Read Arise, Sir Food Bank by Frances Ryan (tribunemag.co.uk)

Knighting Iain Duncan Smith – the man responsible for Universal Credit, the bedroom tax and ‘fit for work’ tests – shows just how much contempt the establishment has for ordinary people.

What a stitch-up. Man who has presided over the significant worsening of many people’s lives – here, have a knighthood.

tribunemag.co.uk/2019/12/arise-sir-food-bank

#shitesoftherealm

Read In Defence of Salford by Ronan Burtenshaw and Marcus Barnett (tribunemag.co.uk)

The Murdoch press has started its attacks on Rebecca Long Bailey and her Salford ‘mafia’. It’s not hard to figure out why – Salford is a proud and radical working-class community that points the way forward for the Labour Left in 2020.

Nice little article about Salford, socialism and Rebecca Long Bailey – obviously Tribune’s pick for next Labour leader. She’s already being hammered by the right-wing press.

Interesting description of Salford as “somewhere between the Manchester metropolis and the surrounding Lancashire towns” – obviously geographically, but politically too, hadn’t really thought about it like that before.

tribunemag.co.uk/2019/12/in-defence-of-salford/

Read Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
I finished the book Autonomous by Annalee Newitz a couple of weeks back.

It was pretty good. Fun and easy to read and keeps you turning the pages. Interesting themes of free culture, here focused on open sourcing / reverse engineering pharmaceuticals. And the lengths to which those in control of intellectual property rights will go to enforce them.

Interesting side story of human / robot romance and gender identity.

Read Reflections prompted by #ClimateStrike by Amy Guy
Really nice post by @rhiaro about Open Data Services Coop’s climate policies.

It’s all really interesting, in particular that question of – what scale should we be pushing change?

Does individual action make any difference? Does a small org make any difference? Such a tough one but I totally agree that “at the very least we can spread the message, the intent, the energy to our friends, family, and possibly our clients, who might spread it onwards.”

rhiaro.co.uk/2019/09/reflections-climate

Read Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
I read Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson recently. I kind of liked it but not to the degree I thought I might from the hype I’d read. It didn’t knock my socks off like say The Dispossessed did. Could have gone for more politics, less description of Martian geology.
Read Real Utopias: Switzerland’s Housing Co-ops (tribunemag.co.uk)

As countries across Europe struggle with housing crises, Switzerland’s innovative housing co-operatives point the way towards an alternative.

Despite a lot of interest, there’s only a small amount of co-op housing in the UK. Most non-profit housing is charitable housing associations. Large housebuilders have a stranglehold on the market overall.

“the Swiss example shows how these non-state and non-capitalist actors can build quality housing at a mass scale, if they’re encouraged — and that they can create a model of housing provision that moves beyond speculation into something more democratic and innovative.”

This article points to Switzerland and Zurich in particular as examples of more active housing co-op markets. Although it doesn’t give much insight into how to get to that point from our current position in the UK.

Read Amazon’s next big thing may redefine big (BBC News)

Amazon doesn’t feel it has a responsibility to make sure its groundbreaking technology is always used ethically.

“Civil rights groups have called it “perhaps the most dangerous surveillance technology ever developed”, and called for Amazon to stop selling it to government agencies, particularly police forces.”

“Mr Vogels doesn’t feel it’s Amazon’s responsibility to make sure Rekognition is used accurately or ethically.

“That’s not my decision to make,” he tells me.”

Murky AF. I guess this kind of moral self-absolution is a necessity if you’re in charge of Amazon.

“He likens ML and AI to steel mills. Sometimes steel is used to make incubators for babies, he says, but sometimes steel is used to make guns.”

Amazon’s ML/AI is not a raw material. It’s shaped (and sold) by a cadre of people at Amazon.

Do they build in any accountability mechanisms to their algorithms?

They’re making a loaded technology. They’re making the guns, and he’s saying “hey – it’s not our responsibility to add safety catches.”

 

Read We Have Never Been Social by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Kathleen Fitzpatrick)

The project has as its working title We Have Never Been Social: Rethinking the Internet. It revisits the history of the Internet’s development and, in particular, the rise of the social media structures that have come to dominate so much of our experience of networked communication, arguing that a significant part of what has led us to the mess we find ourselves in today is a desperately flawed model of sociality, one that is in fact not just un-social but anti-social.

What if the problem with social media isn’t just that it got centralized, but something deeper than that?  Looking forward to seeing this project by Kathleen Fitzpatrick progress as she looks at the history of sociality online.

That is to say: if the problem has not been the centralized, corporatized control of the individual voice, the individual’s data, but rather a deeper failure of sociality that precedes that control, then merely reclaiming ownership of our voices and our data isn’t enough. If the goal is creating more authentic, more productive forms of online sociality, we need to rethink our platforms, the ways they function, and our relationships to them from the ground up. It’s not just a matter of functionality, or privacy controls, or even of business models. It’s a matter of governance.