Cory Doctorow comments on a recent Atlantic article on QAnon - a nebulous web of personalities and conspiracy theories revolving round the anonymous postings on 4chan of a contributor known only as Q. The thrust of the Atlantic article, says Doctorow, is that the algorithms originally for marketing and advertising are now being used to promote conspiracy theories. Maybe. Doctorow has an alternative explanation, though: "What Big Tech does VERY well, however, is find people... This isn't a persuasive miracle, it's just spying." Just so, the technology helps people on the fringe find each other. The big question is, why are so many people susceptible to conspiracy theories? Doctorow responds: "because so many of the things that have traumatized so many people ARE conspiracies." All this makes the wider point, to my mind, that people learn from everything we do, so if we want better education for our children, we need to become a better society. See also: What ARGs can teach us about QAnon via Metafilter.
The argument here is that we could "seize this moment of crisis to make our universities more equitable and resilient by restoring public funding and prioritizing a deeper democratic purpose. For this to happen, faculty, staff, students, and adjacent communities must mobilize and demand a seat at the table." It's not that far-fetched, but a lot has to fall into place for it to happen. This article describes the process underway at Rutgers. " We have a vision of a different university, the classic model of which includes 'faculty governance.' But we do not believe that faculty governance means only including teachers. Rutgers has 30,000 workers who are making a life serving this institution—serving the students, maintaining our buildings, feeding us lunch, teaching us, conducting research. They should be making decisions about the university, not lawyers, accountants, and human resource bureaucrats."
While writing that "hierarchical organizations cause employees, including depression, anxiety and heart attacks, as well as being subjected to the inequality of privilege and income disparity" Nancy Dixon notes that these maladies inflict organizations as a whole, leading to what she depicts as a set of responsibilities for people trying to improve that organization. The responsibilities are such things as "function as a co-participant in the creation, maintenance, and transformation of organizational realities" and "willingly share what each knows with colleagues and create forums and systems by which that can be accomplished." In my first draft I wrote 'society' instead of 'organization', and while it's not what Dixon meant, these rules seem to be good starting points to define social responsibility. Image: Jason Westland.
I don't think this article ever gets around to defining the billion dollar platform hole, which I think is the 'learner experience' or 'differentiated education' or some such thing. Yet, writes Curtiss Barnes, "the question is how higher education institutions and the companies that serve them will react to preserve (or not) academic freedom." I think he's trying to distinguish between hands-on academic learning, and platform-driven learning experiences. But 'academic freedom' isn't where this line is drawn. Image: the Gazelle.
This is a pretty good article (20 page PDF) that looks at the limits of analytics in designing learning programs and makes some recommendations for higher-level constraints. "The network structure does not reveal everything," writes Daniel Domínguez Figaredo. Things as varied as pedagogical approach and harmful content need to be considered and regulated from a wider context. "In many cases, researchers using social network analysis take into consideration the structural properties of the whole network to infer from them other properties of the links between the different nodes." The table at the end of the paper is a pretty good listing (and accords well with my own look at ethical issues in learning analytics).
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