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Review: Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech

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Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wachter-Boettcher's book on understanding the exclusionary power and privilege of technology is must-read for anyone who works in technology or with technology (which yes, means the vast majority of us). She moves through a variety of technologies, platforms, and systems to show how while useful, technology also privileges certain groups of people and excludes other and that if technology is going to truly meaningful and transformative, it needs to be inclusive. She does this by look at different technology and raise questions around questions of edge-cases (people who do not fit the mold of how tech designer assume will fit into their technology or who were not prepared for such people), intentional design made to rush users rather than engage them, and how companies have histories of abusing or not protecting the information they gather on users. It&…

November's Bookshelf

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As you'll see, I got into reviewing books this month a bit more.  I have several reasons as to why.  The first is that books are conversations and after reading one, I sometimes have a lot to say in return.  The second is that I've been getting more requests from friends and readers to hear more about what I think about certain books and so I'm happy to indulge in some reflecting.  The third is just that I find I retain more (that reflecting thing) when I write a bit about what I read and what resonated (or didn't) with my reading.  Finally, it gives me something to put on the blog, right?  

In other news, I broke my 200 book goal for reading in 2018 and at the time of writing this (the last week in November), I'm at 210.  I have a forthcoming post about reading practices that may highlight some of this.  As I close in on December though, I'm hoping that I achieving my other reading goal of the year which is to read at least 24 physical books.  I read lots of ph…

Review: The Fifth Season

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am late to the game with this one but I blame that on my aversion to picking up book series that aren't finished yet. You can blame Robert Jordan for that one--and if you don't know who he is, well, imagine Lord of the Rings, like ten more books over varying lengths between 600-1000 pages; and the author dies before finishing it. So I don't like to start something unless I know it's finished and since the third book was recently published, I was excited to finally read The Fifth Season because everyone that knows me, said I should read it. The story is a masterclass in world building and merging science-fiction and fantasy in compelling ways. I appreciated the character development and how we are given a lens into the lives of humans that are both like us and far different.

The premise is it is the future of Earth in a time of environmental disaster; but so far into the future that the world we know has been forgo…

PhD Chronicles: The Partners of Doc Students

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I dedicate this post to my partner, Christine.  She's been my rock, my superstar, my support, and the swift-kick-in-the-ass when I needed it with the program or when I wasn't holding my own at home.  She deserves as much credit for my success as I do.

I want to talk about being in a doctoral program and having a romantic partner in one's life, because for many of us, that's the situation we find ourselves as we enter into a doctoral program such as the one I'm in, which is geared towards established professionals in their 30s and beyond (not saying others are not part of the group, but this is the clear demographic).

It takes a lot to dedicate 3 years of  Fridays during the semester and three 3-weeks in June.  It forgoes many different opportunities and possibilities.  It limits what can be done during the week and the weekends.  It becomes a serious part of your life (and it should).  But if you are working full time and in a relationship with someone and in a docto…

Review: Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms

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Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walker provides a good collection of tips and considerations about the ways in which one might try to blend some of the best features of Finnish classrooms with American classrooms. Acknowledging that to completely model the Finnish education system, a system that has been heralded as creating amazing changes in teaching and learning in the last few decades, is unreal since the US does not have the same values or mechanisms to transition, Walker delves into thinking about the smaller pieces that teachers themselves can easily practice or incorporate into their teacher. His advice comes from spending several years teaching in Finland after he had taught in the US. Some of his tips are as simple as getting students up and moving or make sure there is fresh air, while others require rethinking one's practice and being a bit more mindful in the moment. While not all may be applica…

Review: Introducing Baudrillard

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Introducing Baudrillard by Chris Horrocks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Horrocks and Zoran Jevtic set out to explain the range and complexity of Baudrillard's works mixed with specs of biography through a mixture of exposition, quotations, and largely, reproduced or augmented images. The book (or graphic novel or mix-media, depending on one’s definition) is ambitious in its attempt to explain Baudrillard solely within his words and direct sentiments or that of other critics while simultaneously playfully mixing in images of and depictions of his discussion and Baudrillard, himself.

The book begins with several pages raising the question of who is Baudrillard and why is he important before switching into a short one-page biography that glosses over largely the first 37 years of his life, from his birth in Algiers to studying at the Lycee and his intellectual forefathers (Satre and Lefebvre). From there, the book hops about and often sprints through a series of topics that it both trie…

Data for Dollars: Apps that Pay

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In the last two years, there's been a handful of apps that I've picked up on my phone that contribute to a trickling of money or gift cards back to me.  I wouldn't call it free money but it is easy'ish money.  Some require a bit of extra work (answering short surveys of 8-10 questions, taking a photo of receipts, choosing between different options); but others just require you to set it up and then run a bit on their own.  

As I hint in the title and in the previous paragraph; there is an exchange going on here.  I'm exchanging various personal data (purchases, preferences, and health data) over to these companies.  Of course, we all know that we're all doing that in myriad ways already.  In these cases, I'm at least getting something more substantial in return.  But I would definitely emphasize that if you're uncomfortable with such data exchanges, some of these will not be of interest.  But since we're approaching the time of year when spending goe…

Review: The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

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The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class by David R. Roediger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roediger's text is a fascinating and powerful read in thinking about whiteness and its implications for the 21st century. While it is focused on the 18th and 19th century, it seems like so much of its discussion around how whiteness itself is fused into conceptions of work and identity and purposely contrasted against non-white identities (primarily African American in this case but applicable beyond that). Through the book, he identifies interesting tensions that were parsed out through language, law, and even violence to meld together a white consciousness with American conceptions of working class. He shows in innumerable examples a conscious effort by whites who often performed the same labor as African Americans to assert their distinctness in a game of "I may be working class but at least I'm not black"--a refrain that has historically been inten…