Why Kids With Autism Should Stream

Like many therapists who work with adolescents with autism, I frequently get asked for guidance on improving peer relationships as they get older. Contrary to the stereotype, autistic kids do often crave peer relationships, dating, and popularity. It can make adolescence especially poignant as kids with ASD want to establish more independence from parents and gain the esteem of other teens but don’t know how to connect with their peers yet. They can experience heightened social anxiety, and retreat into coping mechanisms which help self-soothe but make them stick out when they very much want to blend in. There can be an uptick in depression, which increases hopelessness and decreases self-care. Decreased self-care leads to poorer hygiene, which makes teens even less popular. Parents, sound familiar?

So how do we interrupt this vicious cycle?

One way is to get your kids streaming online. Streaming, or live-streaming, is the broadcast of content over the internet on platforms such as Twitch or YouTube. The content can include commentary while playing or watching a video game, discussing a television series, plays, presentations on topics of interest, music, etc. You’re probably thinking “Riiiight, what does streaming have to do with helping kids on the spectrum become popular?”

Ok, stay with me here and I’ll give you some reasons:

1. Streaming promotes theory of mind

Anyone who has ever watched a streamer has had the experience of being in the audience. By empowering a teen to stream, we also create an opportunity for them to imagine the other out there watching. Even if they have few viewers to start with, we encourage them to act “as if” they were in a social setting where others have minds and feelings like they do and could respond to them. This reinforces the concepts of theory of mind and empathy, both in the streaming act and later in reviewing recordings.

2. Streaming is a very normative adolescent medium

Whether it be gaming, unboxing, critiquing videos or talking fashion, a majority of teens are now consumers of streaming culture, watching thousands of streams every day. It can be very empowering to let adolescents with autism know that they can be creators of streaming culture as well. Also, it takes the edge off of poor hygiene: In cyberspace everyone smells just fine.

3. Streaming can allow for 21st century social scripting and role play

Children and teens with autism are often being trained in social pragmatics, which has three general components: The ability to use language for different purposes (requesting things, greeting people, passing on information;) the ability to adapt language to changes in listener or environment (speak louder in noisy settings, speak differently to child or adult, give more or less information as needed;) and following unspoken norms or rules of conversation (taking turns speaking, gauging for interest, emphasizing points or emotions.) One way youth with autism can build mastery in social pragmatics is through the use of social scripts, practicing the rules and formula in low-stress environments where the social stakes aren’t as high or immediate. Streaming can provide such a place to do so, where teens can practice greeting viewers, looking directly at camera, pausing to view chat or take Discord questions, enthusiastically thanking viewers for watching, and ask what they might want to see next time, etc.)

4. Streaming allows for review

Streaming can usually be recorded, both the stream and the video recording of the streamer. This can provide the adolescent the opportunity to review and refine their social pragmatics with or without adult feedback. I ask my patients if they want me to watch at any point, and tell them I won’t be offended if they don’t want me to watch. After a stream, ask your teen how they felt when they were doing it. Were they able to forget they were being watched? Did knowing they were streaming live effect their speech or behavior in any way? How did they deal with questions or comments? What did they notice about their viewers? Do they feel energized or depleted afterwards? It can also be important to normalize their reluctance to view the recordings–many of us dislike seeing ourselves on camera, no matter how useful it could be.

5. Streaming allows the teen to behaviorally say “Hey, I want to put myself out there.”

No one starts streaming by accident, but starting a streaming channel can help teens overcome their social reluctance by embedding social engagement in content that they find enjoyable and invigorating. Have you noticed that it can be more invigorating to talk with people about topics that are interesting to you? Autistic kids think so too! The challenge is that a lot of times they are afraid to put themselves out there because they have had years of well-meaning adults talking about their “perseverating” on topics. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this concept is pathologizing and highly subjective: If you talk to me about football for more than 20 seconds, I’ll start to get bored think you’re perseverating. That said, many people can feel overwhelmed and ambivalent in the face of an enthusiastic person going on for a length of time. You know they are trying to engage and want to support that, and yet it feels too much! Streaming lowers the pressure on that for the listener, who can pause or take time off from watching if it gets too much for them, while still being engaged overall. Yes, part of the problem is the interest deficit in the neurotypical person–the problem doesn’t reside solely in the neuro-atypical one!

