Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

STORY SUMMARY:

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacon’s grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

CHAPTER EIGHT

The heads of lettuce peeked meekly out of the dirt, edges tipped downward in disapproving fashion. “This is not how we are supposed to feel!” they seemed to be saying. Pops was frowning too. He seemed to be in silent agreement with the whole crop of the community garden. They were all in physical despair. The last round of “eruptions” (no one knew what to call them because their origins of cause were still unknown) seemed to set off a chain of physical events in Interregnum City. This chain of events included a sudden downturn in the garden, which merely two weeks ago was ready for a robust harvesting, and now wept and crumbled back inward toward the soil from where it came.

Certain city blocks complained of their tap water turning a yellowish-brown at the faucets. In other segments of the city, buildings (previous solid and unwavering in their construction), were now weak at the foundations and dozens of families evacuated until they could be re secured. Something was growing underground. The strange “booming” sound was impossible to ignore. But what? And why?

Pops knew instinctively that Romer Onyx was behind this. It had only been two weeks since Keesha, Ryder and Deacon had gone “underground” (a phrase he found darkly funny given the circumstance), and today in this very garden was his intel meeting with his “insider.” Through brief visits with Deacon late at night inside the tunnels, Pops learned that Kelley and Kesha were quietly tapping into the RO data base through Susan’s computer while Keesha also spent time with her mom painting murals across the string of abandoned buildings littering the outskirts of RO property. The land owned by R.O was larger than many of the surrounding cities. Over the course of thirty years, R.O had grown into a world unto itself. Meanwhile, Ryder was working with Pops “insider,” taking him under his wing, disguised as a RO employee.

The air was hot and dry. It hadn’t rained for days. Pops stretched his legs from beneath the wooden bench situated at the far corner alongside the dying rows of beans and peppers. What would happen them? To all of them, if they couldn’t stop Romer Onyx from whatever it was they were doing? He hoped that English would have some answers … finally. The cryptic messages from Deacon, who spent more hours running Intel back and forth through the tunnels than he did in the deli, were difficult to understand. His long hours of absence were sorely noted by his mother, too. “Where has that Deacon gone off to now, Pops?” she would ask, with annoyance.

“Sent him on a long delivery run,” Pops would reply.

Lips pursed, eyes narrowed, Deacon’s mom would say, “Hmmm. Sure, Pops,” as if she knew something else was afoot, but just chose not to ask.

Running the store kept her occupied enough without getting caught up in “whatever this was” that Pops and Deacon had going on. Let them have their secret project, she told herself. She trusted her father implicitly- whatever it was, he had his reasons she was sure. Besides, since the community garden has started failing, inexplicably, their sources of fresh produce for the shop were in short supply as well, and they were barely hanging on these last few weeks. It felt as if the community might run out of food if something couldn’t be done.  They’d be forced to buy from outside sources, a thought that sickened her. Half the community would rather starve than have to outsource their food supply to the likes of companies like Romer Onyx, which controlled all the factory farms that lay just over the horizon of their city limits.

Pops shifted his seat, his back was getting sore leaning on the hard wooden surface. Then he saw English turn the corner at the flower stand, pass through the gate, and stroll through the midsection of the garden toward him. He wore a weary expression. Pops nodded.

He allowed English a moment to settle in beside him on the bench and the two sat in silence for a few seconds. The heat felt as heavy as the silence. Pops gave a deliberate sigh. “Yeah, I know,” English replied as if reading his thoughts.

“How long have we known each other?” English asked, his gaze looking steadily outward into space. Pops paused as if considering the answer to complex mathematic problem.

“’Bout fifty years I suppose now,” he replied.

“So, have I ever lied to you?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Have I ever seemed…?” English searched for the right words, “Mentally unsound to you?”

Pops stomach tightened. What was it exactly that English had to tell him? How bad was this Intel going to be?

“Nope, my friend. You are as right as rain,” Pops assured him.

His friendship with English went back to when their families lived next door to each other, row home by row home, sharing stories and lemonade on the stoops on hot summer days, and Sunday dinners on cold winter evenings. As they grew from teens to adulthood, English’s sister Delia became the object of Pops’ affection, and eventually, Delia became Pops’ wife. His brother-in-law English was his most trusted friend, even after Delia passed suddenly from cancer when their daughter still very young. English became a second father – helping to rear is his niece, and her son Deacon, in his sister’s absence.

Although he missed her terribly every day, a part of Pops was relieved she never had to witness the destruction of their community and their family networks at the hands of R.O. Toward the end, Delia was too ill to any pay attention to the stories of what the tracking and surveillance the police and justice system (both outsourced to R.O) was doing to their young people. Before they were even out of school, like indentured servants or enslaved people of their ancestry, children were indebted to R.O. and companies like it in exchange for the education these companies had paid for. Public education was completely eradicated and replaced with charter schools, owned and managed by technology moguls who promised skills and employment. But it became clear, underneath their slick promises of money and jobs, what their community offered in exchange was more than they bargained for.

