Yaba Yaba

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Archive for the ‘digital culture’ Category

OLPC: the realisation of a Cultural Revolution?

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I just came across Ivan Illich’s Consitution for Cultural Revolution.  Strikingly relevant today as it was in 1971, if not more. Yes, Illich is radical, provocative. But its hard to deny he has a point when he argues:

The goals of development are always and everywhere stated in terms of consumer value packages standardized around the North Atlantic – and therefore always and everywhere imply more privileges for a few. Political reorganization cannot change this fact; it can only rationalize it. Different ideologies create different minorities of privileged consumers, but heart surgery or a university education is always priced out of range for all but a few: be they the rich, the orthodox, or the most fascinating subjects for experiments by surgeons or pedagogues.

Underdevelopment is the result of a state of mind common to both socialist and capitalist countries. Present development goals are neither desirable nor reasonable. Unfortunately antiimperialism is no antidote. Although exploitation of poor countries is an undeniable reality, current nationalism is merely the affirmation of the right of colonial elites to repeat history and follow the road traveled by the rich toward the universal consumption of internationally marketed packages, a road which can ultimately lead only to universal pollution and universal frustration.

His proposal? Establish access to educational goods as a basic undeniable equal right, open to free choice and trade:

A cultural revolutionary must fight for legal protection from the imposition of any obligatory graded curriculum. The first article of a bill of rights for a modern and humanist society corresponds to the first amendment of the United States Constitution. The state shall make no law with respect to an establishment of education. There shall be no graded curriculum, obligatory for all. To make this disestablishment effective, we need a law forbidding discrimination in hiring, voting, or admission to centers of learning based on previous attendance at some curriculum. This guarantee would not exclude specific tests of competence, but would remove the present absurd discrimination in favor of the person who learns a given skill with the largest expenditure of public funds. A third legal reform would guarantee the right of each citizen to an equal share of public educational resources, the right to verify his share of these resources, and the right to sue for them if they are denied. A generalized GI bill, or an edu-credit card in the hand of every citizen, would effectively implement this third guarantee.

I wonder, isn’t this percisely the agenda of OLPC? And in a broader view, the open source education movement? Public debate tends to focus on cost and benefit, technical specification, production politics. Its not about that. Its about breaking the feudal structure of knowledge production. About the right of any person to own the means of intellectual production. About equal access to the global conversation. Which is probably why the focus is on children rather than schools. As Illich concludes:

The social and psychological destruction inherent in obligatory schooling is merely an illustration of the destruction implicit in all international institutions which now dictate the kinds of goods, services, and welfare available to satisfy basic human needs. Only a cultural and institutional revolution which reestablishes man’s control over his environment can arrest the violence by which development of institutions is now imposed by a few for their own interest. Maybe Marx has said it better, criticizing Ricardo and his school: “They want production to be limited to ‘useful things,’ but they forget that the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”

I suspect Papert and Negraponte would agree.


Written by yishaym

December 7, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Maths test tomorrow? wack some zombies

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Especially if you’re a girl. Recent research* shows that playing 10 hours of shoot-em-ups improves spatial cognition skills which are associated with success in mathematics and science:

Playing an action video game can differentially enhance male and female performance on spatial tasks; females showed larger improvements than males with prior gender differences virtually eliminated (Useful Field of View) or reduced (Mental rotation task).Non-action games may be less likely to have a beneficial effect because they do not sufficiently exercise spatial attentional capacities.

Spatial abilities—including MRT—have been associated with 1) success in mathematics and science courses (Delgado & Prieto, 2004); 2) performance on standardized tests (e.g. SAT: Casey, et al., 1995); and 3) the choice of mathematics and science in college (Casey, et al, 1995). [..] Superior spatial ability is related to employment in engineering and science (McGee, 1979) and females, who typically score lower on tests of spatial skills, are underrepresented in these fields with worldwide participation rates as low as one in five.

Non-video game players in our study realized large gains after only ten hours of training; we can only imagine the benefits that might be realized after weeks, months, or even years of action video gaming experience.

I find the erasure of gender difference fascinating. It strengthens the argument that such differences are predominantly cultivated by the kinds of things we do as kids. Its also interesting to see the parallel with the differences between art and science students.

On the down side, killing zombies is not like bike riding. you have to keep practising:

Underlying processes in the brain are qualitatively different from those in more typical cases of skill acquisition that involve practice—generally these show decay if there is no continued practice to maintain the level of skill.

*: 2007Playing an Action Video Game Reduces Gender Difference in Spatial Cognition. Psychological Science, (18)10:850-855. PDF


Written by yishaym

October 3, 2007 at 10:48 am

Mayday! Mayday! kids are seeing titties!

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Reuter’s lazy summer story about Nigerian kids using OLPCs to browse porn is making the rounds. Yawn.

