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26 JULY 2016

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?

"Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the world. But if you step back and look at what freedom actually means for us today, it's a strange and limited kind of freedom.

Politicians promised to liberate us from the old dead hand of bureaucracy, but they have created an evermore controlling system of social management, driven by targets and numbers. Governments committed to freedom of choice have presided over a rise in inequality and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to enforce freedom has led to bloody mayhem and the rise of an authoritarian anti-democratic Islamism. This, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain. In response, the Government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.

The Trap is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom. This model was derived from ideas and techniques developed by nuclear strategists during the Cold War to control the behavior of the Soviet enemy."

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TAGS

2007 • A Beautiful Mind (2001) • Adam CurtisAfghanistan • anti-democratic • authoritarianismBBC Two • bloody mayhem • cold war • contemporary idea of freedom • controlling system • deterministic logicdocumentary seriesexplicit objectivesfreedom of choicegame theory • goal-oriented agenda • government policygrand political dreamhuman behaviourindividual freedomindividualismIraqIslamism • John Nash • limited kind of freedom • mathematical modelmetricisation • narrow idea of freedom • neoliberalism • nuclear strategists • operational criteriaoversimplificationpersonal freedom • point of equilibrium • rational self-interest • Ronald David Laing • self-monitoring • simplistic model • social inequality • social management • social mobility • Soviet Union • state control • systems theory • target-oriented agenda • targets and numbers • the dream of our age

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 OCTOBER 2013

Creating a Technical Specification

"A technical specification is a document that defines a set of requirements that a product or assembly must meet or exceed. A product or assembly that does not meet all of the specifically expressed requirements does not meet the specification, and often is referred to as being out of specification or 'out of spec.' Specifications are used when a contract for technical products or services is issued. The technical specification defines the requirements to fulfill the contract."

(WikiHow)

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abbreviations • appropriately complex representation • business document • clarity of thought • closed specification • contractual requirements • description of realitydesign projects • detailed specification • direct sentences • explicit definitionsexplicit meaningexplicit objectives • general requirements • industry terms • jargon • open specification • operational criteriaoperational definitions • out of spec • out of specification • performance requirements • precision • product or assembly • product requirements • professional communication practices • project specification • quantification of variablesquantified measurement • required performances • requirements gatheringrequirements process • set of requirements • software engineeringspecification • technical product • technical requirements • technical specification • TLA

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
16 MARCH 2013

Complex representations not simple quantified measurement

"Primarily because of its association with achievements in the physical sciences, quantified measurement seems a step toward enhanced precision. But, precision, as understood here, means more than reliability and validity; it also requires appropriately complex representation of the target construct. In phenomenological terms, precision refers to the distinctiveness that fosters reliability, the coherence that assures validity, and the richness that is appropriate to the targeted phenomenon. First, distinctiveness is the extent to which a phenomenon is discriminable from others. Judgments about distinctiveness require more than explicit (e.g., operational) definitions. They require the capacity to anticipate attributes that remain implicit in even the most explicitly conceived phenomenon and, on the basis of those implicit meanings, to consistently verify that phenomenon's presence or absence. Second, coherence is the extent to which judgments about the attribute structure of a particular phenomenon are congruent. Short of logical entailment but beyond associative contingency, judgments about coherence require consideration of both the explicit and implicit meanings of the attribute structure they describe. Third, richness is the extent to which judgments about a phenomenon capture its complexity and intricacy. Richness entails full differentiation of a phenomenon's attributes, identification of its attribute structure, and appreciation of its structural incongruities."

(Don Kuiken and David Miall, 2001)

[4] profiles and the ideal prototype. This numeric assessment of degree involves profiles of attributes rather than individual attributes. Although we appreciate the potential importance of the latter (see note 3), we have not attempted to address the analytic problems that arise from the combination of nominal and ordinal variables in estimates of profile similarity. It should be noted, however, that some available software facilitates the assessment of ordinal information during attribute identification (cf. KUCKARTZ 1995; WEITZMAN & MILES 1995). The possibility of coordinating ordinal and nominal attribute judgments deserves further consideration.

Kuiken, Don & Miall, David S. (2001). "Numerically Aided Phenomenology: Procedures for Investigating Categories of Experience." [68 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(1), Art. 15, http://nbn–resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114– fqs0101153.