6. Streaming makes affinity groups larger and more accessible

Many teens on the spectrum have interests and intensity of interests that place them in the minority. This can lead to isolation and lower self-esteem, because they have fewer opportunities for mirroring from peers and their community. There are probably a whole bunch more people in Boston and Atlanta who spent February 3rd, 2019 watching football than My Little Pony, which can make the Bronies out there feel less-than. However, at any given time in the world, there is probably a larger group of MLP fans, and streaming helps flatten the world. Streaming, like technology in general, amplifies things and breaks down barriers. Don’t have anyone to talk My Little Pony or anime with? Start streaming narrations and discussions of episodes, and before you know it, you may have 1,800 people to connect with! There’s something for everyone, even those craving an online marathon of Mr. Rogers episodes..

7. Streaming can help kids develop other life skills

Been struggling with your child to get a job? Take a month or two off from the struggle. Help them set up a streaming channel. Then subscribe to Patreon, a platform that allows creators to accept income from people who want to foster their art. Maybe you can prime the pump a bit, to reinforce the work/income connection. I can’t tell you how many parents send mixed messages about money and work to their kids. Kids think a $50 bill they got in a birthday card from Aunt Mable is “my money” that they earned, when in reality it is a gift. Allowances may or may not be connected to chores, which are often a source of added conflict. Instead, why not have Aunt Mabel become a patron and donate $4 a month for the year to the teen’s streaming channel? That way, there really is a connection between work and income, and Aunt Mabel supports the arts? (Parents may want to self-check here to see if they are biased about their children and the arts. If you think art is not real work or valuable, that only a unique few can make a living from it, or that talent is entirely innate and you have it or don’t, then you are biased about your children and the arts.)

To get started, I recommend using Open Broadcaster Software, which is free and well-supported. Tom’s Hardware has a good reference for getting started here, just keep in mind you can stream much much more than video games, although doing that is cool too!

I do want to acknowledge that encouraging teens to put themselves out there has some real risks. Some of the streams and videos may be pretty quirky, and nothing vanishes completely on the internet. They may encounter hate speech or hurtful comments during the stream or afterwards, just like they may encounter it in life. They may feel very self-conscious after reviewing the stream. But I do think that for many teens with autism (or neurotypical kids for that matter) the rewards can outweigh the risk. Parents want to check for their own tech biases here: Do you support your youngster playing a sport? Risky. How about having them join martial arts, drama club, or run for student office? All risky. So why not encourage them to stream about something they like?

Curating an online presence for others, real and imagined, is actually a component of digital literacy we all need to do sooner or later, online streaming about a topic or activity of interest may give children and teens with autism some valuable practice and sheltered learning. It may also help them meet people in the wider world who share their interests, think they’re cool, and increase their popularity. That seems like a substantial reward to me.

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Tetris Beats Nazis: Video Games & Worry

This week I have two stories about video games, one that causes worry and one that effects it.

The first, worrisome, one concerns white nationalism, video games and propaganda. For as long as we have had Nazis, Aryanism, or White Nationalism, we have had its propaganda. Art is one of the most powerful medium that propaganda gets disseminated: Paintings by Erler and Feuerbach; film by Leni Riefenstahl; and music curated by Axis Sally were all examples of how the art form was used to convey Nazism. It should surprise no one that 21st century art mediums such as video games have their own share of deplorables.

One example, which I won’t link to, from the early 21st century was “Ethnic Cleansing” which came out in 2002. Since then there have been games like “Muslim Massacre” and “Zog’s Nightmare.” The games primarily target, Jews, Blacks, and Latinos, and are often on or linked to Nazi sites. Meanwhile, young people may find themselves being solicited online, where low-to-no moderation servers and bulletin boards like Discord and 4Chan provide a safe place to foster white supremacy.

