Comfortable Niche Construction

I relate to both of these tweets, which is why I encourage my kids toward positive niche construction and building for their sensory needs.

https://boren.blog/2020/06/05/positive-niche-construction-differentiated-instruction-and-neurological-pluralism/

We all need to find and engineer our niche, especially we cave orchids.

Tech Ethics and the New Behaviorism

Whenever the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford and its alumni come up at work, I am compelled to share the legacy and impact of the new behaviorism.

I would argue, in total seriousness, that one of the places that Skinnerism thrives today is in computing technologies, particularly in “social” technologies. This, despite the field’s insistence that its development is a result, in part, of the cognitive turn that supposedly displaced behaviorism.

B. J. Fogg and his Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford is often touted by those in Silicon Valley as one of the “innovators” in this “new” practice of building “hooks” and “nudges” into technology. These folks like to point to what’s been dubbed colloquially “The Facebook Class” – a class Fogg taught in which students like Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, and Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked, “studied and developed the techniques to make our apps and gadgets addictive,” as Wired put it in a recent article talking about how some tech executives now suddenly realize that this might be problematic.

(It’s worth teasing out a little – but probably not in this talk, since I’ve rambled on so long already – the difference, if any, between “persuasion” and “operant conditioning” and how they imagine to leave space for freedom and dignity. Rhetorically and practically.)

—Audrey Watters

Source: Education Technology and the New Behaviorism

Via: Persuasion and Operant Conditioning: The Influence of B. F. Skinner in Big Tech and Ed-tech – Ryan Boren

Everyone in tech should read Audrey Watters to better understand our impact on the world.

Autistic Candor, “Team Players”, and Conflating Sports and Business Teams

Here’s an interesting and relatable piece on autistic candor, “team player”, and the problems with conflating sports teams with business teams.

On teams and “team player”:

The use of the word “player” evokes a range of unintended mental associations, mostly with sports, that are likely to create barriers for workplace access and success of autistic people, even if objectively they are exactly the “team players” organizations need. Unless we are in fact looking for partners in games, perhaps what we mean by “team player” is someone who is reliable, responsible, and committed.

I wonder how many responsible performers lost raises, promotions, or jobs because their personalities or even appearances did not evoke images associated with the word “player?”

Erroneous messages communicated by the word “player” and the related sports team analogy not only influence individual outcomes, but harm the bottom line of organizations by excluding potentially outstanding performers. It is a misconception that work teams are like sports teams.

Source: Thriving at Work While Autistic, Introverted, Shy, and Otherwise Different: Part 2 » NeuroClastic

I played twelve seasons of American football in football obsessed Texas. I cringe at sports metaphors for business teams.

On autistic candor:

the propensity of autistic people to be truth-tellers, divergent thinkers, and devil’s advocates who connect data dots in unique ways is invaluable in ensuring a diversity of perspectives, preventing groupthink and helping organizations make better decisions and increase their much-needed creativity and innovation. We need the Little Child and the truth-telling Princess on the team. Some might be tempted to silence and ignore divergent voices and instill uniformity, but the risk is that the Emperor will keep strutting around naked.

Even in “radical candor” environments, autistic candor is seen as not being a “team player”.