Kiribati country will be Underwater Soon – Unless We Work Together

For the people of Kiribati, climate change isn’t something to be debated, denied or legislated against — it’s an everyday reality. The low-lying Pacific island nation may soon be underwater, thanks to rising sea levels.
In a personal conversation with TED Curator Chris Anderson, Kiribati President Anote Tong discusses his country’s present climate catastrophe and its imperiled future. “In order to deal with climate change, there’s got to be sacrifice. There’s got to be commitment,” he says. “We’ve got to tell people that the world has changed.”

See also:

Learning to Code: Not A Guarantee

Learning to Code: Not A GuaranteeHey there, you probably receive tons of e-mails advertising courses, workshops or bootcamps to help you learn to code mobile and web applications, telling you how amazing the opportunity and curriculum is, how flexible they are for your schedule, and how you were guaranteed to get a job (offer or opportunity) after graduating from the program.

But it totally discounted, that I feel so many people forget, is that learning to code is hard and requires a lot of work. You can have the most beautiful website, the most charismatic instructors, the most robust curriculum, but regardless of all of these things, you need to put the time in, serious time, to be successful. Learning to code isn’t the Matrix, you can’t just plug in a USB cord and voila, you can code. Now, I’m not trying to dissuade you or scare you off—far from it! I am excited that so many people want to learn to code, but I want to make sure that they know what they are about to embark on and are doing it for the right reasons.

Coding isn’t the lowest common denominator

I’m saying all of this for a few reasons. First, there is this assumption that in order to be successful in tech, you need to know how to code. That is false. Coding is a big part of working in tech, but coding isn’t the lowest common denominator. Design, marketing, product management, and research are all critical areas in tech that don’t require coding skills at all.

You will need to evolve and develop through your entire career

The second reason, is that learning to code is a life-long learning challenge and skill. There isn’t a “finish line” at the end of the journey, only a way point to help orient you towards your next milestone or goal.  This is a skill that you will need to evolve and develop through your entire career. New platforms, new programming languages, and new ways to collaborate and communicate are all ways the practice of coding will change and evolve over time.

Programming is a group activity

The third is that coding and the broader topic of computer science contains many disciplines other than programming or coding. In the curriculum created by the College Board for the Advanced Placement program, these are defined as “big ideas” and thinking practices. Two thinking practices in particular are communication and collaboration, followed by a “big idea” of creativity. These practices extend far beyond the coding window and tap into the critical thinking skills of the individual. Programming is a group activity, but, unlike most group activities, it is asynchronous, which can be a very different style of collaboration that some might not find comfortable.

But ultimately, this gets to the real question: What do you want? Jeff Weiner and Oprah Winfrey recently had a discussion and asked that same specific question. (The specific topic comes up at 3:06 in the linked video.) It is a question not enough people ask themselves, including me. If you have decided that you “must learn to code,” have you also asked if knowing coding will make you happy? Are you learning to code because someone told you that you needed to?

Some people are learning to code for the wrong reasons. Some find coding to be so difficult and foreign to them and they struggle with every step.

Why not focus on your strengths and passions to be successful, but also, more importantly, happy. Do they feel they have only one way to get their success? Do they recognize that this is a long-term journey they are going to embark on? Do they know that coding is only part of what they will ultimately need to do?

So while a bootcamp or training program can make promises or guarantees. Those are hinging on your ability to deliver and put the work in. For the amount of work you are about to undertake, is it what you want? It can be a rewarding and amazing career, but it isn’t a guarantee.

Captives of the Social: Facebook and Digital Panopticism

As a network, the Web is usually connoted as an open-ended, anarchic and non-hierarchic environment. Compared to previous modes of organization, its distributed nature is considered an improvement over centralized and decentralized one-to-many communications and productions. ((Alexander R. Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.))

However, with the increasing popularity of Facebook, a site that recently surpassed the bar of 1 billion users, the distributed network-structure is now under attack. I will argue that this particular social network is nowadays little more than an institution of power that exercises centralized command and control as was previously done in disciplinary societies described by Michel Foucault. In this brief historiographical case study I will explain how Facebook is exercising social power via digital technologies and how these new means of supervision are related to earlier techniques of panoptic control.

In Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison Foucault determines that exercise of power in modern societies is characterized by means of individual differentiation and categorization. As a result of precautions for the plague, disciplinary facilities like schools, hospitals and prisons were brought into being. These institutions were meant to measure, control and improve the behavior people that did not act appropriately. ((Foucault, Michel. Discipline, Toezicht en Straf. De geboorte van de gevangenis. Vertaling van Surveiller et punir(1975). Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007: p. 270-313.))

According to Foucault, the “panopticon”, a circular prison designed by Jeremy Bentham in 1785, is metaphoric for the modern society and represents the ideal architectural embodiment of discipline. Via the look-out in the middle of the prison, every detainee could be observed without ever seeing one of the guards. His vision is limited because he is blinded by a light. The exercise of power is successful because of the fact that the prisoner constantly sees the silhouette of the central watchtower, while never knowing for certain if he is actually being watched. Because of the possibility of being watched at any time, he is forced to behave properly all the time. Hence Bentham’s assertion: “power should be visible yet unverifiable” (Foucault 1975: p. 7).

In the panoptic system, the convict is the principle of his own subjection. The apparatus enhances its power by making itself faster, lighter and more efficient. Besides, the panopticon can make up individual profiles of persons by means of registration without them being able to influence one another. ((According to Foucault, the panoptic device would be ideal for testing children in school because they wouldn’t be able to cheat.)) Another salient characteristic of the panopticon is that it served as a natural experiment, as well as a laboratory to test medicine and execute pedagogical tests.

The above characteristics of the panopticon have a lot in common with contemporary social network sites. First of all they are being maintained by users, they differentiate and categorize people according to personal information, and moreover they form an experimental test-bed for producers.

Nowadays the modern society has been substituted by a postmodern information society. The concept of the disciplinary society is no longer relevant. As a consequence of developments in computer technology, a large part of our communication takes place via digital networks and information is stored in virtual databanks. Contemporary means of surveillance are also rooted in digital information-networks. Gilles Deleuze describes this state of supervision as the “societies of control,” in which an individual is not as much constrained by physical barriers, but is controlled on the basis of his or her digital alter ego. Individuals are transformed into “dividuals”: data collecting individuals (Deleuze 1992: p. 5). ((Deleuze, Gilles. „ Postscript on the Societies of Control.‟ October, Vol. 59 (Winter 1992): 3-7.))

In this case, the panoptic gaze shifts  from the body to its digital double. “The concept of the “dividual” is fundamental here, in societies of control the individual is doubled as code, as information, or as simulation such that the reference of the panoptic gaze is no longer the body, but its double, and indeed this is no longer a matter of looking but rather one of data analysis”, according to Bart Simon (Simon, 2005: p.15). ((Simon, Bart. „ The Return of Panopticism: Supervision, Subjection and the New Surveillance.‟ Surveillance & Society, 3(1), 2005: p. 1-20. <;))

A specific example of a website that depends fully on the creativity and input of the user and stores personal ‘databody’ information and preferences is of course Facebook. The obtained data is used to compose consumer profiles. The information that Facebook gathers is instantly no more the possession of the users, and corporations can do with it whatever they want, according to the terms of use. In Facebook, personalization is key; “when users indicate preferences for certain content, it may lead sites to cast up “contextual” ads that reflect those interests or the lifestyles they imply” (Turow 2006: p. 97). ((Turow, Joseph. Niche Envy. Marketing Discrimination in the Digital Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2006: p. 71-98.))

Nowadays it is generally known that Facebook gathers personal information and sells it to third parties. This is after all the practice that makes the network so lucrative. On the other hand, most users still don’t know that, besides the published info they put on the network itself, Facebook is allowed to assemble additional information about users coming from other sources:

Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (e.g. photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalized experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. ((Facebook’s terms of use are findable on Daily update: 08-10-2012 <;))

The terms of use from Facebook’s enrollment policy transform the social network into some sort of commercial panoptic laboratory, as described earlier by Foucault. Every random manifestation of privacy infringement is glossed by arguing that the collection of personal data is necessary to provide better services to users. Figure 1 shows a comparison of the main characteristics of both the panopticon and Facebook.

