Category Archives: social issues

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.

Image: Pexels

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.

Image: Pexels

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…

Internet Watch Foundations: in the plural, please

UNICEF writes: “the global momentum to expand and integrate early education services into education systems has great potential. But it also carries risks, if programming is not appropriate to meet children’s learning needs and interests.” That’s a document from 2018. The four year gap managed to bring some of us to the other side of a pandemic, but with less “united” nations. Families, on the other hand (if you’re always shifting between micro and macro), arguably are the first to see their children’s potential—but the last, sometimes, to effectively help them with their personal struggles, ignoring certain privacy laws that have been sketchy in their making, to say the least. Nobody’s saying anything about mainstream (yet), but let’s look at the terms: “when you sign in with your Google account, we use the watch and search history tied to each specific installation of the app to recommend content on YouTube Kids (…) and we will continue to use that watch and search history for recommendations even if you sign out of the app, unless they are cleared and paused in the settings.” Now, look: I would like to be my children’s pal. Buddy, bro, or whatever they’re saying now. Some even call strangers “fam”. Language changes, media evolves. But I’m concerned whether this is related to their attitude towards other tiny human beings or in fact a taste for a specific brand of chocolate bar. Further in the document, the biggest concept of debate in a largely agreed upon functioning of automation processes, as covered before here and there, is not permission, but consent. Back to those terms: “with consent, we may share individual user information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google.” The definitions will be challenged, as they should; but not by someone who’s oblivious to the existence of Semiotics.

Learning early on that commercial activity has a history isn’t meant to be, some would strongly defend, looking at your browser settings. However, digital marketing increasingly plays a role (or maybe several roles) in the decisions we make, big and small. An old friendship, 10 years from now, will remember the lockdown as a moment of introspection and self-discovery; another might celebrate the loss of 20 pounds—but who’s likely to be inspired by that, one wonders? Frances Haugen might be one of those people. Investigation on Instagram’s internal recommendation mechanisms (the famous “algorithm”, if we’re free from technicalities) concluded that eating disorders were paired with the platform’s recommendations of accounts promoting weight loss, per recording. I’m very tempted to compare this with the Brazilian TV morning menu. Try to make sense of the biggest business decisions around the world during the weekend, as a Brazilian entrepreneur (or a curious being), and you’ll be offered, on cable, with Polishop commercials. It seems that a product of the marginalia is being offered products from the people who labelled him (or her) as such, but that is not all: the marginalia product is also being labelled, and graded down, and down again. If only you could have early education in the marginal label. Maria Popova makes us think, with her time-stopping analyses, day in and day out; here quoting a woman with labels: Caribbean-American poet, essayist, feminist, lesbian icon, and anti-war, civil rights, and human rights activist, who writes: “I am Black, Woman, and Poet—fact, and outside the realm of choice. I can choose only to be or not be, and in various combinations of myself. And as my breath is part of my breathing, my eyes of my seeing, all that I am is of who I am, is of what I do. The shortest statement of philosophy I have is my living, or the word ‘I’. Having made homes in most parts of this city, I hang now from the west edge of Manhattan, and at any moment I can cease being a New Yorker, for already my children betray me in television, in plastic, in misplaced angers.” I wonder if some of my own “misplaced angers” are merging states of being, like needing to smoke and being offered a thousand dollar vacuum cleaner. There is anger, yes; but misplacement is not to be associated with it, as a label, or even a diagnosis. Refugee is just an inconvenient word. Misplacement, in a globalized world being transformed by the sheer fact it was called upon in a label, is the real issue: here, we’re talking about identity, belonging, and needs; not television, and certainly not plastic.

