by Stephen Downes
Mar 02, 2015
Silicon Valley likes to promise ‘digital socialism’ – but it is selling a fairytale
One of the things I've learned over the years is to resist letting positions I hold be defined by their opponents. One of those positions happens to be socialism, and while it is true it has evolved over the years, it nonetheless resembles nothing like what is discussed by Evgeny Morozov in this column for the Guardian, or by Kevin Kelly in the 2009 article Morozov is responding to. Morozov warns that Silicon Valley's promise to bridge "the gap in consumption inequality" will ring hollow: "we might be forced to sell our cars and default on our mortgages, but we would never lose access to Spotify and Google." Perhaps when Morozov is discussing socialism he should look up the phrase "means of production". Inequality is the symptom of wider structural issues in society, a natural consequence of a system based on hoarding, and something socialists seek to redress, but socialism is (despite years of caricature in the American press) about making everybody the same. I would add that even the image attached to the article perpetuates the same misinformation - Obama isn't in any way socialist, and should not be represented as such.
The Voodoo That MOOCs Do
Inside Higher Ed,
When friends at the University of Alberta told me about their upcoming Dino 101 MOOC, I was enthusiastic. "It's going to draw a million people," I said. It went on to draw considerably fewer, still a success, but nothing like what it could have been. What happened? The course that was produced was formal, stuffy and academic - designed, almost, to repel interest in dinosaurs, not cultivate it. And that is the sort of mistake institutions in general have been making with MOOCs, writes Ryan Craig in this article. They're targeting them to older professionals, when they should instead be targeting them to a younger audience. "While no institution needs to hurry up to produce MOOCs with DisneyCollectorBR or even Justin Bieber, universities should view MOOCs as an important channel for reaching prospective students around the world, and target content accordingly."
What Necessary Adult Skills Were You Never Taught Growing Up?
Doug Belshaw flags this article in LifeHacker asking people to comment on the life skills they never learned growing up. As one commenter says, "I just realized, this entire article boils down to 'give Lifehacker ideas for future articles'." But hey, why not? In any case, the comments section is filled with ideas for good life lessons. Here's a sampling:
- basic hygiene habits like flossing/brushing teeth, taking showers, shaving, cosmetics, and hairstyling.
- education on how to have constructive relationships
- basic finance. My parents handled everything and didn't teach me about budgeting at all
- how to exercise or be physically fit
- emotional intelligence. Being able to communicate exactly how I feel instead of sticking my head in the sand
- knowing a little bit about car repairs and maintenance
- how to wear makeup
- how to handle repeated failure. How to be content with doing "alright", not "outstanding" in life
- how to cook
Sensing a theme?
The Book of Life
Another find from Doug Belshaw is this absolutely fascinating Book of Life. It's organized into Capitalism, Work, Relationships, and Self, each one with a number of subtopics. I did not have nearly enough time to read it all, but I sampled quite a number of the topics (especially 'Capitalism') to get a sense that this is worth reading, even if you don't agree with everything it it. And I really like the approach: "The Book of Life is being written by many people over a long time; it keeps changing and evolving. It is filled with images and films as well as texts. By floating online, it can grow a bit every day or so, as new things come along and it can be equally accessible all around the world, at any time, for free."
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