Today, NPR came out with a story worth your attention, on the rise of recruitment efforts by white hate groups in online gaming environments. Now please don’t blame Fortnite. Most video games, even the violent ones, do not blatantly pedal nazi propaganda. The few that do are pretty explicit about it. What we need to worry about is how disillusioned and disenfranchised young men are vulnerable to being recruited by domestic terror groups, and of course they will be doing recruitment where youth are, including video games. My recommendation? When hate crimes or white supremacy comes up in your family discussions please ask your kids if they ever here things online that sound like hate speech or stereotypes. Assure them that you are more interested in hearing about what they may be experiencing than pulling the plug on Call of Duty, and that this is just one thing that people need to keep an eye on in online communities.

If anything shows up in their chat, consider taking screenshots and sending it to Discord or the chat platform you are using to let them know about the hate speech or recruitment. Both things are violation of TOS, and if your child doesn’t send it and someone else does they be banned themselves. Above all, keep an eye on gameplay, the content and the chat happening while it is happening. You don’t have to be Big Brother all the time, but let family members know that occasionally the games and chat need to be without headphones so you get a sense of who their “friends” are, just like you would if the friends were visiting your home in body.

Now that I have you worried about something new, go play some Tetris. That’s right, a recent study published in Emotion, a psychology journal, found that Tetris helped distract people from worrying by helping them achieve flow experiences. I have discussed before how distraction gets a bad rap and is actually evolutionarily adaptive. Here is some more research to support that theory!

So, now that I’ve made you worry, go play a little Tetris. You can do that here. Then, tomorrow, go vote.

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Yeah? Tell That to Squirtle: The Fallacy of “Screen Time”

Recently, the American Heart Association release an “statement” decrying the dangers of screen time. The report, according to USA Today, said screen time can lead to sedentary behavior increasing the odds that kids can grow up obese. The statement says among other things,
Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear, there are real concerns that screens influence eating behaviors, possibly because children ‘tune out’ and don’t notice when they are full when eating in front of a screen.. (USA News & World Today, August 8, 2018)
Most people won’t dive deeper than the article and it’s quote, which is problematic in itself. “Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear,” is really a way of saying what “this is a correlative statement, which is very different than causality.” If you are unfamiliar with the vast difference between the two, this is a great video to explain it. Come back when you’re done.

The problem with these studies, once they get amplified, is that they fuel the ongoing panic we have with emerging technologies. Once again, here’s my reminder list:

1. Doing any activity for more than several hours in a row is unhealthy, with the exceptions of sleep and meditation.

2. Not all “screens” are equal, have identical lighting and spectrums, and therefore identical impact on sleep.

3. Research shows that using your eyes at night stimulates the areas of your brain that arouse you. So reading, looking at your aquarium, crosswords, and even knitting will also hinder the onset of sleep if you use your vision.

4. Whether in a scientific journal or Trump’s “400 lb guy in a basement,” can we please stop fat-shaming people? Not every heavy body type is the same, nor is obesity a moral issue. Why not focus on teaching your children to be kind, critically thinking and funny humans than focusing on their bodies so much?

In fact, I can make a very different correlation, based on my experience with PokemonGo. This summer I increased my gameplay of this screen-based smartphone app quite a bit. To date I have walked over 150 miles catching Pokemon. I also have lost 5 lbs. My experience would predispose me to conclude that increasing this screen time has actually decreased the sedentary nature of my lifestyle, and lowered my weight. Of course, the fact that I spend half of my time in a rural community with friends who like to hike in the summer doesn’t hurt either, but that’s correlation for you.

While I’m at it, since folks are so concerned with the public health of our children here are some pro-active suggestions based on other possible correlations:

  • Stop fat-shaming kids so they seek escaping reality so much.
  • Fund schools better and test them less so things like recess are longer than 15 minutes.
  • Institute better gun control so children and their families aren’t afraid to go outside and get shot.
  • Decrease stigma of trans youth so they can safely explore gender in ways other than just an avatar of a different gender.
  • Make playgrounds and athletic teams universally accessible so that kids can play and engage regardless of physical differences.

