(2012-03-19) Simplification Manipulation Gamification
Bundle of related links/thoughts I need to flesh out...
- it’s in the nature of grand structural transformations that we will always have great difficulty picturing what the end-state would look like. And because we feel we have to, we tend not to, falling back on the narrative patterns we know better... we will always be confined to the solutions which that system produces for itself, which the world we live in makes thinkable, possible. In short: we can imagine killing Kony, or fining or shunning Apple only because doing so would do nothing to disable the systemic forces that make Kony possible in the first place, would do nothing to change the system that makes it economically “necessary” to treat workers the way Foxconn does.
- because such stories are derived from their audience – and its imaginative capabilities – they will for that reason demand reactions to the problem that are maddeningly simplistic in their very imaginable practicality. Kony is bad and so he must be killed by the military, because that’s something we can picture, can visualize; fundamentally restructuring the Central African system of political economy and governance is impossibly and unthinkably remote... Each of these outcomes are imaginable, in part, as a direct consequence of the fact that they do not trouble the status quo. We can imagine those reforms, because they are essentially superficial adjustments of a system that not only remains intact, but which we – in our thinking about what is and isn’t possible – rely on and presume. I think there's a passive-attitude mess here: it's the story teller who's demanding a simplistic reaction.
- telling stories is the only way these people can conceptualize getting results... The truth is not enough, these people think; I have to tell the story that will get results, results that will testify to their deeper truth... If you tell the truth with scrupulous accuracy and breadth, people are as likely to doze off as be scandalized.
- related: Teju Cole on "The White Savior Industrial Complex". If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American Foreign Policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on Africa itself.
Some Crooked Timber reviews/discussions
- of Ken Mac Leod's Intrusion. Libertarian paternalism hence reinforces, and is reinforced by, traditional state paternalism.
- of Charlie Stross' Rule34. Rather than depicting a gentle authoritarianism, centered on the state, Stross shows a state police force that willy-nilly becomes the adjunct arm of a set of online algorithms, which have gotten rather too good at modeling people and organizations.
- of Charlie Stross' Halting State (from a few years back). All of these things enable what Larry Lessig might describe as ‘ArchitecturesOfControl.’ But the architectures don’t really control people any more in the ways that they used to. Instead, they create a toxic mixture of ubiquitous surveillance and official cluelessness about how to use the information and opportunities it creates to deal with new security threats... I think that this is the first genuinely successful S Fnal take on the social changes that we’re facing into – not, of course, because it is going to be right – but because it takes some of the core dilemmas of an IT based society, plays with them and extrapolates them in ways that challenge our basic understanding of politics in a networked society.
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