I have two young kids at home. They both use both our computers independently, mostly for internet access. I would never consider installing any filter on any system I own or manage. In fact, I’m totally pissed over the unbearable ease of use of filters. For me, any case of person A deciding what person B should or should not browse is a violation of human rights. What are they really going to censor, this, this, this or this?
The other aspect which surprises me is the ease in which we get carried along with the ‘porn threat’ discourse. I can easily name quite a few more serious internet ‘risks’, such as racial bullying, homophobic hate, sexist comments on Digg, Fox news, big brother, and Mac (not to mention McDonnalds) ads.

As a matter of fact, I think this is a heads-up for the OLPC: if its good enough for porn, then its good enough for education!

Written by yishaym

July 21, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Sandi Thom, or how to get an audience of 60,000 in your bedroom

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I like the way she thinks. I also like the site design. Can’t comment on the music yet, I’m afraid. I have Tai Chi at 9. Maybe tomorrow.

Sandi will be on stage at 9pm from Tooting.
Anyone wanting to come to the venue physically and not watch it on the web, please note that the room capacity is a maximum of 10 people including the band. Tickets from info@sandithom.com.
Please bring your own refreshments.
There is a sofa bed in the living room and a blow up mattress in the basement, if anyone wants to stay over, but please bring your own sleeping bag.February 06
22nd Pocklington Arts Centre York 01759 381 547
23rd Queens Hall , Narbeth, Wales 01834 861 212
24th Sandi’s basement, Tooting Sold Out
25th Sandi’s basement, Tooting Sold Out
26th Sandi’s basement, Tooting Sold Out
27th Sandi’s basement, Tooting Sold Out
28th Sandi’s basement, Tooting Sold Out

Written by yishaym

March 8, 2006 at 7:14 pm

Posted in digital culture

and the winner is…

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My vote for Web2.0 thingy of the decade goes to FreeCycle.org.


  1. When they say social network they mean social as in values, social as in sustainable.
  2. They didn’t create any new technology. It was all out there – just figured out how to use it right.
  3. Simple, smart, effective, cool.
  4. Damn, I wish I’d thought of that idea first.

I think, with no further ado, I’ll let them explain:


Number of Freecycle™ Communities: 3,311
Number of Freecycle™ Members: 1,907,533


The Freecycle Network™ is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It’s a grassroots movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is run by a local volunteer moderator (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by clicking on the region on the left. You may then go directly to your local group by clicking on “Go To” or you may immediately joing by clicking on “Join.” It will generate an automatic e-mail which, when sent, will sign you up for your local group and send you a response with instructions on how it works. Can’t find a group near you? You might want to consider starting one (click on “Start a Group” for instructions). Have fun!

The Freecycle Network was started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson’s downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. The Network provides individuals and non-profits an electronic forum to “recycle” unwanted items. One person’s trash can truly be another’s treasure!

How does it work?

When you want to find a new home for something — whether it’s a chair, a fax machine, piano, or an old door — you simply send an e-mail offering it to members of your Freecycle group.

Or, maybe you’re looking to acquire something yourself. Simply respond to a member’s offer, and you just might get it. After that, it’s up to the giver to decide who receives the gift and to set up a pickup time for passing on the treasure.

Our main rule: Everything posted must be free, legal, and appropriate for all ages.

Non-profit organizations also benefit from The Freecycle Network. Post the item or items you want to give away and specify that you wish the gift to go to a nonprofit cause. It’s entirey your choice! It’s a free cycle of giving.

Who can use The Freecycle Network?

Think globally, recycle locally. The Freecycle Network is open to all communities and to all individuals who want to participate. Freecycle groups are run by local volunteer moderators from across the globe who facilitate each local group – grassroots at its best!

Written by yishaym

January 23, 2006 at 2:56 am

finally: A seach engine you can trust

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Patriot search engine

(thanks digg)

Written by yishaym

January 20, 2006 at 3:06 am

all your base are belong to us

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The Financial times can sometimes beat the onion:

Hackers blackmail milliondollar site
By James Fontanella in London
Published: January 18 2006 02:00 | Last updated: January 18 2006 02:00

The FBI is investigating the hijacking of milliondollarhomepage.com – the website that earned $1m (£566,000) for its British creator Alex Tew by hosting micro-advertisements – by hackers who demanded a ransom to restore the site.

And if he doesn’t comply by Wednesday, they’ll start sending the site by email, one pixel at a time.

I can see Harrison Ford starring in the movie.

(thanks digg)

GIoneletter VEeUuSThEMOSegmentuntitledYyellow OLetter RuntitledOooUuntitledLNEuntitledE 019RSEEYoUrSRadio City \TE 007160_6014 AuntitledAi is for informationn

Written by yishaym

January 18, 2006 at 3:16 pm