söndag 29 april 2018

Books I've read (February-April 2017)

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I read the four books below a bit more than a year ago, between mid-February and mid-April 2017. All four books relate to technology and its use in a social context but they also differ in various ways, for example in how much they relate specifically to computing. The asterisks (*) represent the number of quotes that can be found further down in this blog post. Here's the previous blog post about books I have read.



**** I got my copy of Pär Blomkvist and Arne Kaijser's (1998) edited book "Den konstruerade världen: Tekniska system i ett historiskt perspektiv [The constructed world: Technical systems in historical perspectives] directly in my hand from Pär Blomkvist 10 or so years ago. It has thus taken quite some time for me to come around to reading it, but the fact that it was written 20 years ago wasn't a big problems since it for the most part contains historical analyses of various aspects of the emergence and growth of Large Technical Systems (LTS) like rail, electricity, telephones, sewage systems etc. The one exception was the last chapter that treated the development of the Internet 1957-1997. 

While I found some chapters interesting, this - science and technology studies and the study of Large Technical Systems - is not really my field and some of the chapters were thus a bit too detailed for me. From the back cover:

"Is the Internet a technology that unites us in universal brotherhood or that makes us apathetic? Is the telephone emancipatory? What does municipal democracy have to do with the history of emptying latrines? Can a large technical system be nationalistic? Is technological development even a political issue? We live in the era of large technical systems. Hardly anything else has changed people's living conditions more during the last 150 years than the expansion of technical systems such as railways, water and sewerage, electricity, telephony, the automobile and the Internet. Nevertheless, few historical studies have been made of these systems, but over the past decade, a new multidisciplinary research area has evolved that is focused on studying large technical systems. In this anthology, thirteen writers discuss how such systems emerge and how they affect our lives and our society."



*************************** Martha Lampland and Susan Leigh Star's (2009) "Standards and their stories: How quantifying, classifying, and formalizing practices shape everyday life" is another book that I have owned for 10 years but that I haven't read from back to back until now. This book is special for me as I, together with professor Jacob Palme (who retired 10 years ago), have a chapter (pdf available here) with the hard-hitting title "ASCII imperialism" in the book. There are also more than a dozen quotes from our chapter further below. 

While the topic of standards and standardisation definitely is a sidetrack compared to my research interests both back then and now, our chapter actually has a long prehistory. Back in 1998, when I was a young ph.d. student, I presented a text called "Reflections on cultural bias and adaptation" at the first international conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology (CATaC). That paper (available here!) together with some others from the conference were later republished in a 1999 special issue of journal "Javnost - The Public" (Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture). This later led me to team up with Jacob Palme and submit another paper, "Linguistic standardization on the Internet" to the 2004 CATaC conference (conference theme: "Off the shelf or from the ground up? ICTs and cultural marginalization, homogenization and hybridization"). Long story short: the 2009 book chapter is an extended and further developed version of our 2004 conference paper. 

With the excellent facilities that Google Scholar nowadays provide, I looked closer at who has (ever) referred to this paper. I notice that it must have been hard for people to find the text because while it has been quoted altogether 28 times since it was published, less than a third of those quotes were made during the first five years after the book was published (2009-2013). It in fact turns out the "best" year for our chapter was 2016 when it was quoted no less than 8 times. It's the same for another chapter in the book (about "metadata standars"); it has been quoted 80 times and 2016 was again the one most popular year. This implies that narrow, edited books easily can become places where texts are buried - although the circulation of this books in particular seems to have picked up over time. Still, this is interesting to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons of different types of publications.


Beside the seven chapters, the book is a bit special due to the fact that it has between two to four standards-related anecdotes and stories (not seldom newspaper articles) sandwiched in-between each chapter (e.g. "Coffins expand with Occupants" about weight increase in the US from the Charleston Daily Mail and "Chocolate Directive Now Agreed" from the UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food - quite possibly pointing at one of the reasons why the UK voted to leave the European Union). The book also has an interesting appendix that was written by the two editors, "How to unravel standards: Teaching infrastructure studies". 

I like the project itself. Standards are everywhere. They rule our lives but are invisible to us. Where do they come from? How (why, where and by whom) are they created? What are the drivers and what are their consequences of standards for just about everything? The two editors describe how one reason for why standards aren't studied more is that "standards are boring". So they playfully formed "The Society of People Interested in Boring Things" to study these and other questions together with some colleagues and ten years down the road, this book came out of their efforts to understand standards. By way of further introducing the book, here's Donald Norman's review of it:

"Standards rule our lives. Yeah, standards, that dull, frustrating, topic studied by 'The Society of People Interested in Boring Things.' But this book proves that far from being dull, the stories behind standards are interesting, insightful, and revealing of the workings of bureaucracy. Standards are essential for different stuff made by different companies in different countries to work well together. Whether it is bananas or chocolate, application forms for terrorist training, or the sizes of people's rear ends (critical for airline seats), standards are essential part of life today (all these are covered in the book). This engaging book serves several purposes. It explains much of the history, rationale, and politics of standards. It shows why they have huge social impact, far beyond what most of us realize, often far beyond what was intended."



********************************** I met Kentaro Toyama at the 2015 first workshop on Computing within Limits and later picked up his (then-just-to-be-published) 2015 book "Geek heresy: Rescuing social change from the cult of technology" (book website). Toyama's old-school webpage has a link to his (now-defunct) blog "The ICT4D Jester: Questioning ICT for Development" - a blog where he unpicks ICT for Development - an area he himself has helped found. I can't say that I have read everything on his blog, but looking at when his blog was active (2010-2015 - but mostly during the first three years), I imagine that the blog also functioned as a tool where he could (anonymously) distance himself from, and come to terms with his and others' repeated failures to use technology to alleviate (the effects of) poverty. This is also the main topic of his book, e.g. why doesn't technology deliver on its promises to make the world a better place for everyone - rather than just for the affluent global "haves".

I liked this book a lot. It is always great to read a book by someone who has a story to tell and Toyama's background makes the topic of the book intricate because by "rescuing social change from the cult of technology", Toyama also wants to rescues social change from the man he himself once was. He writes in the introduction: "I am a recovering technoholic. I was once addicted to a technological way of solving problems. ... in 2004 ... I jumped at the chance [and] was excited by a new topic: How could electronic technologies contribute to social causes in the world's poorest communities?"

The short answer is "hardly" - at least with the addendum "at least not by itself". This is basically also the topic of the book (and do check out the 30+ great quotes from the book further below). During development and testing (and riding on the wave of the initial excitement fro just about everyone), new technologies promise much but, to Toyama's frustration, as soon as it is time to scale up and roll out, things eventually - either sooner or otherwise later - came to a grinding halt due to factors that have little to do with the technology itself. It's possible to see the book a way for Toyama to vent his frustration over such issues and to challenge all technology-oriented dreamers who (still) think that technology in itself and by itself can make a huge difference. From the back cover of the book:

"After a decade designing technologies meant to address education, health, and global poverty, award-winning computer scientist Kentaro Toyama came to a difficult conclusion: Even in an age of amazing technology, social progress depends on human changes that gadgets can't deliver. Computers in Bangalore are locked away in dusty cabinets because teachers don't know what to do what them. Mobile phone apps meant to spread hygiene practices in Africa fail to improve health. Executives in Silicon Valley evangelize novel technologies at work even as they send their children to Waldorf schools that ban electronics. And four decades of incredible innovation in America have done nothing to turn the tide of rising poverty and inequality. Why then do we keep hoping that technology will solve our greatest social ills? In this incisive book, Toyama cures us of the manic rhetoric of digital utopians and reinvigorates us with a deeply people-centric view of social change. Contrasting the outlandish claims of tech zealots with stories of [real] people ... Geek Heresy is a heartwarming reminder that it's human wisdom, not machines, that move our world forward."



**************************************** Alf Horborg's 2015 book "Nollsummespelet: Teknikfetischism och global miljörättvisa" [The zero sum game: Technology fetischism and global environmental justice] is his second book in Swedish and it's just as good (and just as provocative) as his first. It's hard to keep track of Hornborg's books when he translates them between English and Swedish and back though. This book is a "heavily extended and partly revised version" of the 2013 revised version of his 2011 book "Global ecology and unequal exchange". But his English-language 2016 book "Global magic: Technologies of appropriation from Ancient Rome to Wall Street" is, as far as I understand, also a revised version of this Swedish-language book! And it was just the same with his previous book.

