Bonum Certa Men Certa

My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part II — Impact of a 'COVID Year'

By Dr. Andy Farnell

Series parts:

  1. My Year as a Digital Vegan — Part I — 2021 in Review
  2. YOU ARE HERE ☞ Impact of a 'COVID Year'


Line Check



Summary: Dr. Andy Farnell shares his experiences from this past year; he focuses on what it's like to be an educator in these troubling times with mass adoption of troubling new 'tech'

Setting reasonable limits



I've come to see tech-rights as including "digital self defence" of personal time/attention, not just networks and hosts. As well as Software Freedom, it's about defending against technologically-mediated abuse. So I wonder if my ostensible "survival" owes anything to Digital Veganism. I did hit burnout myself, but adapted and slowed down in time. As a freelancer/visiting professor for more than 20 years, self-management is wired in. Screen/ing against the tide of doom was as easy as setting some new keyword filters to pipe everything that smells funky to /dev/null. All those URGENT messages you sent were never read, and nothing of value was lost.

Dropping pointless make-work tasks and assertively advising people to revise their "expectations" of me wasn't hard. Some egos were bruised, but the upshot is that I'm still here to serve and fight another day. I wonder about the well-meaning but ultimately harmful 'pleaser' instincts we humans have against self-preservation, and how the system exploits that. Listen to the flight attendant who says "Please put on your own mask before attempting to help others".



"Technology is a tool to empower, and that means the right to use it to reverse implied power relationships."So I also noticed how some people allowed themselves to be bullied by technology they felt unable to control. Surprisingly, I disagree with the Portuguese governments move to make contacting workers out of hours illegal. I prefer a fluid, laissez-faire dynamic. Sometimes I am perfectly happy to respond as if on call, and will do extra work for a team. I am committed to those who depend on me, so long as time and mental energy allows. The flip side is that I'll tell people clearly when "that ain't happening", or even ghost them for a few days when I feel like it. The road runs both ways. Technology is a tool to empower, and that means the right to use it to reverse implied power relationships.



This year saw the emergence of abusive "bossware" and worker monitoring software. Four of my students wanted to investigate this and did brilliant projects delving into the psychology of control and productivity. In my own work, I took saying "no" and establishing firm boundaries against chaotic management one step further this year, by drawing up a "Personal Terms and Conditions". It's not iron-clad, or an excuse to be a jerk, just a statement of my values and where I draw the line on some things.



As a freelancer this is something I've always had, but only in my head, and rarely needed to explicitly discuss with clients. Now it's more formally written it's something all clients, recruiters and HR people are "deemed to have read and understood" when hiring me. That seems like a polite way to be clear in advance. It feels professional and avoids the embarrassing tedium of explaining the same points over, and hopefully carries some clout in the event of a dispute.



Inspiration came from friends in other professions who seem much more organised around creating contracts to supply analysis, legal advice, therapy, creative services, and construction work. Despite bodies like the BCS and IEEE I think in the "digital technology sector" we are rather bad as coders, trainers, developers and consultants at setting out firm expectations. I wonder whether organisations like the EFF and FSF have a role helping coders template-out ethical codes to protect creators in a similar way to how the GPL protects what we create.



I am interested in further investigating the legal force of tech workers creating their own written T&Cs as some workplaces become increasingly abusive and intrusive. Perhaps I'll set it as a project for some Law and Computing students next semester. As most individuals do, I suspect that institutions will tacitly sign-off without ever reading them properly, and so, at-will employee power relations notwithstanding, some semblance of symmetry can be reclaimed in that they are at least as effective as T&Cs written by an employer.



Remotely like learning

As the two-year mark of the pandemic approaches, I've revised my thoughts on remote learning. If you ask thirty or forty students their opinion of an online video session you won't get a straight answer. Exposed to group-think conformity pressure, while their comments are possibly being recorded… guess what they are going to say? Face-to-face the story is different. Obviously, the in-person group, who all elected to come on-campus, is selection biased too. However, what they actually tell me about remote teaching is that they hate it. And I've spoken to enough of them to know that universities are distorting the truth about this. From a tech-rights viewpoint this participation bias is interesting. A lot of mischief and misinformation is being made around it.



"From a tech-rights viewpoint this participation bias is interesting. A lot of mischief and misinformation is being made around it."The buzzword hybrid working hasn't really been thought out any deeper than "mix a little of this and that and we'll be fine". No real communication analysis, project management, data modelling or other theory seems to have been attempted in most scenarios. I appreciate it's early days, and for climate reasons a new age of highly flexible, mixed method employment is required. But we ain't there yet. Adding technology to teaching simply increases labour, and it is no substitute for human contact. I think we need to be honest about what we're valuing in edu-tech. I suspect uniformity, repeatability, and data gathering have usurped more important qualities. On reflection, hybrid teaching methods have been a good adaptation to get us though a period of crisis and ongoing uncertainty, but cannot be a "new normal".



Talking face-to-face, with pens and a board anyone can draw on is just self-evidently a vastly superior experience. Immersed in eye contact and non-verbal communications I found a much deeper connection with what students are thinking. That enables not just a denser and deeper knowledge transfer, but an inter-personal rapport regarding how much they are affected by the pandemic, by misinformation and propaganda, and how paranoia about overbearing technological social control is eating them up.

