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Sunday Drop - 1st May 2016

On Maintaining

Following a lead from Courtney's post this essay Hail the Maintainers really resonated.

Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end?

A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about? What kind of society do we want to live in? Will this help get us there? We must shift from means, including the technologies that underpin our everyday actions, to ends, including the many kinds of social beneficence and improvement that technology can offer.

Our increasingly unequal and fearful world would be grateful.

In education we're constantly looking to validate and prove ourselves as "future focused" and "innovative" - and yet we know deep down that the thing that really matters, is being there on a daily basis - for students, with students - doing often plain, simple, ordinary tasks.

Tasks that engage, motivate, enthuse and foster them as humans. Tasks that don't require marketing or PR.

To hail teachers as maintainers would be a refreshing revelation - to value them for that plain, ordinary thing they do each day, that means students return to their homes feeling whole and valued.

The author of that essay, Lee Vinsel, was one of the organisers of The Maintainers: A Conference and the programme contains a number of the presented papers, which are well worth perusing.

Vinsel's paper "The Stories We Tell, or, Mary Poppins, Maintainer" closes with a passionate call for critical reflection.

What values are embedded in the tales, for instance, that we recount to our children? I know so many young people who are literally all fucked up and tied in knots because their parents and elders have told them that they must get STEM degrees, that they must be innovators, that they must be “game changers,” “thought leaders,” “entrepreneurs,” and a host of other hollow buzzwords attached to contemporary self-identity, which they use to litter their Twitter profiles. These are the only stories these young people know how to tell; they tell them of themselves, or try to.

But what are our true values? What are we trying to do? How can our yarns, include our histories of technology, embody care? How can we provide alternative narratives to act as a kind of counter-weight to innovations’ hegemony?

All of these questions remind us of something quite basic: that we are technology’s storytellers, and that we must take responsibility for that act.

As teachers, as school leaders, as parents, who stand in front of children, how are we taking daily responsibility for the technology stories that really matter?

This story from RadioLab on Surya Bonaly is intriguing, moving and as a piece of oral story-telling, very well edited. The fact that the episode is getting so many comments about the race aspect is informative also.

I ended up watching ice skating routines, and being impressed at the physical spectacles and a little bemused by the artistic meritocracy that's contained within the scoring system, but to the untrained eye, is almost impossible to detect.

Finally, there have been so many Prince performances and reflections over the past week, but I've listened and watched both of these quite a few times.

I never got to see Prince perform live, and the only story I have is from my old mate Brian Mahoney, who was on a stage crew in the UK, at an event Prince was taking part in. Prince stepped on stage to do his sound check, and the entire crew stopped what they were doing to watch.

As bPm said, "The man had more talent in his little finger than any other musician there".

Truly he did, as these two clips demonstrate.


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