The book itself is excellent - it is interesting, thought-provoking and challenging as well as grim and provocative. It is also a massive attack (a broadside) against conventional economics (and economists) and the 40 quotes further down in this blog post speak for themselves. It's also possible to say that Hornborg "answers" Toyama and tells him why it's hard to "transplant" technologies from the global North to the global South - and even harder to decrease global inequalities:

"The development of new technologies depends only partly on creativity [because] a new technology must work in conjunction with the prices of energy, raw materials, spare parts, labor and finished products. It would be an illusion to imagine technical arts and engineering as independent from society's way of organising flows of energy and materials ... If a certain kind of category of people can afford to buy a certain technical product, for example if Europeans buy cars whose components are manufactured in China, that is largely due to the fact that Chinese workers earn much less money than the average European."

Everybody in Sweden appreciates owning a washing machine. But can someone who assembles washing machines in a factory in China afford to buy one herself? Isn't the fact that washing machines are inexpensive enough for almost everyone in Sweden to own one dependent on the fact that the Chinese labourer's salary is so low (that she can't afford to buy a washing machine)? Furthermore, if Chinese (and other) factory workers had a decent salary, would Swedes really be able to buy new smartphones and 18 months? Would really Swedish kids as young as 10 or 11 have smartphones of their own? Sure (to answer Toyama's question), we can send some computers to the Indian countryside, but the most precious and critical part of the larger computer ecosystem is the knowledgable and skillful human teacher who knows how to deploy the computers in eduction, and this is also what Toyama came to realise after a number of frustrating experiences of technology not living up to its (stated, hoped-for) potential. Hornborg basically uses the same argument to undress also unrealistic hopes about solar (renewable) energy:

"80 percent [of global solar energy production] is produced in five of the world's richest countries (Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Spain) ... solar power, despite high expectations ... continues to be available only in the most affluent sectors in the world system. ... The solar energy produced by Sahara's solar panels will be reserved for those who can afford it - more likely German than Algerians. In other words the same global elite that today can afford to buy oil."

Most of what I have learned about unequal exchange and about "ecological world-systems theory" I have learned from reading texts by Alf Hornborg. Here's a short popular text that can work as an introduction to his thinking, "Why you can’t have free trade and save the planet".

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On before and after Large Technical Systems (LTS) are implemented:
”[Large technical] Systems that were initially linked to visions of the good life as well as with dystopian prophecies about society’s downfall have ... been transformed into unproblematic contrivances without ideological connotations."
Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (2003). Introduction: The invisible systems. 
In Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (eds). The constructed world, p.9.

On Internet hopes and fears:
"Nobody can avoid noting the wild hopes that are connected to the internet. Telia's slogan "Freedom, Equality, Internet!" speaks of a new and better world where the brotherhood of the French Revolution will be realized interactively across the world. But can we find the enormous political and social potential of this new medium also in the critical voices. The Internet is said to lead to the dissolution of morals, to Internet-addicted couch potatoes and constitute a direct danger to democracy and society as we know it."
Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (2003). Introduction: The invisible systems. 
In Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (eds). The constructed world, p.17.

On what constitutes a ”system”:
"The "systems" concept is used extensively in both engineering and the social sciences ... What constitutes the basis of a systems perspective is ... that all technologies can be seen as consisting of tightly or loosely interconnected parts or components which together form an integral whole. For this to work, the different parts need to be coordinated with each other. A system is therefore characterized by strong dependencies between its constituent parts."
Summerton, J. (2003). Large technical systems: An introduction to a research field. 
In Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (eds). The constructed world, p.21.

On the construction of Sweden as a country and a competitor:
"It was only during the 1870s that industrialization gained a real footing in Sweden. An important part of this was the construction of new major technical systems in the form of railways, telegraph and telephone networks. ... It was only during the 1890s that a Swedish national "awakening" happened for real. This was, at the same time, the period of the Swedish industrial breakthrough: these two simultaneous "revivals" reinforced each other and led to a new nationalism that was focused on industrialization as a way of achieving national greatness and defending the nation's position in the struggle for development between nations.”
Fridlund, M. (2003). Construction of technology and Swedishness around the turn of the 20th century. 
In Blomkvist, P., & Kaijser, A. (eds). The constructed world, p.80.





On the role of standards in modern society:
"This compilation is one of a few papers and books beginning to analyze the … growing place of all sorts of standards, formal and informal, in our everyday lives. This growth is apparent at the most minute level and at the most macro level. … This book considers a specific question: How have people dealt, in ordinary ways, with these millions of interlocking standards? … We are not, in any sense, against standardizing … Our goal is to show how standards are phenomena worthy of study in their own right”
Star, S.L. and Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories.

On studying boring things:
"One final … reason why standards may be neglected in sociocultural research into science and technology is that they are boring. … How should these boring traces that bear evidence of the development of standards be studied? The authors in this book share an ecological sense of the worlds of infrastructure. Collectively, we find it necessary to deconstruct boring backstage elements. In this, we seek to restore the narratives of these standards: their historical development, their political consequences, and the smoke-filled rooms always attached to decisions made about them.”
Star, S.L. and Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.11-13.

On modern rationality as irrational:
"Small changes made early in the life of any developmental system will ramify throughout the growth of the system, becoming increasingly more difficult to eradicate. … we can say that slippage … between a standard and its realization in action becomes a crucial unit of analysis for the study of standardization and quantification. … The confusion, anger, and frustration people express about standards are easily related to the apparent alogical or irrational character of standards. The association of standards with irrationality demonstrates, as little else can, Max Weber’s powerful insight that the move toward modern rationality necessarily resulted in forms of irrationality.”
Star, S.L. and Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.14-15.

On what infrastructure is, and what infrastructure does:
"infrastructure are something that other things ”run on,” things that are substrate to events and movements: railroads, highways, plumbing, electricity, and, more recently, the information superhighway. Good infrastructure is by definition invisible, part of the background for other kinds of work. It is ready-to-hand. This image holds up well enough for most purposes – when we turn on the faucet for a drink of water we use a vast infrastructure of plumbing and water regulation without usually thinking much about it.”
Star, S.L. and Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.17.

On the balance between visibility and invisibility of work:
"when analyzing the attempts by a group of nurses to classify their work process, Bowker and Star (1999) see them walk a delicate line between visibility and invisibility. They wanted their work to be represented in order to be legitimated; at the same time, if they categorize all the tasks they did and then built the forms into hospital record-keeping to track that work, they risked having the hospital accountants and health maintenance organization officials deskill … their work and try to fob parts of it off on less expensive paraprofessional. So, leave the work tacit, and it fades into the wallpaper … Make the work explicit, and it becomes a target for surveillance.”
Star, S.L. and Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.22.

On the recent invention of "chronological age":
"In focusing on chronological age, that is, time since birth, my objective is to consider how this bit of personal biography came to be used to create a widely employed standard for segmenting and stratifying individuals. Incorporated into the standards imposed from above to address particular administrative problems, chronological age evolved into a taken-for-granted element of personhood that we use as the basis for day-to-day interactions … because state bureaucracies formalized its widespread use as the standard to determine eligibility for public pension benefits.”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.65.

On personal assessments of which age group you belong to:
"People do not necessarily identify with their chronological age. Bernard Baruch (1995) illustrated this fact of life famously when he declared ”old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” Subjectively, people may classify themselves as feeling younger or older than their years, consistent with indicators of their functional age (e.g., health), their social age (e.g., widowhood), and their relational age (e.g., having children). People build their lives consistent with their personal assessments of the age group to which they belong. When pre-teen girls began to identify with adolescents instead of children, for example, they dealt a financial blow to the Mattel Corporation by abandoning Barbie dolls for CDs and cosmetics.”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.68.

On the unimportance of chronological age in premodern times:
"Outside China, hardly anyone bothered reckoning chronological age. Most people neither knew or cared exactly how long they had lived. [In pre-modern times] There was little reason to separate youths from adults until the advent of formal schools. Age-grading within schools, grouping youngsters by chronological age in the classroom, did not emerge as an educational practice in the United States until the nineteenth century. Later, protective child-labor laws would prove the wedge that finally segregated children from the world of working adults.
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.69-70.