One could say the plastic arts will offer you a possible intersection—between labels. Music has, with tech; why wouldn’t other forms of art be? Because art is a form of play, and playing is a form of learning: we have experiences we wish to express, without knowing how people will understand their representation—sometimes, we don’t ourselves, and slowly build that knowledge. There’s assured enjoyment, motivation, thrill and pleasure in making art, but art is defined by a set of standards, isn’t it? It has been. And it’s worth keeping in mind what our scholars (here in Brazil) have taught us: “even the new, the unpublished, is soon grabbed by the apparatus of the ordinary analogies and the attitudes lacking imagination or availability. The numbed senses do not help themselves mutually, do not retribute the real experiences, do not cooperate to reach beyond the predisposed images, beyond the verbal prejudice. Everyone has a terrifying fear of being mystified, of looking naïve, subjected to the mischievousness of a sharper sensitivity or a wider imagination. What follows is the trenches built against every unexpected object, every new solution, every innovative structure. The dominant concern is to reduce innovation, transform it in everything that could seem like or invoke the past. When the task is done, they feel safe again with themselves, more relaxed. They either forget the new object, disdaining it because it takes us away from our habits, or relegate it, without a look of sympathy, to the dust heap of old and useless, prohibited things. For that reason, we live in a world of cliché-images, in verbal and visual languages. The civilization of today is composed exclusively of clichés, geometrically multiplied.”

Reducing innovation in order to invoke the past: that is an accurate description of an either disoriented or disorienting art critic. But does that relate to art and nothing else? We don’t have to discuss status quo. We don’t need philosophy here. We’re debating play, playfulness, the right to have this element in your life, the right to emphasize the role of such an essential element in your life. Hopefully, then, we’ll try out possibilities, revise hypotheses and discover new challenges, leading to deeper learning. And learning with others, we’ll become deeply involved, often combining physical, mental and verbal engagement. And with that engagement, without the trenches, but armed with imagination, maybe we’ll be better able to communicate ideas, to understand others through social interaction, paving the way to build deeper understanding and more powerful relationships. But you see, that’s what UNESCO wants for kids (I’m paraphrasing). What YouTube wants for kids—or rather, from kids—is to “collect their Google Account information, such as email address and password, and, as applicable, profile information for any profiles parents create for their child as well as parental controls and customization preferences. The profile information includes your child’s name or nickname, their age, and their month of birth if they choose to provide it. The app collects customization preferences such as videos blocked from the app, videos you may allow in the app, and channels to which they may subscribe. The app also collects the child’s app activity data including watch and search history specific to each child.”

Consider the fact that this isn’t some high-school essay. Brazilian, marginalized, but educated, the understanding of the English language opened up countless possibilities for me—many, fortunately or not, in terms of romantic relationships. But to be frank, honest, and cover half my face while saying these words, sexual is more accurate. Under Trump, FOSTA was passed: an abbreviation for Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. There was also the PWMCT act, which few seem to remember. When you study digital media inspired by Gunther Kress, author of titles such as “Reading Images”, you do look at images—and video; but you’re teased consistently with the real meaning of the word “traffic”—dare I say, especially in this area. Go on YouTube and search for how to increase traffic. I’ll do it for you, don’t worry: the top result has 187k views. But let’s not talk about content strategy, especially when recent history documents that actual drug trafficking was proposed to become a crime punishable with prison for people as young as 14 years old. If we take this word play too seriously, we might lose our minds; but when it comes to sex trafficking and the conception of web traffic, I personally agree, in every stance, that owning underage sexual media, or worse, sharing it, should have consequences. The problem is that when you say that, you refuse a pill you probably need to swallow: children learn by playing, but teenagers learn by fighting. I don’t think we want to be shooting drug dealers, and let’s just look at Pfeizer’s profits, for example, if nobody’s able to think at the moment.

To put things in context—and the sketchiness is admitted, at least—a recent case showed government intervention in a young girl’s right to have an abortion. She’d been a victim of rape, which configures a situation, under law, where it’s legal to perform it. Brazil still adheres to law written in 1940, with the “right to life” term, characterizing abortion as a crime punishable with up until 5 years for the woman. To be very clear: legislation in Brazil criminalizes abortion (the link in Portuguese, but Wikipedia confirms that). Speaking of images, I was 21 when I saw both my future child in the palm of my devastated, shaking and sobbing partner’s hands and also when I held my 84 year old grandfather’s hand in his funeral. When it was my grandma’s time, 91, the entire family emotionally wrecked by the impacts of her Alzheimer’s disease, I wept without knowing how many times I’d be able to do the same.

