education

Social-Community Awareness and Responsibility

Andy Lai
Dragon Tribe International School, Evergreen State College

Archeodata

Problem: 
The amount of information that we have gathered as a species, be it in digital, analog or mental formats, is staggering, but a great deal of it has simply been abandoned after it's discovery or creation. The amount of man-hours dedicated to the countless forms of information analysis by as many individuals is incalculable, but a vast array of results from those analyses is or could be readily available to any community seeking niche information. At the time of writing this entry, it was estimated that there exists over 295 exabytes of information stored digitally. A fair amount of this information may be corrupted, duplicates or even the product of random generation, but a fair amount of it is also unique.
Context: 

Archeodata is distinctly separate from cultural knowledge in that the information it contains was only relevant to it's pursuer(s) and was later abandoned. This does not necessarily mean the information has been lost completely, only that it has been virtually forgotten and/or assumed to have no value. Possible examples could include analytic or statistical data, blueprints, music or computer code, while examples such as social mores, traditions, biological drives, simple relics, physical remains or any modern common knowledge (regardless of "age"/source) would not constitute archeodata. While the medium containing the data itself can sometimes offer addition physical data, what is important to defining archeodata is the presence of qualitative and/or quantitative information that has for all intents and purposes been abandoned, but can/could be accessed and applied to developing new, "cutting edge" perspectives.

Discussion: 
As a species we excel at information organization and dissemination. We are rare in that we are capable of mirroring behavior we have not physically seen but instead visualized through analysis of abstract information. The historic correlation between new methods of information dispersal and social "progress" is well accepted, e.g. the advent of writing, the creation of the printing press and telegraph, television and radios. These new technologies have, over the centuries, allowed progressively more information to be made accessible, and with modern digital communication we are now able to disseminate vast amounts of information quickly and easily.
 
Humanity is the only species known to encode and transmit information through abstract symbolism, i.e. writing, allowing a healthy amount of current understanding to have already been built on archeodata. Modern archaeology and anthropology are focus heavily on the recovery and study of ancient archeodata while many of the modern "hard" sciences owe significant breakthroughs to the recovery and synthesis of the same. For example, during the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak Dr John Snow tracked outbreaks of the disease using a standard dot map/Voronoi diagram, then famously used the data to identify the source of the outbreak as the public well on Broad Street. Afterwards, officials rejected his assertion that water was responsible for bearing the disease and his data was abandoned until 1866 when his information was used to combat a similar outbreak in Bromley. These studies were of minor interest to the medical community at the time, but several decades later were of great interest to Pasteur, Cook and Lister as they established modern germ theory. More recently, there is much debate on the ethics of using data from the infamous Nazi freezing experiments, which remains some of our only data on death from exposure. Conversely, after the death of Nokolai Tesla many of his notes were initially seized by the US government, and after declassification showed theories applicable to to modern plasma torches, radar and wireless networks.
 
The issue of privacy does not apply to true archeodata because it has, by nature, been abandoned or lost, and thus assumed to possess no value by laypersons. Information is only considered sensitive or private when it's dispersal could potentially impact ones freedoms, but this obviously does not apply to what has been discarded. For example, online fetish communities often include a clause in their membership agreement that members cannot use any information about other members obtained through any means for any purpose; this is done with the stated intention of creating a "safe space" or judgement-free community where members can explore interests without social repercussions. Likewise, government surveillance of citizens is a hotly debated topic with similar arguments for and against, where, conversely, examining the sexuality of various historic cultures is as widely accepted as our poring over ancient journals and entering tombs. A defining hallmark of archeodata is that the information holds no value to whomever, if anyone, is aware of it.
 
Much data already exists, but in addition to organization it also requires verification. For example, until the recovery and translation of Homer's epic cycle the existence of the city of Troy had been forgotten. It was found after centuries of searching evidence to verify the data that had been implied. Conversely, while the existence of Atlantis or Camelot has been implied by various recovered sources there is much more evidence against their existences then for them.  
 
Archeodata is not limited to information or statistics. A fantastic amount of software code has been written that is considered largely obsolete, ranging from machine-specific drivers to video games, and occasionally this type of information proves useful, or at least entertaining. Conversely, the rate at which software and digital hardware develop can make recovering this type of data difficult: after going out of business, the contractor that built the US military's inventory of A-10 Thunderbolts simply threw out their schematics, forcing the US Air Force to scavenge existing parts until they learned how to build suitable replacements. Similarly, NASA engineers attempting to access old Apollo mission schematics found contemporary hardware incompatible with older storage mediums while the original computers were completely inoperable. Likewise, ancient music has been the subject of much curiosity, but while many ancient instruments have been unearthed relatively few cultures through histories had developed a system of music notation and many of the ancient ones we don't know how to read. 
 
There also comes the unfortunate truth that at some point, data that is of interest to us now will also lose relevance. Our intense desire to analyze our environment is matched only by our desire to preserve our individual analyses, and it is impossible for one to predict all the ways in which information can be used. Many groups intentionally store archeodata in many forms, ranging from humble time capsules to massive national archives. Perhaps the Ur example of the intentional preperation of archeodata is Wikipedia's Terminal Event Management Policy: should a "non-localized event... render the continuation of Wikipedia in its current form untenable" occur, a series of protocols have been developed to increase the chances of the Wikimedia Foundations data banks being preserved. The "worst-case scenario" scenario, with ten minutes or less until failure, involves broadcasting the entire database, compressed, into space via radio telescopes around the world. Conversely, since 1983 the US Department of Energy has been struggling to figure out how to label nuclear waste disposal sites in such a way that their contents will be recognizable as dangerous for the length of their existence, or about 10,000 years. It feels safe to assume that in the space of that time our language and culture may be lost where artifacts remain, thus leaving the correct archeodata in an accessible way might be our only responsible option.
 
