Category Archives: social issues

Reputation: more than credit scores and impressions

I remember exactly the moment I thought I’d been hacked. I had smoked weed, not for the first time, after having gone through college with a number of experiences to remember vividly and a busy worklife, plus a relationship of mutual trust and a band that was a reason for joy and moments that made everything matter. But it’s not about my story. This story isn’t about my story, and if I ever do this again, you can totally cancel my blog. I just wanna start there because we, adults, tend to think a cautionary tale might not work anymore; so instead of talking about the girl who never disobeyed her parents and played in the rain so she never knew what it was to get wet all of a sudden (which, to be honest, is not even so plausible these days), we tell something that happened to us so that they’ll remember. And at that moment, the daddy is the daddy; a mom is a mom. Anyway, I think I got hacked in June 2013. That was precisely when The Guardian covered the NSA bulk collection of data from American citizens and abroad. The story includes the classification of the documents as “top secret” and the term “telephony metadata”, maybe a first admission that internet service providers were “managing” the web based on inferred indentity, but were still able to operate with addresses and physical identification, including location trackers, to make a list of all the accounts you’ve ever made and do whatever they wanted with that information — from selling you a better pillow to advising you to start couple’s therapy. My first reaction, when I learned about it, was to delete my Pornhub account; but that wasn’t a series of events I ever looked at in more detail: I’d made very close contacts with a lot of people from Gifyo, one or two in particular, a site prior to Instagram and Snapchat, where you made gifs of yourself and had a social-network-like profile, including private messaging. The slogan was: “your life in motion”. My conflicting interests, especially having found out about the site on Pornhub, quickly became an issue; but not for me, because I can’t remember ever enjoying myself as much as back then. Of course, I didn’t know what people already knew, and then came the suspiscion that one of the “random contacts” was actually leading a hate group, full of leaks and sensitive information. I deleted my Gmail and all the apps associated with it, then started over. That’s when the adult account was finally gone, but nobody even knows I met this person, who very likely threatened me with every word she ever spoke, including this one time when I lost the last bus from Sao Paulo to Santos and stayed at the bus station overnight, Skype on my tiny Samsung Pocket Android. Internet speeds were terrible, so the service provider wasn’t very helpful, and they sure didn’t show me a notification for free Uber, because in case you don’t remember, it didn’t exist yet. The girl’s name was Jessica, apparently.

Jessica didn’t know a lot about my life. But she went as far as visiting my university, despite not being a student, to meet some people. Who were they? I have no idea. The campus was big. Including post-graduation, almost 50 thousand people gather at the University of São Paulo’s biggest campus in Butantã, West Sao Paulo neighborhood, according to data from a 2018 story promoting research on student well-being, that starts with an open question: “what does well-being mean to you?” For me, it used to be music, beer, a good class, good sex and fun trips. Is that confusing? Maybe for some. You could just replace your area of work. Instead of a good class, which is what I tried to do from 7am to 11pm, you could say taking care of families in distress was your thing, or injecting medicine in a patient’s arm to heal his or her pain, getting creative with copy, serving all tables and seeing everyone likes the restaurant or bar where you work. For me, it was my measure of control: I had a schedule, tried not to get lost, but I really thought I had mastered the art of going through the day changing subjects and contexts rarely mentioning what else was going on in my life. Until I had to. That was for students who seemed friendly enough, and I somehow trusted — because, even at work (and especially there), it’s all about human bonds and deals. How this surveillance narrative affected not just my job but America’s reputation and my entire personal life is a theme to be debated more extensively — but I believe it has. You don’t wanna read another story on how people spy on you, right? In 2022, you’ve probably heard Shoshanna Zuboff talk about Pokémon Go. She says a few other things too:

Prediction continues to evolve and competition continues to intensify. Pretty soon, there’s a new realization: the most predictive data comes from intervening in your behavior and in the state of play, in order to nudge, coax, herd it in the direction of the outcomes that we are guaranteeing to our business customers; herding your behavior in the direction of our revenues and, ultimately, our profits. What is new here is that at no other time in history have the wealthiest private corporations had at their disposal a pervasive global architechture of ubiquitous computation able to amass unparalleled concentrations of information about individuals, groups and populations, sufficient to mobilize the pivot from the monitoring to the actuation of behavior, remotely and at scale.

Totalitarian power, according to Harvard scholar Shoshana Zuboff (on YouTube).

Why mention that this lecture was given in Amsterdam? That doesn’t seem relevant. But one of the interesting things Zuboff says (I mean every word) is that “human future markets should be illegal” because “the illegitimate, secret, unilateral taking of human experience for translating into data should be illegal”. This extends to finance and to social media as we all know it: an opportunity land. In reality, as the scholar mentions, we came to believe knowledge was offered to us, but in fact, it was being offered to the companies all the time. Besides the theoretical point, there are many aspects where we remain in the dark: how does a fintech assess my credit, and what is the number on that “score”? How do I know who’s actually accessing my content, and why do I not trust that my “impressions” are actually real? There are many points I want to discuss, but I’ll go further on two of these sections, for readership ease and maybe (at ths point, I really don’t know) pedagogical purposes.

1) What’s legitimate?