What happens on the internet is that people think they can make rules for how people live their lives—but they don’t have a right to. This right was made up: someone started a company, wrote a text too long for anyone to read, and the entire world accepted. Currently, they’re discussing the EARN IT Act (Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2022). Some are paying attention, and providing clarifications and responsible debate. Others are wondering if their teacher wants to be a good daddy. What they don’t often think about is that, for example, the Internet Watch Foundation, working to “stop the repeated victimization of people abused in childhood”, receives around 2 million dollars from just 19 firms among their top donators, enlisted with several others. You see? Mastercard wants me to be a responsible daddy. But last time I used the physical card, I bought cookies for myself. How’s that for childish?

(Disclosure: the facts are facts, however harsh. The image is from Pexels, and this kid shouldn’t represent anything but a young person browsing the web. I hope he has a good education and doesn’t make any big mistakes.)

More of my writing is on (where you can pay for a bit of a thorny discussion, which, surprisingly or not, is welcome).

Tech evolved, but what are the issues now?

Before Facebook, around the time where MySpace was popular and not a lot of people knew what Google had in mind, I was getting my first e-mail account. I’d never been online, but I was 14, getting ready to start high school, and the year was 2003. Sharing your life in pictures and thoughts about the world was assigned to Fotolog and Orkut, the social networking site that pivoted in Brazil before everyone used the word. MSN became as fundamental for the teenager as the chocolate cookie, and friendships were supposed to be made stronger by sending emojis that would pop on full screen, sharing your playlist on the platform from a Windows plug in and the testimonials, as they called it, which told people what you thought about someone you loved. Instagram wasn’t the biggest app in the world yet, because we didn’t have smartphones. Public phones still existed, newsstands still sold a good amount of stuff besides cigarettes and carrier credit, malls were an important place to be and taking a cab didn’t come with location history tracking and analysis. Universities were a dream. YouTube was beginning to surge. Cats didn’t have to worry about privacy.

When I turned 17, my musical projects were online, as well as my exchanges with friends and acquaintances, and they had performed changes on the social platform we used. An example would be displaying the profiles who had visited your page. They were testing with game interaction. This could be all about one platform, but we know the topic organization and roles of moderators were key in what came next. Google bought it, and so I had my first Gmail, associated with the band I was playing with, which at that point was “just doing covers”. Then I started college. As I often say, my admission was part of a social program. If you take a test with 100 questions and you get 42 right, you don’t pass. That’s a red grade, as we say it. But I did. The debate could be on standardized testing, but that’s not where I’m going. I didn’t even know I was going to study Phonology, Morphology, Discourse, Semantics, Sociolinguistics and learn about using Audacity and print screening for documental purposes, but that happened in the first few years. I also got a job teaching English around the campus. But then I met someone on the internet.

She was Dutch. Beautiful blue eyes, blonde hair perfectly cut two inches below the jawline, short and impeccably dressed, soft voice, an otherworldly kindness, some sass and cool taste for bands, who happened to be looking for people to talk to. But she had something in her favor compared to the majority: she spoke a second language. Maybe I didn’t realize it by the time we met, 2010. Maybe I don’t realize I’m going 10 years back in time. But most importantly, I didn’t know I’d so interested in her that I’d make choices in life thinking about an alternative reality, contrasted, if not opposed, to the life I had been living and whose path still needed to be walked with perseverance and passion. Maybe passion is a tough word. I remember health and family problems. Relationship shake ups. A new normal. We split, but I learned she had two other guys who regularly video called her, and one of them had saved over a thousand snapshots of their Skype calls. Another, on a trip, had made some serious sexual advancements, which she “actually enjoyed”. And yet another one, as she told me, was a good looking British young man. Meanwhile, we needed cat food, detergent and pasta. As work and life went on, somehow at the same pace, I found myself in the Medical School building when I got a call from a colleague in my group, an English undergraduate who had been abroad to study, the coordinator of a new business in ascension, before they had national reach and ventured overseas to expand their market. I got in. And that’s how the lines started to blur.

