Women hefting weight: a global physical meme of strength and focus
I ran across a random development conference today. It included a classic photo of a woman in a wrap carrying a load on her head. This was being used to represent the “members of the local community” in Bali, in political discourse about the use of their land. Even the little thumbnail image used in diagrams to represent community vs. industry showed men wearing typical clothing and women wearing typical clothing… and carrying 15kg.
The same thing happens in images from across Africa, where women more often than men are the ones carrying heavy loads to and fro; at least on their heads (rather than on motorbikes or other vehicles). This strikes me as a meme reflective of strength and work ethic, though so omnipresent it is simply taken as a fact of life and not worth remarking on. I wonder what other such memes are out there.
HT: Studie Rede via: IEEE Actionable Data Book
Aside: I mistakenly began to write something here about ‘development porn’. A concept worth discussing but riddled with untruth… and not behind this meme, which is widely present in media in all cultures, not just in the eye of ‘international development’.
Wikipedia The Movie: the maddest thing I’ve read in some time
Wikipedia The Movie, a wiki-amusement started by Mark Pellegrini during the Chrome Age of Wikipedia, is hard to describe, and not exactly what you might expect. It is a surreal cataclysm of in-jokes pretzled together into a tilable shape. Its pieces have been polished by those who appreciate it: editors with a sense of humor, reflecting on a larger community whose relationship with humor is more nuanced. In short Dalí-scented scenes, and the language of cafeteria gossip, it captures something about the projects in a way that is honest to the madness of humanity. Enough to make any committed editor wince/smile. It makes me wonder what a similarly frank slice of subtext would look like for other large-scale projects.
While I remember the original being written – not called ‘Episode 1′ at the time – I only discovered last year that it had been turned into a franchise, slowly unfolding year after year. And I can’t complain that I was cast as my favorite Shakespearean fragranceur.
And then there is the musical version. For you who have shared the private hallucinations of those who breathe too deep of lemony Huggle vapour, give over a few minutes of your day to a stroll down memory’s phantasmagoria:
That curious creature, the technicolor starling, illuminated
My power animal: Hildebrandt’s starling. Similar to some butterflies, these starlings are colored by the microscopic structure of its feathers, not pigment.
Putting peacocks (and the stray chalybaeus) to shame for 2,000,000 years.
HT: Gaia. via Wikimedia Commons. (this one is from Tanzania)
To “snub” you must find someone who can be made to feel inferior
“A snub,” defined Lady Roosevelt, “is the effort of a person who feels superior to make someone else feel inferior. To do so, he has to find someone who can be made to feel inferior.”
ᔥ Quote Investigator, ↬ Meredith Patterson
Cambridge doggerel in celebration of her glorious sunsets
140 characters, just like mom’s.
The sunset was pretty
in Cambridge. The ember
of Sun cast the city
in hues to remember.
When I tried to draw Rindge
and Latin, ’twas orange.
LOC is down. Archive.org remains up. What can this teach us?
Thanks to the US government shutdown, the Library of Congress website went down today. So did NASA, the NSF, the USDA, the FTC, and the National Park Service. On the other hand, privately-run websites such as the Internet Archive (and, thankfully, its glorious Wayback Machine!) remain online and unaffected by these sorts of government changes.
As we plan for making our Internet more robust in the future, we should make sure to avoid single (or small-group) points of failure, as even services run by major corporations or governments can go offline in a hurry. (People who live their lives on Google tools: I’m looking at you
Wikipedia itself should be sure to support a thriving mirror network, and should probably move towards a fully distributed cache-and-forward model where possible.
Desert canticles wrestle susurrantly, lithe behind quiet eyes
Sitting down today to write my first non-work letter in a few weeks. I’ve been enjoying poetry lately; here’s some Simon:
A man walks down the street
Dusty street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!
Socrates Jones: Wow. “There are no limits on the extent of smiting!”
Noted game designer Chief Wakamakamu writes:
So, guys. I’m pretty sure that, whenever you played Phoenix Wright, you thought to yourself “Man, this game would be so much better if it was about moral philosophy instead of high-stake courtroom arguments.”