Let’s suppose internet influencers are now listed in job seeking sites as it’s become a standard, very common profession. Let’s compare two people. Hannah is a 21 year old who barely posts on Instagram, but is smart enough to say hello more than 2 days a week. Her stories are rare, but she always finds cool things in the videos she took from the algorithm. When she gets bored from trying to find the one that’s more likely to cause impact, she spends 20 minutes with her make up, rehearses a few poses in front of the mirror, tests the camera (which works perfectly and is high definition, by the way), and then takes 10 pictures, the famous carroussel, to post on her account with a number of hashtags. The result? 1k likes and 100 more followers every time, repeat until she’s at the 100k mark. Eventually, people start approaching her for collaborations. She starts to make money to post her body on a social network that expressly bans sexual content and sexual interactions. Bob, on the other hand, is a guy who’s not very fond of social media. Socially anxious, he stumbles from one network to another, always finding the same kinds of recommendations, and nobody really worth his time. Bob isn’t bad-looking, but he doesn’t know how to act in real-life gatherings. His thoughts are often intense, a result of his year-long relationship with pornography and some of the meetings on camera he’s had. He doesn’t take selfies. He hates the idea of intentionally making everyone look at him, because he knows when he was the most vulnerable, the ones looking at him were his enemies, who eventually hacked his account and saved his videos online using a remote screen recorder, which he can’t prove, but the thought of it makes him want to delete one account after another, in fear of what might happen next. For some reason, Bob posts interesting things, not particularly mainstream and definitely not following the algorithm’s recommendations, but promotes the work of his favorite people and organizations, including journalism, art, projects of public interest, politics and motivational phrases, as well as memes. But it’s not every day. He gets on the platform Instagram 2 days a week: literally, Saturday and Sunday, because the other days are for cleaning the house, taking care of his sick dad, doing the laundry, shopping for food, playing with the pets and listening to music or some other leisure activity. He’s struggling to find work, but tries every day, looking at the available opportunities on at least 5 different websites.

It’s important to understand that Bob’s work isn’t legitimate, according to the platform. He looks for work, but he’s not working. Actually, if you want to post on “social issues” on Facebook (yeah, I know, Meta), you have to send in your ID and get approved, then tag all of them. Surprinsingly, it’s also possible, and very easy in fact, to say you’re releasing a paid promotion (saying a company gave you money to talk about them), and regardless of that being absolutely false, get your post published. Is that legitimate? By definition, it’s the opposite of it; but what matters is that Bob doesn’t have a nice booty, and he doesn’t go to the gym. He doesn’t take full body pictures, and he’s always by himself, not with some hot chick, because his friends are many, but all of them seem to be models. Hannah, though, takes the work seriously. 20 minutes of make up is real work. And she has a routine. Hell, she even has a business model: the use of hashtags, the conversations with people interested in her work, the constant presence, the study of social media paradigms to convey the most impressionable appearance standard: all of this is rewarded, and although she can’t put that in her resume, her bank account is doing fine and she doesn’t have to see ads for delivery food, because she’s a faithful customer. Legitimate? Of course not, that’s sexist.

2) What is secret?

They say personal life and professional lives don’t mix. Then they make LinkedIn, Slack, and even before this particular app, Facebook Workplace, a thing literally nobody talks about. The company email has more features than Google, but private communication has been the center of the story in a number of media scandals involving people of power, from Nixon to Lula; from Johnny Depp to Rihanna. Who decides on the future of the programs that keep a nation’s fortune and well-being glued together and distributed responsibly are people with a lot of scrutiny from the media and society in general, but when you make their private conversations a case for an ever-expanding annihilation of the concept of privacy, then you have to take a few steps back and say: “sorry, what?” Johnny Depp was accused of sexual harrassment; RIhanna supported the porn industry and has been in relationships with men involved in serious criminal charges. Do you wanna hang out with them? Do an interview? Are you waiting anxiously for the new work where they’re featured or do you wanna talk about them on the internet based on a story you didn’t even click on? Though these questions are never answered because people just post and run (which applies to politics as well, considering that sometimes they’re banned because the profile was made from a secret marketing operations team in what many journalists call digital militias), actually answering them depends on public sentiment: if one perceives that taking a stance against a particular public person or giving a say on any given topic will negatively impact work reputation, they just might keep their mouth shut. And that is not a very warming sign of the connectivity promise coming to fruition.

If we look at relationships, there’s certainly a lot to be debated, but it heats up a bit. From your number of followers, mentioned here, to how many messages you send every day, to whom, why and where, platforms rank your so-called “engagement”. I wonder if there’s a line of code saying: “if single, DM is positive; if commited, DM is negative”. At the same time, if you get a message from work and you can’t finish the reply to your girlfriend on what you’re supposed to buy at the supermarket, you’re 10 times more likely to lose your job; but if you’re distracted, exhausted from work, and your girlfriend is studying, let’s say, then you want to look at some tiddies, this well-being app, which tracks how much you’re sitting behind a computer, by the way, sends a notification, in the middle of work: “babe is cheating on you!” Of course, artificial intelligence thinks like a war machine, so the very idea that a straight person is experimenting with another sexual orientation or experience is a system error. Imagine the bot conversation about the fact you were just wondering how nipples other than hers looked like: puffy, rosey, bigger, thick aureolas, perky, tiny? Babe might just think you’re unhappy, but maybe she’ll get a surprise by the end of the night. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s looking at different sizes of vegetables, cause she takes care of all the cooking and does so for her entire family.