You want to connect some dots, there, I got you started. Now stop going for the low hanging fruit and blame something other than Nintendo.

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Can’t We All Just Game Along?

I had a powerful reminder about the prosocial nature of video games this week, and it was nowhere near a console screen. I was on my way home and ran into a Dunkin’ Donuts, in a town I’d never been to before and was unfamiliar with. I ended up waiting in a rather lengthy line and was a bit grumpy. I happened to be wearing a T-Shirt which said this:

I hadn’t worn it for ages, and had forgotten in fact I was wearing it until the cashier called out to me, “I love your shirt.” Cue the endorphins.

“Thank you,” I said, and smiled (which thanks to state bound learning probably cued my body to produce even more endorphins.)  Waiting in the line seemed much more pleasant by this point. I ordered my coffee and sandwich and while waiting for them received another compliment from a customer walking by.

The third person to compliment me was a man in his 40s, scruffy and in jeans and t-shirt. “I love that game,” he said. “I haven’t played it in a while though.”

By now I was in a mood that allowed me to initiate conversations, so I asked “What are you playing nowadays.”

He proceeded to tell me that his 14 year-old daughter had gotten him into Fortnite. She had enjoyed it initially for the crafting, he said, because she really enjoyed Minecraft; but now that they were playing together she was enjoying the combat as well. His face lit up as he recounted how much fun they were having together. I told him about a study that had been done by Brigham Young that indicated increased levels of protective factors against depression. He smiled at that, and we both went on our way.

We spend so much time debating the neurological impact of playing video games that we often lose sight of another dimension; that of talking about playing video games. Talking about arts and culture is a powerful social adhesive. It identifies commonalities, allows for compliments and increased levels of engagement with others, allows us to recall exciting moments and share them. All of these activities in turn facilitate attachment, and increase a sense of well-being on the neurological level. That was the best line I’ve waited in a ages!

We need to find a way to get that message to Salty Sally the Social Worker and Morose Martin the Mental Health Counselor, whose eyes grow dull at the mention of gaming when their patients bring it up. “How much time are you playing Candy Crush?” they say, in uninviting tones, and eye such T-shirts as a clear sign of video game addiction. The next patient, who comes in with a T-Shirt of Monet’s “Water Lilies,” will get a compliment on it and no such screening for an Impressionist Art Addiction. In fact, the WHO didn’t include Art Disorder this go round at all, unless you include the art form of the video game.

In this current political climate, where we are so polarized, I wonder how many bridges (Minecraft or other) might be built if we paused to ask strangers in line if they play any games? I imagine Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike play something.

If Teams Valor, Instinct, and Mystic can all get along together raiding in Pokemon Go, perhaps we can too..

 

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Taking Leaps: Fortnite, HIPAA & Psychotherapy

“You keep dying,” Sam* said. The annoyance in the 9 year old’s voice was palpable. I looked at my avatar lying face down on the screen. Another of the 100 players in the game, appearing as a brunette woman in sweats sporting a ponytail, was doing a victory dance with her rifle over me. Sam was nowhere to be seen on the screen, but I knew he was hiding somewhere in the game, and seething.

“You’re disappointed in me,” I said calmly. A moment of quiet.

“Yeah.”

“You were hoping I’d be better at this, as good as you or maybe better, and it’s frustrating.”

“Yeah… Can we try again?”

And so we tried again and again, and while we did I talked with Sam about the other adults who were disappointments to him, who kept leaving or letting him down. And I guessed that we were also talking about his frustration and disappointment in himself. And at the end of our appointment I promised I would practice Fortnite, the game we had been playing. We had turned on our webcams again so we could see each other to finish the session, so I could see that he brightened at this idea.

“Nice to see you again,” I said. He smiled faintly.

“You too.” His screen went dark.

