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Internet Freedom Wanes As Governments Target Messaging, Social Apps
the use of social media, personal versus institutional, or personal in the context of an institutional repercussions, is a complex and thorny issue. How much can one criticize the institution in their personal social media? And if the institution responds, when does it become silencing the social media as expression of free speech?
Is the article below touching only a specific [political] issue, or academia, as an institution, goes beyond this issue in imposing on freedom of speech?
Why I Was Fired
My tweets might appear uncivil, but such a judgment can’t be made in an ideological or rhetorical vacuum. Insofar as “civil” is profoundly racialized and has a long history of demanding conformity, I frequently choose incivility as a form of communication. This choice is both moral and rhetorical.
Academics are usually eager to contest censorship and deconstruct vague charges of vulgarity. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes.
Students are capable of serious discussion, of formulating responses, of thinking through discomfort. They like my teaching because I refuse to infantilize them; I treat them as thinking adults. My philosophy is simple: Teach them the modes and practices of critical thought and let them figure out things on their own.
Professors are often punished for disrupting convention in informal ways, however. My case is interesting because administrators ignored the de facto standards that regulate our behavior and exercised their power directly. This should be worrisome to any scholar who isn’t a sycophant.
The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here.
Benjamin Ginsberg points out that in the past 30 years, the administrator-to-student ratio has increased while the instructor-to-student ratio has stagnated. The rise of untenured, or non-tenure-track, faculty exacerbates the problem; a significant demographic in academe lacks job security or the working conditions that allow them to maximize their pedagogical talent. Over a recent 10-year period, spending on administration outpaced spending on instruction. At American universities, there are now more administrators and their staffers than full-time faculty. In the past 10 years, administrative salaries have steadily risen while custodians and groundskeepers suffer the inevitable budget cuts — as do the students whose tuition and fees supplement this largess.
When so much money is at stake, those who raid the budget have a deep interest in maintaining the reputation of the institution. Their privilege and the condition of the brand are causally related. The brand thus predominates. Its predominance often arrives at the expense of student well-being.
critical thinking is a terribly undesirable quality in the corporate world, much more damning than selfishness or sycophancy. Let us then be honest about critical thinking: On the tongues of cunning bureaucrats, it is little more than an additive to brand equity, the vainglorious pomp of smug, uptight automatons who like to use buzzwords in their PowerPoint presentations.
Critical thinking by faculty is even more undesirable. In research institutions, we are paid to generate prestige and to amass grant money; in teaching-centered colleges, we enjoy excess enrollments according to fine-tuned equations that maximize the student-teacher ratio. (In elite liberal-arts colleges, we pamper the kids with simulations of parental affection.) Critical thinking is especially harmful to adjuncts, reliant as they are for income on the munificence of well-paid bosses who cultivate a distended assemblage of expendable employees.
more on social media in this IMS blog:
more on online discussions in this IMS blog
CRITICAL PEDAGOGY IN AN AGE OF ONLINE LEARNING
Paulo Freire and Critical Pedagogy
Freire’s pedagogical concepts, such as problem posing, dialogue, praxis, conscientiazation and the politics of education, were devel-oped in a pre-Internet era. His work in popular education was deeply interpersonal and involved spending significant time in a community becoming familiar with the culture, linguistic patterns, and lifestyle of the people before ever embarking on teaching.
struggles to employ a critical pedagogy in the increasingly assessment-oriented, outcomes-based environment
While designed to make teaching in the online environment more efficient, these systems confront the critical pedagogue with challenges to create a teaching-learning environment that promotes critical reflection not only on the content of a course but on the very way in which content is delivered.
teaching in cyberspace requires a different teaching paradigm altogether
p. 170 Feenberg (2009) developed the Critical Theory of Technology (CTT),
p. 171 As outlined by CTT, technology creates a cyber culture that redefines human identity and the meaning and means of human interaction (Gomez, 2009). When viewed through this lens, online education is not simply another tool for the promotion of learning, but rather an all-encompassing environment managing and controlling access to information, structuring relationships, and redefining individual identities.
p. 171 While masquerading as efforts to enhance student learning, these industries are clearly profit-oriented. Knowledge has become a commodity, students have become consumers, faculty have become content providers, and schools operate as businesses
p. 172 Like Feenberg (2009), Freire would be concerned with the values and principles embedded in the technology of online learning, as well as the cyber culture it has created.
p. 173 Schools did not venture into online learning because they thought it was a better way to teach, but rather because they saw it as a way to reach unreached student populations with the promise of off-site educational offerings. Only later was attention given to developing online pedagogies.
Whereas education in the United States was originally viewed as a way to prepare students for effective citizenship, now it is seen as a way to develop loyal and capable employees of their corporate overlords
p. 174 A second area of concern is the banking nature of the LMSs. One of the underlying assumptions of an LMS like Blackboard™, Moodle™, or Brightspace™ is that the online platform is a repository of resources for teaching and learning.
