Stand For, Not In.

Wall with ShadowHistory doesn’t repeat itself. People repeat history.

People make a choice not to change things. Sometimes it’s because they like what happened, sometimes it’s not, but it’s always because people didn’t want to change things. They won’t complain if things are going well, or they’ll gripe about it if things are not.

And, unless people change things, there will be a repeat. That I felt the need to write this seems to be the result of wandering through life and watching people beating their heads against their own walls, blood trickling down their faces. They’ve grown used to it, I think, and they might miss that wet and sticky feeling on their faces should they stop – that metal taste in their mouths feeds them to continue doing what they’re doing, and yet… every now and then, they might pause and wonder why they’re doing it.

And, with renewed vigor, they go back to doing the same thing again and again and again.

As a society, we’re pretty good at this as well – and in an age where we can communicate so quickly around the world, social media seems to move to a rhythm of people beating their heads in time against walls. And they chatter about it.

Your Brand TM

So, picture this – picture you have this thing that you hate, you hate the smell of, and you have it in this pot that you show everyone who will come by. Everyone agrees it smells bad. Everyone agrees that it looks awful. Everyone agrees it smells awful.

You’ve been stirring this crap so long that the scent is in your clothing, in your hair… but you’re used to it, so maybe you don’t notice it – but everyone else does, other than the ones who are doing the same thing.

Flaming pile of shitAnd you – your brand – gets associated with that smell. That look. That very thing you hate so much, yet you are drawn to share. Meanwhile, people who really don’t like that scent or look…. well, they’re going to avoid you.

I just described a person at least everyone knows one of through their social media accounts. That one thing.

Want to learn how to deal with issues and affect change? Well, we can start by not smelling like the problem you’re trying to fix. People typically avoid things that smell bad.

Look at successful advocacy, such as the EFF. They don’t smell like what they’re advocating against. They smell like what they’re advocating for.

Or, by all means, continue beating your head against the wall.

Big Data, Social Media

NumbersWithout individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, “casualties may rise to a million.” With individual stories, the statistics become people — but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless.

Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted, distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies’ own myriad squirming children?

Colors And NumbersWe draw our lines around these moments of pain, and remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearl-like, from our souls without real pain.
Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.

A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.

– American Gods, Season 1, Chapter 11.

(Why would I rewrite this?)

Simplification

Digital Abstract Oil PaintingIn the context of social networks, I have found myself feeling feeling it as repressive – thus I have left them behind other than for broadcasting, really, and even that is debatable.

I’ve always been a proponent of simply creating content and allowing people to find it; I’m not sure shouting in the bazaar is useful when you don’t actually own the bazaar. It certainly doesn’t add to the appeal of the bazaar unless you love being shouted at by random people.

The Internet is my bazaar, not their social network. Their social networks are algorithmically cathedrals disguised as bazaars.

So, to simplify that part of my life, I am withdrawing. Even email has a new layer of obfuscation to protect me from the constant drivel of marketers and their marketing, of conversations with those who don’t want to have conversations but to shout at you as if your ear is their bazaar.

There is a poetic symmetry in randomly popping up in someone else’s bazaar and whispering, “Hey. I wrote something new.”

I have retreated to the Internet, the bizarre bazaar, the foundation upon which cathedrals disguised as bazaars are built. 

You Are Not Alone.

#etmooc @audreywatters asks 'Who Owns Your Education Data (and Why Does It Matter?)'Have you found yourself the person who actually reads beyond the links being passed around on social networks and finding the headline misleading?

Have you found yourself the person who notices posted content, by reading it, is actually questionable?

Are you the person who checks the sources and, if interested, does some research on the topic independently in an age where it’s one search engine away?

You are not alone. When the people using their freedom of speech don’t meet the criteria of basic literacy and critical thought, it will seem that you are, but you are not alone.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. - Martin Luther King, Jr. In this week's issue of TL;DR - wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #truth #honesty #fiction #ignorance #education #perspective #identityOf course, it doesn’t mean you’re right – just as people who talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect often ignore the fact that they themselves are as much of an issue for some as they think others are to them. Basically, stupid people don’t know that they’re stupid because they’re too stupid to know… and that holds true for all of us.

Every. Single. One.

You. Me. That smart person you know who you ask advice from. All of us are not as intelligent as we think. That thing you taste in your mouth when you realize that is humility.

Yet all of us know people who find reading troublesome, who, when you post a link, ask you questions about the information in the link that is contained in the link itself, or worse, express an opinion based only on the headline and accompanying image. They haven’t even put forth the effort to find out.

In my mind, they are troglodytes, too afraid to come out of their metaphorical caves and see what is being spoken of. They shout from the safety of their caves because life for them, outside these caves, is a thing to fear. This isn’t always the case, sometimes the effort doesn’t seem worth the reward, sometimes they’re busy – but if they’re busy, why are they commenting on something that they know nothing about? Great question. When you find the answer, get back to us.

In a world where information is algorithmically spoon-fed to us, where our opinions are easily shifted one way or the other using coded psychology thoughts on distant web servers, we should be more collectively literate. It doesn’t seem to be that way. It seems to be that the more information mankind has at it’s disposal, the less mankind collectively wants to read – but maybe it’s the same percentage of the population. I don’t know.

Maybe stories are just data with a soul. - Brené Brown In issue # 122 of TL;DR. Subscribe at wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #dreams #data #stories #truth #fiction #drama #realitySo the question is, how do we change that? We can’t go off explaining everything to other people all the time – we have other things to do and, sometimes, we’re not that good at it. We can’t bang their head against their monitors, either – and if we could, I’m certain that there would be a Law to protect them soon enough, complete with pitchforks and torches.

What’s the call to action? There really is none except this, if you got to this last paragraph: Stay the course while retaining your sanity. Avoid conversations that are likely to go nowhere. Keep reading, keep thinking. It’s apparent that someone has to.

The Lost B Sides Of Our Lives

VINYLVinyl. Some audiophiles still say that it’s the best way to listen to music as they don their rubber gloves, pull their records out of the cardboard holders (plastic removed to avoid warping of the vinyl), carefully placing the record on the turntable, adjusting the speed for a 45 (single) or a 78 (album) post WW II, and 33 RPM later on for albums.

Today, the MP3 reigns supreme – a compressed version of the music where the frequencies are kept only to that which the average human ear hears. Yet there was a time before this, a time before the 8-track tapes and later cassettes and the then ubiquitous Walkman cassette players, before compact discs (CDs) (Hat tip to Valdis Krebs on his correction through LinkedIn).

In the house I grew up in, a Sansui amplifier and tuner was the core of the sound system – 2 Technics turntables, a reel-to-reel system, and a dual Technics cassette deck with Dolby recording and playback ability. When alone, the wooden floors vibrated as only speakers made in the 1970s would make them. Every Friday, Patrick and I would look over the Billboard Top 100 to watch the trends, and I would go off and buy some 45s at the local record store.

I learned early on that what I liked wasn’t always popular. With music slower to come by than it is today, I’d end up flipping the record over to hear the other single that came with the record. A great example of this was the B side of ‘Shout’ by Tears for Fears: The Big Chair. A mixing dream, really.

I’d end up exploring the work of artists other than what was popular. Sometimes it was crap, something that the recording company chose out of their discography that didn’t even make it onto an album, and sometimes not.

We don’t do that anymore. I’m not even sure that many people did it in the first place, daring to spend the time to see if they liked the song, but I do know that at least some hit songs came from B-sides. You can read about some here, and some others here where you can listen to themThink songs like, “You can’t always get what you want” (Rolling Stones) and “Revolution” (The Beatles).

In an odd sort of way, we were allowed to explore the music of artists through their detritus on the B-sides of albums – the stuff that publishers ‘threw away’, not wanting to give a free hit single away with another. And yet, some of their greatest mistakes are treasures – some popular, some not, the listener deciding what was good or not simply by flipping a record over and checking.

Fast forward to today.

The Internet brought us the ability to get music like never before. I’d like to think most of us legally buy music, I’m certain at least some of us download without paying some service or publishing company. Artists in some cases have bypassed the middlemen in this, allowing us to purchase directly from them through websites. Some even make their music available for free here and there.

