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[liberationtech] Terry Winograd and Evgeny Morozov

Yosem Companys companys at stanford.edu
Tue Jul 2 11:08:21 PDT 2013


Evgeny's critique of Silicon Valley intellectual fads is indeed worthwhile.
 What's surprising is that he is one of the only journalists to make this
critique, considering the large number of people who have said similar
things before him, which makes Evgeny's voice even more important.  What is
new in Evgeny's work is his desire to communicate these arguments to the
larger public and to advance the public interest.

Sociologists and historians of science and technology -- along with the
field known as science, technology and society studies -- have critiqued
the Internet since at least the 1980's, with a larger critique about
science and technology since at least the 1950's and 1960's.

Meanwhile, most journalists from the 1980's until recently have seemed more
interested in promulgating the claims of Silicon Valley, which had a
financial interest in their promulgation, than in communicating the
problems associated with the Internet, which social scholars spent so much
time documenting among themselves.  This is not an indictment of
journalism.  There were, among other reasons, institutional pressures
during this period for journalists to use press-release templates.
Moreover, finding out what academics do as a non-academic is a long,
arduous process.

For academics, the problem here, of course, is that their incentive is
focused on publishing articles to get tenure, rather than engaging the
public at large.  This means that academics spend the bulk of their time
talking to one another rather than to journalists or even fellow academics
outside of their disciplines.

In fact, interdisciplinary contact in academia remained so limited that
legal scholars, political scientists, economists, computer scientists and
engineers were mostly in the dark about the wonderful research that
sociologists and historians of science and technology had done to dissect
the taken-for-granted assumptions of science and technology.  This is
changing but slowly.

Even when aware of such research, as in the case of many American
economists, they may choose to ignore the arguments of sociologists or
pretend they don't exist because they come from what they deem as the
lower-status field of sociology.  Meanwhile, American sociologists
routinely engage the work of economists, so the relationship is asymmetric.
 (I say American economists because, interestingly, this problem doesn't
seem to happen in Europe.)

Journalists, on the other hand, are in the business of writing interesting
news stories, which means that they will (often inadvertently) cherry pick
academic evidence, mostly ignoring the nuances of the larger academic
literature.

We see this, for example, with the meme of "robots are taking your jobs."
 Most of the evidence in the social sciences shows that technological
change was faster during the industrial revolution that it is today and
that whether a particular technology replaces your job or not depends on
the social conditions in which the technology was created and the social
conditions to which the technology is introduced.  Routine jobs are more
replaceable than non-routine jobs, for instance.  But technologies
generally don't replace professional jobs, and they often create
non-routine jobs as well.  Yet you rarely hear journalists discuss any of
these issues.  Instead, you hear that the singu

As a result, both academics and journalists seem to be ignoring their
responsibility to advance the public interest in the Internet domain.  For
the sake of humanity, this should and must change, and this is one of the
reasons why we at Stanford Liberationtech conduct interdisciplinary
research and engage the world at large through our various activities,
online and off.  And it is also why we are supportive of the efforts of
people like Evgeny Morozov and others in journalism who seek to improve
public discourse.

On Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 9:34 AM, Lucas Gonze <lucas.gonze at gmail.com> wrote:

> I find Morozov's critique of silicon valley intellectual fads
> worthwhile. The thinking coming from famous bloggers and tech industry
> conferences is for the most part hype for the sake of commerce.
> Morozov's writing is to puncture that hype bubble. This is a valuable
> goal and he does it well.
>
>
> On Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 11:51 PM, Soenke Zehle <s.zehle at xmlab.org> wrote:
> > maybe EM's style is more like a 'firstism' (make it sound like you're
> > the first to make a particular point, obscuring other more or less
> > readily available forms of critique)
> >
> > EM: "Let's get the Nazis out of the way first. There's a considerable
> > body of serious scholarship looking at the technological thought of
> > the Nazis. They had plenty of engineers and scientists and some had
> > rather ambitious theoretical ambitions. (Not to mention that Carl
> > Schmidt and Heidegger, whatever their relationship to Nazism, wrote
> > about technology)."
> >
> > Yes Heidegger wrote about technology. But that's one of the places
> > where firstism just won't do - to read Heidegger and his philosophy of
> > technology in 'solutionist' terms ends up discrediting the
> > anti-solutionist project imo. Funny Foucault quote: 'For me, Heidegger
> > has always been the essential philosopher. My whole philosophical
> > development was determined by my reading of Heidegger.'
> >
> > Soenke
> >
> > 2013/7/2 Andrés Leopoldo Pacheco Sanfuentes <alps6085 at gmail.com>:
> >> On Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 6:26 PM, x z <xhzhang at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>> Morozov
> >>
> >> Well, to Morozov's credit, that's why philosophers prefer German,
> >> French, Spanish, etcetera, to English! :D
> >>
> >> Best Regards | Cordiales Saludos | Grato,
> >>
> >> Andrés L. Pacheco Sanfuentes
> >> <alps at acm.org>
> >> +1 (817) 271-9619
> >> --
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