TAGS

2001academic journalappropriately complex representation • associative contingency • coherencecomplexity • David Miall • differentiation • discriminable • distinctiveness • Don Kuiken • Eben Weitzman • explicit definitionsexplicit knowledgeexplicit meaningexplicit objectivesexplicitly definedForum Qualitative Social ResearchFQSimplicit informationimplicit meaning • implicitly • imprecision • intricacyinvestigative praxis • judgments • logical entailment • Matthew Miles • online journaloperational criteriaoperational definitionsphenomenologicalphenomenonphysical sciencesprecisionqualitative researchquantification of variablesquantified measurementreliabilityreliability and validityrich descriptions • richness • structural incongruities • target construct • targeted phenomenon • Udo Kuckartz • validity

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
30 JUNE 2011

Beyond Usability: Process, Outcome and Affect in human computer interactions

"Currently, our best theories are limited in terms of their applicability to design. However, we cannot retreat into the easy empiricism of current usability perspectives where everything is measured in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Theory building must occur if we are to have long term impact and the diversity of experiences users can have with technology are not simply reduced to these operational criteria. We need to stretch our conception of interaction beyond performance and simple likes/dislikes. I argue for a richer sense of user experience, one that allows for aesthetics as much as efficiency and the creation of community discourse forms over time as much as the measurement of effectiveness in a single task. There is much work ahead but unless we embrace these issues as part of our research agenda, then the study of HCI will forever be piecemeal and weak, and its results will find little positive reception among the many designers and consumers who could most benefit from them."

(Andrew Dillon)

Dillon, A. (2001) Beyond usability: process, outcome and affect in human–computer interactions. Canadian Journal of Library and Information Science, 26(4), 57–69.

[Dillon argues for a richer sense of what constitutes web usability and resists the easy empiricism espoused by most usability engineers.]

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aestheticsamateurism • Andrew Dillon • crisis of empiricism • cult of the amateur • diversity of experienceseasy empiricism • effectiveness • efficiencyengineeringHCImeasurementoperational criteriaperformanceperformativitypseudo science of web usabilitypseudosciencepsychologyrich user experiencesatisfactionsimple evaluationssingle task • stretch our conceptions • theoretical contexttheoretical reflectionuninformed perspectivesusability • usability perspectives • user experienceusers • web usability • web usability science

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 FEBRUARY 2004

non-places: when functionality is prized more highly than experience

"But the real non–places of supertnodernity – the ones we inhabit when we are driving down the motorway, wandering through the supermarket or sitting in an airport lounge waiting for the next flight to London or Marseille – have the peculiarity that they are defined partly by the words and texts they offer us: their 'instructions for use', which may be prescriptive ('Take right–hand lane'), prohibitive ('No smoking') or informative ('You are now entering the Beaujalais region'). Sometimes these are couched in more explicit and codified ideograms (an road signs, maps and tourist guides), sometimes in ordinary language. This establishes the traffic conditions of spaces in which individuals are supposed to interact only with texts, whose proponents are not individuals but 'moral entities' or institutions (airports, airlines, Ministry of Transport, commercial companies, traffic police, municipal councils); sometimes their presence is explicitly stated ('this road section financed by the General Council', 'the state is working to improve your living conditions'), sometimes it is only vaguely discernible behind the injunctions, advice, commentaries and 'messages' transmitted by the innumerable 'supports' (signboards, screens, posters) that form an integral part of the contemporary landscape.

France's well–designed autoroutes reveal landscapes somewhat reminiscent of aerial views, very different from the ones seen by travellers on the old national and departmental main roads. They represent, as it were, a change from intimist cinema to the big sky of Westerns. But it is the texts planted along the wayside that tell us about the landscape and make its secret beauties explicit. Main roads no longer pass through towns, but lists of their notable features – and, indeed, a whole commentary – appear on big signboards nearby. In a sense the traveller is absolved of the need to stop or even look. Thus, drivers batting down the auto route du sud are urged to pay attention to a thirteenth–century fortified village, a renowned vine–yard, the 'eternal hill' of Vezelay, the landscapes of the Avallonnais and even those of Cezanne (the return of culture into a nature which is concealed, but still talked about). The landscape keeps its distance, but its natural or architectural details give rise to a text, sometimes supplemented by a schematic plan when it appears that the passing traveller is not really in a position to see the remarkable feature drawn to his attention, and thus has to derive what pleasure he can from the mere knowledge of its proximity."

(Marc Augé pp.96–97)

Augé, Marc. 1995 Non–Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London/New York, : Verso.

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