On a lesson that was lost on Sweden: people can misstate their age (”round their ages to culturally preferred digits”) if it’s beneficial:
"What happens in an age-conscious society when an individual does not know his or her exact chronological age – or at least cannot establish it to the satisfaction of authorities? Given the centrality of chronological age as a classifying mechanism underpinning standards, particularly in administrative contexts, there must be standard operating procedures to deal with cases in which ages are unknown, unreported, inconsistent, or implausible. … National statistical bureaus employ various methods to smooth the lumpy aggregate age distribution that arise when census respondents round their ages to culturally preferred digits. In statistical analyses, individuals who fail to report an age will have an age imputed or assigned to them, according to an algorithm based on the average age of the population, the age of people of like characteristics, the ages of related household members, and so on. In some instances, the age of individuals must be known with a high degree of certainty, and it is not sufficient to rely on self-reported age alone.”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.82.

On a matter of life and death for (imputed) unaccompanied minors:
"Because it is necessary for people to establish chronological age in order to establish benefit eligibility, the Social Security Administration has developed administrative mechanism as well as evidence policies. These are designed to adjudicate the breakdown in classificatory procedures that arise from uncertainties or conflicting evidence about the chronological age of the claimant. For example, a long-standing practice has been to give the greatest weight to the oldest records of chronological age. Whatever their original purpose, the earliest layers of age records are least likely to be tainted by the expediency of meeting the eligibility requirement for old-age pensions. (As we will see, age may certainly be falsified early in the life course to meet other objectives). … In the case of ”W” [in 1957] ”W” sought to prove that she was born in 1895 and had reached sixty-two, the minimum eligibility age for a widow’s pension. … in a life course in which birth date was apparently marked by both strategic use and selective salience, a careful parsing of information on chronological and relational ages led to a rejection of the bureaucratically preferred early records in favor of more recent evidence.”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.83-84.

On procedures for determining the age of an "ageless" individual.
This is a (long) quote that takes on a very different meaning in Sweden today (with confirmed cases of adult "unaccompanied minors") compared to when it was written in the US a decade ago:
"Whereas some age uncertainties are handled on a case-by-case basis, others constitute a large enough problem to require a formal bureaucratic patch for an entire class of individuals. For example, the Social Security Administration has had a special policy for determining the age of Holocaust survivors. During World War II … some victims of Nazi persecution misstated their ages in order to survive. Later, they continued to use these incorrect birthdates, even on official records of their immigration to the United States. When birth records were lost or destroyed in the war, these immigration records constituted the earliest (and generally preferred) evidence of age. Recognizing the hardship posed for the elderly who could not demonstrate their eligibility [in the pension systems], the Social Security Administration implemented a special procedure. An individual first established his or her status as a Holocaust survivor (e.g., with such evidence as tattoo numbers, German passports stamped with a red J, or evidence of wartime residence in one of twenty-four countries as a member of a group marked for extermination). If the Social Security Administration was unable to obtain preferred evidence of the Holocaust survivor’s age from the country of birth, then statements of friends, family, or even the claimant were deemed acceptable to establish true age. In short, unique biographical and historical situations render some individuals ”ageless”. These uncertainties about chronological age constitute breakdowns for classification systems that rely on chronological age as the basis for standards that assign rights, verify entitlements, and enforce responsibilities. Although an approximation of exact age may be adequate in some instances, there are other circumstances in which ambiguity must be eliminated, even at some cost to the participants. … In a host of circumstances around the globe in which the knowledge of chronological age is essential, the elusiveness of exact chronological age elicits procedural patches that facilitate the functioning of age-based systems.”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.85.

On acceptable standards for chronological age of romantic partners:
"Although my discussion has emphasized chronological age as a classificatory criteria establishing the standards for pension eligibility, exact age is also used to classify individuals into those who can and cannot vote, drive, and be tried as an adult in criminal court. It identifies people who are or are not obligated to register for the draft or to attend school. As testimony to the grassroots adoption of the years-of-age standard, chronological age in personal ads proclaims who is and who is not an acceptable romantic partner. … chronological age standardizes the course of American lives … contrary to an individualizing trend evident since the Enlightenment”
Treas. J. (2009). Age in standards and standards for age.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.86.

On standards as instruments of violence, dominance and destruction:
"In Poland … meat producers have been confronted with a new set of sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) that the country was required to adopt as a condition of EU accession. These standards lay out detailed specifications for slaughterhouses, from flooring and wall placement to the computer systems needed to implement farm-to-table tracking of each piece of meat. These systems may reduce the risk of foodborne illness … which [aren’t] endemic in Poland anyway – but they also have a significant side effect. Because the regulations are so stringent, they require most slaughterhouses to do significant renovations in their physical plant in order to comply. Most Polish slaughterhouses are small-scale village operations, however, and their owners do not have the capital needed to meet the standards. The result has been that local Polish slaughterhouses have gone out of business in droves since the standards were adopted in 2003; one source estimates that more than two out of three … have gone out of business. Multinational firms … are [now] poised to take over the market. … The point here is that although harmonized regional standards such as those of the European Union are supposed to *reduce* technical barriers to trade, the often *create* technical barriers to trade when they enter locales that have markedly different infrastructures than those in the countries where they were developed. … The problem of infrastructure is almost never raised in discussions of global standards, which are often assumed to operate in the ideal-typical homogenous space of the world market.”
Dunn. E. C. (2009). Standards without Infrastructure.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.118-119.

On agrarian work science:
"Agrarian work science is perhaps the least known of the cluster of fields subsumed under the name scientific management, which flourished in the mid-twentieth century. … In Hungary, for example, we find studies in agricultural magazines and specialist journals concerning nutritional requirements and energy expenditures for specific tasks … Studies of the movement and rhythm of agricultural work, such as cutting hay (Azakáll 1943; Ujlaki 1943), assisted agrarian work scientists in calculating the amount of time required to perform this task. Although clearly influenced by industrial work science, agrarian work science traced its lineage in Europe to manorial estate management as much as to economic studies of the firm.”
Lampland. M. (2009). Classifying laborers: Instinct, property, and the psychology of productivity in Hungary (1920-1956).
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.126.

On Hörby’s fate on the Internet:
"Poor Hörby. On the Internet, the municipality of Hörby in southern Sweden is know as Horby (www.horby.se). One part of the name, *-by*, means village or hamlet in Swedish. Unfortunately, the meaning of the Swedish word *hor* is adultery or fornication,(1) and who can pride him- or herself with living in the ”village of fornication” or ”adulteryville”?”
(1) Hor is etymologically the same world as the English noun and verb *whore*.
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.177.

On Habo’s fate on the Internet:
Poor Habo. When the municipality of Habo aimed for the Internet, it discovered that its “natural habitat” on the Internet (www.habo.se) was unavailable. The web address was reserved for municipality use but had, without ill intent, already been picked up by another quicker municipality, Håbo. So what options do Habo and Håbo have to carve out unique niches for themselves on the Internet today and in the future?”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.177.

On the invisible infrastructure of the Internet:
"This chapter takes a closer look at computer character set standards and their consequences. We thereby look at questions whose answers are unknown to the majority of people who use the Internet. In fact, it might be the case that not only the answers but also the questions themselves are difficult to perceive because they have to do with the, in many respects, invisible infrastructure of the Intenet.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.177.

On standards for how languages work on the Internet:
"A seemingly simple question for a Swedish computer user such as ”Why can’t I use the last three letters in the Swedish alphabet (å, ä, and ö) on the Internet?” leads to the much larger question: ”why do people using languages other than English so often have problems using the Internet?”. [A] more thorough answer must delve into a whole set of intriguing questions such as ”What are the rules (technical standards) that determine how languages work on the Internet? How come things are they way they are and not some other way? How and by whom have those rules been chosen? What are the historical, technical, social and economic aspects behind the answers to the previous two questions? What trade-offs between those aspects are taken into consideration when decisions about future standards are made? What are the alternatives (if any)? Could other rules, other standards, work better?”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.177-178.

On analyzing that which is invisible:
"Over the last centuries [standards] allow products made by different manufacturers to work together. … In the area of computer communication, standards aim at allowing … any e-mail to be successfully handled by the e-mail software used for writing, transporting, and receiving/displaying the message (even if the software programs were made by different vendors). … Although information infrastructures standards easily slip into invisibility, the modern ”made” world is at the same time brimming with standards … If the information infrastructure both is ubiquitous and tends to disappear and become invisible, how can we get hold of and get a good look at it?”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.181.

On a blind spot for English-speakers:
"even though the relevant standards in many cases have been in place for years and years, and sometimes even a decade or more, mail programs do not always work the way they are supposed to. … Many other software products work correctly for the simplest cases but not for special cases. For example, one of these special cases s copying text from a previously received e-mail message into a new e-mail message. This is a very common action; at the same time, it is handled incorrectly (e.g., not according to the relevant standards) by many software products. Because the problems described here happen only to special (non-ASCII) characters, an important characteristic of the current solution is that, not matter what adverse effects it may have in different parts of the world, it never has any adverse effects at all on texts written in English. Such texts will be displayed correctly by virtually every mail program ever created. The problems described here are thus rendered all but invisible and undetectable to monolingual English-speaking users.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism.
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.185-186.

