Blog Articles 111–115

Lean In? Or not?

The loser in the Lean In vision of work isn’t one version of feminism or another—other feminist organizations and publications will continue to flourish alongside Lean In, though they may receive less media attention—but uncapitalized, unmonetized life itself. Just as Facebook relies on users to faithfully upload their data to drive site growth, Facebook relies on its employees to devote ever greater time to growing Facebook’s empire.

The fact that Lean In is really waging a battle for work and against unmonetized life is the reason pregnancy, or the state of reproducing life, looms as the corporate Battle of Normandy in Lean In. Pregnancy, by virtue of the body’s physical focus on human reproduction, is humanity’s last, biological stand against the corporate demand for workers’ continuous labor. For Sandberg, pregnancy must be converted into a corporate opportunity: a moment to convince a woman to commit further to her job. Human life as a competitor to work is the threat here, and it must be captured for corporate use, much in the way that Facebook treats users’ personal activities as a series of opportunities to fill out the Facebook-owned social graph.

— Kate Losse’s fascinating critique of Lean In.

A Good Week for Justice

Four bright spots in the American justice system this week:

  • A federal judge has ruled that National Security Letters, at least accompanied by gag orders, are unconstitutional.
  • DC District Court ruled that the CIA cannot reject out-of-hand the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act request for information on the drone program. The lower court judge’s ruling effectively said that she thought the stuation absurd and unjust, but saw no way to compel the disclosure that was compatible with law and precedent. The district court disagreed with the no-compatible-way part, not the this-is-absurd part.
  • The 9th Circuit set aside the 20-year-old capital conviction of Debra Jean Milke. Her conviction was based almost entirely on the testimony of a police officer that she had confessed, even though she and the other two other men convicted all denied her involvement. The officer had a history of lying under oath and mistreating defendants; he had also been ordered to record his interview with Milke but did not have a recording to back up his assertion that she confessed.
  • Judge Otis Wright is laying down the smack on Prenda Law and its related lawyers, etc. for running what seems to be a massive scheme of extortion and fraud, using the courts and allegations of copyright infringement of pornographic videos to get people to pay settlements. Specious legal theories, extortion, forgery, a court hearing that would make Abbot and Costello proud, this case has it all.

Moral Questions on Predictive Policing

The Guardian ran an article this weekend discussing predictive policing and its future. Read it, it’s worthwhile.

I greatly appreciated a number of the moral concerns Morozov raises, and he does an excellent job of connecting the issue to much of its surrounding social context. He also is quite balanced in his approach, urging caution while being cognizant of the real, on-the-ground benefits of the technology.

Unfortunately, he falls into the same trap as Eli Pariser (The Filter Bubble) in ascribing algorithmic deficiencies to questionable allegiances of their creators:

But how do we know that the algorithms used for prediction do not reflect the biases of their authors? For example, crime tends to happen in poor and racially diverse areas. Might algorithms – with their presumed objectivity – sanction even greater racial profiling?

Democratizing Education — open access or MOOCs?

Think about it. Universities pay their faculty to write and publish, then must pay commercial entities to sell those publications back to them. Universities also pay their faculty to teach, then charge students for access to that pedagogy (in most cases, charging only a fraction of the cost). The rhetorics of those two models tend to be reversed when discussing digital transformations. Why is it that the most business-minded people in academe, the boards of trustees and CFOs, seem to be enamored of giving away the resource that they actually charge for now, while being mostly indifferent to giving away the resource they are now paying for (twice)?

— Jason Mittell, in his excellent Chronicle piece on why open access, not MOOCs, is a more fundamental and important force for democratizing higher education