Well, I have come to make all your dreams come true. I’m currently looking for play-testers for Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, so that we can make it as awesome as it could possibly be before we unleash it on … a starved market.
Sate your hunger. Interrogate antiquity’s moral philosophers for yourself.
On Miranda’s Rights: Intimidating the press through their families
Lord Falconer, Mark Weisbrot, Ben Daniel comment on the surprising 9-hour detention of Glenn Greenwald’s husband David Miranda, on a layover through Heathrow, under the unironically-named “Terrorism Act 2000“.
A New ‘Pedia: planning for the future of Wikipedia
Wikipedia has gotten more elaborate and complex to use. Adding a reference, marking something for review, uploading a file or creating a new article now take many steps — and failing to follow them can lead to starting all over. The curators of the core projects are concerned with uniformly high quality, and impatient with contributors who don’t have the expertise and wiki-experience to create something according to policy. Good stubs or photos are deleted for failing to comply with one of a dozen policies, or for inadequate cites or license templates; even when they are in fact derived from reliable sources and freely licensed.
The Article Creation Wizard has a five-step process for drafting an article, after which it is submitted for review by a team of experienced editors, and finally moved to the article namespace. 7 steps for approval is too much overhead for many. And the current notability guidelines on big Wikipedias excludes most local and specialist knowledge.
We need a simpler scratch-space to develop new material:
- A place not designed to be high quality, where everything can be in flux, possibly wrong, in need of clarification and polishing and correction.
- A place that can be used to build draft articles, images, and other media before posting them to Wikipedia
- A place where everyone is welcome to start a new topic, and share what they know: relying on verifiability over time (but not requiring it immediately), and without any further standard for notability
- A place with no requirements to edit: possibly style guidelines to aspire to, but where newbies who don’t know how the tools or system works are welcomed and encouraged to contribute more, and not chastised for getting things wrong.
Since this will be a new sort of compendium or comprehensive cyclopedia, covering all topics, it should have a new name. Something simple, say Newpedia. Scripts can be written to help editors work through the most polished Newpedia items and push them to Wikipedia and Wikisource and Commons. We could invite editors to start doing their rough work on Newpedia, to avoid the conflict and fast reversion on the larger wiki references that make it hard to use for quick new work.
Update: Mako discussed Newpedia (or double-plus-newpedia) in his panel about “Wikipedia in 2022“, and Erik Moeller talked about how the current focus on notability is keeping all of our projects from growing, in his “Ghosts of Wikipedia Future“. I look forward to the video and transcripts.
What do you think? I started a mailing list for people who are interested in developing such a knowledge-project. I look forward to your thoughts, both serious and otherwise
OLPC’s new XO Tablet is up for grabs, now on Amazon
The XO Tablet is now available for purchase on Amazon, for $150. It’s a beautiful little device, and worth having to play with for children of all ages.
This combines the joys of the smaller ipads with those of the XO design and experience; though it’s roughly half the experience of each — it runs an Android build with a number of constructionist activities and content; and you can install any other Android apps you like on it. It is based on a stock tablet; while not as brilliant and robust a design as the original laptop or the XO-Touch, it is still a real pleasure to walk through its paces.
Give it a try, or borrow your friends, and let me know what you think.
Ripeness being all: Snowden’s secret and the web’s New Nihilism
Heller via Yossarian:
He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled…
Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall.
Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage.
The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.
Ad Entrevista: ArchDaily draws meaning from arch Sebastian Gray
Via Vimeo: on national style, the role of architecture in society, and the future of architecture education in Chile.
Plumpy’Nut Patent – Has their “patentleft” option seen wide use so far?
In 1996, two French food scientists, André Briend and Michel Lescanne, developed a nut-based food formulation to serve as an emergency food relief product in famine-stricken areas. The goal was to have a high-density balanced food with a long and robust shelf life – one which, unlike the previous standard of milk-based therapeutic food, could be taken at home rather than in a hospital.
They soon formed the company Nutriset to further develop and commercialize the idea. Their most popular product, Plumpy’Nut, has shipped millions of units and currently makes up roughly 90% of UNICEF’s stocks of ready-to-use therapeutic foods [RUTFs] for famine relief.
