Messy Human

Most professional websites don’t show what anthropologists like to call “messy humans”. This page leans into the messiness and the work in progress of my research, thinking, and writing.

Following the example of my friend Hans de Zwart, lecturer at the Amsterdam University of Applied Science and co-founder of the Racism and Technology Center, I am using this page to keep a running list of what I am reading, listening to, and thinking about. The plan is to update it haphazardly, share first drafts and half-baked thoughts.

I will expand beyond my stomping ground of tech and human rights to include other aspects of my life, including anthropology et al., grant-making & philanthropy, parenting & childrens’ books, poetry & graphic novels.

Like a good geriatric millennial, I do not own a tv or a subscription to any video streaming services, but I am a fan of podcasts and mailinglist and will include my favorites here (see below).

I am unsure who might be interested in this information, but thank you for making it all the way to this page and feel free to drop me a line if you have any recommendations, thoughts, comments, or concerns about being human or this messy page.

Anthropology et al.

This section gives an overview of anthropological & other academic work that I am reading.

I just started Arturo Escobar’s 2018 book on ‘designs for the pluriverse’. The book outlines what it takes for design studies and designers to allow for many worlds to fit into this world and orient design to justice and sustainability.

Technology, rights, justice

Reset–Ronald Deibert (2020)
This book takes on the minor task of ‘reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society’. Written by the Director of the Citizenlab, it takes a broad tour all of all the ills of the Internet (surveillance capitalism, digital autocrats, targeted digital espionage) and highlights key problems around the environmental impact of the digital ecosystem. Deibert draws from a wide array of Western philosophical and political thought to reimagine the Internet grounded in the principle of restraint. I especially appreciated the sections where he draws on the research of the Citizenlab, providing jarring insights into the extent to which the Internet can undermine the work of human rights defenders.

Grant-making & philanthropy

How We Give Now–Lucy Bernholz (2021)
This book ask us to reimagine what philanthropy is by taking a much broader view of what it means to give money, time, resources and data. Most examples, as well as the biting critique of the philanthropic industrial complex, are focused on the US. Yet, the dangers of relying on philanthropy rather than solid social institutions, the opportunities and challenges of donating data, and the need to think more holistically about how we spend our money right apply in many contexts.

Modern Grantmaking–Gemma Bull & Tom Steinberg (2021)
Practical guide for current and future grantmakers that outlines some of the practical challenges that all grantmakers will face, with direct advice. It moves from the day-to-day considerations of the job (how can I improve grantees’ user experience?) to the bigger questions that all teams should consider (what does moral grantmaking look like?). It is both a call for reformist and modern grantmaking as well as a guidebook for how to define what that means.

Parenting & Children’s Books

As a newbie parent, I am constantly worried about all the ways in which I can mess up. I deal with that anxiety by reading lots of books, about babies, to my baby, about parents, and to myself.

Social Justice Parenting–Tracy Baxley
Non-academic book written by Professor Baxley that outlines what it means to foster social justice engagement in your parenting style and in your kids. Great book if you (like me) was always left wondering about the limitations of kid-centered, or gentle-parenting etc. philosophies, in terms of encouraging compassion and political engagement in your family. Book is rooted in the US context, but provides building blocks that are relevant to all parents seeking age-appropriate ways to engage their kids and tackle difficult discussions around racism, sexism and other political inequities.

Also read various books by Emily Oster (yes I am aware of the controversies, but it was still nice to read a meta-study of many studies on all things parenting, without all the academic lingo).

Parenting for Life–Nina Sidell
I can’t remember who recommended I read this book, but wow: I am so sorry for whatever I did to you! Rarely have I read such a poorly edited, repetitive, book strung together by sentences like this: “Together, as parent and child, you receive the gift of a shared life, with a beginning, a middle, and end. It is with this perspective that you parent best.” The book is replete with such both obvious and completely vacuous statements. Hard pass on this book and please don’t gift it to anyone, parent or not.