Yes, my work life only started when I’d been in touch with an alternative reality, through the virtual. Then I taught them about phonological awareness, possessive adjectives and articles, formality and slangs, rephrasing and correcting, collaboration and giving opinion in a second language. My interest in research was conflicting with my interest in music, and I chose neither to be in touch with more people from other countries. I made up this account nobody knew about, with a pretentious name taken from a song, another for a game character, and others that were deleted anyway. It started getting more interesting, but not less confusing. If you ask me about my opinion on a soccer team — the weak and strong players, that sort of thing — I’ll just remember people I met along the way, not performances I saw on TV. That’s just how my mind works. And I know too little about Oklahoma, Pennsylvania or Florida; I don’t think North Carolina or Washington are places to live, but I learned that they weren’t teaching symbolic systems where I studied. It didn’t matter anyway, because my need for experimentation won over people’s needs for comfort and stability, which include my own, if you notice the stretch of language. At some point, everything became uncomfortable. Yes, there were great times, but I couldn’t keep up. I was the quiet one. Beyond the implicit, there’s just too many things I never understood, until I didn’t have a college dorm anymore and had to move back with my friends, then my dad, then my mom, then my new girlfriend, then some random people, then my dad again, who now doesn’t approve of a single thing.

I guess I didn’t learn the lesson. Work life was calling. But not just doing the job right: having responsibilities, like any reasonable adult. Not being unpredictable, making plans, establishing goals and making efforts to improve stuff around you. But after a dozen video calls, it just starts to look different. And it evolves to a hundred, which by now is far less than people get if they have a successful management of online presence, conversation skills and topics aside. The world was completely different. Tumblr and Kik had lost audiences. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, disputing for attention. YouTube monetization, ads on your news feed, trends and recommended content, people you may know, who to follow, what you missed, on this day, not to mention block lists and hashtags. Apps for other apps that give permission, account settings, updates, screen patterns, the apparent fall of e-mail, authenticity and verification. Today, there’s no space for relationships anymore because that’s not something you talk about, except that everyone talks about everything. But what you talk about and what you do aren’t even distinguished. For many, you’re on camera. All the time. So next time you wanna talk about the soccer match, talk about the soccer match, but don’t tell the story of how you met someone from the country who’s playing. People wanna know if he can score and will add speed to the team. You wanna talk about your friend’s disease? Her pets? You still think about how she sounds and what she told you that day? Read about law. They made voice recognition. And now you can edit it with the hottest new video app.

The details don’t matter as much. What we’re facing today is an unhealthy amount of information that we can’t classify as such anymore, given ethical borderlines. People need space, but also care. Businesses need new models, but few care and suggest a new approach. Of course we’re not talking about the supermarket sharing an ad on how eating spinach heals your heart (if it does, I might need it), but how to navigate topics of interest for the future and where to find credible sources. Products now include language appropriateness, which is not just words. And maybe that’s not new, but it does tell people they’re going to need adaptation and a little bit of confidence to stand up for what they believe in. How do we reclaim communication is not quite a compelling call to action: how we move on from failed communications is the actual concern, and euphemism aside, there’s a brighter light for those who think we can help each other make sense of a reality where everything matters to be looked at, but we just don’t have the time. Ideally, there’s a place for everyone in the market, emotional struggles and needs can be addressed, and freedom of speech and thought thrive in collective movements for good. On the downside, exclusion has many faces — and the work ahead is understanding how that plays out. Some of these aren’t our own responsibilities. As long as everyone has a right to say they matter too, we’re on a path for better relationships and ease for social problems — if they can be understood and eventually solved.