Data is much like a physical tool in that in can be applied to achieve desired results from the natural world, and in that sense finding new data is sort of like finding that a strange tool: you recognize that it is what it is, even if you just don't know what to do with it, until that perfect moment comes along when everything "clicks" and you see exactly how it can be used. The key is to remembering that even if you can use something as a wrench, that doesn't mean you might not be able to use it later on as a screwdriver or a hammer. 
Solution: 

While the internet and digital communications have already drastically increased accessibility to archeodata, there are vast archives and databases which remain, for whatever reasons, inaccessible. Communities wishing to prepare archeodata for future discovery must preserve it accordingly in an accessible manner, whether digital or analog. The advent of digital communications allow for quick and easy dissemination of large amounts of data, but with the very real possibility of network failure or hardware malfunctions the need for backups is obvious. Adding "tags" to data, or small external pieces of information by which the larger can be identified/sorted, has also shown to be a reliable means of sorting large amounts of information, e.g. the Dewey decimal system, internet tags.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

There already exists a profound amount of information, however that is really all much of it does. Countless individuals have compiled or accumulated vast amounts of data, used it for their purposes and then left it abandoned. This does not negate the validity of their data, but it does insinuate the need for making it accessible. 

Distorting History

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
8
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

The historical record can be altered by teaching events that did not happen, altering events that did happen, or omitting events altogether.  Over time, knowledge of the truth will die with those who witnessed it, and the alternate version will be universally accepted as true.

Dumbing Down

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
9
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

The general population cannot understand complex issues and may even be confused into conflict by certain controversial topics.  This can be avoided if topics are dumbed down into easily understood emotionally charged debates that cannot be easily argued with.

Education, Inc.

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
19
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

The Privatization of education helps reverse the idea of high quality free education that potentially undergirds a truly democratic way of life.  Privatizing education can reinforce the division of society into haves and have-nots.  It can support elite instruction on the one hand and cheap, possibly online training on the other augmented of course with a non-stop barrage of standardized testing.  It can erode the role of dedicated teachers and substitute with business goals and software.

Assembly Line Education

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
21
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

This method of educating students was invented during the industrial revolution, when the main goal of public education was to move children through a school system to become "cogs" in the machine of society.  Although that time has passed, our main system of education has not.  Standardized testing is a big help here since it removes the particular circumstances of the students and promotes teaching to the test.  This kind of education is cheap, if nothing else.

Consumerism

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
4
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Quality of life is ultimately measured by on the acquisition and display of material goods. At the heart of consumerism is the thought that the “good life” can be purchased. Consumerism also contains a set of standards through which people can be judged based on material wealth.

Civic Ignorance

Pattern ID: 
666
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
1
Social Imagination and Civic Intelligence Program
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
3
Discussion: 

We place civic ignorance at the top of our anti-patterns collection because civic ignorance is at the core of everything that human beings do to each other that is harmful.

Civic ignorance takes different forms; it is their sum total and the perfidious interaction among the various forms that creates the Agnosphere, the ubiquitous shroud that fights civic intelligence on all fronts.

It is often quite “natural” and occurs in all of us to some degree. It is most menacing in its professional varieties, when well-resourced and self-serving elites intentionally cultivate ignorance. Historically, in the United States, the tobacco companies were the most treacherous and whose campaigns can be credited with thousands if not millions of unnecessary deaths. Currently the climate change denial campaign is the most prominent and much of the intentionally spread misinformation can be traced back to a handful of dedicated billionaires.

How it Works

Civic ignorance is assured in many ways — in general, that's what we're trying to show with our project. Fixating on certain hard-and-fast "truisms" is important. Blaming the other person is important. On an individual level, not even listening to a argument that runs counter to your own is effective since that avoids any real consideration of the issue. From an institutional level, access to information and communication should be controlled by elites. The items on the public agenda should be restricted — but it should not seem like this is the case. Finally, critics of the system should be marginalized or ignored.

Evidence

Links

All of the anti-patterns are related to this!

References

Agnotology book

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Civic ignorance describes how well a group or person ignores the civic ideas, problems, or solutions of those surrounding them. The need to solve problems intelligently and taking account of all solutions is cast away in favor of the quick, the easy, and the brutal. Maybe the problem will just go away? Critics of this should be marginalized, ignored or otherwise disabled or destroyed.

Transformative Holidays

Version: 
1
Discussion: 

Suggestions by Gerald Dillenbeck: I imagine living in a U.S. culture that celebrates "Vocation Day," inclusive of Labor; "Nurturance Day," inclusive of Mothers; "Interdependence Day," inclusive of Independence and Freedom and Security; "Creativity Day," inclusive of Christmas, "Regeneration Day," inclusive of Easter, "New Seasons Day," inclusive of New Years, "Visioning Day," inclusive of Memorial, "Gratitude Day," inclusive of Thanksgiving, "Mentors Day," inclusive of Presidents, and maybe even the perennial kids' favorite "Enlightenment Day," inclusive of Halloween.

Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Social Movement
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