In forming their company, they captured their idea in the form of a patent (a standard way to declare ownership of and investment) and went on to build a production chain around it. This included tweaked formulas and a family of products; production and packaging factories; and grant-writing and research to get certification + field-feedback + approval from various UN bodies. This involved few years of up-front investment and reputation-building, and then ramping up mass production of millions of pounds of Plumpy’Nut and its derivatives. They later set up a novel “patentleft” process allowing companies in developing countries to use the patent commercially, and make derivatives from it, at no cost — after a brief online registration. This is something which has received surprisingly little attention since, considering how simple and elegant their solution. Read on for details! (more…)
Kenya’s laptop dream: reaching for the firmament, and rote naysaying
Over at ZeroGeography, Mark Graham shares a prepub version of an essay he wrote for the Guardian, about the new Kenyan drive to provide laptops to its primary students. Firstly, thank you to the author for posting your thoughts on his blog as well.
The argument that “this [money] could be better spent“, however, is a bit stale. I don’t generally go in for critical theory and analysis (despite the obvious rightness of tvtropes!), but sometimes patterns show up so strongly in someone’s writing or argument that they are clearly part of a larger social norm and can be understood as such.
This essay is one part imperialist critique of developing countries investing in new tools, one part assumption of bad implementation, and one part missed context.
Graham worries that Kenya’s new e-learning plan — which extends recent efforts to make laptops available to older students, to all primary schools — is not part of a larger strategy; though the budget speech he cites describes such a strategy. He makes assumptions about how much of the national budget goes to different basic needs which don’t seem to be accurate.
The central argument is one I hear often about why underdeveloped regions should slow down technological & educational change. It runs something like this:
A) don’t introduce new things, fix old things first.
B) come up with a strategy addressing all possible issues before including modern tech.
C) if your country is poorer than mine, there must be something basic and low-tech you need more.
D) technology amplifies existing skills. it is wasteful to subsidize it for the less privileged, who can’t use it properly anyway.
These arguments don’t stand up to a second look. Sure, it would be ideal to fix “all the things” — various underlying inequalities, inadequacies of the existing system of experts and mentors and teachers, gaps in the quality of textbooks and in local job opportunities for better-educated youth. But no single effort will do all of that. If you are lacking many things, your primary long-term bottleneck is often your ability to develop new solutions: you need more seed corn, not more ugali. Outside of an immediate crisis, you need knowledge, tools, factories, and other local capacity, so you can go on to invest in your own community while resolving other problems, basic and complex.
And lastly, the idea of not offering a powerful opportunity to those less privileged, because it might take them some time to make the best use of it… that sort of argument is not even wrong. In the short term, any opportunity would be used ‘more thoroughly’ by the already-privileged. But they have usually had that opportunity to begin with; government programs simply subsidize it for those without. Comparing who could “use it better” is a fallacy.
By definition, when you start bootstrapping you don’t have a lot; you get there step by step. And every individual and community deserves access to bootstrapping tools: Blackboards, electricity, glasses, phones, bikes, computers, and other technology. Not necessarily for free, sometimes requiring sweat and barnraising by the community, but as part of a civil campaign to make this part of society everywhere. These are all generative technologies, catalysing other new work, returning far more than their cost in what they enable. This is true three times over for computers: they are communication devices, creative tools for making and sharing, and factories for new tools. So the results of a community learning to use them includes trying and discovering new things not currently imagined.
Graham does make the following excellent point in his essay:
There is a long history of people and states framing information and communication technologies as a solution to economic, social, political, and even environmental problems.
So there is. Kenya should be clear that having tools, capacity, knowledge, stronger social networks, and access to more markets and jobs is not the same as solving specific problems. This will make it easier to solve some problems; it will create others; it will add to the general standard of living and also the expectations that come with it. It will empower people to do both good and bad things. It will be a boon to gamers and activists and gambling and muckraking and cottage industry and artists and pornography and transparency.
But it will surely prepare the country’s youth to be an active part of the internetworked world in which we live, and to help design its future.
Rep Mark Takano, California Congressman, Internet Hero
There Will Be Charts.
This is what I always assumed the best political minds in our country would spend their time doing, solving difficult problems at the highest level of social- and legal-norm creation. Thank you, Mark Takano.