"Happy Holidays" and Christmas boycotts: Here We Go Again [en]

[fr] Joyeux Noël!

It’s the time of the year again. Christmas. I like Christmas. I’m not Christian. And like each year, the stuff that annoys me is the “let’s boycott Christmas” movement and the American “Happy Holidays” stuff.

Here’s a post I wrote two years ago which pretty much sums it up and is still valid today.

I think making a point of saying “Happy Holidays” instead of simply “Merry Christmas” only emphasizes the religious/believing dimension of Christmas, in a sort of weird Streisand effect: “ew, it’s a Christian celebration, I’m not Christian, I’m not going anywhere near it.” To me this kind of attitude actually smells of fear. What on earth is wrong with considering Christmas a secular celebration of love and peace for those who do not believe (in Christianity), a celebration which has its historical roots in the dominant religious tradition of Europe and America, and that we keep around even when it’s emptied of its religious dimension? (Er… like Thanksgiving, for example?)

And even if it wasn’t, what is wrong with wishing somebody with a different faith of yours a good celebration of something that’s important to them? I have no problem wishing Muslims a Happy Eid, or Hindus a Happy Diwali — or Christians a Merry Christmas. Why would I seize the occasion to point out that I believe that what they believe is not true? I don’t see the point.

But again, my argument is that Christmas has long since ceased to be a religious celebration (except for the more religious Christians out there) and is now mainly a family/commercial thing.

Which brings us to my second pet peeve: people who throw out the baby with the bathwater and reject all of Christmas and all of the gift-giving because of the excesses involved. Of course, present inflation sucks. But there are ways to reject present inflation without throwing out Christmas. You can decide to have less presents. You can put a price cap. You can decide to have only presents that have cost time rather than money. You can have a present lottery with one present given and received per person. There are options.

What irks me the most with the (mostly) American “Happy Holidays” is that I don’t believe that Thanksgiving gets the same treatment. Hullo? Thanksgiving! The pilgrims! Giving thanks to… who, already? I sometimes see the very same people who turn their noses snobbishly up on Christmas joyfully feast on turkey at Thanksgiving. Why the double-standard?

So Merry Christmas everybody. Whatever you believe.

Lift09 — Envisioning the Future City — Anne Galloway [en]

Expectations, promises and hopes are things that we do.

Anne looks at what people do, make, say. Tries to figure out why we don’t do, make, say other things.

To make certain futures happen: broken relationships between certain groups of people.

*steph-note: missing a lot here, having trouble seeing where we’re going*

So, city of the future. Hybrid cities, real-time, sensor, read-write, mobile, adaptive… cities.

Attention: not to ignore what’s happening now.

“What if we imagine the future city as a gift we want to give people.” Through all these projects, everybody had the best of intentions. Want to give people good things. Make lives better. In five years, Anne has never talked to anyone who has anything but good intentions. The people who do make things want to give people good things.

Gifts are powerful. Show that we love, care, or have obligations to each other. Different gifts for different people. Usually put energy in choosing gifts for some people — but not all of them.

Even the good intentions end up being a little off sometimes. Superhero superpowers. Example of Superuseless Superpower: Lati-dude and Longi-dude. Transport yourself to the same point on the other side of the earth. (haha!)

Gifting is a tricky business. there is always some tension at some point. Some people are better at it than others (giving and receiving gifts well).

So, what does it mean to give people new cities or technologies? What is the gift doing?

What is the relationship between the gifter and the “user”? What can we expect of the other? Eg. gifts between colleages at X-mas, we have different expectations than from family, lovers, grandparents.

When we give someone a gift, how do we even know they want it? Could a gift be damaging? cause stress, upset, anger? How do you know if they appreciate it? (“thank you very much, that’s a lovely gift”) What do you do if they dislike it? How do you act if they misuse it? (the project has failed…)

Did you ever get a gift that you didn’t use? Or “what in god’s name do you think of me to give me this?” (Head-massaging helmet… “everyone likes a good head massage!” => you become an anomaly.)

“Oh, it’s not so difficult, let me show you how it works!! It wasn’t meant to make you feel stupid!”

Until you get into the process, you have no idea how to interact.

Back to the gifted city. Gifted in the superhero sense: look, it can do all that!!!

Examples of future cities we’ve seen: many people in the room probably went “oh cool!”, but certainly some also went “cool, but what am i going to do with it?”

We gift opportunities with these cities. Citizen engagement projects. Data to take political action. New technologies => act in new ways.

Projects which allow people to map environmental issues.

But not everyone wants to be a data collector, or cares about the data. Many kinds of publics. Not everyone will be interested in doing certain parts of the “job”. Public science: challenge = getting people to do science work, sometimes people don’t want to be scientists, not interested in the labour, or lack the capacity to do it.

=> fragmented public. The gift needs us to want to act as data collectors and it needs us to have the ability to make sense of the data we collect.

Gifted risks. With these expectations etc, we can start thinking of the risks associated to those gifts. If citizenship requires technology, non-techies start feeling like non-citizens. Not everyone has a cellphone! Lots of people share cellphones! Or own multiple mobile phones… Locking out people…

Giving access to information that people didn’t use to have. They still don’t usually have the possibility to generate certain sets of data. Someone has decided what will be sensed (what the sensors capture). Assumption, also, that scientific data is more important/true than other emotional, affective, subjective… data.

When you’re building the future city:

– What kind of future city do you hope to give?
– What kind of future city do you expect to receive?

Without asking those questions, risks much higher than possible opportunities.