As I reflect on the work I do with patients, meeting them where they are at, I am struck by the same issues, opportunities, and conversations that can happen in an online play therapy session. I only wish more of my colleagues would try it. What gets in the way? For some it is a dismissal of emerging technologies which masquerades a fear of trying something new. For others it is a worry about running afoul of HIPAA and being sued. If you are one of those people who wonders about how to integrate video games online into your therapy practice, read on.

 *  *  *  *  *

Quick, without Googling it; what does the “P” in HIPAA stand for?

If you are a psychotherapist or other health provider, you probably guessed “privacy.” At least that’s often the consensus when I ask this question at my talks. It would be understandable if this was your guess. You’d be wrong.

The correct answer is “portability,” the basic premise that individuals have the right to healthcare treatment that moves with them as they go through the vicissitudes of life and work. That is also where technology comes in– electronic health records, telemedicine, etc., are ways that technology increases portability by collapsing time and space so that the patient and the healthcare professional can get to work.

In therapy, that work traditional has happened in an office setting. And in the case of children and youth especially, that meant play therapy which was bounded by the space and time of a physical office. From Uno to Sandtrays to the infamous “Talking Feeling Doing Game,” we have often assumed that play therapy needs to be the games of our own childhoods. But 21st century play can, and I maintain should, include 21st century play. That’s where video games come in.

In the days of the Atari 2600, there was no worry about patient privacy, because the system was hooked up directly to a television that didn’t even need to be connected to cable. But nowadays with SmartTVs, PCs and PS4s, video games are often played online with many other people and seamlessly connected to voice chat. This can be a concern for the psychotherapist who is unfamiliar with newer technology, especially with games like Fortnite, which boast Battle Royales having as many as 100 players at a time in the same game instance.

Videoconferencing programs and online therapy using video/audio chat have been around long enough to have specifications that adapt to HIPAA’s privacy requirements, largely because there is market force behind developing products that can be sold to the healthcare industry. Video games and their platforms, on the other hand, do not have a similar demand to give them an incentive to supply. Games like World of Warcraft, Platforms like STEAM, and streaming services like Twitch were designed for gamers, not therapists, and it is unlikely they will go through the technical and legal procedures to become HIPAA compliant anytime soon.

Some therapists have begun developing their own video games, which, like most therapy games are dismally boring. They are thinly veiled therapy interventions that are disguised as play, but lack any of the true qualities of play. True, they are more likely private; but they are also boring, and easily recognizable as “not playful” by patients. Mainstream games have broader appeal, critical user mass, and better graphics and gameplay in many cases, and are more immediately relevant to the patient’s life. But they are definitely not HIPAA-compliant. So what to do?

 *  *  *  *  *

My solution, which I’m sharing as an example that has not been reviewed by policy experts, lawyers or the like, has two parts:

  1. Due Diligence– Research the existing privacy settings and technologies to maximize benefit and minimize risk to patient privacy. So for example, I structure the “talk” part of therapy to happen over HIPAA-compliant software like Zoom or GoToMeeting. We start on that platform with video camera on, until we begin playing. Then we, turn off the camera to save on bandwidth and talk over this software, not the game. Previously, I will have sent the patient or their parent a snapshot of the settings of the game we are using with the voicechat disabled if possible. We also want to lower or turn off the game sound so we can hear each other. So in the case of Fortnite, the settings would look like this:

 

2. Limited HIPAA Waiver- This is the part most therapists overlook as even being a possibility. You can ask patients to sign a release waiving in a limited capacity their HIPAA rights in order to use noncompliant technology. It is entirely voluntary and I’ve yet to have a patient decline. I use a informed consent form that I developed that looks like this:

 

These are examples of how to engage with online technologies in a clinical way that is thoughtful yet forward-moving.

 *  *  *  *  *

Whether you love Freud or hate him, most experts agree that he was one of the fathers of modern psychiatry. He was also an early adopter. He based his hydraulic model of the drives on steam technology of his era. His concept of the “mental apparatus” was likewise integrated from the advances in mechanics and his formulation of ego defenses such as projection occurred simultaneously with the Lumiere brothers’ creation and screenings of motion pictures. Regulatory concerns aside, therapists can be early adopters. Doing so would probably help our patients no end, and definitely cut down on my waitlist.