First, centuries before, they had been starved economically nearly out of existence by these same financial “wizards” who, after leaving the communities in near-shambles, re-entered the neighborhoods with promise of “hope and repair.”  At the time, it hadn’t seemed like a bad deal. Besides, what were their other options? It wasn’t so bad at first. Things seemed to get better. At least, while Delia was alive. Then R.O revealed the price of their agreement. “Philanthropic investments” in social goods and services in exchange for continuous surveillance.

They tried to endure it. What choice did they have? But after 20 years of being fed up, they found another option in going off script. Complete divestment from the corporate powers that had for centuries sought, not to destroy them, but to use them, for their own purposes.

Looking over the garden, and then at English, Pops wondered if they were again under attack. Or, perhaps not if …but how.

English asked, “And how long have I been passing along Intel from R.O?” His blue eyes looked grey in the garden sunlight.

Pops paused again. His debt for the risks English had been taking, working for R.O undercover and secretly passing along whatever information he could glean, while working as the food coordinator for the R.O kitchens, was invaluable to the community. If R.O. ever found out their secrets were being leaked by their trusted kitchen supervisor, there was no telling what might come of English. Other Romer Onyx “leaks” had tried (and failed) to give Intel to Interregnum City. No one quite knew what happened them.

Pops thought about Ryder’s father, Reverend Booker, who had gone missing ten years after the decolonizing revolution. Booker’s Intel had been the corner stone of the community’s capacity to decolonize themselves. Without his work, they’d still be in electronic chains. And then, on the morning they were celebrating their ten year anniversary of the revolution, as Kelly and the Black Hatters stood atop the Data Pods now laying like slain beasts of the fields, as dead as the heads of lettuce in this garden; that same day, Reverend Booker simply vanished. No note. No trace. A devoted father and husband doesn’t just walk away like that. But no Intel out of R.O ever gave clue to where he might have been taken.

Pops hoped that whatever English had to tell him, might include news about the Reverend.

“You’re going to think I am the far side of madness when I tell you what I heard just two days ago from the top brass at R.O,” English said anxiously.

Pops felt the knot in his gut tighten even more.

“Go ahead,” he said, “I want to know everything.”

“It happened when I was in charge of the buffet for their annual investors Board meeting a few days ago.”

What followed defied all capacity for disbelief Pops had ever had.

To be continued in forthcoming Chapter Nine….

A BRIEF PAUSE IN BETWEEN CHAPTERS OF THE FICTIONAL STORY (INTERREGNUM MILE) TO CONSIDER THE NOT-SO-FICTIONAL VERSION OF THAT SAME REALITY.

In the last few years a lot of debate has been had over promise and perils of ESSA. Many education advocates argued we must embrace ESSA because it promised to reduce federal choke hold of high stakes standardized testing that was wielded starting with NCLB and ramped up further under Race to the Top. The promise of EESA seemed too good to be true. Why would the same people who devoted decades to dismantling public schools, creating avenues for defacto segregation, and privatizing a public system suddenly want to turn around and “do the right thing?” ESSA authors (Lamar Alexander) claimed that testing would take a “back seat” And it has. The argument support of ESSA was “to restore responsibility to state and local leaders what to do about educational decisions. If a state decides to move away from Common Core, they don’t have to call Washington and ask permission—they can just do it.”

And so many supporters of democratic public education “bought in” to the hype. Exactly what ARE states deciding to do instead? Those are the details we need to examine, and it’s vital (if we are really to reclaim public spaces and democracy) that we understand that there is a global paradigmatic shift occurring beyond the scope of what we already think we know or can anticipate. We must broaden our understanding of the end-game.

In unwritten or loosely defined ways, ESSA also ushers in a host of opportunities for corporations and private entities to avail themselves of every child’s most private funds of data. See Emily Talmage. The data surveillance tactics have found their ways into what otherwise might have been meaningful community and classroom practices.

Companies and government agencies still have access to students test scores (via online daily competency based education data), despite claims of reducing end-of-year testing. ESSA may in fact be reducing the role that HST testing does play in education policy and practice. But don’t be fooled. It is not because those of us in the opt out movement “won” the battle. The powers-that-be manufactured that move as a distraction. The formulators of ESSA have created the illusion that these new policies will be what we want. The opposite is true. The new avenues of data collection formulated for ESSA, in addition to academic (test) data,  include social emotional data, measuring such things a “grit and tenacity.”  They evaluate “mindfulness.” Some might be asking the question “why?”—what is to be gained from this data collection? The answer is: A great deal if you are keeping up with the research. You know this answer– at least in part.

In part, it is because in the traditional neoliberal framework, any data means money. For example, “Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020.”

Data also means knowing how to anticipate outcomes through predicative analytics, how to sort and track students as future consumers, workers, or prisoners (using 3rd grade data to build prisons goes back decades). But wait….there’s more. We need to understand what this “more” is, and why HST (as insidious as it is/was) PALES in comparison to the new data collection mechanisms and forms of data being mined, and the ways in which this data will significantly erode global democracy and human rights. This is because “a mechanism that is at the heart of biocapitalism in its ever-expanding attempts to commodify all aspects of life.” (Haraway).

