I Don’t Know

My trouble is usually not that I think otherwise, but that I don’t entirely know what I think. And not knowing what to think is itself sometimes cast as shameful.


Just passing this one along to promote the act of saying “I don’t know” more often than I normally do.


Propagandizing Public Opinion

I think what social media produce is emergent propaganda — propaganda that is not directed in any specific and conscious sense by anyone but rather emerges, arises, from vast masses of people who have been catechized within and by the same power-knowledge regime.


The idea of emergent propaganda is alluring. Although, it makes me wonder what the difference would be between EP and “public opinion”.

I do think that the idea of public opinion is different from pre-social media time. Social Media isn’t just opening a window to what has and always been there – the window lets out as much as it lets in.

Yet, I’m not sure that I can lump concepts of ‘propaganda’ in with the non-deliberate.

Propaganda is deliberate. So, any emergent propaganda would mean that there’s some intentional force behind or within our technology or our hive minds.

In bringing Ellul’s description of propaganda into social technology of today, are we claiming that our technology, spaces, or collective are being deliberate?

It seems like backwards reasoning…although I’m not all that sure either way. At some point autonomy and intention does emerge.

If propaganda is now ‘crowdsourced’, there might be a tendency to associate it as democratic. Perhaps a phrase like “democratic propaganda” sets the dial between that what is undirected, but still not detached from intention.

As well, the difference between the words ‘construct’ and ‘construe’ seems to matter here. There is a conscious sense in which the propaganda is created, however it is the direction of the impact that emerges because the size, channel, and duration of the force needed to impact the general public nowadays is momentous. It’s even now difficult to create an impact in non-emergent ways.

Perhaps it’s the entry point at which someone begins using that emergent force for deliberate purposes. In this case, it might be better called Commandeered Propaganda. Or, Hijacked Opinion.

The Trade-offs When Making from Scratch

There is something that happens the busier we are with things. Yes, there is value in learning to do things from scratch. But, I myself notice I get lazy. I can do it in other ways and I can probably make it look much better if I just used photoshop vs using a generator.

And that’s the tension, that’s the trade-off.


Here’s an older episode of Loose Learners, where Mariana and John talk about technology and education in a slow, calm way.

There’s a good discussion that follows this quote about the trade-offs, about what we learn when we do the work and what we might not have time or need for.

As they note, the decision always depends on situation. But, the difference is a level of competency in the ability to read and write for that particular process. In doing from scratch (or, leaning that way when possible) I better know about my competency, what I could have done, were I can improve my skill, when it is worth it to do this particular task on my own or not – in all, my use of the skill becomes more explicit.

Then there’s the matter of style (mentioned around 26:50 in the audio). Learning to recognize, tweak, and create a style is a major component in the literacy of any medium. Commanding an intentional style adds power to any communication.

Thinking of a similar situation, in cooking, making things from scratch is not only fun and helps to save money, it gets me thinking about nutrition and what I put into my body. Is there any better way to teach my kids about nutrition and health than to cook and bake with them?

Is there any better way to teach my kids about media and digital literacy than by making digital assets with them from scratch?

Stars and Headstones

Now he saw only the stars and the headstones, the two greatest symbols of eternity.

– The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest is the second book in a sci-fi trilogy about human contact with people from another planet. I haven’t read the third book yet, but TDF was enjoyable enough that I wanted to comment on it.

To avoid any spoilers. I won’t get into the plot too much. There’s a lot going on in this book, many storylines to follow, and it’s very epicly constructed (long sweeping stories and lifetimes come in and out of the book). And, there’s a very cool premis involving the Wallfacer project.

What I really liked about this type of sci-fi (a kind of “social sci-fi” focused on lifestyle change over centuries) is the long-term exploration of existence. This long-term perspective is introduced in the first book, but starts to impact people of Earth much more in TDF. The stories stretch over a nice length of time in TDF – beyond our human lifetimes, but not ridiculously long that we can’t conceive of a future.

In my day-to-day life I am better for seeking out long-term thinking. And when I do, it almost requires something like a ‘faith’. A faith in, I’m not sure what, but that’s the nature of faith I guess is that I’m never sure about the what.