Freire vehemently rejected this banking approach to education because it did not recognize or encourage the student’s creative, exploratory, and critical abilities. In the banking model the teacher is regarded as the holder and transmitter of knowledge, which is then imparted to the student. The banking model assumes the student is an empty vessel and does not value or recognize the student’s experiential and cultural knowledge
By contrast Freire argued for a problem-posing, constructivist approach that invites students to critically engage their world and one another. In the critical classroom, the student at times takes on the role of teacher and the teacher becomes a learner, inviting a sharing of power and mutual learning. While this approach can be carried out to an extent online, the LMS is set up to be the primary source of information in a course, and the teacher is assigned as the expert designer of the learning experience, thus limiting the constructivist nature and mutuality of the learning process.
p. 175 A third area of concern is the limited access to online learning to large sectors of society. While e-learning advocates tout the greater access to learning provided by online learning (Goral, 2013; Kashi & Conway, 2010), the digital divide is a reality impacting millions of students.
p. 176 A final area of concern is the disembodied nature of the online learning process. One of the major attractions of online learning to potential students is the freedom from having to be in a classroom in a particular time or place.
p. 177 Embodied learning means students must not only engage the cognitive dimension (thinking and reflection), but also partake in concrete action. This action in reflection, and reflection in action, referred to as praxis, involves acting on and in the world as one is seeking to learn about and transform the world.
To limit education to the transmission and reception of text-based knowledge without action undermines the entire learning process (Escobar et al., 1994).
Freire believed dialogue begins not with what the teacher professes to know, but with the student’s experience and knowledge.
p. 179 For Freire, the building of a learning community is essential to creating meaningful dialogue; this is also true for those who seek to teach effectively online. Palloff and Pratt (2007) contend that all online teaching must begin with building community and stress that a carefully constructed online learning community provides a space for students to test ideas, get feedback, and create a collaborative learning experience.
For Freire, learning was a social and democratic event where authoritarianism and control of the learning process are minimized.
“reading the world,” or conscientization, that is, understanding the larger political context in which experience occurs and knowledge is situated. In the current era of Facebook, Twitter, instant message, and other social media, in-depth discussion and analysis is often absent in favor of brief, often innocuous statements and personal opinions.
Through online academic databases, students have easy access to far more sources of information than previous generations. Furthermore, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and the like bring students in contact with remote sources, organizations, and individuals instantly.
p. 180 the challenge is not only the accessing of information, but also encouraging students to become discerning purveyors of information—to develop “critical digital literacy,” the capacity to effectively and critically navigate the databases and myriads of potential sources (Poore, 2011, p. 15)
more on online teaching in this IMS blog
I requested documents from the HK govt on what facial recognition tech it’s already using as protests get more tense here. Here’s what I found out: https://t.co/J6UTKqCdnp
— Rosalind Adams (@RosalindZAdams) August 17, 2019
What other such tweets are being promoted in people’s timelines? https://t.co/KLO3bHS6VW
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) August 17, 2019
China paradox in Australia? Take a look. Pro-China protestors in the country enjoying democratic freedoms – including speech and assembly – by harassing pro-#HongKong protestors who want to protect own similar democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. 🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️ #HongKongProtests #antiELAB https://t.co/yDBpA5rG02
— Ramy Inocencio 英若明 (@RamyInocencio) August 16, 2019
Chinese government uses WeChat to spy on everyone who uses it, and they use it in the same way Facebook uses fake news to mobilize far right groups. Hong Kong protestors avoid it like the plague https://t.co/KIvK7FyUHP
— Foxtel is CowPlop (@VoteMurdochOut) August 16, 2019
more on facial recognition in this IMS blog
more on surveillance in this IMS blog
VR Review: Here’s How Oculus Quest Compares With Go — Apps and All
By Jaime Donally (Columnist) May 23, 2019
When the Oculus Go was first released, the educational apps were limited.
many more educational apps flooding the Oculus Experiences market
The Oculus Quest is mainly being marketed as an all-in-one VR gaming system, but I see much potential for classroom lessons.
The Oculus Go delivered a VR view, but the Oculus Quest provides us with interactions.
One major difference between the Quest and the Go is the lack of motion sickness with the new device.
The 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) provides mobility for the student to walk forward, backward, left, right, jump up and squat down. In other words, they can move around just like they would in real life.
