Science to perpetuate statu quo

Lyotard warned several decades ago in his seminal work, The Postmodern Condition, about noun_225280science’s lack of legitimation. At least, about the lack of a “beautiful” legitimation, as he noticed that instead of searching for the truth or trying to improve mankind’s living conditions, science is nowadays ruled by what he called the performativity principle. In brief, science must be lucrative, returning money to investments in the same way other businesses do. Or returning more, if you want to assure a regular money flow to research. For those to whom “performativity” sounds like cryptic philosophy, Feyerabend provided (why not Plato?) a straightforward explanation:

20th century science has resigned to have any philosophic pretension to become a big business. It is no more a threat to the society, but one of the firmer pillars.

Yep, a threat to society sounds bad … except if you think about society as an ideological system with the function to reproduce inequality by supporting and transmitting the scheme that maintains few people in the zenith of the social pyramid: those who own resources and retains power relationships.
There are lots of examples of how science is no longer mankind’s progress weapon but a way to perpetuate the status quo. Here is one of my favorite examples: citation indexes.

Citation Indexes? What’s that?

Citation indexes (CI) are essentially lists in which scientific journals are ranked according to their impact factor, or the measure of how important their articles are for the scientific community. Sounds nice and helpful as this shows

‘a journal’s true place in the scholarly research world’ and ‘Measure research influence and impact at the journal and category levels’ (Thomson Reuters, the editor of the JCR ranking, dixit).

Perhaps it sounds nice, but it isn’t. In the same way JCR qualifies journals, these journals transitively pinpoint good researches –whose works are published in these journals – and exclude the others.

C.I. Rankings promote inequality

noun_97178.pngFirst, top-list journals are expensive, so there is not global access to these, and this becomes a powerful source of inequality. “There are countless researchers without access to most impacting articles because journals abusive price: each paper costs about $30 and you should read lots of papers. If these articles are, arguably, the best scientific works, those people without access to them would have more difficulties in developing brilliant, innovative results, thinking science as an accumulative process.
Additionally, citation indexes make countless researchers all over the world systematically invisible as they are misrepresented. Their works are excluded from mainstream research not even because of their quality but because of where they are published and, indirectly but not less important, because of the language (the vast majority of journals in the first quartile are in English) or researchers’ relationships.
Of course, those researchers are not explicitly excluded. But the symbolic violence of this segregation is brutal, first because it is explained and legitimated in terms of quality of the research work, and second, due to the relative invisibility of this segregation.

An alternative to citation indexes?

Criticism has been dethroned by pseudo-democracy or pseudo-intersubjectivity mechanisms to focus literature or entertainment contents consumption. Habermas complains about the intellectuals’ lack of authority to direct public discussions. Science, a change engine by definition, seems to be one of the few places resisting this democratizing wave by maintaining authority argument in the form not only of peer review committees with shamanic powers to interact with Knowledge deities to decide what’s good or not.

That’s even worse when you know that sometimes those peer reviews can be fabricated or just hilariously stupid, made only to justify picking money from young researchers’ pockets.

I’m overtly not in love with mass pseudo-democratic mechanisms, easily influenced and cooked by advertising constructions or filter bubbles. But it is clear that we need to give voice to horizontal and open peer-review systems where anyone can be a peer. And national research certification systems could also take into account more open and modern impact measures, more aligned with what science and research should mean.
Is there anything like that? There is.

What do you think about Academia.edu, for instance?

download

Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers. The company’s mission is to accelerate the world’s research.

Academics use Academia.edu to share their research, monitor deep analytics around the impact of their research, and track the research of academics they follow. 32,590,050 academics have signed up to Academia.edu, adding 9,815,878 papers and 1,817,127 research interests. Academia.edu attracts over 36 million unique visitors a month.

[https://www.academia.edu/about]

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

       

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A brief thought about consensus and divergence

Pic from instagram.com/raulanton
Pic from instagram.com/raulanton

What if I say consensus is over-considered? There is a nasty ideological construction that has institutionalized consensus as a dogma. It seems any human communication process goal is to reach consensus: to be able to agree on something.

But is there anything beyond consensus?

Yep. There is. [Star Wars mode on] Consensus obscure is. Powerful, consensus seduction, to fascism lead can. [Star Wars mode off] Consensus as an absolute goal, throttle under a mask of agreement and dialogue any bifurcate path. Consensus is nothing more than a single stories factory. You need to start by pruning ‘odd branches’ – a synonym in this case to genuine opinions – to reach consensus. And this is bad. Evil.

So then?

What if we respect divergent opinions? What if we stop feeling uncomfortable – sometimes outraged – with those who think or act in a different way? Believe me, being tolerant of differences is something unavoidable in this scenario where globalization is well implanted but has not yet eradicated any social or ideological particularity.

OK, then. Let’s respect differences. Lane ends – or could be anything beyond?

Undeniably, there is something beyond. Something with a power so awesome that it could invert the global crowd stupidization – aka cultural homogenization – process. It consists of having a genuine interest in divergent cultural expressions and/or opinions. To be persuaded that seminal ideas, innovations, interesting things lie on the boundaries.

