February 26, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 26th 2018

  • The march of the technocrats. Interesting to see the technocratic movement isn't anything new.
  • Using Story to Change Systems. I wonder what would happen if someone funded Ross and Jen to get/help the city write stories about its future? Between them they could pull in the libraries, Writing on the Wall, the tech and maker communities... It'd be like the It's Liverpool 2020 project, but good!
  • Connecting the tech sector to civil society and social innovation. More of this please.
  • Design’s Lost Generation. Mike Monteiro makes a good case for the professionalisation of tech. I'm still not sure how we avoid scaring off the good people and giving those who enjoy paperwork more prestige, but it's something we need to work out how to solve.
  • The Center for Humane Technology Doesn’t Want Your Attention. It is possible to use tech without it strip-mining you for data to sell on.
  • Wirral Wonders. "This joint venture – to be known as the Wirral Growth Company – is ambitious, and I wish the enterprise well, for the good of Wirral and its residents. Yet an investment figure of £1 billion has been mooted, and this is where doubts begin to creep in.[...]Look at Wirral Waters – ten years into a thirty year time frame promoted by Peel, and aided by the council. What is there to show for it? Very little, to the casual observer. Part of Wirral Community College and Tower Wharf, looking out on a waste land." It's hard to see how anyone ever believes the regeneration hype. Maybe we're not supposed to, just to keep disengaged while the powerful get on with consolidating their wealth.
Posted by Adrian at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2018

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 12th 2018

Posted by Adrian at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2018

Reductio Ad Spreadsheet

Matt Ward has written a great piece about spreadsheets (no, really!).

"Relationships between staff, moments of educational joy, transformative learning experiences, where buried under numeric representation. The performance of the software hid the nuance of the experience, which ultimately made it more difficult for me to think about new possibilities. I found myself ever more adept in my new realism, but evermore disconnected to the future I was aiming to produce."

I wonder if spreadsheets have driven the mania for reducing all of life to numbers. This is most visible when the numbers equate to money, when all artistic output is judged solely on "value for money" or "ROI", but is also endemic in business support's desire for surveys and the like which reduce all work to a count of businesses, or employees, or thousands of pounds of investment raised.

As ever, we need better tools, rather than to force more and more of life into terms that digital computers understand.

That's not to say spreadsheets aren't useful tools. They are, but the reduction-of-life-to-a-simple-number is a seductive draw.

I think I properly embraced spreadsheets as a tool when we ditched Microsoft Project and started using Excel for project planning when I was at STNC. At least that was partly in response to the understanding that project plans are permanently incomplete pictures of what you'd like to happen, and so tools to let you edit quickly and get a good-enough feel for the shape and realism of dates/work are far better than ones that encourage you to obsess endlessly for the perfect Gantt chart. That doesn't ever stop your boss asking for an exact deadline date, mind... maybe that's the pressure point to poke at?

Posted by Adrian at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack