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    nmw 13:38:05 on 2017/01/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , illiteracy, intemperance, , , , , temperance, tolerance, tolerant, tolerate, toleration   

    The Continued Toleration of Illiteracy 

    I have written about the widespread pandemic of illiteracy for many years, and I find it odd that there has continued to be an attitude of toleration to the phenomenon – even among people who I consider to be quite literate.

    This has bugged me incessantly, and I have puzzled time and again, but have never been able to figure out why there continues to be such widespread resistance to the promotion of literacy.

    The relatively obvious situation that many organizations have been able to reap great profits from duping illiterate suckers and thereby emptying their pockets can hardly be „breaking news“ any more. Modern propaganda methods were perhaps first developed at the turn of the Twentieth Century, they were exploited on a grand scale in the Third Reich – but it was truly the Americans who „perfected“ it and turned into a science.

    For many decades, the „American Way of Life“ has been associated with progress, wealth and economic development. When the shady details of the mortgage-backed securities crisis started becoming more and more obvious, when people started protesting that they had been duped into debt, then this movement was silenced in short shrift. The message was loud and clear: “Shut up, slaves!”

    You might think that might have been a wake-up call. Nada.

    Now, or rather recently, there has been another tell-tale sign screaming out of the sinful modern media: The “Fake News” crisis. Will this, too, be swept under the carpet? I think this hypothesis might not be as far-fetched as it might sound to some.

    The puzzling evidence won’t go away, though, and it continues to nag me. The other day an idea occurred to me that might help explain some of it, but so far it’s still just a wild guess – and I think I need to think it through some more before I might feel OK with actually putting the idea “out there”. I don’t need to explain all of it, but I do think I want to feel as though it’s no just a random thought-bubble.

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    nmw 14:23:18 on 2016/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , illiteracy, , , , , mission, mission statement, , , , ,   

    The Rationality of Literacy 

    Over the past couple months, I have worked on developing a mission statement for one of my overarching goals – something like a „life goal“. Initial attempts were quite abstract, and I was greatly helped by the very considerate feedback of friends.

    In the intervening weeks since those first trials, I have kept the general aim present but I have focused on it much less. Over the past several days, I have received several ideas from other sources – more or less haphazardly, which have motivated me to reconsider this particular life goal again from a new perspective.

    For people who have been following my writing for several years, it should be no surprize that literacy is really at the crux of my thinking about many topics, and also with respect to this particular life goal for which I want to craft a mission statement. One thing that has been „bugging“ me for the past year or two is how my focus on literacy is considered by many – indeed, including myself – to be a non-human matter. In this view, reading, writing and arithmetic are technologies and therefore lack the warmth of flesh-and-blood human beings. Code and language are inert, not living things, and they cannot ultimately provide meaning in the same way as interaction with other humans can – as humans (so this argument) we are, after all, social animals.

    This view, however, interprets technology from a very parochial point of view. According to this perspective, technology is merely an artefact, a curiosity, a product… albeit of human ingenuity. We pound nails not because there is anything interesting about doing so, but merely because doing so makes our lives easier from the results of applying such technologies. There is nothing interesting about iron or steel per se, but rather such materials are only interesting insofar as they can be manipulated into helping to make nails, just as nails are only interesting insofar as they can be used to build more things. As an aside: It might make sense to think about how the technologies we use also create threating things – such as global warming, nuclear waste, AIDS and/or many other problems.

    Yet let me not drift away from the current issue – crafting my mission statement. I view language and literacy somewhat differently than most… and over the years, my thinking about these things has also undergone continued development and refinement. While I have long known (or believed) that language cannot be owned (e.g. by a monarch) or dictated (e.g. to the masses), I am now at a point where I feel it may be useful to extrapolate beyond this rather mundane and obvious fact to recognize a „rationality of literacy“, in which people make a rational decision to engage with each other via linguistic technologies. In this vein, literacy is also not simply owned or attained, but rather it is practiced (or – in the case of illiteracynot practiced).

    This is important because it redirects our attention away from the ownership of resources to the actual use of such resources. To give a concrete example: In order to engage with „cars“, it is not necessary to own cars. Engagement with cars can also happen when someone references cars. Statements like „cars are good“ or „cars are bad“ are social expressions insofar as there is agreement within a society regarding what these words (and expressions) mean.