Send a picture from now: here’s my ceiling

When people were still getting acquainted with this idea that any two people could talk anywhere they were in the world, one of the most common things to sort of verify whether or not they were interacting with a real human being was taking a picture at the moment and sending it to the suspiscious potential friends. Everyone has their reasons, right? We understand that paranoia is probably caused by information society’s accelerated rise, and I’ve mentioned FOMA (fear of missing out) but haven’t been paying a lot of attention to new initiatives such as BeReal, a new social network that “promotes transparency and authenticity”. What calls my attention is that this sort of anti-glamourous approach to self-representation takes on many shapes, angles, and even technical settings. For example: if I do send you a picture of myself, which of my cameras should I use? And of course: you don’t expect me to show my full face, do you?

From a security standpoint, Qualcomm, for example, has proposed a model for future smartphones that has your frontal camera “always on”, to protect you from having other people rather than yourself looking at your notifications or even accessing the device, as reported by the Washington Post. I think that’s particularly interesting knowing that Qualcomm’s CEO is Brazilian (the interview was great, Bloomberg, thanks), and I’m here having an issue with biometric verification and what’s called the “selfie password” in order to use a credit card, the only form I could find of promoting my work after a period of Brazilian economic policy that majorly harmed the poor and political opponents. Examples? New laws funding culture got vetoed; review of quota law for Black populations in university; end of free public university proposed by law; the insanity of the project School Without a Party and its supporters, as reported by The Guardian; extremely overlooked economic inequality data, as reported by Oxfam; fintech being used for fraud, and so many other issues.

What makes me write a blog several days a week is this supposedly noble idea of making a bridge between the international, English-speaking context of school, college, business and politics, with media circling all of these topics, and translating it to the Brazilian learner while also pinpointing the problems in approach and false narratives to natives. I could invite you to go to Omegle and count the number of ceilings you’ll see, or add someone from Quick Chat on Snapchat and do the same. If I’m wrong (I am, very often) and this only happens to me, okay: you win. For now. That is absolutely not the only issue. Why do I need a selfie password in order to teach people how to have better conversations in English with people who actually respect you? How do I make a successful business without getting robbed from young people at the beach or the biggest companies in the world? And how do I prove that I’m real, and not just sweaty, when I turn on my camera and show my face while talking to strangers, because we’re all locked up in our apartments hoping that someone will have something good to tell us, and maybe even listen to what we have to say? I don’t care about authenticity. I care about meaning and mood. If you twist the meaning of my words, my mood will change. If you ignore my mood and want to give it a meaning you made up, I’ll come back at you. It’s very simple! But of course, there’s more ways to verify what’s really going on than putting two people against each other on purpose, or asking them to show what the top of their room looks like instead of the bottom of their body — which, depending on the case, might not be the end of the freaking world.

Image: Pexels

The good news for the sexting fans is they’re not alone. But what about the bad news?

Jeffrey Salvitti, who started his career at JPMorgan Chase, America’s biggest bank, then went to work over 7 years for Google, posted a blog on April 2015 describing the “best ways to monetize your messaging app”. And like Liam Gallagher, there are many things that I would like to say to you. It strikes me that, this week, the always savvy tech coaches from The Next Web decided to cover a number of initiatives to facilitate things like creating games or making a website without a need to understand programming language, but then pointed out to a future of smarter chatbots. I hate that the term “pingback” is actually a thing, but the guy writing this blog, who’s not your teacher for some reason, has covered precisely the chatbot problem, and if we can’t name some names, then at least let’s assume some people have a particular distaste for midnight chat and bacon. What’s the deal, Amsterdam? The Heineken star is very red. Are you sober now? Starting over?

If I didn’t believe that a discussion on surveillance was relevant for the 21st century, at least, then I wouldn’t bring things up at all. The best I can do, though, is to offer people a bridge with cringe: there are profiles of people who are called “flooders“, but also “trolls“. And I think we can stop right there. Actually, let’s draw, shall we?

As you can see from our extensive, state-of-the-art research tools results compilled in the form of a self-aware quasi-meme that actually depicts a human face in Japanese style, spam is in between a certain kind of tension, not a peaceful convergence of mutual interest and collaboration. I’ll explain: oftentimes, people who have a lot to say cannot actually articulate their thoughts, feelings, opinions and so on. Nobody listens to them; so they’ve found out, recently in terms of historical documentation, that they can make use of digital platforms in order to feel seen, validated, represented, loved, and eventually (but not necessarily) become both a target of attention in a positive way and also an innanimate object of lust, probably in a negative way. It’s important to say “probably”. It’s also important to say “target” and include the adjective “innanimate” when using strong words such as “object”. Now if you can’t see what I did there, see you next class, bro.

Trolls are people who target other people. They’re not alone. They also don’t want the attention for themselves (good for you, trolls), but for that to focus, negatively, on other people. That can take a softcore approach or a hardcore approach. And the only point of convergence I’m intentionally looking for here, considering how many trolls read a text just to trash it a few weeks later, when they’re finally done editing a 3 minute video, is that you have to open your mouth in order to get a troll approaching you. That is, of course, a false premise: what you have to do is open an account. And that includes e-mail, not just Instagram.