* “Sam” is based on several patients whose identifying information has been disguised to protect patient privacy.

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The Crisis Behind Crises

So far in 2018 alone, I have worked nationwide with the aftermath of one homicide/suicide in a video game server community; one threat issued over another; and 3 new requests for consultations from clinicians on how to improve their work with families and individuals related to online technology. Schools are now fielding multiple incidents of threatening language in chat rooms that get brought to their attention, and not necessarily handling them well. Multiple arraignments in district courts are pending because someone expressed violent language on gaming servers that was deemed threatening. Youth are ending up on probation for this.

I know, you’re probably thinking that I’m about to blame the technology, the erosion of family values, the rise of violence or some other social ill. I’m not. As I reflect over several of these cases, the common symptom I see is not mental illness or family dysfunction, but a crisis in digital literacy.

What all of these cases have in common is that before they got to the emergent stage, there were several opportunities for kids to solve their own problems; for educators to teach; for parents to engage or for therapists to help; if they’d seen the opportunities and had some education in digital literacy. Too often we see the end result of our dismissing or demonizing tech use. “Just leave the server, or Facebook,” we say, unintentionally further isolating kids. “You need to stop playing so many video games,” we opine, citing sketchy research to take away the one thing a person may experience some competency doing.

As a therapist and educator who has worked for the past twenty-five years with emerging technologies in mental health, I have been helping schools, clinics and workplaces identify vulnerabilities before, during and after crises. I assure you that before is the most useful and least utilized. I’m hoping you and your administrators will consider doing this differently. I have started offering custom educational offerings on Healthy Boundaries in the Digital Age, and you can find out more about it here.  I’m still doing my other presentations as well.

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Boundaries and Health in the Digital Age

2017 saw an historic rise in women and men coming forward to speak out against sexual assault and harassment. Whether it was the #MeToo movement, news outlets, or Time’s naming the “Silence Breakers” Person of the Year, our society has felt a seismic shift in how we understand sexual misconduct.

A common misperception is that sexual harassment occurs in person between two people. In fact, boundary transgressions of this kind happen frequently between adolescents and adults who exclusively work with them “virtually.” Technologies such as social media, texting, video games and geosocial apps have allowed for greater connection and amplification in our lives. At the same time, with greater connection come new personal boundaries for both educators and the adolescents in their care.

Educators and counselors now find themselves inundated with daily examples and dilemmas: What do I do when a student brings me a nude text they received? When I overhear a YouTube video that is sexist or homophobic, how do I respond? Meanwhile, youth are trying to sort out unwanted attention on Facebook, demeaning chat while gaming, and humiliation on Snapchat resulting in school avoidance.

The possibility of turning technology off is no longer an option. Now we need to begin to recalibrate our thinking and teaching in light of it. Part of digital literacy and social emotional learning is the ways that we create and maintain respectful boundaries in learning communities. “Boundaries and Health in the Digital Age” is a project I’ve started to do just that.

I have worked with youth and their families for 25 years, and gained an understanding of them and the technologies they use. Through a combination of presentation and discussion tailored to your needs, I can provide education and support around a topic which is both charged and urgently needed. Far from being anti-technology, I’m helping agencies and learning communities appreciate and understand the power of the digital world to amplify harm AND healing. Talking, and more importantly, listening to youth, we CAN help them create and maintain healthy boundaries both online and in person.

As a Teaching Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, I consult and educate on the topics of adolescence, technology and mental health. If you are interested in having me come work with you, email mike@mikelanglois.com for more information. If you want more information before you do that, check out my Public Speaking page for videos and reviews.

What Disruption Is, and Isn’t

As I sat down to start the new year, I was thinking about an interesting Vanity Fair article I’d just read by Emily Chang, detailing the sexually predatory parties of Silicon Valley. In it, she describes a group of tech industry “hotshots [who]… proudly about how they’re overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule.”