But the services, just like yesteryear, are about maximizing profit. There are no more B-sides; we are bombarded with things that are algorithmically decided for us as we stream music. Just as on social networks our digital shadow – what we do online – is used to decide what we see, so it is with our music. Alternative – how can something be alternative when it becomes mainstream? – is even decided for us. We are less consumers now, maybe, than we were before the Internet in that there is no conversation (hat tip to the Cluetrain Manifesto), decisions about what we get are decided not even by other human beings but by statistical and heuristic analysis of our data. We are, in the eyes of algorithms, what we were, and not what we can be – never-mind what we should be.

Generations have passed having never flipped over a vinyl record, having never read something not decided for them…. we are become the algorithms of our algorithms, the ‘tools of our tools’ as Thoreau might write today.

Unless we find the B-sides of our lives.

Forest and Trees

why hello thereShifting focus is a necessary part of being human – to be able to see the forest and the tree in the forest as needed. Deciding when to do that is a sign of education, discipline and experience. It’s also something that truly creative people can do easily.

Some people see forests, some people see trees, few people see both. Few people can understand a singular tree, how it works even in the most basic of principles – photosynthesis is a rote answer, misunderstood, osmosis is a concept that only can be learned through a permeable membrane. Nutrients, soil types, root types… all are lost if they are not found, and so a person can be limited only to the patently obvious, the growth above the ground.

And then people will look at a forest, not understanding the complex interactions with the pollination vectors, the mycorrhizal networks,  the air flow and the concentrations of different gases during parts of the day when photosynthesis takes place – and when it doesn’t. How the shape of leaves can affect not just how much photosynthesis happens but how water flows through the forest before it even hits the ground. How just as cattle have the cattle egret to keep them clean, there are creatures that keep the plants safe – and then there are creatures that do not, little microcosms of life and death happening at any given moment, an awkward balance shifting in real time. A cycle. Alive in it’s own right, a body of systems, perhaps even a consciousness of sorts that we cannot understand. Religion and fiction have played with this subject.

So, when we look at a problem, we have to understand the tree – each tree. And we also have to understand the forest, the complex interactions between trees and the other flora and fauna around them.

To often we have specialists that do only one or the other; we need people who can do both.

Echoed Extremism

People are ‘talking’, if that’s what you can call posts on social networking sites. They’re talking about Trump incessantly, they’re talking about Race as if it’s a real thing – and therefore talking about racism… and either side seems to be as hateful as the other.

If your feed, if all you can post about, is how horrible an elected official is – you’re not addressing the problem. You’re not. Blaming an elected official isn’t either. You’re pissing in the wind. You really are.

Be it hating on Trump, or Obama, or G.W., (or T&T: Rowley, or Kamla, or…) the list goes on. You cannot blame society’s ills on elected officials. You cannot.

Society elected them.

So, rather than spit the bile out on a site, rather than just regurgitate someone else’s pointed finger at someone to blame, take a deeper look beyond that. Take a look at what caused it.

The electorate. For one reason or the other, the electorate chose this. Now you can cling on to whatever you want to say about voting machines, or whatever, and put yourself into the same cycle that happens after every close election. You can. And, as history will show you, that solves nothing. Not. One. Damned. Thing.

Democracy isn’t about voting anyway – it’s about conversation. Discussion. This is an *exchange* of ideas. It’s you extremists that can’t have a conversation with opposing views that are the problems – and you might be surprised it’s not the White Supremacists and BLM and whatever other groups aren’t the real problem. The real problem is their echo chamber.

You.

Yeah, sure, there are people with extreme positions – but why do they have them? Largely it’s because of culture and lately, economics and policies that hurt them. And sure, you’ll say, “They don’t hurt them, they aren’t about them.” Maybe they are. The Left is convinced that the Working Class are the poor, whereas the Right is convinced that the Working class is the middle class. Same country. Same language. Amazing.

Instead, I see an echo chamber that will perpetuate extremism – yes you, well meaning reader, posting everything bad you can possibly find about an elected official to show everyone (who already agrees with you) how bad they are. Yay, group masturbation.

So if all you got is how bad someone else is, and that’s all you can post about, you’re just adding fuel to the fire. Take a look at your stream. It defines you. It defines your connections; algorithms do not sweep the bad under the rug – they aggregate it. It’s the rare evil that does not think that it is doing good.

Adapted from one of my Facebook status updates