Coming back to the theme: Instagram is not, as it’s been very much reinforced by Sheryl Sandberg (and one has to wonder what exactly you need to reinforce when you have 1.6 billion dollars sitting on your lap top), a platform where people should look for sexual content. Of course, she’s a prolific and very focused speaker, and some of her known initiatives (because we literally can’t about the unknown, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable) are worth a round of applause, like her side organization’s initiative to clarify what is and fight against gender bias in the workplace. But that’s Instagram! And let’s be honest? We know it’s not. We know so much that it’s not that a single leak (any teens reading?) cost then Facebook 6 billion dollars in stock loss. What would I do with 6 billion dollars? I don’t know, probably find out the countries with low score in the Human Development Index and learn about some of the people working to fight real issues that put them in danger, isolation included, but more biological, consistent and sustainable, and less politically-correct “humanitarian aid” need. Of course, I wouldn’t make the entire world think that I’m helping the Indigenous populations by giving them internet access, for example. See, the politically correct works sometimes; others, nobody gives a flying trump.

Messaging with end-to-end encryption became a model to be followed; of course, then came financial apps asking for your e-mail and screen lock, a picture of your face, all your address information, social security, last digits of your freaking credit card, and then gave you a thumbs up and a few punches in the face, but never mind, right? Snapchat, on the other hand, has always been a place where those people I mentioned earlier, who (ping pong is a great sport) “make use of digital platforms in order to feel seen, validated, represented, loved” and so on, relied on the platform’s privacy policy. Then, of course, they started to think that the assumption that privacy was something anyone could access, with that being a sort of hidden motto, but with guarantees of protection that in fact never came, was all a load of BS, just like every dude when they open their mouth. And when I say BS, it should not be confused with BTS, please. I’m talking “bullshit”. The one in the middle? I don’t think a bull turns to shit; a bull takes a shit, that’s for sure, and it smells. Sorry if you don’t follow finance. End-to-end encryption became the safeguard to face-to-face interaction, curiously… and we’re all fine with it. Why? Because of the group on the right: trolls. I think I’m being pedagogical, right?

Except some people decided to take a different route. A Brazilian YouTube channel called “Mastery in Business” has posted, very recently, an account on what makes Snapchat a pain in the ass for Mark Zuckemberg (don’t know that guy, by the way). Here’s their story: Instagram’s unapologetic copy of Snapchat destroyed the company, but now both focus their biggest investments on augmented reality. I mean, what freaking reality do you live in, brother? Online dating is a thing, Jesus Effing Christ! Also, can I mention Disney princess Jasmin and not have my site taken off? Because, if you click the blog posted by the guy that worked for Google, mentioned at the very beginning of this post, you’ll see that, in 2015 (certain sites had already been applying this model for literally a decade), the advice was to invest in so called “instant in-chat pay”. Other suggestions included increasing click-through rate (the term is very broad and used a lot in marketing) and a format of “pay per download” (and because I’m a musician, and not particularly successful, I’ll save that analysis for later). Fintech is foreign land to many, but one thing remains unclear, because of how little we can talk about it: it started with streaming, and we all remember that YouTube’s original slogan was “Broadcast Yourself”. Great, because if you doubt that people want this, go have a chat with Lief K-Brooks.

It sounds great that we can talk over video. I’m not really sure about my late grandma, but my dad does that all the time and seems to enjoy the experience, which honestly warms my heart. Except that, for this Brazilian channel, the danger (and “immorality”, as they timidly yet ridiculously try to argue) is that whetever you share is going to be available somewhere online, forever. This miserable piece of content disinforms, in a kind of version of Brazilian R7 (which, to those who don’t know it, is headed by a guy named Edir Macedo, owner of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, but also has other roles in media, as it’s been reported by The Intercept) talking about not privacy, but intimacy and sex. If there’s any merit in this approach, it’s the fact it points out that young people and adults do not enjoy sharing the same physical space, let alone the digital; but that is not even clarified, and what they do is a completely innacurate, extremely out of touch, out of tune and out of time analysis, like a gig rehearsal gone very wrong with a replacement drummer who’s never even listened to a rock band but wants to sit behind the kit to play Moby Dick and then tell everyone it sounded perfect, but nobody understood anything because they’re too close-minded. There’s a fun video, in case that doesn’t remind you of anything (and I hope Plant likes me by now).

The capitalization of private life is something to be taken seriously. So is international decontextualization of personal narrative (and personal lives, for profit, by the way). There are different kinds of jobs, pal. And no, Snapchat hasn’t been destroyed. What actually happened was that Facebook became object of an investigation on what legal experts call “anti-trust”; the Federal Trade Commission of the United States argues, in an ongoing investigation, that the company turned conglomerate is a monopoly of communication services, based on concepts such as “free competition”. I won’t go to Keynes, you go to Keynes; it suffices to say that communication, for someone who’s been studying it for a fair amount of time, is about more than creating software that will make you rich and powerful. Public information is available on Facebook having paid a fee as of 2014 (prior to the Google blog, mind you) when it came to knowledge that private massages were being targetted to sell more personalized ads. And though the fee was 3.89 million dollars, it seems that nobody cares about a number like that! Aren’t there a lot of houses worth way more than that?

But the problem is we’re outdated. You see, if you still want to use Snapchat and not worry about financial markets, fine. It’s not every business that spies on employees and regular people, on a daily basis, for their own gain and control of another person’s choices, right? If you think that, you’re probably paranoid. Much better to enjoy it! People want to know what you’re doing, because they wanna do it with you! Isn’t that great? And while the real actors (who are actually actresses, but you should call them models) won’t even bother to say anything other than what their work is known to attract, which is the, um, aesthetics, there are music artists now getting, to use a finance expression, 8 figures in views talking about what a lot of people have refused to address, which I would personally like to see described on paper as both irresponsibility and prejudice, if they can make sure to draw the parallels without using Microsoft Paint.

