EdTech’s Precarious Futures

In the NORRAG Blog, Kean Birch asks what material limits the EdTech sector is likely to come up against in its pursuit of data as a value-creating asset:

There’s a lot going on in EdTech, once you start looking; not all of it is going to be good for teaching or learning, and not all of it is going to be good for universities and faculty. In fact, there are a range of unintended or unexpected consequences from this expansion of EdTech that we simply can’t predict.

An important issue that has come up during our fieldwork are the attempts by EdTech companies to find a use for all the personal and user data they are collecting, whether deliberately or accidentally. Most EdTech products and services end up producing data in one form or another, and many assume that there is "gold in data," as one informant told us.

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Digital Books Wear Out Faster Than Physical Books

The Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle summarizes some challenges to preserving digital heritage:

Ever try to read a physical book passed down in your family from 100 years ago? Probably worked well. Ever try reading an ebook you paid for 10 years ago? Probably a different experience. From the leasing business model of mega publishers to physical device evolution to format obsolescence, digital books are fragile and threatened. For those of us tending libraries of digitized and born-digital books, we know that they need constant maintenance—reprocessing, reformatting, re-invigorating or they will not be readable or read.

Submitted by jboy

Data Cartels

Wired has published an excerpt from Sarah Lamdan’s Data Cartels: The Companies That Control and Monopolize Our Information:

You might not be familiar with RELX, but it knows all about you. Reed Elsevier LexisNexis (RELX) is a Frankensteinian amalgam of publishers and data brokers, stitched together into a single information giant. There is one other company that compares to RELX—Thomson Reuters, which is also an amalgamation of hundreds of smaller publishers and data services. Together, the two companies have amassed thousands of academic publications and business profiles, millions of data dossiers containing our personal information, and the entire corpus of US law. These companies are a culmination of the kind of information market consolidation that’s happening across media industries, from music and newspapers to book publishing. However, RELX and Thomson Reuters are uniquely creepy as media companies that don’t just publish content but also sell our personal data.

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AI Art Is Soft Propaganda for the Global North

In Hyperallergic, Marco Donnarumma reflects on the ethical — and artistic — shortcomings of AI image generators:

As an artist and scholar working with open source technology since 2004 and with machine learning and AI since 2012, I’m as fascinated as I am weary of the creative potentials and cultural implications of machine learning. Deep learning and, by extension, AI generators are particularly problematic because their efficiency depends on the exclusive assets of a few extraordinarily wealthy agents in the industry.

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Gendered Computing

Jonne Arjoranta built a tool to explore why there aren’t more women in computing. The answers may surprise you!

Why aren’t there more women in computer science? Why haven’t there been more women working as programmers? These questions often evoke speculation about biological differences, but answers often leave out the historical and cultural context.

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A CV of Microwork

This design project by Silvio Lorusso captures the explosion of small tasks that eat up many workers’ days.

The paperwork explosion of the ’60s, which computers were supposed to end, has become a collision of digital microinteractions – a microwork explosion. In this CV of microwork, the life experience of the traditional résumé coincides with user experience.

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How To Explain Things Real Good

Some people just want to watch the world learn. Therefore, Nicky Case has some great advice on how to explain things:

  1. Show what made you care
  2. Show, then tell
  3. Therefore & But, not And Then
  4. Write a draft, then cut 10%
  5. Do real tests, early & often

But, you should really watch this great talk for yourself.

Submitted by jboy

Technologies of Hope & Fear

A Tactical Tech-curated collection of technologies "developed, marketed and implemented to mitigate the pandemic and to help societies ‘get back to normal.’"

The project creates a snapshot in time and an archive of rapid shifts in the uptake of ambient, behavioural and bio-metric data and intelligence worldwide. Some of these technologies bring hope and some play into our fears. Ultimately the project asks — what kinds of societies are we building? what trade-offs are we willing to make? and do these techno-solutions help us succeed in controlling the virus, or only in controlling the hosts?

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The joy of text in a world of tech zealotry

In THE Campus, computer scientist Andy Farnell takes up the cudgel for plain-text teaching tools.

We don’t need more complex and insular proprietary teaching tools; we need to make more intelligent use of the powerful, standardised, interoperable foundations we already have in computing.

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Can Cooperatives Defeat Digital Coloniality?

On the Platform Cooperativism Consortium blog, T. O. Molefe introduces the concept of digital coloniality to bring into view the extractive and oppressive relations that fuel tech — and to consider what sorts of relations could be built instead.

Like the charter companies that served as tools of colonial conquest, digital multinationals like Meta, Uber and Airbnb have amplified the extractive, exploitative relationship that global elites have established with everyone else, and have also co-opted governments into their plans. The actions of these companies’ controlling shareholders are defining, and some would say corrupting, what it means to be human in a digital world and who can be human.

Submitted by jboy