industry, Ellen Ullman shares why diversity is so important:

We need to involve women and minorities and people who come from all social classes because they bring in new sets of values. The newcomers deepen the conversation. They carry in fresh sources of creativity. They enrich our understanding of the relationships between humans and the digital world. They ask new questions: What do we want from all this stuff? And who is included in this definition of “we”? (Source)

This is something that Cathy Davidson touches on with her idea of collaboration by difference:

The whole point of collaboration by difference is that we cannot see our own gorillas. We need one another to help us, and we need a method that allows each of us to express our difference. If we don’t feel comfortable offering an alternative point of view, we don’t. And without such contribution, we continue to be limited or even endangered by our blind spots; we don’t heed the warning signals until it’s too late and an accident is inevitable.(Source)

Julian Stodd suggests that authenticity comes when we are able to tap into the informal and often unheard voices within an organisation:

Stories of difference chart the fragmented truth of our organisation: they may not be pretty, but they help provide perspective. And you can go further, by encouraging response stories, providing further frames to engage in the dialogue, progressively less formal.(Source)

Diversity and Resistence

Power of Stories [...]

Discussing the social age, Julian Stodd uppacks the power of stories. For him, the question often relates to whom owns the story and how it flows.

Stories are the mechanism of transmission of cultural and tacit knowledge: they are units of information, heavily contextualised, highly magnetic, almost frictionless, and can be very, very, long lived. If i tell a story, i may own it, right up until the point that i share it, but at that time, it takes wings, and becomes real. Stories shared are stories relinquished: despite legal frameworks in which we retain ownership of the husk, the germ of truth that resides within a story is let loose through sharing. The essence of it, the ‘story’ itself, is more than simply © words, and trademarked phrases. Stories are meant to flow. (Source)

Providing his own point of view, Kin Lane says that it would kill him not to be able to tell stories:

I need storytelling to do what I do. To work through ideas. It is how I learn from others.(Source)

Coming at the question from the personal perspective, Aaron Hogan asks what stories define you:

Take a minute and ask yourself those questions: What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going?(Source)

Silicon Valley Seasteads [...]

American libertarian activist Patri Friedman thinks that the future of the city-state are 'seasteads':

Patri is taking the Silicon Valley mindset and applying it to the nation-state. There are all these things you could now do that didn’t exist when our current system of government was invented, he told me. Constant online direct-democracy voting, building smart-cities, using crypto-currencies. And yet we still use a 19th-century model. (Source)

An alternative to the floating city maybe reclaiming reefs, such as that which is happening in the South China Sea

The question that such ideas pose is:

What if Silicon Valley’s core beliefs — even the benign ones — are wrong?(Source)

The Myth of the Nation-State [...]

In his reflections on the city-state, Jamie Barlett explains that:

nation-states are nothing but agreed-upon myths: we give up certain freedoms in order to secure others. But if that transaction no longer works, and we stop agreeing on the myth, it ceases to have power over us. (Source)

This is similar to the ideas of Benedict Anderson and the notion of 'imagined communities'. It is also interesting to consider this idea in regards to Edward Said's discussion of 'coexistence with the preservation of difference'.

Strategies for Gathering Student Data with more Care [...]

Amy Collier provides seven strategies for taking more care when working with data:

Audit student data repositories and policies associated with third-party providers. Document every "place" that student data goes and what the policies are for handling student data. What third parties have access to student data, why do they have access, and what can they do with the data? Who decides — and how are decisions made — about third-party access to student data? Do students get a say?Have a standard and well-known policy about how to handle external inquiries for student data and information. This is less about staff mishandling student data and more about the coercion and intimidation that could yield problematic results if there are no clear guidelines for staff to follow. Even if designated a digital sanctuary, a campus may be legally bound to release some student data, but it should have clear processes and requirements associated with those situations. Staff should understand how and when they can say no to inquiries about students, and campuses should investigate the legal limits of noncompliance with such inquiries.Provide an audit of data to students who want to know what data is kept on them, how the data is kept, where it is kept, and who else has access. That is, if students want to know about their data, the institution should be able to give them that information. Better yet, students should be allowed to download every bit of their data so that they can parse it themselves. Consider giving students a chance to rap the sanctuary knocker to signal their desire for more data protections.Have clear guidelines and regulations for how data is communicated and transmitted between offices. Campuses can better protect student data transmitted between the people and offices that should have access (e.g., by not transmitting data via e-mail). Campuses should have clear policies and guidelines about the protection of student data on mobile devices.Take seriously the data policies of third-party vendors. Don't work with vendors whose contracts stipulate that they can use and share student data without the consent of students or the institution.9Closely examine and rethink student-tracking protocols. How necessary are learning dashboards? What are the risks of early-warning systems? How problematic are the acceptable use policies? How long does the institution need to keep data? Does it really need all of the data being collected?Give students technological agency in interacting with the institution. Implementing a Domain of One's Own initiative, which puts students in the system administrator role for their domain, can be a way to give students more control and protection over their data. This may not be enough, however, since students could easily expose themselves to malicious and dangerous forces (e.g., hackers) through their own domains. A robust educational and mentoring program is also required. As a result, students can learn how to connect their data, via their domains, in ways that are safer and more manageable. (Source)

Decentralised Networks [...]

The web by its nature is decentralised, however platforms often try to centralise it. Paul Ford discusses the benefits of setting up your own server and the lessons one is able to learn through the process.

Then I look at Raspberry Pi Zeros with Wi-Fi built in and I keep thinking, what would it take to just have a little web server that was only for three or four people, at home? Instead of borrowing computer time from other people I could just buy a $10 computer the size of a stick of gum. Which next year could be a $7 computer, and eventually a $1 computer. It could run a Dropbox-alike, something like OwnCloud. It’s easy in theory but kind of a pain in practice.I’d need to know how to open ports on my home router.I’d need to be able to get the headless device onto WiFi.I’d need a place to plug it in, plugs are hard to come by.It needs to physically be somewhere.It would need a case.You need to buy an SD card with Linux on it.And on and on.The world doesn’t want us to run web servers at home. But I do. I really think we should run web servers from gumstick computers at home. (Source)

This is a topic that Dave Winer also touches upon.

Participation within Assemblages [...]

Ian Guest reflects on the nature of participation from the perspective of their place within an assemblage:

What about the epistemological contribution of the nonhumans I wondered? Leaving aside the potentially emotive discussion of animals in research for a moment, I’m not going to claim that nonhumans should be part of our ethical discussions; they’re not likely to care whether we call them subjects or participants. Actor-network theory troubles the dichotomous distinctions of subject and object or researcher and researched. If we think instead of the assemblage of which the research output is part, then the researcher/participant/interviewee, the media through which they interact, the data they generate, the reflections which are made and the texts which emerge, all influence one another. They are all entangled or interwoven, jointly responsible, more or less, in the production of the thesis, book or article. The output is not seen as the culmination of a linear sequence of events in which different actors participated at different times, but as an interwoven, performed assemblage. Named or not, all those who contributed to or collaborated in my research will be present in my thesis assemblage, intimately bound there by virtue of their ontological contribution. (Source)

This reminds me of the research into lurkers and their role online.