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[liberationtech] Terry Winograd and Evgeny Morozov

Glassman, Michael glassman.13 at osu.edu
Tue Jul 2 12:06:27 PDT 2013


I think I really disagree with this.  I find Morozov's arguments philosophically thin and part of what Stephen Pepper referred to as mindless skepticism.  The fact that he is attempting to communicate to a more general public makes this worse not better.  He feeds I believe in many ways to fit into those with predilections to fear the Internet and its possibilities, ridiculing ideas instead of just letting them fall on their own.  Fads generally don't last while great ideas do.  One of the troubles is that in the beginning we really don't know which is which.  Is it really up to somebody such as Morozov to bestow on himself this ability.  It wouldn't be so bad if it was just him but he is being treated as some type of folk hero simply for saying we must see the Internet as limited capabilities.  It is in my opinion a mindless skepticism that is in some ways dangerous.

Let me take an example from the article.  Morozov ridicules a 24 year old guy who is trying to develop an app to help with obesity.  Well, why?  There is a good chance it won't work, just as there is a good chance the most well thought out initiatives won't work (the one's Morozov approves of).  But it just may work, or lead to something that does work, so why cut off this person's desire and energy with misplaced skepticism and ridicule.  Maybe it won't solve obesity for everybody.  Maybe it will help with ten people.  Maybe it will help me.  The point is I don't know, you don't know and Morozov certainly does not know.  Allow the energy to flourish.  Have any of you ever read the history of Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center.  How Morozov would have been allowed to ridicule that of course.  And would there be less of a chance of me writing this message on the Internet to a list of people if he had.

>From a philosophical standpoint, what the hell is solutionism?  First, at least from my reading of Foucault it has nothing to do with problematizing (I think a cursory reading of the History of Madness suggests this).  But it also runs directly against Pragmatic philosophy and the work of some of the greatest American philosophers as John Dewey.  The whole point of a progressive approach is the idea that humans are constantly searching for solutions to problems.  Nobody though gets to determine what is a problem.

I agree that there can be healthy critiques of the Internet.  I think Manuel Castells offers one.  There are I'm certain others.  But mindless skepticism, no that as I said is dangerous.

Michael
________________________________
From: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu [liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu] on behalf of Yosem Companys [companys at stanford.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 2:08 PM
To: liberationtech
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Terry Winograd and Evgeny Morozov

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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto:alps6085 at gmail.com>>:
>> On Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 6:26 PM, x z <xhzhang at gmail.com<mailto: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<mailto:alps at acm.org>>
>> +1 (817) 271-9619<tel:%2B1%20%28817%29%20271-9619>
>> --
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