On standardization in principle being value-neutral:
"The choice of which solution is the best one is ultimately not something that can be determined by counting, weighing, and measuring the relevant merits of the proposed solutions but, rather, is a matter of making difficult trade-offs among different (legitimate) technical and social choices. Standardization is only the process of negotiating, deciding, and enforcing one solution rather than another, but the process of standardization itself has very little to say about which values are more important than others, beyond the simple axiom that any solution that can be agreed on is better than having different parallel and competing solutions.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.186.

On what it means for something to "work":
"The prevailing atmosphere in the decision-making process is generally conservative and risk aversive when it comes to taking technical risks. New technical standards … must not make old nonadjusted programs out there cease to work – the mail must get through! *Work* in this context means that the programs should function primarily in a technical sense, by not suddenly and unexpectedly crashing. That the program should *work* in the sense that it should function well for the human beings who use it is thus implicitly deemed less important. … Most mail programs in use were developed in the United States, and it is generally not easy for American monolingual managers and developers to understand the problems that noncompliance with existing standards can cause for people in other parts of the world.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.189-190.

On useful but unused (and unusable) standards:
"Some software standards, for example those for e-mail, have many hundreds of different implementations, made by different companies. All these implementations have to work together with all the others, and this makes progress difficult. . … even when an agreement has been reached about the extension of a standard, some standards still never get widely adopted by the market. … There are several examples of this, such as the … standards for an e-mail program to allow people to use an e-mail address that contains blank spaces (e.g., between the given name and family name) except for the not irrelevant fact that a large number of existing e-mail programs are not able to handle the coded address correctly.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.185-186.

On the connection between large corporations and complex standards:
"Large and rich companies often try to influence standards-making to produce large and complex standards because such standards are more effective in excluding competitors that cannot afford to implement them. When Internet standards were made mainly by academic people, they were usually simple and easy to implement; the influx of people from large commercial companies is one reson why standards today generally tend to become more and more complex.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.192.

On proprietary standards:
"One of the more devious ways for a company to create a business advantage is to decommoditize a commodity protocol (standard). This strategy [is a euphemism] for hi-jacking or privatizing a protocol by forcibly extending it so that it does not work with the old version of the standard anymore. ”In an ideal world, software would be created to fulfill user needs, and would be designed to be maximally usable. However, real software gets created for somewhat different aims, sometimes in line with these user needs, sometimes less so. Proprietary software is created to make money for its authors” (Levien 1998).”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.192.

On English as malevolent imperialistic force AND a benevolent world standard:
"As we have shown, there does exist a bias among the organizations, institutions, and individuals who have significant input into the design of new standards for computer communication. This bias works in favor of English-speaking Internet users and to the disadvantage of (in varying degrees) speakers of all other languages in the world. … This dominance of the English language can be construed as a malevolent imperialistic force that severs people’s connections to their (non-English) native languages … Or, at the same time, the dominance of the English language on the Internet can be construed as a lingua franca and a benevolent world standard that provides a common ground for global communication and understanding.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.185-186.

On the imperialism of instrumental reason:
”it does seem reasonable to recommend that, as the context of use changes and more non-English speakers appropriate the Internet, non-English interests be taken into consideration more than has been done up to now. An obvious objection to this recommendation is that changes to the architecture of an existing infastructure are impractical and too costly. We object to that argument [because] we cannot allow value judgments about the appropriate use of an important international technology to be decided for us purely by what is simple, by what is convenient, and by what is cheap.”
Pargman, D. & Palme, J. (2009). ASCII imperialism. 
In Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (eds.). Standards and their stories, p.198.





On building technology (vs fostering people):
"’Talent is universal; opportunity is not.’ That’s how Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and former vice president of Google.org, began her opening remarks at the University of California, Berkeley, in the spring of 2011 [but] by equating the Internet with opportunity for underprivileged people, she has made a dubious assumption – an assumption that the Internet can make up for severe non-Internet deficiencies."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.xi-xii.

On the contradictions of the tech industry:
"This book is about … how a misunderstanding about technology’s role in society has infected us – not just the tech industry, but global civilization as a whole – and how it confuses our attempts to address the world’s persistent social problems. The confusion expresses itself as Silicon Valley executives who evangelize cutting-edge technologies at work but send their children to Waldorf schools that ban electronics. Or as a government that spies on its citizens’ emails while promoting the Internet abroad as a bulwark of human rights. Or as a country densely crisscrossed with interactive social media that is nevertheless more politically polarized than ever."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.xiii.

On the challenge of ’reforming’ India:
"India has pole-vaulted onto the global stage as an IT superpower, but only a thin stratum of the country’s educated elite is part of the phenomenon. The rest – as many as 800 million people who live on less than two dollars a day – are lucky if they can work as servants to the rising middle class."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.3.

On the hidden costs of computers:
"Many [rural Indian] schools had neither staff nor finances for ongoing technical support. Computer budgets in education tend to pay for hardware, software, and infrastructure, but they neglect the ongoing costs of storage, upgrades, troubleshooting, maintenance, and repair. And PCs need a lot of care in the hot, dusty, humid conditions of rural indian schools"
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.6.

On technology as not making a difference where it is most needed:
"Each time, we thought we were addressing a real problem. But … in the end it didn’t matter – technology never made up for a lack of good teachers or good principals. Indifferent administrators didn’t suddenly care more because their schools gained clever gadgets; undertrained teachers didn’t improve just because they could use digital content; and schools budgets didn’t expand no matter how many ”cost-saving” machines the schools purchased. If anything, these problems were exacerbated by the technology, which brought its own burdens. These revelations were hard to take. I was … the head of a group that aimed to find digital solutions for the developing world. I wanted nothing more than to see innovation triumph… But exactly where the need was greatest, technology seemed unable to make a difference."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.6-7.

On where learning is situated (and it’s not in the gadgets):
"A 2013 study by Robert Fairlie and Jonathan Robinson – economists with no stake in technology – slams a heavy lid on the sarcophagus for the quixotic idea that children will teach themselves digitally. In an experimental trial involving over 1,000 students in grades 6 through 10 in America, they found that students randomly selected to receive laptops for two years certainly spent time on them, but that the time was devoted to games, social networking, and other entertainment. And whatever merit these activities might have in theory, in practice those with laptops did no better ”on a host of educational outcomes, including grades, standardized test scores, credits earned, attendance, and disciplinary actions,” than did a control group without computer access at home. In other words, unfettered access to technology doesn’t cause learning any more than does unfettered access to textbooks."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.12.

On the difference between learning to use tools vs learning to think hard:
"Finland and China consistently outperform other countries despite low-tech approaches. In a 2010 report, PISA analysts wrote that ”the bottom line is that the quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers,” regardless of available educational resources such as computers. … there’s a big difference between learning the digital tools of modern life (easy to pick up an getting easier by the day, thanks to improving technology) and learning the critical thinking skills necessary for an information age (hard to learn and therefore demanding goo adult guidance)."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.13.

On the essence of quality education:
"To persevere, children need guidance and encouragement for all the hours of a school day, at least nine months of the year, sustained over twelve years. Electronic technology is simply not up to the task. What’s worse, it distracts students from the necessary effort with blingy rewards and cognitive candy. The essence of quality children’s education continues to be caring, knowledgeable, adult attention."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.15.

On technological utopians shaking their pom-poms for Team Digital:
"As a computer scientist, my education included a lot of math and technology but little of the history or philosophy of my own field. This is a great flaw of most science and engineering curricula. We’re obsessed with what works today, and what might be tomorrow, but we learn little about what came before. So … I met with dozens of professors who had studied different aspects of technology and society. … And here is what I learned. Theorists, despite many fine shades of distinction, fall roughly into four camps: technological utopians, technological skeptics, contextualists, and social determinists.

Star Trek is fiction but its technological utopianism is very real MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte clearly shares it. So does Google chairman Eric Schmidt. … And then there are technology cheerleaders like Clay Shirky, who shakes pom-poms for Team Digital. … A generation ago, when young people said they wanted to ”change the world” or ”make an impact,” they joined the Peace corps. Now they move to Silicon Valley."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.20-21.