I juxtapose this with conversations I’ve had recently with Trump supporters, one of whom said to me, “Yes, I know he’s a sociopath, he’s a fool, but he has tapped into the spirit of our time for many of us.” I try assiduously to avoid betting political on these posts, but the two quotes I just shared crystallized for me something that has been concerning me for sometime; namely, what “disruption” is and what it isn’t.

As a therapist and social worker who focuses on the impact of emerging technologies on our human condition, I am extremely interested in the concept of disruption. I do think we are seeing the disruption of our economies by Bitcoin, our news media by Twitter, and our politics by Facebook. I do think technological advances are disrupting the Post-Industrial concept of work, and Khan Academy and gamification are disrupting the relevance and primacy of traditional education. And from the Arab Spring to live streaming police brutality and organizing activists by the thousands by using a hashtag, I think social media has begun to disrupt systems of power that have been in place for centuries. I do think these forms of disruption have some things in common: They are often unforeseen by most if not all of us; and they call to society for a response.

There is nothing unforeseen to me about what is detailed in the Vanity Fair article, except the idea that the participants in her “Brotopia” are disrupting anything. There is nothing disruptive, nothing innovative about the use of gender inequality for power plays and gratification. And although we may feel called to respond to the article itself, that is what is disruptive. (In fact Vanity Fair, has been disrupting in an amazing way recently.) Nor is the current administration unforeseen, backlashes never are, really.

In my workshops I talk about how technology always amplifies things. Whether it be hate (books like Mein Kampf), information (Google,) misinformation (Russian bots,) attachment (Skype,) connection (pencils to write letters, LinkedIn,) reach (telegraph) or impact (hammers,) technology always amplifies. There is a big difference between disrupting existing systems of oppression and amplifying existing ones.

I am deeply concerned that people have begun using the concept of disruption to cover up or justify the actual attempts to amplify hatred. It is hard to notice what we are NOT seeing. We are not seeing parties of Silicon Valley women preying on aspiring young men, or in fact non-gender binary elites preying on cis gender people. When people talk about making America great again, that is not the language of disruption. The use of social media to “cyberbully” is not disruptive either, but an amplification of bullying that research has shown is often present in the physical environment of victim and perpetrator.

Technology often disrupts with no regard to the humans using it, because a hammer doesn’t tell you whether you “ought” to use it. But technology itself does not have an agenda. Technology does, however, as Martin Heidegger said, reveal us. Technology uncovers who we are, and sometimes that is not pleasant. Other times technology reveals human phenomenon like attachment.

As we enter a new year, I invite all of you to think carefully about what disruption is and is not. What and how are we using technologies? Are people claiming to be “disrupters” actually innovating and changing existing systems; or are they in fact a backlash from the existing systems against innovation and change? Does it feel surprising or unforeseen, or does it feel tedious? Do you feel called to respond or avoid? And as 2018 begins I’ll ask you what I often ask my audience: What do you want to amplify?

 

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Finally! A Mindfulness Approach to Video Games for Play-Based Social-Emotional Learning, Just in Time for the Holidays

I can’t believe I almost went a whole year without blogging! This has been a full one, and to give you a sense of what I’ve been up to, and what’s to come, I wanted to share this podcast:

 

Mindfulness, Minecraft & The I Ching

Video Games can be a form of mindfulness meditation, both playing and watching them. The Grokcraft Staff take you on a meditative creative session as we begin to build our I Ching Sculpture Park.  Watch, listen, and enjoy..

 

For more info on joining the Grokcraft project, go to http://grokcraft.com .  We are launching Grokcraft with an introductory subscription of $9.99 a month, & subscribers who join now will be locked in at that rate for as long as they are subscribed.  If any of this appeals to you, please check out our new site at http://grokcraft.com & please spread the word to anyone you think might find this resource useful!

Find this post interesting? I can speak in person too:  Check out the Press Kit for Public Speaking info. And, for only $4.99 you can buy my book. You can also Subscribe to the Epic Newsletter!