As more and more people confide themselves in Facebook as a gateway to the WWW, as a means of liking and – nowadays –‘wishing’ their favoriteconsumer products and, most importantly, as a tool to maintain personal relationships, its centralized scope of control grows. According to Geert Lovink “what we need to defend is the very principle of decentralized, distributed networks […] This principle is under attack by corporations such as Google and Facebook” (Lovink 2011: p. 31). ((Lovink, Geert. Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.))

Although dataveillance differs from the panoptic concept through the intervention of technological devices and the shift from physical surveillance to abstracted data-analysis, it still resembles the centralized control of the former disciplinary society in some profound ways. For instance, in the contemporary societies of control – and in particular on Facebook – the users are the ones maintaining the system, just like the prisoners in the panopticon were the principle of their own subjection. The panoptic laboratory is also still present, despite the fact it is transformed into a commercial test bed for marketers. I would therefore argue that the disciplinary society has not come to a definite ending, and that panoptical surveillance has reached a new chapter that propels on the foundations laid down by Foucault. The panopticon merely adapted itself  to socio-economical and technical developments, continues through the ideology of the free market economy and capitalism, and can nowadays be interpreted as a ‘digital panopticon’ that is naturalized within the black boxes of Internet technology, with Facebook serving as its ultimate embodiment.

The Hidden Danger of Adding the French Flag Filter to your Facebook Profile Picture

Captura de pantalla 2015-11-14 a les 18.58.49

After Friday’s attacks in Paris, Facebook has launched an optional filter for all users. This Facebook filter calls for solidarity with last Friday’s attacks by giving the option to customize profile pictures superimposing the French Tricoloure on them. Of course, more and more Facebook users are using this tool, shocked by terror in the French capital. First-class and second-class, inclusive third and fourth class casualties exist, it’s self-evident although not desirable.

To a certain extent, it’s understandable than an European citizen feels more upset for an attack in Paris than in Beirut. In fact, after analyzing the media coverage of both attacks, it would be odd if a person from, for example, Spain was more moved about a terrorist attack in Lebanon than in France. 

It’s evident that the biggest mass media are manipulating collective consciousness. The silence that reigns or the coldness while exposing the death tolls from attacks in the so-called Arab World, contrasts with the dramatism when informing the number of killed and wounded after an attack in Europe or the U.S. territory. This communication strategy is a model of success for creating first and second-class citizens and societies. More and more Europeans realize that they are being manipulated and try to ignore the influence of the mass media that end up building insurmountable walls between societies through action and inaction. However, this is a new strategy for social communication;the Facebook filter represents a danger that finds most users with lowered defenses.

See also: Can Science Solve Terrorism? Q&A with Psychologist John Horgan

Using this Facebook filter as a gesture with Paris attacks victims is supporting a view of the world where only occidental casualties matter and building another border wall surrounding this 21st Century European Fortress, inhabited by terrified vassals that give away their critical awareness to private companies and public institutions in exchange for a little calmness. When a bomb explodes or a missile falls in Lebanon, Irak, Iran or anywhere in the world, siblings suffer and parents lose their heart when knowing that their relatives are dead; friends desperately look for clues that may lead to their colleagues. It’s understandable (although not desirable) that an European citizen feels more upset after an attack in Paris than in Beirut. Most of us have friends in Paris or have visited this city on several occasions. But Facebook is a global company and with these kind gestures, the only success comes from establishing an imposed hegemonic point of view under which occidental casualties are important and a reason to get mobilized while, for example, the casualties after Thursday’s attacks in Beirut, don’t really count at all. We didn’t have the option to customize our Facebook profile pictures superimposing the flag of Lebanon, did we? From my point of view, accepting and supporting this attitude is extremely dangerous, even more if we support it without noticing at all.

Èric Lluent, journalist (Barcelona, 1986)

Translated by Ainhoa Rebolledo (Read it here in Spanish)