Image: Pexels

Hotlines: organized response for human rights protection

My Hotmail account was created in 2003. Because I’m an English teacher (I wonder what the Russian would say), it’s worth mentioning that anything can be labelled “hot”. Look at Hotmart, a digital solutions company focusing online sales. The English language has terms such as “hot take”, to imply that a discussion might be interesting, but somehow inflammatory, provoking, triggering emotions that can get intense and disputes between members of the same community, while involving others with completely different perspectives, poking fun at the sore losers in a debate. But the witty wording is not an exclusively American asset, so to speak. What would happen if they were suddenly interested in Brazilian culture? A gringo comes to Santos, where I live, and sees booty after booty: girls laying down at the beach with tiny thongs on, and he wishes there was even less, but so much more he could do. He might have a flash of some kind of performance resembling a radically progressive anatomy class that he saw somewhere dark on the internet, though the lights were on and very strong, but then get confused when his pal turns to him saying: “Wanna go to McDonald’s? Big Tasty is on sale today”. And the replies… that could become a movie. “I always thought it was funny how you Brazilians say everything’s big. And I mean, tasty for a girl? We say girls are hot.”

So what, gringo? We say tasty. Sometimes, we say “big tasty” (or, in case you’re familiar with our language, “gostosona“). But we have our own taste, you see. So I could talk about the term “feed” when it comes to social media and spend some time debating recent declarations on the role of algorithms. I will not. Instead, I’d rather discuss “taste” as a cultural reference. Think of the old times, when Robert Plant sang about taking a girl to the movies. Another context, right? And maybe you’d suggest science fiction, but she says it’s “not her taste”. If you have the reference, of course, you know that “Houses of the Holy” is on the first side of the “cookie”, but on the second, in another unpretentious song, “Down by the Seaside”, the lyrics say that “people turn away”, this very “current” thing if we talk about social interactions, and the disappointment of it is expessed in a shift to a groovy section that later goes back to normality, happy vibes, slightly nostalgic, with slide guitar, a certain minimalism and harmonizing vocals with no words, just choir style singing.

In case you wanna watch.

Since I’m not the best at describing music and it gets very personal, I’ve dropped the link. But here’s the point: normalizing certain things is a cultural phenomenon. And no, I won’t quote Marx, because I can’t stress this enough: I haven’t read him.

What things do we normalize? Meet cool blogger, the person advocating for respect among internet users. I mean, if we’re being real, they should’ve created the “outernet” by now, cause I think people have had enough. Or maybe that’s just girls, whether you think they’re hot or not. Do you know their taste? A lingering question. But the main issue is: sweet guys exist; saturation of explicit experiences of sex makes these guys included behave like animals, but only while holding their phones. Is that the experience everyone shares? Maybe not. Think about a country where it’s always cold, Anna Karenina kind of cold. But I haven’t read this one either. Let’s go with Notes from Underground, by Dostoevsky. I don’t know whether that’s your taste or not, but the first section of the novel describes a social setting and deep internal conflict; the second involves meeting certain people, and the subtlety with which the male-to-female interaction is depicted is interesting to observe (I won’t extend this to readership, viewership, likeability or whatever crazy allegory you may think I’m holding on my sleeve). First, you have hierarchy: a male hierarchy, in workplace culture, keeping in mind that it’s Russia; then, you have another set, a personal experience exploration, although the internal conflicts of this public servant character have already been mapped out, and now we’re reading about how he acted. I read this book in 2015, so the memories aren’t quite as clear as of 2022; but imagine a Russian sex scene. You wonder why they were underground? You’d freeze!

So, coming back to the point: some things are hot; others are not. Does that depend on everyone’s perspective? Yes, people have different tastes. But is that only a sex-based, gender-based discussion? No, it’s not. Does a hot take make people extremely uncomfortable? Of course. Example? Original artists. You’d think I’m here talking about myself again, but I’m actually trying to mention the recent Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift commentary that I’ve read. There’s many artists who “don’t write their own material”. They perform though–better than you could ever do, several times a month. Of course, the artist doesn’t perform 5 times a day in different part of the world just be able to maintain prestige and rank; but well… what kind of performance are you talking about? And here’s the central question: “hotline”.

No, this isn’t about Drake, suprisingly. What is a hotline? Without dictionary checks, it’s a phone number you can call to, whenever you have an issue. That could be a company service such as customer support, but they call this specific thing by the name of customer support (in Brazil, “ouvidoria“, which would weirdly translate to “heardom”). There’s a contact section, and a “talk to us” section (again: in Brazil, “fale conosco” is a very formal proposal). But hotlines? They’re actually things like domestic abuse reporting, suicide prevention centers, community emergency networks, women or elderly support groups. Is it worth talking about them? Yes, it is. In Brazil, what you need to do if you’re a woman in distress is simply dial 180. Of course, in America, you know there’s 911, but don’t confuse this with our 190. The police has different tasks at hand, you see? Women protection networks or even those less mentioned services like mental health care systems and access to psychological and psychiatric treatments, public or private, have other numbers, addresses and offices (and some of them, let’s be honest, not very well-organized).