Recent Techrights' Posts

Europe's Adoption of GNU/Linux, by Country (Now About 6%)
in Switzerland, for instance, adoption of GNU/Linux has been profoundly low
Not Only Has Adoption of Windows Vista 11 Flatlined/Plateaued, Now It is Going Down!
Did many people delete Vista 11 and install GNU/Linux instead?
GNU/Linux Peaking in Europe, Android Measured as Higher or More Prevalent Than Windows
Android topping Windows
 
Techrights More Productive Than Ever Before
Today we finally crossed the 1,900-page milestone
Links 04/03/2024: Techno-Babble in Tech Job Ads and Vision Pro Already Breaking Apart
Links for the day
[Meme] 'Debating' People by Subscribing Them to Lots of SPAM
Rebuttal? No, spam.
From Sexual Harassment of Women to Yet More Cybercrimes
They can be prosecuted
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Sunday, March 03, 2024
IRC logs for Sunday, March 03, 2024
Venezuela: Windows Below 70% (Laptops and Desktops), GNU/Linux Up to 7%
It's a lot higher in Cuba
ICYMI: ZDNet Financially Controlled by Microsoft
a history of censoring SJVN's Microsoft-critical articles
Argentina Joining the 4% 'Club' (GNU/Linux on Desktops and Laptops)
Data as ODF
Transparency Sets Society Free
"Convenient delusions" aren't bliss but temporary relief
[Meme] The EPO, Europe's Second-Largest Institution, Which is Contracting With Belarus
Socialist EPO
The European Patent Office's (EPO) Illegal Ban on Mass Communication Gets in the Way of Democracy
The scientific process (patents apply to science) must allow scrutiny, both from within and from the outside
Links 03/03/2024: Depression in Hong Kong, Sex 'Apps' and STIs
Links for the day
Links Gemini 03/03/2024: NixOS and NextCloud, Back Into Ricing
Links for the day
The Debian family fallacy
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
For Every Action There's a Reaction
Gates lobbying Modi
Like in Africa, Android Takes Control, Raking in Almost All the 'Chips' in Asia
So Microsoft has no OS majority except in Japan and Russia (and tiny Armenia).
Links 03/03/2024: Goodbye, Navalny (Funeral Reports)
Links for the day
Gemini Links 03/03/2024: A Wild Devlog Appeared and GrapheneOS Ramble
Links for the day
Gemini at 3,800+
total number of known capsules at above 3.8k
Be a Navalny
We salute Mr. Navalny
Mozilla Firefox is Back in ~2% Territories, Jeopardising Its Status as Web Browser to Test/Target/Validate With
Some new stats
[Meme] Russian Standards of Law: The Executive Branch Decides Everything
the president's kangaroo court
Up Next: The Tricky Relationship Between the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO and the European Patent Organisation (EPO)
We've moved from presidents who run a republic by consent to corrupt, unqualified, dictatorial officials who bribe for the seat (buying the votes)
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, March 02, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, March 02, 2024
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
Beware Imposter Sites of Techrights (Not Techrights.com or Techrights.org)
Only trust pages accessed through the domains controlled by us
Italy visa & residence permit: Albanian Outreachy, Wikimedia & Debian tighten control over woman
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 02/03/2024: Actual Journalists Under Attack, More Software Patents Being Challenged
Links for the day
Gemini Links 02/03/2024: NixOS on GPD, Meson Woes
Links for the day
statCounter March 2024 Statistics (Preliminary)
Notice Asia
Links 02/03/2024: More Lawsuits Against Microsoft, Facebook Killing Hard-To-Find News
Links for the day
ZDNet (Red Ventures) Works for Microsoft (Redmond), Many Of Its Pages Are Spam/Advertisements Paid for by Microsoft
Here is the "smoking gun"
Wikipedia Demotes CNET Due to Chatbot-Generated Spew as 'Articles'; It Should Do the Same to ZDNet (Also Red Ventures, Also Microsoft Propaganda)
Redmond Ventures?
IBM Sends Money to Microsoft
Red Hat basically helps sponsor the company that's a attacking our community
The Direction WordPress (GPL) Has Taken is an Embarrassment
it comes with strings attached
When the Cancer 'Metastasises'
We had a red flag
March in Techrights (EPO Litigation and More)
One theme we'll explore a lot when it comes to GNU/Linux is the extent to which communities truly serve communities
Don't Forget to Also Follow Tux Machines
We've split the material
Yandex Usage Has Surged Since the Invasion of Ukraine, Microsoft Fell to 0.7% (It Was 1.7% Before the 'Bing Chat' Hype Campaign)
In Soviet Russia, Bing searches user
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Friday, March 01, 2024
IRC logs for Friday, March 01, 2024
Sellout Completed: Linux Foundation Converging With the Gates Foundation
not a joke
Hitler Rants Parodies on Steve Ballmer
Parody created using clips from Downfall (Der Untergang)
With Windows This Low (27% of the "OS" Market), Steve Ballmer Would Have Thrown Another Chair
The media produced many puff pieces about Nadella at 10 (as CEO), but what has he done for Windows? Nothing.
[Meme] The Naked President
EPO Suffers From Shrinkage
Attacks on the EPC: Reality and Fiction
EPO leaks