Only by integrating ideological structures that differ from ours will we be able to rethink what is apparently obvious and empower ourselves to be subjects of change in this market society where its momentum pushes to make us just objects to be sold to advertisers.

Amen.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

       

CC-BY flickr.com/photos/erozkosz/6002995338/

Why we need media literacy?

Isolated individuals zigzag over system limits.

Isolated individual zigzags over system limits, and even if he doesn’t understand it because they were enculturated in competition values, he needs the others.

“You cannot fight alone without tiring yourself” (Story of a Stairway, Buero Vallejo).

Yeah! Long time ago, Buero wrote this awesome narration –I fervently recommend you- anticipating market economy impacts on unstructured social cells. A disturbingly accurate description even nowadays… By the way this book is a good example to understand the difference between art and mere serial light entertainment. Just think about who is gonna cite ‘The pillars of the earth’ in 60 years’ time?

The Internet is like Buero’s stairway, but projected into a planetary scale.

CC-BY flickr.com/photos/21847073@N05/
CC-BY flickr.com/photos/21847073@N05/

Stephenson’s (Snow Crash) was a clairvoyant. His foreseen network scheme, whose epicenter was homogenous and uniform, makes already sense. And it is possible that Internet conspicuous area continues infra-representing minorities as Leung (Virtual Ethnicity) pointed.

But it has rained a lot since then. Yes. Fortunately.

At this very moment relationships between horizontal content producers and the streamline, is not what you would expect from any technology where there is a breach between those who rule production and distribution and those who don’t (Virtual Ethnicity, Leung). Why? The key point seems to be Internet ability to catalyze new cooperative intelligence systems as those preconized by Levy, ‘more flexible, more democratic, funded upon reciprocity and singularity respect’ (Qu’est-ce que le virtuel?)

The individual, who was a mere audience element, can now emancipate himself / gain emancipation thru his action, integrated in participation networks. But, how is it possible to achieve this ubiquitous action ‘anywhere distributed, continuously valorized, and synergized in real time?’ (Again Levy). This could only be realized by merging a new relationship network scheme and extended interactivity capacities, unavailable before Internet participative maturity. A ruthless jump from a technological point of view, but which needs even more in-depth conceptualization efforts to embrace new social and mental institutions. A jump requiring an opposition to ‘the obvious’ dictatorship, unlearn the reproduction scheme destroying participation horizontality (From a Bourdieu point of view).

Internet and counter-hegemony.

CC-BY flickr.com/photos/ergonomic/
CC-BY flickr.com/photos/ergonomic/

Internet is a non-conventional mass-media. It’s true: huge opinion creation conglomerates are taking the lead. But it’s equally true that an alphabetized in new storytelling and technological posibilities society, could appropriate this media to re-write a new unstable equilibrium in which power relationships were not so suffocating.

This is exactly the reason for the convenience of an effective media literacy education. Although some others will judge it inconvenient ;), taking into account this will make us to become ‘dangerous people’ for the system (R.I. Correa).

And, here is the good news: this appropriation is taking place right now. Counter-hegemonic networks, created offline, have migrated a significant part of their activities to the Internet, making them more robust, enhancing their mobilization and goal-reaching ability. Network organization as well as ideas, doctrines, strategies and technologies aligned with it, boost goals achieving in charity orgs as well as in cybernetic guerrilla gangs.

Let’s go to barricades?

It seems the Internet belongs to all of us. And for the very first time we have an open field to experiment… this if educational leaders (politics, programmers, center directors or teachers) persuade themselves that just sporadic ‘advertisement language analysis’ is not enough. The whole reality is built with advertisement techniques by broadcasting corporations and it requires in-depth media literacy programs without complexes.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

       

Could knowledge be greasy?

Training makes you stupid? Training makes you stupid?

I have just reread an article about Learning Obesity I bookmarked some time ago, and I can’t avoid writing several notes. The Learning Obesity concept is clearly explained at http://www.ravinglearnatics.com/2012/06/learning-obesity.html Briefly: In the same way that if you eat more than you need to you will become fat, mental obesity takes part when you learn more than you need to perform work.

Over-teaching occurs when we pile more content on a learner’s plates than they need to perform their job. If a learning activity isn’t immediately relevant and doesn’t directly help a learner perform their job better, the learner will not retain the content and the learning turns to fat, regardless of how good the content is

Soon before that, this article explains that you cannot efficiently recover contents learned a long time ago. Taking that into account, this article proposes several good practices for the enterprise, among them:

“Feed the fewest number of people the least amount of relevant learning snacks, but do so as quickly as possible so the food stays warm“

That’s impeccable. Neither mathematics nor accountancy can trick it.

But people do not need to learn snacks only to use them directly at work. Human curiosity is not renounceable; indeed, learning makes you more human. Is it necessary to qualify each human activity in terms of ROI or Value Creation?

Nope.

