11 Matching Annotations
  1. Jun 2024
    1. TensionThe ability to see like a data structure afforded us the technology we have today. But it was built for and within a set of societal systems—and stories—that can’t cope with nebulosity. Worse still is the transitional era we’ve entered, in which overwhelming complexity leads more and more people to believe in nothing. That way lies madness. Seeing is a choice, and we need to reclaim that choice. However, we need to see things and do things differently, and build sociotechnical systems that embody this difference.This is best seen through a small example. In our jobs, many of us deal with interpersonal dynamics that sometimes overwhelm the rules. The rules are still there—those that the company operates by and laws that it follows—meaning there are limits to how those interpersonal dynamics can play out. But those rules are rigid and bureaucratic, and most of the time they are irrelevant to what you’re dealing with. People learn to work with and around the rules rather than follow them to the letter. Some of these might be deliberate hacks, ones that are known, and passed down, by an organization’s workers. A work-to-rule strike, or quiet quitting for that matter, is effective at slowing a company to a halt because work is never as routine as schedules, processes, leadership principles, or any other codified rules might allow management to believe.The tension we face is that on an everyday basis, we want things to be simple and certain. But that means ignoring the messiness of reality. And when we delegate that simplicity and certainty to systems—either to institutions or increasingly to software—they feel impersonal and oppressive. People used to say that they felt like large institutions were treating them like a number. For decades, we have literally been numbers in government and corporate data structures. BreakdownAs historian Jill Lepore wrote, we used to be in a world of mystery. Then we began to understand those mysteries and use science to turn them into facts. And then we quantified and operationalized those facts through numbers. We’re currently in a world of data—overwhelming, human-incomprehensible amounts of data—that we use to make predictions even though that data isn’t enough to fully grapple with the complexity of reality.How do we move past this era of breakdown? It’s not by eschewing technology. We need our complex socio-technical systems. We need mental models to make sense of the complexities of our world. But we also need to understand and accept their inherent imperfections. We need to make sure we’re avoiding static and biased patterns—of the sort that a state functionary or a rigid algorithm might produce—while leaving room for the messiness inherent in human interactions. Chapman calls this balance “fluidity,” where society (and really, the tech we use every day) gives us the disparate things we need to be happy while also enabling the complex global society we have today.
    2. To boost its search engine rankings, Thai Food Near Me, a New York City restaurant, is named after a search term commonly used by potential customers. It’s a data layer on top of reality. And the problems get worse when the relative importance of the data and reality flip. Is it more important to make a restaurant’s food taste better, or just more Instagrammable? People are already working to exploit the data structures and algorithms that govern our world. Amazon drivers hang smartphones in trees to trick the system. Songwriters put their catchy choruses near the beginning to exploit Spotify’s algorithms. And podcasters deliberately mispronounce words because people comment with corrections and those comments count as “engagement” to the algorithms.These hacks are fundamentally about the breakdown of “the system.” (We’re not suggesting that there’s a single system that governs society but rather a mess of systems that interact and overlap in our lives and are more or less relevant in particular contexts.)
  2. Mar 2023
  3. Jun 2022
  4. May 2022
  5. Dec 2021
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  7. Jan 2020
    1. A final word: when we do not understand something, it does not look like there is anything to be understood at all - it just looks like random noise. Just because it looks like noise does not mean there is no hidden structure.

      Excellent statement! Could this be the guiding principle of the current big data boom in biology?

  8. Jun 2019
  9. Mar 2019
    1. DXtera Institute is a non-profit, collaborative member-based consortium dedicated to transforming student and institutional outcomes in higher education.

      DXtera Institute is a non-profit, collaborative member-based consortium dedicated to transforming student and institutional outcomes in higher education. We specialize in helping higher education professionals drive more efficient access to information and insights for effective decision-making and realize long-term cost savings, by simplifying and removing barriers to systems integration and improving data aggregation and control.

      With partners across the U.S. and Europe, our consortium includes some of the brightest minds in education and technology, all working together to solve critical higher education issues on a global scale.

  10. Dec 2017