The capitalist/consumer paradigm is shifting beneath our feet. With the growing capacities of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the push for Big Data (McKinsey),  we have seen in the last few decades the development of education policies mirroring something more (i.e. Common Core becomes CBE which becomes online learning which means more and more uses for AI and tracking student behavior because now the computers must monitor the children once the teachers are all gone)…. See a summary here. The growing technological advances are slowly forming a new relationship between human and capital. It’s called biocapitalism. And the education policies underway, invited in through the gates of ESSA and other tactics such as social impact bonds, are the way forward for biocapitalism to successfully engender us unto it. Those “innovative assessments” being developed for ESSA are a vehicle by which corporations can build a new biocapital world for all of us. In a biocapital reality, data becomes surveillance becomes total control.

Biocapitalism transforms the interdependent systems of capital and labor (as external phenomena) into a capitalist system that utilizes more abstract form of labor that are internal and intangible. The relationship between man and machine is far more enmeshed in a biocapital relationship.

One website describes it as follows:

“(T)he concept of biocapitalism refers to the production of wealth by means of knowledge and human experience, through the use of those activities, both intellectual and corporeal, that are implicit in existence itself. We might add that every process of production reflects not only material realities, but also social contexts. Thus, relations of production not only characterize different modes of production, but also societal forms. Gradually, the process of production turns into a process of production and reproduction of itself, which is the fundamental activity of a living organism. Although this basic idea is shared by all social forms of life, it becomes absolutely central in biocapitalism.”

As this article Harpers from 1997 clearly describes, “Scratch the surface of information and biotech revolutions ….and what one discovers underneath is a ‘control revolution’….a massive transfer of power from beauracries to individuals and corporations. In an unregulated control revolution free markets and consumer choice become even more dominant forces and in virtually every arena social regulation gives way to economic incentive. …even such social intangibles as privacy become commodified.”

To learn more about how biocapitalism controls bodies and minds of children via public education policy read Clayton Pierce –Education in the Age of Biocapitalism: Optimizing educational life for a flat world. Pierce explores how generations of “extractive schooling” (of which standardized testing has been a part since the birth of the Eugenics movement in the early 1900’s) and how this has begun to transform itself through “technologies of control” of which the increasing push toward computer learning, machine learning, and artificial intelligence as the mode of education delivery for all children. He concludes, “education life is ever more becoming the target of an expanding range of sophisticated technologies of control (p. 142) … calling for greater and greater degrees of regulation and discipline over the body of the students” (p. 143). This makes me wonder even more about Class Dojo and other uses of privately owned technologies to monitor the student body and mind. And the purpose of them becomes yet more evident.

So as we continue to fight yesterday’s battle, i.e for a reduction in standardized testing and believe that that’s a “win” while also ignoring the profound destruction these other education policies (see McDowell) being quietly floated under our noses are having, the effort to control the next generation (our children) will be complete. We cannot become distracted by a bait-and -switch set of tactics.  Look for the forest, not the trees. We have to see the picture for these corporate reformers is much bigger than most parents and teachers and citizens can even imagine. It explains why global billionaires and tech giants like Bill Gates and Google have such a vested interest in “disrupting” education and taking education over with “21st century technology.” Biocapitalism relies on “the use of the relational, emotional and cognitive faculties of human beings.” LINK. In a biocapitalist framework of which 21st century education is a necessary part, “what is exchanged in the labour market is no longer abstract labour (measurable in homogeneous working time), but rather subjectivity itself, in its experiential, relational, creative dimensions. To sum up, what is exchanged is the ‘potentiality’ of the subject. Whereas in the Fordist model it was easy to calculate the value of labour according to the average output and professional skills based on workers’ education and experience, in bio-capitalism the value of labour loses almost any concrete definitional criterion.” LINK

The goal is not merely to sell us all iPads or market education materials and services. The scope is greater than that, and personal data (to be gathered via educational systems sold out to private interests) will use our children’s data not simply to sort and track them by test scores, not simply to close schools in black and brown neighborhoods to profit Wall Street charter schools)….sure all of that is true….but that’s not the end game. We cannot continue to fight yesterday’s demons and expect to reclaim the rights to our schools, our children’s futures, or our democracy. First, we have to see and understand the nature of biocapitalism as an all encompassing and global phenomena and the clear pathways between the new ESSA assessments and education delivery systems and the mechanisms of control being constructed.  We have to construct systemic avenues of wholesale resistance instead piece meal compromises. We cannot afford distractions or avoidance.

The devil is in the details.

The devil is in the data.

It sounds a little “out there”…. sure. Unless…. you begin to see the evidence right before your eyes. Then what? How long will we choose to remain complicit? (Special thank you to Don Bunger for sharing this document with me!). Click on image to enlarge. See the original bill from the Center for Evidence based Policy Making Act here.


Another way to summarize all of this is as follows from Truthout:

“…the theory of cognitive capitalism provides us with a ‘stage’ theory of the changing nature of capitalism that helps us better to understand the logic of knowledge capitalism that operates on the basis of algorithmic logic to expand a universe of information accessibility while changing the nature of the regime of accumulation. All the while, knowledge capitalism also creates giant global info-utilities that make its profits on the backs of the creative endeavors of others while posing as corporation dedicated to the commonweal.”