Anti-Racist Baby–Ibram X. Kendi & Ashley Lukashevsky
Illustrated children’s book that helps parents have conversations with young kids about racism. Brightly colored, it follows the nine first steps of anti-racist baby, which reflect concrete practices (like using words to talk about race) to help parents raise anti-racist kids.

The Crayon Book of Feelings–Drew Daywalt & Oliver Teffers
The crayons have a lot of color feelings, sometimes all at the same time. A super cute book to help small kids understand, name, and express their emotions.

Tango Makes Three–Justin Richardson, Peter Parneff and Henry Cole
A cute and true story about two male penguins at the New York Zoo who (*spoiler alert*) fall in love and raise a baby penguin named Tango.

The Enormous Crocodile–Roald Dahl, illustration by Quentin Blake
Very large crocodile tries to eat bunch of kids in creative ways, but largely fails.

I’d Really Want to eat a Child–Sylviane Donnio
Small crocodile wants to eat a human, fails because he is too tiny and resorts to eating bananas instead

The Unicorn that Said No–Marc Uwe Kling
A rule breaking Unicorn who loves to say “No” goes on an adventure that rhymes with a bunch of other contrarians

Poetry, Graphic Novels & other

Daytripper–Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Having family and having lived in Brazil for many years, I am not sure how I only read Daytripper in 2021. Each chapter depicts a day in the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos, the son of a world-famous writer who is finding his own literary voice. And *spoiler* at the end of each chapter… he dies, but at a different age and through a different twist of fate. The book asks us whether we will ever know if we are living the most important day of our life, in the moment? It also shows us how those crucial days are rooted in our relationships with others, parents, partners, friends, kids and how each day has the possibility of life but also death. The book captures everyday Brazilian life in such accurate detail, it was amazingly familiar.

Won’t be reading many other graphic novels for a bit, as I recover from this one.

The Year of Magical Thinking–Joan Didion
This book is about processing raw grief through magical thinking. It was written by Didion in the year after the death of her husband. It is hard to be critical about someone’s personal journey, so instead I will say the book has some absolute gems of insights into what makes death and grieving so hard, so lonely, and how magical thinking happens in those first 365 days. That said, much of the book was too-US insider baseball for me (pages on pages about who she met on what corner of LA and how they’re also famous). In comparison to the Latin American tradition of magical thinking (and writing), this book fell flat in a distinctly North-American way, too much ego, too little magic.

Podcasts

I listen to the BBC’s daily news podcast, as well as to NPR News Now. When it comes to tech and politics, I listen to LawFare podcast, The Economist podcast, No Network is Neutral, Planet Money, Dadocracia, 99% Invisible, Tech Won’t Save Us, Babbage from the Economist, Radio Rechtstaat, Response-ability podcast, The Anti-Dystopians, The Sunday Show by Tech Policy Press, Reply Guys, and Reply All. I also like Esther Perel’s Where Should we Begin, Good Inside with Dr. Becky, NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, No Such Thing as A Fish, and true crime podcasts about The Netherlands.


Mailinglists and other things that show up in my inbox

As an anthropologist of the Internet, I am subscribed to (too) many mailinglists + weekly/daily digests. My current favorites include: Rest of the World, DataSyn by IT for change, I*: Navigating Internet Governance and Standards by the Center for Democracy and Tech, the digest by Protocol, Otherwise Mag, Logic Magazine,  EPIC people, The Counterbalance, Data & Society’s newsletter, the Stanford Digital Civil Society (PACS) newsletter, Ada Lovelace Institute newsletter, Considerati newsletter, Racism & Tech Center newsletter, Superrrrrr network, EDRi, DFF, SIDN, Stichting Democratie & Media, CIS India, Algorithm Watch, Citizen Lab, EU AI Fund, CENTR newsletters,  IRTF HRPC, GAIA and PEARG mailinglists, Unfinished, New_Public, The Relay by Alix Dunn,  I also follow a number of newsletters from industry players in the content delivery and cloud space.

There is space to learn more about organizations outside of the US/EU–I can read in Dutch, English, Portuguese and French, so HMU with your recommendations to expand my perspective!