Now, how do we want these things to be organized? Can we propose changes? Can we make sure the policy is solid enough for a service to be offered at mass scale and be able to actually solve issues along with the people who need help, free of charge and without a need to consistently check up on the situation development? Well, then we have to talk about the law. The internet was created a while ago, but massive connection produced reactions in people who barely knew each other, or absolutely did not. And will not, ever. That is a completely different issue. Because, as for me, there’s many hot girls I’d like to meet. I’ve provided people with some hot takes and been given a pretty freaking cold treatment; roles have inverted and been repurposed, not always clearly or for the better. Am I proud? I can’t answer. But I’d like to think I have good taste, and people agreeing or not doesn’t necessarily need to be a big deal. And in case you need to actually use a hotline, or the block button on social media, make sure you have friends available to talk, first of all.

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Shutdown, lockdown: why media matters too much

It seems like a good time to discuss speech freedom. Though Pew Research is not as popular as any given trend on social media, they’ve detailed how we’ve experienced a period of cancellation, not in terms of lack of praise, but lack of argument on the right to mobility — and no, that is not related to your mobile phone, but instead, the right to “come and go”, or “freedom of movement”, as defined by the United Nations. But then if you want, let’s talk about mobile phones! Why not stick in a needle containing all necessary conflicts to solve with a deadline for the people who managed not to drop dead as a consequence of an arguably orchestrated policy management involving social crisis shifting gears to massive use of social media and conflicts ignored, misinterpreted and poorly debated? Few people talk about the social aspects of health care, including substance use and Social Determinants of Health, as reported by McKinsey; but this “orchestration”, if it wants to be interpreted as a historical timeline of power relations reaching some kind of tipping point, and not another conspiracy theory, needs proper references.

So let’s search for the references. Psychology Today mentions two papers, from PLOS ONE, a Californian “inclusive journal community working together to advance science for the benefit of society”, and Spotlight on Research, “an online collection of health-related, peer-reviewed, open-access journals”. This is a brief mention of scientific-method based analysis of behavior, while raising the argument that “removing access to social media produces anxiety“. Later in the article, the FOMO factor is mentioned, or “fear of missing out”. I would propose two steps forward, and one backwards: firstly, let’s consider that few people search for references, okay? Second, everyone remembers the scene on Netflix’s big hit “The Social Dilemma” where a phone jar gets cracked in order to fetch back the phone that mom and dad didn’t want you to use at the lunch table, but the device stays intact. In fact, even The Verge, in their review, has come to the conclusion that was not the most accurate description of the problem. And third, hasn’t the term “fear of missing out” been used to the exhaustive scale that dims any attempt of repurposing meaning and gaining leverage on where things stand? Is it so hard to understand, or write down and publish, that competition between small businesses and big businesses is unfair, and that includes traditional media, responsible for injecting that fear — not just of missing out, but for what might happen next time you go out in the street, all the while showing a semi-related story in case something does happen while you’re out and you don’t even have the energy to call them out?

The thing with mobility, it seems, is too complex to debate in kindergarden level. But to shift all pedagogical meterial for kindergarden students to not just digital inclusion, but proven proficiency on new communication standards, so early on, never seemed to be a problem. The shortage is of health care workers, not teachers. You see? Nobody’s ever read the American Common Core Standards, launched in 2009, when president Barack Obama declared, as seen in The New York Times: “It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours — it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their children.” The article also mentions that, in 2015, 20% of students in the state of New York opted out of their end-of year tests; it quotes the president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (who funded scholars that have based my research, by the way) saying that it’s sort of a “game of catch up [to] learn about the importance of wider community engagement”. So… Okay, Obama: what community, what engagement, and who are the smart kids you’re talking about?

I personally think it’s much more realistic, although uncomfortable, to talk about the simple facts: accelerating social interactions made people realize there was, indeed, a wider world on the web. But coming back to those articles people don’t read: what happens when you take away someone’s phone is one thing; what happens when you take away someone’s identity and completely destroy it is another. Do parents have the power to do both? The answer is yes. And that is my personal fight. The bigger fight is realizing that notwithstanding the fact that the ex-president is not my daddy, I’ve developed a similar feeling: kids are smart, aren’t they? And we want to be positive. But the perception of “smart move” is different than that of a “smart guy”, and if you pass the mic to a girl of age 13, the response will change; if you pass the mic to a woman, with her own idea of smart networking and history of building things for herself through effort and dedication, who’s 31 now, she will have many stories to tell. Does that mean we’re witnessing critical age gap limitations, both in terms of public debate, attention and morale? I would say yes, we are; but I don’t have the definitive answers to these problems, because Obama really synthesized it: there’s kids; there’s also “the other kids”.

Political dimensions aside? We can’t say that. Lockdown made us be immersed with world consequences in real time, while sitting in bed. Some people’s reaction was to go on TikTok. Wanna talk about that? CNBC addressed the issue, but it says “data” is the problem, not teens dancing to the sound of a gun being loaded and hyper sexual lyrics (very common in Brazil). But what happens if Brazilian data, in case someone in this country studies it seriously, is taken into account? We know Brazil has “the fifth largest population of social media users worldwide”, as per Statista report. We also know there are some problems in Brazilian legislation response to initiatives to “take care of the internet”, like Net Neutrality, copyright law, payment services use, privacy and of course, data. The Brazilian version of European made GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) principles does not clarify, in practice, what was proposed by European lawmakers and applied in California (I won’t comment on Snapchat; the CEO’s name is Evan and that’s just weird), specifically in the first descriptions of the document. I’ll get there. When you look at the material scope, and then go further, reading Title V of the Treaty on European Union, which describes foreign policy in what we’d like to believe represents a solid ground to maintain perpetual world peace, Immanuel Kant’s dream, you might have some doubts. From the original document, Article 21, transcribed in full:

1. The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The Union shall seek to develop relations and build partnerships with third countries, and international, regional or global organisations which share the principles referred to in the first subparagraph. It shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations.