On what unites technological utopians:
"whatever they say and write, what most unites utopians is how they feel about technology. They love it, and they want more. Many believer that every kind of problem can be solved by some invention, often one that is right around the corner. Whether the issue is poverty, bad governance, or climate change, they say things like, ”[There] is no limit to human ingenuity,” and ”When seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce.” Besotted with gadgets, technological utopians scoff at social institutions like governments, civil society, and traditional firms, which they pity as slow, costly, behind the times, or all of the above. I sympathize with the utopians because I was one myself. … But time after time, I realized that technology alone never did the trick."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.22.

On technology being neither good nor bad nor neutral:
"Melvin Kranzberg, a historian of technology, embraced technology’s apparent contradictions. ”Technology,” he wrote in 1986, ”is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” This enigmatic statement captures what is probably the most common view among scholars of technology today: Its outcomes are context-dependent. Technology has both positive and negative impacts because technology and people interact in complex ways."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.24.

On the social determinism view of technology:
"good design trumps poor design, but beyond some level of functionality, technical design matters much less than the human elements. The right people can work around a bad technology, but the wrong people will mess up even a good one. This is consistent with a fourth camp of technology-and-society scholarship sometimes called social determinism. … These … theories emphasize that technology is molded and wielded by people. People decide the form of technologies, the purposes of their use, and the outcomes they generate."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.26.

On technology as an amplifier:
"theories of social determinism says that technology is put to use according to underlying human intentions. At the same time, the degree to which technology makes an impact depends on existing human capacities. Put these ideas together and *technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces*. Like a lever, technology amplifies people’s capacities in the direction of their intentions. A computer allows its user to perform desired knowledge tasks in a way that is faster, easier, or more powerful than the user could without technology. But how much faster, more easily, and more powerfully is in some proportion to the user’s capacity."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.29.

On technology as a change agent:
"technologies … magnify existing social forces, which themselves can be good, bad, or neutral. … If a private company is failing to make a profit, no one expects that state-of-the-art data centers, better productivity software, and new laptops for all of the employees will turn things around. Yet, that is exactly the logic of so many attempts to fix schools with technology."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.31.

On technology successes and non-successes:
"When technologies go mainstream, it’s because they help scratch itches that people already have, not because they create new itches that people don’t want. … Claims of the Internet’s democratizing power fail to take into account the many things that the Internet hasn’t democratized, such as wealth, power, and genius."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.40-41.

On amplifying vs fixing what is broken:
"New laptops don’t necessarily make employees more productive. State-of-the-art data centers don’t cause better strategic thinking. And knowledge-management systems don’t cause rival departements to share information with one another. Yet CIOs everywhere are asked to perform exactly that sort of wizardry. The more experienced ones are careful not to promise too much. Technology can improve systems that are already working – a kind of amplification – but it doesn’t fix systems that are broken."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.45.

On the potential of communication technologies:
"technology is often believed to enhance [relationships]. Nokia’s tagline is ”Connecting People,” and AT&T once used the slogan ”Reach out and touch someone.” There’s no doubt that communication technologies help people connect, but there are at least two ways in which this could happen. Option A says that better tools help us communicate with people we are already inclined to communicate with. Option B says that better tools cause communication to occur where none previously existed or was desired. Amplification votes for option A: We use new tools to communicate more with people we want to connect with anyway. … Option B leads to the misguided belief that more connectivity brings *everyone* closer together. As one utopian put it, ”People will communication more freely and … the effect will be to increase understanding, foster tolerance, and ultimately promote worldwide peace.”"
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.46.

On rebels' use of brain-to-brain transmitters:
"we can predict that in future revolutions, all sides will use or abuse the communication technologies at their disposal. In the nineteenth century, rebels distributed pamphlets, autocrats closed printing presses, and the world heard about it months later by word of mouth. Here in the twenty-first century, rebels organize on Facebook; autocrats shut down the Internet; and the world watches events unfold on YouTube. Perhaps in the twenty-third century, rebels will rally on brain-to-brain transmitters; autocrats will scramble neuro-signals; and the world will watch it all through their synaptically projected awareness modules (known in the future as ”SPAM”)."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.53.

On microcredits and the Matthew effect:
"Good credit depends on at least two things: the care with which the loans are made, and the economic capacity of the borrowers. This is true of any loan. Grameen Bank is known to take immense care with its loans. Many of its borrowers are undoubtedly benefiting. But which ones? A closer look at the economists’ data shows that positive effects tend to favor certain subgroups. Microcredit is more beneficial for those with greater wealth and education; for those with existing businesses; and for those with entrepreneurial skills and temperament; and, in some communities, for the men more than for the women, probably because of other sociocultural advantages. In other words, like digital technologies, microcredit also amplifies human forces."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.61.

On vaccine envy:
"In any pantheon of packaged interventions, vaccines would reign supreme. They save lives. They work quickly. They don’t need any follow-trough. And they’re so effective that other packaged interventions have vaccine envy. Of One Laptop Per Child, Negroponte has dubiously said, ”Think of it as inoculating children against ignorance. And think of the laptop as a vaccine.”"
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.64.

On the uncomfortable existence of systemic obstacles that can’t be overcome only by sheer brilliance:
"Leaders, implementers, and beneficiaries. This trinity determines packaged-intervention success, but their all-important traits can’t be packaged. No technology includes the empathy and discernment needed in leaders. No law bundles capable implementation. No system guarantees that beneficiaries will want what others believe is good for them. Exactly that which makes a packaged intervention work can’t be mass-produced. Technologists and technocrats might hear a challenge in that statement. They hate to admit the existence of systemic obstacles that can’t be overcome by sheer brilliance. … It’s the subpar schools we most want to fix with computers that lack teachers, principals, or IT staff who can make good use of technology. It’s the dysfunctional governments we most want to replace through elections that lack the institutions, civil society, and armed forces willing to hold up democracy. And it’s the jagged social fissures that we most want to stitch up with laws that lack the interpersonal trust and mutual respect needed for healing."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.68-69.

On inflated belief in stand-alone tech solutions:
"Of course, technologies *can* enrich lies; voting *can* empower citizens; and microcredit *can* lead to better livelihoods. But ”can” is not always ”will.” Modern society fetishizes technocratic devices, but it’s a human finger on the on-switch and a human hand at the controls. Why are we so enamored of shrink-wrapped quick fixes? Why do even those of us who know better tout them as real solutions?"
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.73.

On the folly of enlightened consumerism:
"Toms shoes … is a for-profit company whose marketing strategy … is ”one for one”: For every pair of shoes sold, Toms donates a pair to a ”person in need.” The firm is wildly successful. Since its founding in 2006, it has handed out over 10 million shoes. … In the end Toms is a shoe company with a social responsibility arm. … Toms is not that different from Nike: They both sell overpriced shoes to brand-conscious customers, exploit cheap developing-world labor to pay their executives well, and spend a portion of their revenue on charitable causes (in Nike’s case, on the nonprofit Nike Foundations). But Toms does one more thing. By misleading presenting itself as primarily interested in charity, the company diverts the goodwill of people who might otherwise engage more deeply in a cause. In what psychologists call moral self-licensing, people use past good deeds – even minor ones – to excuse future apathy. So there’s a good chance that many Toms customers skimp on more worthwhile efforts, something they probably wouldn’t do if they bought their shoes from Nike, which runs its own social responsibility initiative but with less self-congratulatory fanfare. The greater jeopardy, though, is a broader *societal* self-licensing: By playing up effort like Toms, we as a society fool ourselves into believing that the world’s problems can be solved by enlightened consumerism."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.84-86.

On mistaking business success for social impact:
"I’ve participated in several social enterprise competitions as a coach, mentor, or judge. Talented twenty-somethings feverishly pitch projects, hoping … to ”do well by doing good.” The projects are tested mainly for their financial sustainability (read ”profitability”), their scalability (read ”market penetration”), and novelty and uniqueness (read ”potential monopoly power”). In the mad rush to conjure money out of hoi polloi, the ”social return on investment” often becomes an afterthought. It’s as if there’s no point to saving lives or teaching children if you have to keep paying to do so. Real social change is no easier to achieve with social enterprises than with not-for-profit models. They hype, though, allows business success to be confused with social impact."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.87.

On the value of unmeasurable goals:
"Technocrats like to say that ”if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed,” but this is simply not true. Most of us manage our relationships with friends and family without measurement. … Many countries have experienced dramatic economic growth well before they have had a system of national accounts. … The important thing is to establish meaningful goals first, whether or not they can be measured. Where direct metrics don’t exist, there might be indirect proxies."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.92.

