Charlie opened the discussion with his impassioned written plea for academic institutions to (strive to) provide us “barlowspace,” an intimate, vulnerable, interior-oriented ethical and rhetorical space for the mind to develop self-comprehension and self-sovereignty, free from the narrowing and tightening pressures of identity that govern regular social life and are exacerbated on the “open net,” with its constant tracking, merchandising, politicizing, and other conflict-generating identity-based practices.
Charlie highlighted a selection Zac’s blog on the importance of defining and understanding “fairness” before we set about fully developing and implementing the AI systems that will almost surely carry the species (and the planet) into near future generations. In the responses and in class discussion, we highlighted (among many other things) the scope and depth of this task – a task so profound that it does indeed seem to demand the kind of self and communal evolution of mind that barlowspace aims for. Without authenticity and vulnerability, can we pretend to reach the shared truth at the heart of the fairness we seek?
But authenticity and vulnerability are hard, in each of our overlapping social contexts, and including in the academic spaces that Charlie hopes can foster barlowspace. Universities have their own “contested/cacophonous” nature, often rooted as much in identity as in ideas, as well as entrenched systemic biases and limitations. This is not a passing phenomenon – take a look at this picture of the HLS environment on these questions 25 years ago: https://newrepublic.com/article/63545/hate-story ... Anything seem familiar?
In class, we saw potential but also concern in the tools of barlowspace, not just technologies but practices such as anonymity, which is capable of generating an intense experience of freedom but also intense pathology and conflict, and which can quickly -- amazingly even with no or limited identity! -- generate its own invidious systems and practices. The hierarchies, expectations, and forms that make institutions like law school “work” (e.g. grades and other credentialing practices) are, just like the code that make technology systems function, deeply resistant to change and experimentation. When are these “codes” necessary, useful, “good,” “bad”? How are different types/forms of change and/or resistance necessary, useful, good, bad, etc.?
In this thread, I would like students to offer a reflection on a concrete challenge you see or have experienced in seeking barlowspace, or something similar, for yourself or communally, in the Iowa Law space. Note that as we unfold this conversation, anonymously on this Threads board, we will also be workshopping at least one vision of what we seek, opening an opportunity for self-reflection: that is, what is your experience in receiving this prompt and other responses and deciding how to engage?