2. The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to:

(a) safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;

(b) consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

(c) preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders;

(d) foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;

(e) encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;

(f) help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;

(g) assist populations, countries and regions confronting natural or man-made disasters; and

(h) promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.

3. The Union shall respect the principles and pursue the objectives set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 in the development and implementation of the different areas of the Union’s external action covered by this Title and by Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and of the external aspects of its other policies.

The Union shall ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. The Council and the Commission, assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall ensure that consistency and shall cooperate to that effect.

Freedom, respect, dignity, equality, solidarity: whether we’re addrressing an education crisis or a public health crisis, what have we learned from theory and practice? This set of principles is mentioned at the very beginning of the GDPR document, and also requires “catching up” with other historical policy developments; there’s much to discuss, but how many examples can you give from the “GDPR compliant” organizations that will, for example, promote “stronger multilateral cooperation”, knowing that the word “sustainable”, when it comes to economic and social development, actually means something entirely different? Sustainable, in my view, is meeting people online when I can’t stand the people who live where I am. Sustainable, for me, is buying yogurt instead of eating pork. Sustainable, for me, is being able to tell my story and be heard, instead of contested, humiliated and doubted; ridiculed and criticized on every stance, at every chance, while I’m the one reading the freaking law and saying: “wait a second”. Sustainable, for me, is transitioning from my bedroom to my kitchen or bathroom without thinking about the shame of my relatives in case they knew what just happened in my personal life, and it’s definitely not sustainable to give that kind of information to private companies who will make use of my history as they please under the guise of promoting inclusion and entertaining the masses. It’s probably not sustainable, and I have to say probably because I don’t know how else I would still think about having a professional life, to study for decades any given subject, like a foreign language, and miss the chance of having great conversations because of failure to activate your brain responses and fucking say hello, or find the words and not go around them, not making pauses, not mispronouncing them, and hoping people don’t treat you as a toddler because you can’t possibly understand everything and maybe anything, but in case you do, your face is stupid anyway, so get hit by a freaking bus. Since when renouncing dignity produces good entertainment? We are not entertained. We’re locked down, with no financial aid, with no proposal of damage reparation for the harms that social media and tech companies flirting with monopoly judges to successfully bribe them and then, as their next grand move, flirt with authoritarianism, in order to preserve their profits at all costs — minding that the cost is determined by them, and their actions; while that happens, we’re being called “worthless”, in all of what we do.

I recently read an Instagram post that said: “the artist is not an entrepreneur”. I’d like to conclude with two ideas on that. First: it’s not everyone who pursues a professional career as an artist, but most of what we spend our lives doing can be associated with artistic expression, which operates in a much different and much more free domain. We think it’s “poetic” that someone called us a nickname; we think poetry is journalism. We are not interested in journalism, unless it’s talking about us. But we want spotlights, at moderate (and sustainable) values. Art has a lot to do with vulnerability, and we accept that. But society wasn’t built because of art; art was built because of society, in order to expose it. Secondly: the profitability of a social model where people are forced to know everything about everything, and also to know anyone, but easily replace them and then choose to either talk a lot about them or say nothing at all, doesn’t seem to have been associated with the conversations that we never had with family members, because they think our lives are “unsustainable”. The media will talk about inflation, food, violence. We can just pretend that a rich person we met on Tinder is aware of what the media has said, because whatever happens, the trend we’re seeing is that possible experience becoming a viral soundtrack with lots of edits, to the point where nothing matters anymore — until someone sheds light on the issues that actually do. We just hope there’s an audience.

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Atenção: fator colaborativo e déficit do ego

Os modelos de trabalho remoto forçaram muitos que não integravam a lista dos serviços essenciais a procurar novas formas de alcançar pessoas a fim de conseguir administrar a vida. Isso pode parecer uma questão de regulação das finanças, à primeira vista; não é. Acho que, antes de mais nada, cabe pensar no que classificaram como essencial. Barbearias? Pelo amor de Deus. Se quiser usar desta avaliação específica para fazer comentários sobre administração, fique muito à vontade, pois estamos pertinho do mês de Outubro. Mas fato é que no meio da transformação digital, que já é complexa não por ser ininteligível, mas sim por ter perspectivas diversas, não se chegou a um consenso sobre quase nenhuma questão do uso das ferramentas sociais–evito, propositalmente, incluir o termo “mídia” para tratar das pessoas. A multiplicidade de perspectivas, inimiga do coaching, da tia do zap que nunca ouviu O Céu é Muito, do Lenine (nunca perdemos uma piada, não é mesmo?) sem entrar na questão de ministérios e suas funções, parece ser um problema, e não uma solução. Os gringos, que não gostam de ser chamados de gringos (coitadinhos), têm uma expressão interessante: “it’s a feature, not a bug”. No caso, se vê muito esse tipo de frase no meio das discussões sobre cultura digital: a competitividade, num mundo capitalista, não seria diferente no social digital; é toda a graça do negócio, não causa nenhum problema. Será?