On heart, mind, and will:
"[The inventors of vaccines had] heart, mind, and will. And so do the governments, large foundations, and multilateral like the World Health Organization that disseminate them. It may seem obvious that packaged interventions work best when leaders, implementers, and beneficiaries have great amounts of heart, mind, and will. But plenty of smart, influential people behave otherwise, as if spreading technologies and packaged interventions indiscriminately were the way to cause social progress. To do so, though, is to make an idol of the easy part and neglect the rest – the finding or nurturing of the right heart, mind, and will."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.112.

On Technology increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots:
"Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement. Children with greater vocabularies get more out of Wikipedia. Students with behavioral challenges are more distracted by video games. Rich parents will pay for tutors so that their children can learn to program the devices that others merely learn to use. Technology at school may level the playing field of access, but a level field does nothing to improve the skill of the players, which is the whole point of education. Technology by itself only increases the gap between the haves and have-nots."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.117.

On the Dutch disease:
"It’s important … that in meeting one’s aspirations, some striving is involved. An aspiration achieved without effort doesn’t build wisdom. ”Undeserved” fame or fortune doesn’t necessarily cause growth, because they’re not accompanied by internal change. The spoiled children of inherited wealth are not particularly wise. The same problem occurs at a national scale when the resource curse of oil and minerals corrupts leaders and stunts other industries. Even more stable countries are prone to ”Dutch disease,” where the availability of an easy resource displaces other productive capacity, just as an overused crutch can lead to muscular atrophy."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.158.

On encouraging transformational epiphanies:
"Something happens as aspirations are achieved through valiant effort. When dreams come true, some people notice that they’ve outgrown them. Awuah says that in his last year at Microsoft [he] was no longer attracted to the extra 10 percent of income, recognition, or accomplishment that he had spent years pursuing. He wanted work with a broader purpose. These kinds of stories are common fodder for heartwarming news articles, but they are rarely discussed by policymakers. No one in the US government, the World Bank, or the Gates Foundation is asking, ”How do we encourage people through transformational internal epiphanies?”. Partly, the problem is that today’s metric-focused technocrats all but laugh at what seem like soft intangibles. … So much of behavioral science today overlooks long-term human change in favor of easily measured short-term phenomena."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.160-161.

On behavior change vs narratives of personal growth:
"tricks and nudges to incentivize ”behavior change” … casts individuals as adversaries to be manipulated, as if people just can’t be trusted to do the right thing on their own. The alternative is to ask, What makes a person intrinsically motivated for the larger social good? … Today’s number-crunching disciplines have no answer to such questions. But developmental psychology does. Psychologists going back to Sigmund Freud have sought to explain human maturation as a staged process of *personality*, *character*, or *life-cycle development*. … Some of [these] claims have been discredited by modern psychology, but in acknowledging the possibility of lifelong, intrinsically powered growth, they offer an alternative to today’s fast-twitch policymaking."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.161.

On individual growth and societal development:
"societies are infinitely complex, and social norms are notoriously difficult to alter. Large-scale social problems, though, are not intractable. Change may be slow, hard, and entangled in complex issues, but it happens. Most of us have witnessed it within our lifetimes, which should give us hope that mass social change is not a fluke. By considering cases of societal intrinsic development, we can see how they’re connected to individual intrinsic growth."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.174.

On the secret of India’s IT sector:
"What was the secret to India’s IT sector? I was used to this question. In Brazil they wondered how India – historically much poorer than their country – was doing so well. In Kenya they asked what it would take to replicate India’s success. In Sri Lanka they talked about leapfrogging, like India, from an agricultural economy directly to a service economy, with no industrial phase in between. … The real secret … was India’s decades-long cultivation of its brightest engineers through institutions such as the IITs … the Indian Institute of Technology, a set of universities that graduate the country’s top technical talent. They were inaugurated in 1953 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and today the acceptance rate at these government-susidized schools is lower than that of Harvard’s or MIT’s. … Around the world, the lowering of investment barriers doesn’t automatically result in a thriving IT sector. … unlike the passing of investment policy or the importing of hardware and software, talent takes at least a generation to mature. India’s growth was predicated on decades spent building human capacity"
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.181-185.

On the absence of shortcuts to mastery:
"There are no shortcuts to mastery. There is no technology, no institution, no policy, no method that can turn a novice into a concert pianist overnight. … True virtuosity requires years of motivated effort."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.193.

On social progress and superior cultures:
"many qualitative researchers loathe the very idea of societal progress and the idea that one culture can be considered superior to another, especially in any moral sense. I sympathize with the aversion to ethnocentrism and cultural imperialism, but if progress is taboo, it’s impossible to debate the best routes to progress. It seems clear that a culture that engages in child trafficking, for example, is morally and culturally improved by ceasing it. The hard questions are not whether there can be progress or not, but what aspects of culture admit a notion of moral progress … and how cultures can engage with one another on moral progress without one culture imperially imposing its own ideas."
Toyama, K. (2015). Geek heresy, p.263-264.





On the lack of holistic understanding of environmental problems:
"In the research world, it seems that those who are most concerned about the future of the biosphere (scientists) generally have the bluntest analytical tools to understand the causes of environmental degradation, whereas those who have such tools (social scientists, including anthropologists) tend to be less interested in the biosphere as an objective, biophysical reality."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.10.

On unequal exchange being ”magic” for economists:
"The view of international trade that still dominates the official perception and policies is entirely focused on creating profits ... at the same time it largely disregarding the unevenly distributed material impacts of trade on the biophysical environment, on human health and on access to technological infrastructure .... This is one reason why the term "unequal exchange" is generally perceived as irrelevant or incomprehensible to economists. Their basic assumption is that market prices themselves guarantee fair trade. Once a product or service has been paid for, according to market ideology, both sellers and buyers should be fully satisfied."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.11.

On uneven global resource flows:
"In this book [I assert] that compensation in the form of money is only a surface phenomenon, an ideological idea of reciprocity, under which extremely asymmetric resource flows can be measured by entirely different dimensions, such as working hours, land areas, energy or volumes of materials. Although they are invisible to conventional economics, these net transfers of physical resources can explain the blatantly uneven global accumulation and distribution of technological infrastructure."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.12.

On the essence of technology as a redistribution of time and space:
"The conventional interpretation of modern technology is of course that it is a measure of human progress in historical time, and even that it is a gift to humanity as a whole from the richer nations. The zero-sum perspective presented in this book instead assumes that modern technology primarily is a measure of capital accumulation rather than inventiveness, and that its capacity to locally save time and space happens at the expense of (human) time and (natural) space elsewhere in the world.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.13-14.

On the value of Americans and Africans:
"The invention of ”the economy" as a morally and politically neutral study object, and the focus on market prices, constituted (and still represents) an objectifying way of talking about the quotas according to which goods and services are exchanged between people, as if those quotas could be derived through logical necessity and objective circumstances. In fact, they are expressions of relative strengths, differences in purchasing power and dependencies, in short, inequality and power ... What would a conventional European economist answer a Tanzanian who wonders why his time (and hence his life) is only worth 0.3 percent of that of an American? Can economics offer a scientific answer as to whether this pricing is correct in the sense that it is comprehensible on an objective and morally neutral level?"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.18.

On the medieval mindset of neoclassical economics:
"Whether we discuss medieval theology or the world of neoclassical economics, we can say that once a number of irreversible axioms have been established, there is no limit for the complexity and inaccessibility of methodological constructs that can be built on the seemingly solid ground they offer. Whether it's medieval theologians or modern economists, the default response to opponents is that they lack the necessary education to understand the experts’ insights about the nature of the how the world works."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.19.

On science as disseminating soothing messages to the masses:
"Those ideologies that maintain privileges are ultimately propagated by the great need of individual persons to justify their lives. Warnings and requests for change are perceived as kill-joys. Well intended (but misguided) researchers choose to promulgate soothing messages based on trust and faith in ... conventional beliefs about growth, technology and development "
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.21.

On environmental justice:
"It has been established that the more unpleasant and harmful environmental consequences of modern society, such as garbage dumps, mining operations and nuclear waste facilities, tend to be located in areas inhabited by economically marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and people with low incomes. An attempt to understand [these inequalities] from a structural point of view can first note that it is cheaper to contaminate or exploit land that which is adjoined to land that is utilised by groups with less purchasing power as such land usually has a relatively low price per square meter. From this perspective, injustices simply become a consequence of the logic of the market. As long as each individual economic actor wants to optimise business decisions, there will be a tendency for garbage dumps and low-income housing to be located in similar areas. To argue that this is contrary to fundamental principles of justice involves challenging the very core of the market economy."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.23-24.

