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  • Doug Belshaw 2:30 pm on September 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , apps, screen   

    Screen status: September 2019 

    Copying an idea from Warren Ellis. I use the KISS launcher for Android which doesn’t really have a ‘home’ screen.

    I do pin five apps above the search bar:

    • Google Calendar
    • Loop Habit Tracker
    • ProtonMail
    • Telegram
    • Google Keep

    The other apps above are just listed in reverse chronological order since I last used them, from the bottom.

  • Doug Belshaw 10:25 am on September 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: badges   

    The Baggage of Badges 

    In preparation for some potential new work on badges / digital credentials / verifiable claims / whatever we’re call them this week, I’ve been digging back beyond to the very early days of Mozilla’s Open Badges work.

    A particularly rich article is one I first read around seven years ago by Alex Halavais, entitled A Genealogy of Badges: Inherited meaning and monstrous moral hybrids. Alex also has a bunch of posts on badges from between 2010 and 2013 which are worth checking out.

    I thought I’d just collect my highlights from his 2011 paper here as I’ll probably use them for something further down the line.

    Some have suggested that badges represent a viable alternative to existing methods of assessment in educational institutions and work environments. But each of these badges arrives with a ghostly recurrence of a long history of social badges in other contexts; badges have baggage.

    The confusion of the commercial and the state, of ranked organizations and networked organization, is inherent to the use of badges.

    The visual form of a badge has existed on the Web nearly as long as graphical elements could be displayed.

    Perhaps the essential function of a badge is to identify an individual as a member of a group.

    ‘Badges’, in the original use of the English word, were subsets of coats of
    arms intended to identify an individual or a household (Boutelle 1867). Initially, they were embroidered on clothing, eventually being embossed on various metals. By the fourteenth century, such badges were often inherited and were in wide circulation. Parallel uses of badges on clothing could be found outside of Europe during the same period (Mayer 1933; Cammann 1944). These insignia eventually came to be the pins and other badges worn to identify military regiments.

    Badges are used to signal group membership not just to enable systems of command and control, but also to create rapid rapport and trust.

    The adoption of heraldic symbols may seem to be little more than an aesthetic crutch, but as Synott and Symes (1995) argue, these symbols are more than just logos intending to differentiate one school from another, they carry with them a consistent set of messages about how education should work.

    It is difficult to find parallels of these kinds of badges of solidarity in online settings. Members instead tend to use badges in order to show their experience within a group, rather than identifying members outside of the group. Someone may indeed be a well-respected member of one community, but loses any reputation or trust gained by that work when they move to another platform.

    It would seem that especially universities would have an interest in seeing their alumni using badges on the Web, but so far the mechanisms for verifying such badges do not exist. Just as you have no guarantee that
    someone wearing a sweatshirt from Princeton actually graduated from that institution, you have no way of knowing how much weight the Princeton badge on their LinkedIn profile carries.

    There are other applications of badges beyond those of privilege or rank. Sometimes, badges are used to identify excellence, or at least competence. Sometimes they are used to mark particular experiences or sacrifices. As noted above, the latter is a hallmark of all badges: to carry social currency they must represent a significant sacrifice.

    It is sometimes difficult to differentiate badges based on skill with those
    based on experience. It seems that many badge systems conflate the two, which is not entirely surprising since it appears that users tend to adopt the community standards as they gain more experience on a site (Halavais 2009). Nonetheless, particular behaviors can be seen as demonstrating skill, rather than just repetitive action. While some of the badges on the Huffington Post site, for example, can be earned merely by being an active member of the community, others are based on the ability to spark conversation or on receiving kudos from peers (‘gift badges’). Even without such badges, providing such an endorsement seems to be a common instinct within communities – badges merely formalize and make visible that process (Lampel & Bhala 2007).

    Anything of value is worth stealing, especially a technology that signals authority, privilege, skill, and experience. If it can be obtained without the expected expense in time, energy, or risk, it will be. For this to be avoided, the creation of false badges must also be expensive, time consuming, or risky. At least at present, there are few badges worth faking, because they carry so little worth. There are exceptions to this, particularly in games, where certain achievements are hard-won and can be traded for money or reputation in the game. But up until now, badges have been too low-stakes to attract efforts to forge or finagle. This is in marked contrast to many traditional badges.

    It is also clear that badges, particularly when they are used in online communities, are being used in contexts much more readily associated with the commercial syndrome. The sort of values that define the commercial syndrome: transparency, honesty, open dealing, competition, optimism, innovation, and the rise of voluntary agreements could easily be a list describing the ideology of social media.

    It is not possible to borrow from a long history of badges in guardian contexts without some of the values of those badges ‘leaking’ into the current context.

    As such, badges are the almost ideal ‘boundary object’, a way of translating the practices and social capital of one community to other,
    dissimilar communities (Wenger 1998).

    A badge is a symbol that something exists, and it is important to make sure that it does not come to replace the thing it represents. This is true regardless of where badges are used, but becomes particularly important in learning.

    If learning badges are used at once in environments where they are ‘awarded’ for service, as a gold star might be used in a traditional
    classroom to enforce desirable behaviors, and at the same time used to represent peer-assessed, student-guided learning, the badges are likely to have little meaning outside of immediate contexts, and may easily lead to confusion or worse among students interested in them.