The affordable starting price of $399 for 64 GB is comparable to other classroom devices, such as Chromebooks, laptops and iPads.
between the Quest and the Go is the high cost of the apps. By contrast, the majority of my Oculus Go apps were free.
more on Oculus in this IMS blog
Law is Code: Making Policy for Artificial Intelligence
Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene January 16, 2019
Twenty years have passed since renowned Harvard Professor Larry Lessig coined the phrase “Code is Law”, suggesting that in the digital age, computer code regulates behavior much like legislative code traditionally did. These days, the computer code that powers artificial intelligence (AI) is a salient example of Lessig’s statement.
- Good AI requires sound data. One of the principles, some would say the organizing principle, of privacy and data protection frameworks is data minimization. Data protection laws require organizations to limit data collection to the extent strictly necessary and retain data only so long as it is needed for its stated goal.
- Preventing discrimination – intentional or not.
When is a distinction between groups permissible or even merited and when is it untoward? How should organizations address historically entrenched inequalities that are embedded in data? New mathematical theories such as “fairness through awareness” enable sophisticated modeling to guarantee statistical parity between groups.
- Assuring explainability – technological due process. In privacy and freedom of information frameworks alike, transparency has traditionally been a bulwark against unfairness and discrimination. As Justice Brandeis once wrote, “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.”
- Deep learning means that iterative computer programs derive conclusions for reasons that may not be evident even after forensic inquiry.
Yet even with code as law and a rising need for law in code, policymakers do not need to become mathematicians, engineers and coders. Instead, institutions must develop and enhance their technical toolbox by hiring experts and consulting with top academics, industry researchers and civil society voices. Responsible AI requires access to not only lawyers, ethicists and philosophers but also to technical leaders and subject matter experts to ensure an appropriate balance between economic and scientific benefits to society on the one hand and individual rights and freedoms on the other hand.
more on AI in this IMS blog
Down the Security Rabbit Hole
The most secure and anonymous communication tools available
David Koff August 27 2018
These tools are used not only to lock down your security and anonymity on the known internet, but also to access the portions of the internet that are normally hidden — “The Dark Web.”
most of us don’t need the same high-privacy, high-security tools that confidential informants, journalists, and whistleblowers use, we should all know about these tools in case the time comes when we actually need them.
It’s also worth reminding everyone there’s no such thing as perfect digital security on the internet.
TAILS is an acronym for “The Amnesic Incognito Live System.”
TAILS is a highly-secure operating system (and a host of cool applications) designed to be booted off of a DVD or USB thumb drive. This not only makes TAILS easy to transport, but also ensures that TAILS can be booted and instantly useful from nearly any PC, Mac, or Chromebook. TAILS is built on Linux, a name you might recognize because it’s a popular, free, and open-source operating system that’s been available since 1991. TAILS, in particular, runs on a variant of Linux known as “Debian,” which became available in 1996.
Third and most importantly, when setup correctly, TAILS helps ensure that all of your communications — email, web browsing, chat, and more — are encrypted, made anonymous, and then routed in such a way that it’s extremely difficult to detect or trace them.
If you’re wondering just how powerful these tools really are, many of them are known by the NSA to be difficult or impossible to break. This includes:
- The TOR browser, for safe internet browsing
- KeePassX, a great application for generating and safekeeping of all of your various passwords
- Thunderbird, for emailing, secured by the Enigmail extension to encrypt and authenticate emails using a well-know and secure protocol called “OpenPGP”
- Pidgin Instant Messenger, for live chats, which are secured by the Off The Record (or OTR) encryption
- OnionShare, for safe sharing of files over the TOR network
- LibreOffice, for open-source versions of every standard office application you’ve come to know and love
TAILS even published a page of possible ways that its own security can be compromised.
Whonix (pronounced “HOOnix”) is an OS focused on anonymity, privacy, and security. Like TAILS, it is built on the open source Debian Linux OS and on TOR, the decentralized network which randomizes and segments your data transmissions.
Its unique approach to offering such well-regarded security is the creative use of two virtual machines (or VMs) running in tandem on one host computer. One of these VMs is known as the Gateway while the other is known as the Workstation.
Compared to TAILS, Whonix only provides a few free, open-source applications and those need to be set up fairly extensively. The list includes:
- The TOR browser, for safe web browsing
- Firefox, for less secure web browsing
- Icedove, for emailing, secured by the Enigmail extension to encrypt and authenticate emails using a well-know and secure protocol called “OpenPGP”
- HexChat, for internet chats
- VLC, to open and view every kind of video file that’s ever existed
Syria: proxy theatre of war
Never in the interests of the ordinary citizen
The Syrian people’s uprising began as a struggle over social and economic conditions, a fight for democracy in place of repression. Now it has been hijacked by regional and global conflicts
Karim Emile Bitar 21 January 2019
If there is a constant in the history of the countries of the Levant, it is the conflict between the aspirations of their inhabitants for freedom, and the realpolitik that has led to the sacrifice of those aspirations to the geostrategic interests of foreign powers.
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