On outsourcing labour and land:
"It is ... no coincidence that the modern discipline of economics was born at the same time as the industrial revolution in the one country that was at the center of the most powerful empire of history.
...
The industrial revolution in 19th century England was based on a historically new strategy of accumulating wealth at the expense of others: instead of coercing peasants to pay tribute or making profits from trade by buying on the cheap and selling at a more expensive price, the industrial strategy was based on using mechanised production for exports and importing products that embodied increasingly large work efforts and land areas in countries with lower costs for labor and land than in the home country. ... Considered from a macro perspective, the Industrial Revolution was set to shift a country's claim on land and labor to other parts of the world system."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.25-24.

On why advanced technology will always be out of bounds for the poor:
"The development of new technologies depends only partly on creativity, on drawings and on experiments. In order to be realised in the real social metabolism, a new technology must work in conjunction with the prices of energy, raw materials, spare parts, labor and finished products. It would be an illusion to imagine technical arts and engineering as independent from society's way of organising flows of energy and materials ... To say that [some technology] costs a certain amount of money is to say that it is only available to the person who can spare that sum. This is true not only for the richer countries' future visions of household robots, self-driving cars and space travel, but also the everyday technologies we currently take for granted in Europe. If a certain kind of category of people can afford to buy a certain technical product, for example if Europeans buy cars whose components are manufactured in China, that is largely due to the fact that Chinese workers earn much less money than the average European. That pay gap is inextricably linked to the emergence and distribution of technology in the world."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.27-28.

On why production happens in China and consumption in the West:
"In Sweden there are about fifty cars per hundred inhabitants while in China that number is 2. The lower wages in China are part of the explanation for both figures. Another part explaining why cars manufactured in China are in demand in Europe are the lower Chinese demands on the work environment and reduction of industrial emissions, which is also reflected in the price. That means that the majority of European consumption leads to a deterioration of the environment in other parts of the world system. This is the central and general problem in global environmental justice issues: to minimise costs, companies and capital seek out countries with cheaper labor costs and less rigorous environmental legislation, but to maximise revenue, products are sold in countries with higher purchasing power. Therefore, much of the consumption in high-income countries represent a shift of the environmental impact to inhabitants in low-income countries"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.28.

On solar energy being of interest only for the affluent:
"The fact remains that 86 percent of the global energy production is today (2011) based on fossil fuels, while only one per mille is based on solar power. Of this single per mille, 80 percent is produced in five of the world's richest countries (Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Spain), and solar power accounts for less than one percent of the total energy production in all of these countries. ... That solar power, despite high expectations, continues to be more expensive than the fossil energy that subsidises it tells us both that the possibilities of solar replacing oil, coal and gas is very doubtful and also that it continues to be available only in the most affluent sectors in the world system."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.30.

Germans rather than Algerians will benefit from Algerian solar panels:
"Our collective dream of technical salvation beyond the oil peak rests on ... fragile grounds ... The solar energy produced by Sahara's solar panels will be reserved for those who can afford it - more likely German than Algerians. In other words the same global elite that today can afford to buy oil."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.32-33.

On externalities as being a prerequisite for capitalism to work:
"Both scientists and the public tend to perceive technological innovations as improvements that contribute to a progressively higher efficiency of the economy. Contrary to this view is the *deterioration* of efficiency that paradoxically seems to increase over time such in the form of wasteful use of resources, environmental degradation and growing economic inequalities... the very prerequisite for profitability is often that the negative effects *remain* as externalities, so that companies' products can be sold at prices that consumers can pay."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.33.

The machine age is part of the past (for some):
"we must understand that what we usually call "cheap energy" reflects an experience not only from a certain historical period, but also from specific parts of the world system. Energy has been perceived as cheap only in the wealthy core countries of the world system, whose ideology of progress and development usually presents contemporary inequalities as manifestations of differences between historical stages. Draught animals and wood fuel are regarded as phenomena of the past, although they are still are a reality for significant parts of the world's population. Conversely, fossil fuel technology is perceived as a *now* rather than a *here*. But we should remember that too many Post-Soviet farmers, the machine age already belong to the past."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.42.

Is the annual solar budget large enough to maintain our current technological infrastructure?
"For two and a half centuries, the rich part of the world's population has built up a technological system based on solar energy that was stored in the Earth's crust a long time ago. Each year, we have dispersed energy equivalent to *millions* of years of organic production of significant parts of the Earth's surface. We have, in other words, relied on land areas of *the past*. The current focus on so-called biofuels (e.g. ethanol) simply represents our intention to try to maintain the same technological system but using only the ability of the *currently* available ground surface to store solar energy. There seems to exist widespread confidence that this can be done. It's all just a question of finding the right technology. But what if it can’t be done?"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.46.

On me loving ecocomic growth insamely much:
"Academics are generally expected to conduct their research in accordance to established ideals such as objectivity, integrity and intellectual honesty. Nevertheless, the social scientist’s lot is usually to work within the framework of research programs that have been formulated by the politicians who ultimately control their funding and that through subtle selection processes make sure that no key university positions are given to people who have something subversive to say about growth and development."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.50.

On three approaches to global sustainability:
"There seem to be three possible ways to relate to the issue of global sustainability. The first is to deny that there are any problems that can not be solved by the market and by new technologies. The second is to admit that prevailing trends will lead to a disaster if we fail to implement comprehensive political and cultural reforms, but to continue to believe that such reforms are realistic. The third is to acknowledge the risk of a disaster, but to not yet be able to imagine realistic strategies to prevent it.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.57.

On the term ”resilience” as a cop-out:
"The trust in solutions can in fact often be a prerequisite for admitting that there are problems. Depictions of our socioeconomic dilemma that do not simultaneously highlight viable solutions have a tendency to be rejected. … It is not difficult, against this background, to understand why global discussions about sustainable development both in the academic and the political world are dominated by assumptions of consensus and of playing down barriers to implementing necessary measures and reforms. To remain credible, both politicians and researchers are expected to take a deeply critical approach to current consumption and transportation patterns as well as energy consumption, but to at the same time offer ways to sustainability that does not appear to be too uncomfortable or provocative. This explains why the slogan of the early twentieth century isn’t "revolution" (as in the early 20th century) but rather "resilience”.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.58.

On replacing maids with vacuum cleaners:
"The logic behind a fifth century AD Roman citizen's decision to build a water mill instead of buying slaves is basically the same as those decisions taken fifteen hundred years later by the affluent middle class deciding to buy vacuum cleaners or washing machines instead of hiring maids. In both cases, the owners of the machines could imagine that technical advances have abolished low-value work tasks. In both cases, however, a closer acquaintance with the socio-economic conditions under which the new technology is produced and maintained would probably have given them a completely different perspective. To take the most closely related example, it is today not self evident that workers who build vacuum cleaners in Chinese factories are better off than US maids."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.78.

On rampant legal slavery in modern societies:
"If the term "slavery" is not given a narrow definition that only means being a victim of direct violence but, more generally, being forced to perform alienating low status jobs for a privileged elite, then a very large proportion of the world's population could be considered slaves. Ostensibly neutral concepts like "technology" and "the world market" transfers their work and resources to an affluent minority with high purchasing power"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.79.

On land and energy as two sides of the same coin:
"Up until the Industrial Revolution, the needs for energy and land were the same and they were linked by the production of food for human labor and feed for draught animals. However, during the last two centuries, during the fossil fuel epoch, the needs for land and the needs for energy have been separated from each other both in real and conceptual terms... When we now, in the modern industrial societies, begin to realise that peak oil and climate change may force us to become increasingly dependent on ”biofuels”, we actually imagine a future where the need for land and the need for energy will again coincide."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.84-85.

On empire and its asymmetrical relations to the periphery:
"It is often said that globalisation is not a new phenomenon. Processes that lead to increasingly widespread societal relations across vast distances can be traced centuries and even thousands of years back in time. A frequently overlooked aspect of these processes is that more highly "developed" regions - civilisation centres - tend to establish asymmetric relationships to their local or global peripheries which enables the accumulation of resources in the centre and often leads to environmental degradation in the peripheries."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.112.

