13 June 2016

Because I Love You

I attended the Eyeo Festival last week. "Eyeo assembles an incredible set of creative coders, data designers, artists, and attendees---expect enthralling talks, unique workshops and interactions with open source instigators and super fascinating practitioners." It is not an education conference---in fact, the lack of K-12 public ed in the conversation was very noticeable. But I had selected this as a learning experience knowing I would have to apply my own lens.

This is the only conference I've ever been to that resulted in my feeling inspired and creative. Every other one has had learning outcomes...and this is all right. It's not that one takeaway is better than another. When I go to an ASCD conference or an assessment workshop, I expect to learn things that have direct application to my daily work. I want that. With Eyeo, there were 45-minute talks by a presenter. No activities, turn-and-talk, or other "engagement" strategies that education conferences expect. But these simple and straightforward presentations of a creative process or project were enough in and of themselves. I really appreciated that.

My full Eyeo recap is posted on my other blog. Here, I want to focus on one session...and why I can't stop thinking about it. Marek Tuszynski from the Tactical Technology Collective shared their recent exhibition: The View from the White Room. (i.e., looking out from an Apple store.) The show looked at questions such as What does it mean to live in a quantified society? and What is the value of data privacy when it becomes something you can buy?

Part of the exhibit included something called Big Mama---a riff on Big Brother. It was twisted to accommodate a quote from a government official justifying surveillance. He said that what he did was necessary because "I love you all."

This concept took my breath away, because it sounds so much like what we do in schools. We love you, kiddos, so give us your data. Give us your learning...your assessments...your demographics...your attendance...your health information. We love you and need to continue collecting all of that to keep loving you.

Tuszynski also made the connection between the contribution of data and a harmonious society. Be a good citizen...a good student...and give us your data. It's not only for your own good, it's in the best interests of everyone.

I understand that this is a cynical view. I also understand that what was shared at the conference is derived from a context of living in an eastern European society. History gives them a necessarily darker view on the actions of the state. But even knowing all that, I had to take a long walk after the session and think about all the data currently percolating in the background of public education. I want to think that we have nobler reasons than Big Mama...that our smiles and talk of love are not driven by data.





Update
Here is Marek Tuszynski's full talk--well worth your time.


Eyeo 2016 – Marek Tuszynski from Eyeo Festival  //  INSTINT on Vimeo.