Recorro à minha pequena biblioteca. O autor era britânico, publicava isso em 1932, e só chegou aqui graças à Editora Unesp, em 2018, através da Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. É importante falar esse tipo de coisa. Em um de seus livros, há um capítulo inteiro dedicado à ideia de competição, mas contextualizando, antes de abordar o tema da educação. Já citei esse senhor em outras oportunidades, mas olhando bem para alguns eventos recentes muito pouco inspiradores da fé na humanidade e pesquisando a nível supérfluo o que certos grupos pensam a respeito do termo “eugenia“, acho que convém transcrever o primeiro parágrafo na íntegra:

Alguns ideais dominantes do século XIX perduraram até a nossa época; outros, não. Aqueles que perduraram têm, em sua maioria, um campo de aplicação mais restrito em nossos dias do que tinham havia cem anos. Dentre eles, o ideal da competição é um bom exemplo. É um equívoco, acredito, considerar que a crença na competição se deve ao darwinismo. Na verdade, aconteceu o contrário: o darwinismo se deveu à crença na competição. O biólogo moderno, embora ainda acredite na evolução, não acredita tanto quanto Darwin que esta seja motivada pela competição. Essa mudança reflete a alteração ocorrida na estrutura econômica da sociedade. O industrialismo começou com grandes quantidades de pequenas empresas competindo entre si, a princípio com pouquíssima ajuda do Estado, que ainda era agrícola e aristocrático. Portanto, os primeiros industrialistas acreditavam na autoajuda, no laissez-faire e na competição. Da indústria, a ideia de competição disseminou-se para outras esferas. Darwin convenceu os homens de que a competição entre formas de vida foi a causa do progresso evolucionário. Os educacionistas se convenceram de que a competição na sala de aula era a melhor forma de promover a indústria entre os eruditos. A crença na livre competição foi usada por empregadores como argumento contra o sindicalismo–o que ainda ocorre nas partes mais atrasadas da América. Mas a competição entre capitalistas diminuiu de maneira gradual. A tendência é que toda uma indústria se combine nacionalmente, de forma que a competição passou a se dar sobretudo entre nações, com uma grande diminuição da competição entre as diversas empresas dentro de uma nação. Nesse interim, naturalmente, os capitalistas se empenharam–enquanto combinavam entre eles–a atrapalhar, tanto quanto possível, as combinações de seus funcionários. Seu lema tem sido: ‘Unidos, venceremos; divididos, eles cairão’. Desse modo, a livre competição foi preservada como um grande ideal em todas as áreas da vida humana, excetuando-se as atividades dos magnatas industriais. Quanto a esses, a competição é nacional e, portanto, toma a forma do estímulo ao patriotismo.

Bertrand Russell, “Competição na educação”. In: Educação e ordem social (2018). Editora Unesp. (p.143)

Aí, amizade, cabe ao leitor ou à leitora tirar conclusões, e pesquisar sobre a expressão francesa. Machado de Assis era erudito, assim como Dostoiévski, dentre outros exemplos. Não é a questão do acesso (que se argumente); mas sim o panorama, a visão. Sem acesso a outras perspectivas, não tem panorama ou visão–mas talvez (teoria razoável) essa seja uma ideia impugnada. A visão é natural de cada um (não falo do ponto de vista clínico, mas poderia). O panorama, talvez, seria algo que Noam Chomsky se interessaria em discutir, sendo o linguista responsável pela disseminação de termos como “inerente” e “inato” para falar de todas as qualidades com as quais as pessoas já nascem. Na verdade, não sou leitor de Chomsky; apenas conheço suas fundamentações através de comentadores, uma entrevista ou outra (dentre elas, a clássica com Foucault, que deixo aqui). Mas não, a responsabilidade pela disseminação de uma teoria e a interpretação da mesma em forma de texto, além das outras formas que tomam (o comentário oral sobre o texto, por exemplo), não é necessariamente do autor. Só não precisamos falar da Section 230, mas cabe uma pesquisa. O que Chomsky diz é que nascemos com a capacidade de cognição. Só isso. E muito mais, é claro. A teoria da “gramática universal” é complexa, mas o quanto estamos experimentando no campo da Linguística Aplicada, mesmo que informalmente, para argumentar que o jovem é muito bem informado?

O que todo pai e toda mãe quer, além de ver seu filho ou filha numa boa faculdade, com a vida encaminhada, esse tipo de coisa, é que não se metam em problemas. E aqui entra o fator de interesse: o problema é que as pessoas não percebem o nível de tensão da vida da criança de hoje. Não vamos brincar de soletrar, mas seria importante. Vamos fazer o que, discutir como foram construídas as nações? Acho que cabe mencionar que um passatempo dos adultos muito popular é a variedade dos jogos de palavras (Coquetel manda lembranças), como destacou matéria da NBC, e foram inventados muitos formatos. Mas o que o adolescente quer é uma outra questão. A criança? Num país em que investimentos em cultura são barrados, fica difícil prever. Inclusive, não é só aqui: existem os que argumentem que não deveria existir atuação conjunta do Estado e das entidades culturais. Mas será que a atenção dos pais e a atenção dos filhos deveria se voltar às mesmas temáticas, fontes, filosofias, estilos de vida, estéticas, linguagens, e que não esqueçamos, pessoas? Não seria egoísta não lhes permitir a diferença–talvez até autoritário? Talvez, mas é inegável que a necessidade e urgência de atenção para si já passou de um estágio epidêmico. O bom é que existe a semiótica, a morfologia, o professor…