Updates from December, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 9:54 am on December 6, 2019 Permalink
    Tags: , , , globalism, Rana Foroohar, tech nationalism   

    Big Tech, Nationalism and Globalisation 

    There’s an important observation in Rana Foroohar’s The Case Against Big Tech concerning how American tech firms are invoking national interest to avoid the threat of regulation. From pg 10:

    All of which makes it particularly rich that some Big Tech firms have responded to the growing public concern about privacy and anticompetitive business practices by playing to a long-standing American fear: It’s us versus China. Companies like Google and Facebook are increasingly trying to portray themselves to regulators and politicians as national champions, fighting to preserve America’s first-place standing in a video-game-like, winner-take-all battle for the future against the evil Middle Kingdom. In the spring of 2018, when Mark Zuckerberg was grilled in front of the U.S. Senate about his company’s involvement in election manipulation, an Associated Press reporter managed to take a picture of Zuckerberg’s notes, which revealed that if he was asked about Facebook’s monopoly power, he had planned to answer that if the company were broken up, America would be at a competitive disadvantage against Chinese tech giants. As congressional staffers and politicos in Washington have told me, Google has played the national security card, too, quietly using the “U.S. versus China” argument to push back against proposed antitrust action. Yet Google also has a research facility in Beijing, and has contemplated starting a censored version of its search engine to comply with local rules (something that has been put “on hold,” as one PR representative put it to me, following an internal revolt among its own engineers, as well as political pushback from the White House and Congress).

    Given the objective fault lines which exist in Sino-American relations (the rising hegemonic and its diminishing predecessor, rapidly falling Chinese FDI in America, competition over South-East Asia as a sphere of influence, enormous if diminishing quantity of American debt owned by China etc) it is extremely worrying how the strategic conduct of Big Tech firms links nationalism in foreign affairs to resistance to domestic reform. There is a real race here given what we can expect to be the non-linear character of advances in machine learning but one which intersects with a diverse range of tensions to be found in China and America. The political economy of Big Tech is becoming extraordinarily significant and needs to be at the heart of our analysis of what constitutes the global in our present conjuncture.

  • Mark 9:44 am on December 6, 2019 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Automation and the reproduction of knowledge 

    I understand the allure which MOOCs can have for those inspired by the idea. Why relegate people to second tier tuition at regional universities when the best teachers in the world could teach everyone remotely at little cost? There are many problems with this vision but one that’s little remarked upon is the question of how the next generation of teachers would come to be produced. If the university system is reduced to a few centres for stars and supporting hubs then where are the future superstar professors likely to come from? How do they develop the pedagogical gifts in virtue of which much of the university system is being dispensed with? Unless an advocate for automation, which is in essence what MOOCs represent, can answer this question then I can’t see why we should take their vision of institutional change seriously.

  • Mark 11:05 am on December 5, 2019 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    A video introduction to Social Media for Academics 

    How has social media changed since the first edition of this book?

    (More …)

  • Mark 8:20 am on December 5, 2019 Permalink

    Most recently, Amazon has gotten into healthcare—a $ 3.5 trillion industry—working to disrupt how we buy prescription drugs, pick and purchase health insurance plans, and more, by drawing on its supply chain and trove of personal background data that could easily be supplemented with real-time reports from health monitors in homes, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. 44 It is ambitions like this that have made Amazon possibly the deadliest of the killer apps in terms of sheer market power. No wonder that Jeff Bezos, with a net worth of $ 112 billion, has emerged the richest of the tech oligarchs—indeed, perhaps the richest person of all time.

    Don’t be Evil by Rana Foroohar, pg 21-22
  • Mark 1:50 pm on December 4, 2019 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Hampered by the need to defend the EU as a site of cosmopolitanism in the name of stopping Brexit, many remainers have framed any opposition as a threat to a political order that has no need for change. The rightward drift of the Lib Dems as they look to rebuild their vote by becoming the party of remain illustrates this bias to the status quo. For all its references to history (particularly to the totalitarian threats of the 1930s), the current liberal vision is often quite ahistorical: we don’t hear much about Britain before the referendum. Even the most radical version of liberal centrism has only a partial diagnosis: it points to rising inequality and a growing generational and educational gap. Liberals may focus on defending norms, but norms themselves are only how particular political settlements are made legitimate. They don’t tell us much about the limits of the settlement itself.

    Katrina Forrester https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/18/crisis-in-liberalism-katrina-forrester
  • Mark 10:50 am on December 4, 2019 Permalink

    We're striking 

    Brilliant from Wanya2K who did this live at the CUCU rally yesterday:

  • Mark 4:24 pm on December 3, 2019 Permalink  

    Connecting with what I’m actually interested in #exhaustionrebellion 

    The changing character of publicness and its implications for the public role of the social sciences. What are the opportunities and challenges? What forms of institutional entrepreneurship are they inviting? What does this mean for the future of scholarship? What does this mean for doctoral pedagogy? How can we build institutions and develop practices which address this changing landscape? How is this transformation of knowledge production tied up in the changing governance of the university? How does discursive critique impact upon the efficacy of resistance to these trends? What is it like to mundanely exist within this dysfunctional institutional environment? What is the university becoming and what role is platformisation playing in this? Do we need to defend the university in a ‘post truth’ age or is the easy availability of this rhetoric masking a much deeper set of problems in the collective life of scholarship.

    The proliferation of digital platforms and the problem of agency. Platformisation has reached an intensivity and extensivity that we urgently need to understand how the architecture of platforms, as well as the forms of (micro, meso and macro) strategic conduct consolidated through them, transforms the parameters of personal and collective reflexivity. There are countless claims made about this process but there has yet to be a consistent and plausible ontological engagement with the process as such. It would be a mistake to see this as an opportunity for restaging the structure and agency debate. But without revisiting this terrain, it’s not going to be possible to resolve the problem of agency within a comprehensively platformised social order. A failure to reach this point will have serious intellectual and pedagogical consequences for the exercise of our (technological) reflexivity with regards to an increasingly dystopian political economy against the backdrop of a climate crisis.

  • Mark 11:39 pm on December 2, 2019 Permalink

    This was drawn by Patrick Tresset’s robot It was a strange and engaging experience to see the machine compose this through an iterative sequence of seemingly random lines. It was also striking how many people approached me in the exhibition when I was standing next to it drawing me, as everyone immediately began treating me as part of the exhibition.

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