    The counter-productive form of a badge merely reproduces the problems of letter grading, relying on what Kohn (1993) called ‘pop behaviorism’, rewarding specific behavior extrinsically rather than building deeper passion for learning

    There remain a number of good reasons to incorporate badges in an online system. They can serve as a clear way of expressing what is valued by a community, they encourage participation by those interested in the badges, they provide the means to identify more closely with the learning experience (to ‘learn to be’ rather than ‘learn to do’ as Brown & Adler 2008, put it), they allow for a diversity of self-directed gratifications among a group, and they provide a visual cue and social marketing for a particular community.

    If the badges will be intended to express authority, they should be consistent in how they approach the ethical choices they suggest. If they are meant primarily as a form of (self) identity, they likewise should adopt a set of values in how they are assessed, granted, and displayed that reflect this intended use. It is nearly guaranteed that badges will be
    used in ways outside of their intended function, but a clear idea of that intended function is important, and that the uses remain congruent.

    A badge that provides a pointer to deeper documentation is important, particularly for participatory communities. It should be immediately clear to the recipient and anyone challenging the legitimacy of the badge
    how and why it was awarded. This also avoids the issue of the badge coming to mean something on its own; it is instead always a pointer to more information.

    For those who wish to invent new ways of interacting online, it is vital that they recognize that any badge system carries with it a set of ethical expectations, and badge systems are likely to perform better if those expectations are consistent, cohesive, and appropriate to the context.

  • Doug Belshaw 8:03 am on September 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: streets   

    As town centres empty, there is a generational opportunity to reverse the gross monetisation of our public realm. This is a chance to make the principles of placemaking – creating inclusive public spaces where people can enjoy their leisure time without spending money – a reality. Nonprofit arts and cultural organisations forced out by high rents could, likewise, come back into empty shop units (long-term, not as a temporary gesture by developers), to re-engage local people with these spaces – and without it costing them £6 a pint. But will any of this happen? The short answer is no. Councils do not have the money or the compulsory-purchase powers to radically intervene. Enlightened developers are rare. The patchwork of smaller private landlords who own peripheral space in town centres need to fill their properties, hence the fact that cool cottage industries tend to flourish there, in pockets. But the remote coalition of global property management, pension and investment funds that owns most shopping precincts or malls is, at best, distantly concerned with the local population.

    Tony Naylor, We can revive Britain’s high streets. But developers stand in the way (The Guardian, 14th September 2019)
  • Doug Belshaw 5:39 pm on September 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Prizes for everyone 

    I never used to know why people (usually business-like, conservative types) would get so upset about things like schools not holding competitive sports days. What’s the big deal?

    It’s only recently that I’ve come to realise that the whole system of neoliberal capitalism depends on competition. Politicians to the right of the spectrum have a blind belief in markets as the solution to everything and so, even if marketisation isn’t working, will intervene to make it look like it is.

    Similarly, companies will enter themselves for bullshit awards — literally ones run by organisations who hand out prizes that they’re effectively paying for — just so that employees there can keep up the same narrative.

    Thankfully, I think this is the generation that, because of the 2008 crash and because of the woeful ineptitude of our current batch of politicians, has seen through all that. I have high hopes for, if not a revolution, then incremental change in the way society’s attitude to the necessary of ‘competition’.

  • Doug Belshaw 1:08 pm on September 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Even the most hardened sociopath, in the most viciously Darwinian of domains (like, say, a Wall Street trader, or an academic studying “critical theory”), has a self-image with a precious-snowflake aspect to it. This is the part of you that you see most clearly when you stare into a mirror. You see yourself as you were when you were a child. You don’t notice the extra chins and jowls that come with age, or the extra padding in the wrong places. You don’t notice the stray gray hairs, the tiredness in the eyes, or the wrinkles. You stare into the mirror, and the face of the child you once were stares back, through the worn shell of the adult. You might even strike a pose or make an expression that exaggerates the illusion. The child is not idealized or romanticized, however. It is the real past-you,whether you were the resentful and angry kind of kid, or the happy-go-lucky kind. It takes conscious effort to snap back to reality and see and feel yourself as you are now. This is why it is particularly jarring to watch video footage of yourself. Unlike the image in the mirror, the person on the video playback screen is not a puppet you can control. Video playback breaks the illusion of being the child within, because it is footage of you at a different time, performing adulthood without the child on display, or active in awareness.

    So you think, do I really look and sound like that? Or if you’re in a more maudlin mood, is this who I’ve become? It’s not just in-head acoustics versus how you are heard, or the posture you feel versus the posture you strike. It’s the fact that the person out there, performing, is not the person you feel when you look inside. There is something it is like to be you, on the inside, and it is not that person out there. This child — a sort of Freudian id++ — embodies the precious snowflake.

    It must be killed periodically if you are to keep on living. It will almost always come back to life, so it must be killed every few years, as it steadily regains strength. So long as you do this with disciplined regularity, the precious snowflake part of you will remain a valuable part of your psyche, but never in control. But if you let it grow unchecked, it will consume the rest of you, driving you to clueless, self-absorbed, uncreative narcissism.

    Venkatesh Rao, Crash Early, Crash Often
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