    Likewise, our level of engagement with a topic can be as small or as large as our involvement with various other social institutions related to that topic. We might simply talk about cars with very little engagement, or we might become much more involved with cars by joining organizations that deal with them and associated technologies. Our involvement with „cars“ may lead us to become involved with „pedestrians“, „streets“, „roads“, „highways“, „infrastructure“, „pollution“, „global warming“ and many other topics, too.

    We do not need to become dictators in any of these arenas. It is completely sufficient to simply engage – to participate in the social construction of the reality related to each of these terms. It ought to be quite plain to see that the reality we thereby create in one arena might not be the exact same reality created in another arena. There might be nuanced differences, but there might also be meaningful relationships between and among the various arenas.

    Increased engagement in more and more arenas goes hand in hand with increased literacy. These two phenomena are crucially related: You cannot have one without the other (that is, at least, a hypothesis I am venturing here).

    This thinking is what leads me to venture that the mission statement I need probably goes something like: My mission is to promote literacy – in order to increase community engagement and social cohesion, and also in order to motivate humans more towards alignment and harmony with natural evolution.

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    nmw 10:16:04 on 2016/06/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , anti-social rationality, , , , , illiteracy, , , , , , , , , offers, , , , , , search engine optimization, , , spam, spammer, spammers, spamming, , target market, , , ,   

    Spam Index, Shopping Catalog & Co. – An Introduction to Anti-Social Rationality 

    Do you want to be the #1 top result on Google?

    No, thank you.

    To many people this reaction might seem odd.

    Let me backtrack a little. Yesterday I alerted yet another person of the fact that I can see they are using gmail.com as their email server (even though their email address shows merely their own domain name). I had initiated contact, and in the header information to their reply email – well, anyone can see this information, because it is in plain daylight, plain text, plain and simple – there was Google / Gmail. However, because most of the „users“ on the Internet are illiterate, many people think no one will ever notice that their correspondence is being shared with innumerable Fortune 500 companies and governments who are aligned with Google to harvest „insights“ from this data.

    My business contact was surprized, and broke off the contact. Of course Google knows who I am talking about, but I will nonethless respect this person’s privacy. If this information gets shared with other businesses (for example: competitors might pay money for such data, and simply add the cost to the price of their products and/or services), then it was not me, but rather the organization that is the world’s leading provider of industrial espionage software (aka Google).

    I am often disappointed and regret the widespread illiteracy. But at least I am not myself one of the suckers whose private information gets sold to the highest bidder.

    I think many people consider my complacency illusory and backwards. After all: If you want to show up on the Google website, wouldn’t you be happy to let them probe your interior, private and confidential business communications?

    No, not really – but thank you very much for the FREE OFFER! 😉

    I have many websites that rank very well (but no thanks to any sort of „special consideration“) on pretty much all search engines. Indeed, if there were a search engine they did not rank well on, then people would probably eventually avoid using it simply because the results on such a search engine would „suck“. Many years ago I sent Matt Cutts a „tweet“ showing him there was something wrong with Google and then they fixed it. You might be able to still find our exchange on twitter.com – but you would have to go back many years (I haven’t used twitter for… OMG, IDK how long).

    One thing you need to consider if you actually get a website to rank well on such so-called „search engines“ (BTW: many / most businesses which track „search engines“ are usually unable to define what is / isn’t a „search engine“), then you should be ready for spammers. If you are not ready, your site will be flooded with spam in a matter of minutes. Most of this spam is generated by robots, and robots work very fast. Being the top result on Google is an open invitation to having your inbox overflowing with love from a wide variety of „artificial intelligence“ machines. I, personally, have little or no interest in such robotic affection.

    I actually even have little interest in ranking highly on Google. In my opinion, the results are already so shoddy that I feel showing up on Google is sort of like showing up at a thug lineup. Most company websites where the company marketing team prides itself for its high ranking on Google are sending a very clear message to consumers: „We paid a lot of money to show up here, so if you buy from us you will probably need to pay a little more“. There is very little indication of quality or reliability from showing up on Google or Facebook or Youtube or whatever most people think of as a general „search engine“. At least Facebook seems to be honest about the need to pay money, but I really don’t think that would actually motivate me to waste it on reaching billions of people (and/or robots) with very limited literacy skills. Most such people (and/or computers) would probably not even understand (and/or act on) the most clearly written message anyways. They are usually primarily searching for a free lunch, flashing lights, bells and whistles – and I am not interested in offering anything like that. I am prepared to offer people and businesses affordable solutions, but I don’t want to be your slave.