On famine as lack of money rather than the lack of food:
"The intensification of agriculture is usually depicted as a process of technological improvements whose purpose it is to supply more and more people with food, but famine … isn’t usually as much about shortages of food in absolute terms as it’s about some groups of people not having access to food. This has, during the last centuries, mostly been an issue of who can afford to buy food. Intensive farming tends to focus on producing foodstuffs for export and food is often exported from areas that are suffering from famine."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.119.

On what globalisation means for environmental problems:
"Although the appearance of a cleaner, seemingly dematerialised economy in more affluent countries might make it seem like economic growth is good for the environment, such a conclusion is an illusion. An alternative interpretation is that economic growth makes it possible to shift a country's environmental impacts onto other, poorer countries. In the era of globalisation, it should no longer be possible to imagine that one nation's geographical borders, its economic activities and its environmental impact coincide. To invoke a direct relationship between a nation’s GDP and its environmental quality in order to draw conclusions about the relationship between economic growth and environmental impact is based on exactly such unreasonable assumptions... one should, on the contrary, expect that one nation's environmental problems can represent the flip side of another nation's wealth."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.126-127.

Slamming the celebrated environmental author McNeill:
"J.R. McNeill's acclaimed book, *Something New Under the Sun* ... focuses on the environmental history of the 20th century ... His description reflects extensive knowledge, but the analytical interpretations are based solely on common sense and rarely exceed the general public's perceptions of environmental history.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.138.

On where resources come from and where they end up:
"While extraction zones tend to suffer from losses of biodiversity, soil, fish stocks and other vital resources, the economic centres of the world system have been affected by air pollution, acidification, eutrophication, accumulation of heavy metals and waste management issues. While the former problems are due to the deprivation of resources, the latter are associated with a concentration of material and energy consumption."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.156.

On the magic behind the British 19th century population explosion:
"During the 19th century, England's sugar imports grew by a factor of eleven, its carbon consumption by a factor of fourteen and its cotton imports by a factor of twenty. But the year 1900 these three products represented access to over 200 million hectares of productive land. ... It should be noted that Britain's total area is less than 24 million hectares. Import and extraction of these and other products was for the most part funded by the revenue from British textile exports. In other words, the whole point was that the intensive drive to develop mechanised mass production gave England access to an increasing number and amount of resources beyond the geographic area of the country itself."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.174

On the existence of non-negotiable limits:
"The real problem is the enormous differences in purchasing power, and the fact that only half of the arable land is used for food production, and that one third of the harvested food is destroyed or thrown away. It is not newborn Indians or Africans who are the biggest threat to "global sustainable development", but newborn Swedes and Americans. [Thomas] Malthus realised that there are absolutely physical limits to growth and to withdrawing resources. The fact that most economists and advocates for economic growth can dismiss this obvious ecological truth is very strange. Although no one can predict exactly when or where in the world such boundaries are reached, their existence are a given. Those bigger crops that instil so much hope in growth optimists have primarily been based on imports of guano, phosphates, oil and other resources from the global periphery. Is it this kind of resource-intensive farming they want to globalize?"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.177.

On energy along the y and the x axis:
"The confidence in technological salvation ... is cherished by all ideologies - red, green and blue. Beyond our oil dependence, we hope for renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and biofuels, without realising that it was precisely these energy sources that our pre-industrial ancestors relied on and utilised as efficiently as possible. ... When our energy is no longer taken from the borehole in the ground, but from horizontal land areas, the competition for land between energy and food production, that the representatives of the industrial revolution thought we had overcome, will resurface"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.178.

On rails’ winners and loser:
"Time and space can be redistributed in the world system through uneven exchange... An early and relatively simple example is the construction of rail in the mid 1800s which saved time and offered more space for those who could afford to pay for its use. But this happened at the expense of the enormous amount of time that was extracted from the great armies of miners, forest workers, steel workers and navvies as well as at the expense of the vast natural spaces where forests were clearcut and opencast mines were all that remained of those landscapes that were sacrificed in the name of technological progress.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.189.

On appropriating other countries’ resources then and now:
"Various factors have been decisive bottlenecks at different times and places. Europe in the 19th century, for example, was in need of additional land, but was more than self-sufficient in fossil energy. The United States, on the other hand, is on the other hand in need of imported energy but has abundant access to agricultural land. Against this background, it is perfectly logical that Europe's colonial war was largely a struggle for land, while the United States’ modern wars in the Middle East is about oil."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.199.

On producing food for 30 billion humans:
"only about half of the world's 1.5 billion hectares of agricultural land is used for satisfying basic human needs of food - the rest is used for the production of fibres, lubricants, agrofuels, animal feed, tobacco, colonial drinks such as coffee and tea, exclusive fruits, etc. Of the food that is actually produced, a third is thrown away or discarded. A colleague of mine has estimated that if everyone was vegan, there would be room for thirty billion people on our planet without requiring further cultivation of lands."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.202.

On defining ”power” in terms of access to resources:
"A general definition of power can be based on the observation that it is all about unequal access to material resources of various kinds, including energy. However, in order to be complete, a general definition of power must also explain how these inequalities are maintained socially. A reasonable suggestion is that most fundamental, but at least conspicuous, way of maintaining social inequalities is cultural mystification, i.e., making them either invisible or obvious and "natural." This is simultaneously a highly compressed definition of the term "ideology”."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.237.

On consuming our children’s future welfare:
"Modern technologies can not be made available to all people on earth, but instead represent strategies for redistributing time and space in a global society. In the longer term, fossil fuel-driven technologies furthermore mean that today's expansion of rich people's living space happens at the expense of future generations whose opportunities will be limited by exhausted oil wells and by climate change"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.246.

Game over for the dream of a comprehensive welfare state:
"The visions of the political left a world of rich, equal high-tech states [is] no longer credible. Scandinavia of the 1960s, which for many has functioned as a development model to aim for, now appears to be a privileged corner of the world that was favoured by the successes of its export industries on a capitalist world market ... The levels of consumption - not least of fossil fuels - maintained by the average Scandinavian are neither physically possible for the seven million people of the Earth nor are they defensible from a global sustainability and climate perspective. Ambitious state-instituted welfare programs are possible only for as long as they domestic export industries are not relocated to countries with lower wages and taxes, or as long as welfare and consumption can be financed by credit."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.247.

On economic ”science” as ideology production:
"If economic science ... can be said to constitute an ideology ... it is even more interesting to examine just those aspects that economic analyses usually keep outside the field of view. ... How does the idea of morally neutral "world market prices" conceal asymmetric flows of work hours and land areas as if it was a matter of en equal exchange? Why do we represent the technological capacity of a particular population as independent of that population's position in a global system of uneven resource flows?"
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.255.

On 19th century economists obfuscating uncomfortable truths:
"Early British economists like David Ricardo preferred not to explain their successes in the stock market by referring to the profitable slave trade or the predatory extraction of natural resources in the periphery of the colonial world. At that time in history and based on their social position, a British financier simply could not worry about unequal exchange. He must instead assume that monetary value is the only important benchmark and consider land, labor and capital as mutually interchangeable, and praise free trade as the very basis of economic growth. ... In order to prepare the way for industrial capitalism, it must obscure the uneven exchange of invested work and land areas used by observing only monetary prices."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.267.

On double standards for trade:
"Harts book ... shows how powerful political entities like the United States and the EU beyond all rhetoric of free trade actually apply a very ”unfree” trade policy, especially in relation to agricultural products. The belief that all values are not freely substitutable is apparently as basic to nation states as it is to individual market actors. ... Agricultural land and its products are not like other commodities. It has not been difficult for the US and the EU to formulate good reasons for preserving, to a certain extent, their rural areas - socially as well as ecologically - rather than letting them becoming victims of competition from economically more efficient producers elsewhere in the world... It is without doubt remarkable that these powerful actors actually apply such protectionist policies at home since they have consistently denied ... their counterparts in the global South to apply the same measures."
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.272-273.

On encouraging local economies through local money:
"Let's imagine that a nation - a state - would seriously want to reduce its transports, its oil dependency and its carbon dioxide emissions, and that it found that the best way to achieve all of these goals would be to encourage its residents to consume more *local* goods and services. It could then print a special currency ... which could only be used for a clearly defined sphere of goods and services that are local in the dual sense of them being locally produced *and* necessary for local survival. These local goods and services would for example including basic foodstuffs, wood fuel, building materials, carpentry and other crafts, short-distance transports, childcare, simpler health care and other types of care. … The basic idea is that the authorities actively encourage an alternative market for the tax-free, mutual exchange of local goods and services.”
Hornborg, A. (2015). The zero sum game, p.277-279.
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