TDF round-aboutly opens up questions about faith in continuity. There is existence (the universe, matter, stars) and there is death. What else is worth doing stuff for if it’s all going to end soon anyway?

There are concrete answers to this question, both long and short term.

The Dark Forest: https://www.tor.com/2015/08/11/hell-is-other-people-the-dark-forest-by-cixin-liu/

Edit: It’s interesting editing a rough draft of this post that I wrote last fall about faith in continuity, in the worthiness of it all. Many of the blogs that I follow have been publishing very positive year-end/year-beginning posts. I feel a sense of optimism, as well, and I hope it continues.



What I’ve Been Reading, Playing, and Listening to – End of Year 2018

It’s been a while since I catalogued one of these, so I’ve probably forgotten quite a bit.


  • The Four – Hidden DNA of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google
  • Capitalist Realism – Excellent book about where we are today
  • Net Smart – Howard Rheingold
  • Essay in Aesthetics – Jose Ortega y Gasset
  • Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – read for the first time with my kids, they were enchanted
  • Technically Wrong – Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  • The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
  • Grant – Ron Chernow


  • Overwatch
  • Minecraft
  • Tokaido – beautiful board game that is slow and not overly competitive
  • Starbound – beautiful and deep pixel game in the style of Stardew Valley


Listening, Spoken

  • King Arthur: History and Legend
  • Great Minds of the Medieval World
  • Understanding the Inventions that Changed the World
  • The American Civil War
  • Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, Scandals
  • Great Explorations
  • How Conversation Works


Fast Food Media

My fast food social media diet has been replaced by one managed around blogs, feeds and comments. I do sometimes feel I miss out on some things, but trust that if I need to know something that I will probably capture through some other means.


Twitter is a difficult topic to think and write about, in part because it’s used differently by so many people. My own Twitter use has reduced to minimal these days, for many reasons, but I do have thoughts.

Inherent in the platform itself is the initial rise in popularity that it needed to hit critical mass, and the resulting rise in popularity of it’s users. This is a one-time thing, and I think when many people talk about “making it great again” they are reminiscing about these initial days when early adopters voices were heard and listened to in a great proportion. Everyone loves to have their voice heard.

Another random thought I have is that people aren’t able to fully operate as a “center among many”, especially those who didn’t grow up in a social media world. What I mean by this is that SM sites like Twitter allow users to create an amazing media ecology that surrounds each user. However users still want control over that ecology, they have strong expectations of their “audience”. Trolls and abusers of the system are one thing (and certainly a worse problem itself), but those who attempt to control the parameters of a conversation, are always going to be longing for a more private, community based space – which Twitter is not.

The post quoted at the top offers some more useful musings about Twitter and its alternatives. It’s always worth it to read honest thoughts on the subject these days.

I use RSS and blog feeds mostly these days as well. One rule of thumb I try to stick by when I do use social media is that whenever I find myself writing the word “we”, I delete it if I can and rewrite my idea using the word “I”. I’m no spokesperson for anyone, and on a platform where everyone is at the center of their own construing, not many people are.


More: A post on Audience-Centrism, which I actually forgot about until writing this post

More: On growth and Twitter

Invisible Literacies

They use ‘invisible’ and important literacies that go beyond traditional writing text, spelling, punctuation and other conventional literacies. These include other modes (such as collaboration or demonstration) or semiotics (signs, marks) present in different subject areas.


I continue my quest to discover what the word “literacy”  means in this day and age. In this article, I read the term “invisible literacy” for the first time.

The quote above is followed by more description in the article, and seems to push the meaning of the phrase towards “skills” or “discipline specific skills”. The definition described in this article is broad, although it does seem to focus on concepts like ‘signs’ and ‘translation’. Which is interesting because of the emphasis on communication over mere language.

Later on the article describes the importance of doing and making, for teaching these invisible literacies.

I wonder if these are like some of the grammar rules that I need to teach my students at time, the rules that no native English speaker would ever learn but they would instinctively follow and understand. For English language students, these invisible grammar rules often need to be made visible.

This is a good read.