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    nmw 16:06:05 on 2016/01/20 Permalink
    Tags: abnormal, , , , , , , , , , , digital media, digitalisation, digitalization, , , , , , , , illiteracy, , , , , , , , market research, , , , , , messages, , mob, mobs, , normal, , , , rumor, rumors, rumour, rumours, , smart, , , , , , , , , untrue   

    Propaganda + Subjectivity in Retard Media 

    I was recently discussing a radio program with a friend who understands media quite well – but who seemed to be „playing dumb“ during the discussion. The radio program in question was a German one – BR’s Radiosalon had broadcast a debate about privacy versus the „espionage“ tactics used by many online media giants (I used the word „espionage“ to describe the behavior of such mega-media companies’ data gathering techniques, the BR Radiosalon program was actually called „Wie soll unsere digitale Zukunft aussehen?“ )

    My friend is an acclaimed scientist with a deep understanding of statistics, research methodology, etc. I have a great deal of respect for his work, and I do not wish to ridicule him. On the contrary, the views he expressed are actually quite widespread and widely considered to be quite “normal” (I will get back to this aspect of “normal vs. abnormal” further below in this post). Indeed, these views were also discussed in the radio program.

    The point in question is whether or not people have “something to hide” (though in my opinion the more crucial issue is that most people seem to have little or nothing to show). I agree with my friend that there is little to be concerned about if / when other people collect data (indeed, I am even of the opinion that data cannot really be “owned” — the way I see it, data are always freely available to anyone or anything that can recognize them). If someone sees me and scribbles onto a notepad that my race is “caucasian”, then their racism is their problem, not mine. Whether other people check off boxes or fill in blanks has nothing to do with me — instead, it is all about their point of view, perspective, biases, prejudices, etc. I couldn’t care less if large media companies record data about me or my behavior — unless they use this data to lie about me or to propagate rumors which are untrue.

    If a larger portion of the population were more literate, more numerate, etc., then even such misinformation and propaganda would not really matter very much (cf. also this post by Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT). The other day I posted a “heatmap” graphic that was used in an article which was purported to be about how much of a webpage is commonly read. Of course it is impossible to measure whether a person actually reads something, but that did not prevent the author from pontificating profusely on the topic.

    Apparently, the vast majority of people are less interested in literacy than they are in belonging to a crowd.:

    Freud was saying that masses are bound by libidinal forces. They love each other and delegate their ideas and ideals to the chap on top. […] Hate is delegated to the others outside. — Dr. Leopold Löwental (39:50 – 40:25) in the BBC documentary “Century of the Self (Part 1): Happiness Machines”

    Belonging to a crowd is normal, not belonging is abnormal. No one wants to be abnormal, and the media propaganda machinery is based on a foundation of belonging to the crowd, riding on the bandwagon, etc.

    Today, few members of the complacent illiterate generation realize that what they perceive to be “objective” news are actually usually personalized (and therefore “subjective“) marketing messagesespecially online. People visit facebook.com quite often, but they rarely (if ever) realize that the “news” they receive via their “newsfeed” is anything but objective. Likewise, the phrase “just Google it” is commonly understood to mean that Google is also objective. If fact, nothing could be further from the truth: Google is a corporation focused on maximizing profit — and that means showing you (the Google user) links they expect you will click on, such that the corporation (Google) will be paid by advertisers (and note that the link does not even need to be an advertisement — Google will also make money by displaying the advertisements controlled by Google which are displayed on the page, i.e. the so-called “organic” link the Google user clicked on). The fact that Google is a money-printing machine is a testament to the high degree of illiteracy we continue to observe today. Most members of the complacent illiterate generation are suckered into believing some subjective marketing message is actuallynews” — and that it is what the “normal” crowd also believes, that it is true, an objective truth, etc. — many times over each and every day.

    At this point in the discussion, another friend chimed in and said “I cannot manage my daily life without my smartphone” (and the smartphone is made by the very same media conglomerates which profit from selling advertising disguised as “news”, “notifications”, etc.). Hence, the mass of men (and women, too) continue to lead lives of quiet normalcy, guided by advertising messages which cater to duping illiterate suckers into believing everything is hunky dory because they are normal (and also users of “advanced technology”).

    Note that I don’t believe either of my friends should be called a “sucker“. In my opinion, they are simply illiterate (which most people refer to with the term “digital literacy“). They seem to be cognizant of their illiteracy — and yet they nonetheless remain complacent.

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