I need what some thinkers consider to be not useful to avoid crossing the slight border between human and zombie in the omnipresent labor market.

I want my fat! 😉

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

       

4 things 12-year-old kids want in a Web App.

Again, I’m discussing a 12-year-old kids questionnaire at IES Ribera del Duero. So what does this study tell us about children’s Internet participation? What do they appreciate in an application / web page to participate in it?

We gave the interviewed kids the following options to be answered with a value from 1 to 10:

  • The amount of people using it. What’s the attractiveness factor when there are lots of people in a social network?
  • My friends or people I know are registered. The same, but restricted to close people.
  • Freedom of expression. Is it important for them to feel that they can write what they like without restrictions?
  • Interface design, UX… app/site general aspect. The app interface should be ‘a la mode’.
  • Ease of use. Usability issues.
  • “It has a clear functionality”. This could be an odd question, but not so with a little explanation of what it means. Would you use it merely to procrastinate or with a clear use in mind? Or verbalized in a PhD researcher’s way: how much do you ponder how functionally clean an app is?

Well, let’s see how well you do now kids! Do not look at the graphic, and try to find out which axis is more important for them to decide to use an app or to participate in a social network. [tick-tock] Ok. You can watch now!

And now, let’s interpret that. They are not so interested in who is using the tool, whether they feel comfortable using it, whether the functionality is clear and if it is visually attractive.

Those two fields at the end.

As you are very attentive you would right now be wondering about the last two fields used to allow kids to freely add any other factor. Yes, those are expected to remain wide open.

But it is here where you start to feel there is something you didn’t know. Wide open? Not so!

  • One of the kids add ‘insults’ as a factor, labeling that with a ‘1’ value, which could be understood that if he/she sees insults, she/he “changes channel”.
  • Another one liked apps/webpages with resources to download. That’s ok.

And among the others, 7 out of each 10 wrote: ‘privacy’. Wow! And with an average importance valuation of 9.44 over 10 too. Who expected that? Mmm. Hurray. Hurray for these kids that surprise us each time we devote a bit of our time to trying to understand them!

Facebook? What’s Facebook?

It may be the most populated social network, but that doesn’t seem to be the case among these kids. In addition to WhatsApp (almost 80%), the following most used networks are Instagram and YouTube. Only one of the answers declares that he/she is using Facebook!

That’s true? :O

And now, what could I do to watch – I would call that spying on – what my son/daughter is doing on the Internet? (Real question) A-ha! This seems to be one of the main reasons for kids emigrating to other networks: their parents are on Facebook.

A humility treatment.

And what about the last question: What do you like the most and the least about the talk? (Because this questionnaire was at the end of a talk). I will cover that in another post, but I will leave a little bit of fresh flesh for the sharks here:

  • For those 5 minutes you were talking, I was a little bit bored.

Wow. Of course! Kids need to participate, not just listen.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

       

The Internet or a crayon box are not creative. A 12-year-old kid IS creative

Questionnaire (Spanish)Last winter, I took part in media literacy actions to encourage creative participation on the Internet. One of these sessions was in IES Ribera del Duero, where I left something my friend Tomas gave me just a few days before. It was an answered questionnaires stack about what pre-adolescents (12 years old) think is important when they are going to participate in a webpage or cellphone app. To understand the results, remember to take into account that they were even free to anonymously choose which part of the questionnaire to answer or not.

Kids use the Internet. A lot.

2/3 kids concede that they use the Internet for more than an hour a day, and more than 40% use it for over two hours a day. Not bad! This has huge educational potential… that can be used or neglected. Formal education? I’m not sure. But is there anyone who could think that two attentively dedicated hours a day for a 12-year-old kid could be neglected? I assume we all understand that the key resource here is not time, but attention.
So, formal education is looking elsewhere while kids are using the Internet, instead of integrating it into the knowledge-building process. Does forbidding it in educational centers seems a magnificent idea to anyone?

What is the future like?

86% of kids in this study stated that they took part in creative activities, but only 15% of these were Internet-based. Oh yes! I am hearing a seneschal chorus over-pondering the gregariousness component of Internet usage and asking to eradicate the Internet from educational centers except in well-controlled, formal activities. With these questionnaire answers, and tons of other studies, it is clear that the Internet does not stimulate creativity.
Well, this is not so! Seneschals forbid what they cannot understand and/or not allow them to control the access to information fragments they authorize (Bourdieu dixit).

The Internet or a crayon box are not creative. A 12-year-old kid IS creative (until the educational system finishes the inexorable homogenization process). And if they are not capable of implementing their creativity over the most powerful tool at their disposal, it should be because they don’t know how to use it, the tool needs to be adapted or they have access restrictions. Three options, in any case, that are not compatible with Internet usage interdiction.

If the Internet does not remedy that, we will have been cloned by educational system crowds. Yes, that’s mainly the same as ever. But for the first time ever we have the opportunity to evade that. Do we really want to? If so, instead of forbidding Internet in educational centers, we need to understand how to instigate a kid’s participation in the new arena.

And then, we need to do it.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado