Posts Tagged ‘theory’
* Northrop Frye by way of Adam Roberts: The basis of critical knowledge is the direct experience of literature, certainly, but experience as such is never adequate. We are always reading Paradise Lostwith a hangover or seeing King Lear with an incompetent Cordelia or disliking a novel because some scene in it connects with something suppressed in our memories, and our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting… As a structure of knowledge, then, criticism, like other structures of knowledge, is in one sense a monument to a failure of experience, a tower of Babel or one of the “ruins of time” which, in Blake’s phrase, “build mansions in eternity.” Adam makes the same connection to SF I make:
I think this resonates so strongly with me partly because science fiction was something I fell in love with as a child-reader. I still love it; still write it and write about it. But I’m increasingly conscious of the ways in which the exercise is based upon a kind of structural hermeneutic inadequacy. ‘Our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting’ is almost a too perfect thumbnail of the adult apprehension of SF; and SF criticism always a kind of running-to-catch-up uttering various post-facto justifications. What’s neat about this Frye quotation is the sense it conveys that, actually, all criticism is in the business of doing this.
* Lukewarm Obama scandals coming day-by-day now. Hello, second term!
* Peter Frase has more on Universal Basic Income as utopia.
* And let this be our culture’s epitaph. We could do worse.
In other words, while a few already well-paid superprofessors get their egos stroked conducting experiments that are doomed to fail, “second- and third-tier universities and colleges, and community colleges” risk closing because Coursera and its ilk have sent higher education price expectations through the floor and systematically devalued everybody else’s work. And they get to do all this while dispensing a produuct that they know is inferior! Jay Gould would be proud.
* The irony, of course, is that “business” logic can kill its own host, like any parasite. When taken as an end in itself, it destroys everything — and then there’s nowhere else to invest, no more areas producing real values that can be syphoned off into the giant pool of money. The imaginary values that finance has racked up then become the object of a game of hot potato, furiously churning through the system until the point when they simply disappear (i.e., lose all their value). That’s what running everything “like a business” does — it trades real value for imaginary value that is then destroyed.
* Just because it’s totally ineffective doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it: A study by the Pew Charitable Trust in 2011, which looked at school closures in six US cities, found that school districts end up saving less than had been predicted. But think of all the other advantages school closings offer!
A University of Chicago study focusing on schools closed between 2001 and 2006 found that only six percent of displaced students ended up in high-performing schools.
And 42 percent of students continued to attend schools with ‘very low’ achievement levels. A year after changing schools, students’ reading and math abilities were not any better or worse.
Students who did go to better-performing schools also had to travel an average of 6km to get there – which critics say risks the safety of students who have to go through neighbourhoods containing rival gangs.
And here, at the limit of life that idling alone brings into view in a nonthreatening way, we find another kind of nested logic. Call it the two-step law of life. Rule No. 1 is tomorrow we die; and Rule No. 2 is nobody, not even the most helpful robot, can change Rule No. 1. Enjoy!
* The Essential Verso Undergraduate Reading List. Makes me think I really need to start including more theory on my syllabi.
* MOOCs we can believe in? One of the most remote outposts of Jesuit higher education is tucked away in dusty northwest Kenya, in a place whose name means “Nowhere” in Swahili. There, at Kakuma Refugee Camp, a small group of students — refugees from several neighboring African countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia — are enrolled in online courses taught by 28 Jesuit colleges, mostly in the United States. The course is part of the Jesuit Commons project.
* Unexpected: SCOTUSblog now thinks there’s at least five judges who will vote to strike down DOMA. Meanwhile, McCaskill seems to have triggered Hagan to announce her support of marriage equality.
* Ripped from the stuff Fox News usually just has to make up: Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has stepped into the fray over an offensive classroom exercise at Florida Atlantic University in which students were asked to stomp on a sheet of paper with “Jesus” written on it.
Boston College officials sent a letter to students on March 15 demanding an end to student-run “Safe Sites,” a network of dorm rooms and other locations where free contraceptives and safe sex information are available.
Students living in the “Safe Sites” were told in the letter that the distribution of condoms is in conflict with their “responsibility to protect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.”
* xkcd considers the past as another country … with an outdated military and massive oil reserves.
* And making the rounds again: The 50 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever.
* Breaking: Liberal arts majors didn’t kill the economy.
* In the beginning, God created the wealth and the jobs. Now the wealth was a formless void and darkness covered the sources of value, while the spirit of capitalism hovered over the depths. And then God said, “Let there be jobs,” and there were jobs. And God saw that the jobs were not very good; and God separated the jobs from the surplus-value. God called the surplus-value Wealth, and the jobs he called Generosity. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1: A Neoliberal Account.
* Janet Stephens, amateur hairdressing historian. Fun story, despite the classist overtones.
* Fox News screws up every day, but this one is pretty classic.
* There’s obviously some sort of long-term plan here that I don’t yet understand, like the time-bombs hidden in No Child Left Behind: North Carolina to formalize two “tracks” of high school diplomas, “job-ready” and “college-ready.”
* The Talmudic solution to the drone crisis: invent (another) secret, unaccountable court system in lieu of actual due process.
* And George Bush, painter.
Friday Links! Soviet Choose Your Own Adventure, World Tetris Competition, Gödel vs. the Constitution, and More
* In 1987, an anonymous team of computer scientists from the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic wrote a series of children’s books based on the popular Choose Your Own Adventure series. The books were hastily translated into English and a small number were exported to America, but the CIA, fearing a possible Soviet mind control scheme, confiscated them all before they could be sold. Now declassified, the books have been lovingly converted to a digital hypertext format and put online for the English-speaking world to enjoy. Via MeFi, which has some highlights from You Will Select a Decision:
“If you follow the bear immediately, turn to page 35.
If you follow the bear after some hesitation, wait for ten seconds and then turn to page 35.”
“If you say yes, turn to page 18
I will not permit you to say no. Turn to page 18.”
* Gödel, in his usual manner, had read extensively in preparing for the hearing. In the course of his studies, Gödel decided that he had discovered a flaw in the U.S. Constitution — a contradiction which would allow the U.S. to be turned into a dictatorship. Gödel, usually quite reticent, seemed to feel a need to make this known. Morgenstern and Einstein warned Gödel that it would be a disaster to confront his citizenship examiner with visions of a Constitutional flaw leading to an American dictatorship.
* This week, Europol, the European Union’s criminal-intelligence division, announced that its investigation into match-fixing, codenamed “Operation Veto,” had uncovered 680 suspicious games from 2008 to 2011. It’s huge news, not because the results are particularly surprising — there’s plenty of other evidence, even recent evidence, that match-fixing is rampant in global soccer — but because the sheer extent of the allegations means that we can no longer delude ourselves about what’s happening. This is what’s happening: Soccer is fucked. Match-fixing is corroding the integrity of the game at every level.
* Ted Underwood on text-mining and distant reading: We don’t already know the broad outlines of literary history.
* Fund snidely concludes: “But, of course, as you know there is no voter fraud. Pay no attention to that lightning coming out of Ohio.” While voter fraud does rarely exist, fighting these sorts of “lightning” with strict photo ID laws that disenfranchise legitimate voters is like banning orange juice to prevent jaywalking.
* The main point here: Germany doesn’t get all that much sunlight. In fact, it gets about as much direct solar-energy as Alaska does each year. Just about every single region in the continental United States has vastly more solar resources than Germany.
* Top college football prospect Alex Collins spent Wednesday trying to track down his mother, who had intercepted his letter of intent to attend the University of Arkansas. (Apparently she did not want him to attend college far from home.) Colleges cannot accept commitments from players under 21 without the signature of a parent or guardian. Eventually Collins’ father signed the form, but aren’t 18-year-olds legally entitled to make their own decisions?
* Sunday map-reading: an index of maps from fantasy novels.
The UC administration constitutes a parasitic bureaucracy that grows and expands by consuming those elements of the university that remain outside of it. It can only survive by extracting tuition from students and wages from university workers. In return, it does not grow the university—it grows only itself.
* Relatedly: MOOCs and university management troubles.
* Proponents of the current craze ought to think carefully about the human costs of technology before enthusiastically proclaiming the end of a system that could leave hundreds of thousands of people without work, students cheated out of a quality education, and that would further contribute to the creation of a world where virtualization is always and everywhere, without qualification or questioning, heralded as an unequivocal good.
* Ban double majors! That’ll solve it.
* Obama administration vs. fair use? My god, why?
* Film and television news! Is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood the greatest television show ever made? Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective. The “gentleman’s F” and the scourge of deliberate mediocrity.
The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”
There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.
* Great animated short from Disney: Paperman.
* Some iPad and iPhone puzzle game recommendations. I’ve been obsessed with Flow and Hundreds lately myself.
* And tempered glass can just randomly explode for no reason. The more you know!
* Bernard Pollard doesn’t think the NFL will exist in 30 years… because it’s just becoming too darn safe.
* Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity. No classroom time is required under the Wisconsin program except for clinical or practicum work for certain degrees.
* Also in local news: Milwaukee sheriff says the police won’t protect you, so get a gun.
* And with each new technology, the same hyperbole, the same evangelism. On-line education is great. MOOC is a wonderful concept. But most of the institutions in the world that are over 400 years old are universities and there is a reason for that. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the impending demise of the traditional university may be much exaggerated.
Coming up in February at UWM: The Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference, special theme “Failure.”
* The Center for 21st Century Studies has announced its postdoc theme for 2013-2014: “Changing Climates.” Applications due March 1.
* What’s coming out with this UNC rape case is astounding. UNC’s Former Dean of Students Says She Was Forced to Underreport Sexual Assault Cases. And then this, from the assistant vice underprovost of sickening analogies:
“When I went to report my assault in 2007, I asked an administrator what the process would look like,” Clark said. “Instead, that person told me, ‘Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?’”
* Being Married Helps Professors Get Ahead, but Only if They’re Male: A new study of history professors shows that married men get promoted faster than their single colleagues, while the opposite is true for women.
* The union at Kalamazoo Valley Community College launches a food drive for its own adjuncts.
* “Fear and loathing in academia” and “Some historical notes on the decline of the universities,” from anthropologies issue 16: The Neoliberalized, Debt-plagued, Low Wage, Corporatized University. Also: Passing with Pills: Redefining Performance in the Pharmaceuticalized University.
* As I say, I have no dog in this race, except a belief that no one, in this sea of riches, should have to be poor. But staring dumbfounded at the lessons unlearned in Britain, Europe and the United States, it strikes me that the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud. The demands of the ultra-rich have been dressed up as sophisticated economic theory and applied regardless of the outcome. The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.
* Theater of Pain: Tom Junod on injury in the NFL.
The perspective of pain is what this story is about. For fans, injuries are like commercials, the price of watching the game as well as harrowing advertisements for the humanity of the armored giants who play it. For gamblers and fantasy-football enthusiasts, they are data, a reason to vet the arcane shorthand (knee, doubtful) of the injury report the NFL issues every week; for sportswriters they are kernels of reliable narrative. For players, though, injuries are a day-to-day reality, indeed both the central reality of their lives and an alternate reality that turns life into a theater of pain. Experienced in public and endured almost entirely in private, injuries are what players think about and try to put out of their minds; what they talk about to one another and what they make a point to suffer without complaint; what they’re proud of and what they’re ashamed by; what they are never able to count and always able to remember
* Rules for kids: The book, discovered by a 20-year-old Walmart employee, Raymond Flores, became an Internet sensation after Flores contacted the media to try to find its owner and its touching rules - including the rules “Don’t bite the dentist” and “If you’re going to wet your bed, wear a pull-up” - went viral.
* Two years before his death, legendary science and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov kicked off a TV pilot dedicated to exploring the faint and ever-shifting boundary separating science from science fiction.
* And Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, on robots.
* Any guild with half an ounce of integrity would be marching in the streets if their employers made that kind of threat to open up their market to all comers. We professors, on the other hand, have to navel gaze about the implications of our own obsolescence before anyone chooses to lift a finger. If there really are only ten universities in twenty years and that Ph.D. of yours ends up as a really expensive wall hanging, don’t say you weren’t warned. The professoriate is the worst guild ever.
* As with discourse about climate change policy, the persistence of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other forms of argument about the value of officially sanctioned torture represents a victory for those who would justify such abuse. Zero Dark Thirty has performed no public service by enlarging the acceptability of that form of debate. Sounds like it was good enough even-the-liberal Jon Stewart.
* After complaining for weeks that the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” erroneously implies that torture yielded key information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a trio of senior senators now want to know whether CIA personnel deliberately misled the filmmakers on that point.
* Wanted: Tenure-track professor of political science specializing in constitutional law to teach four courses per semester. Juris doctor degree highly desirable. Occasional weight-lifting required.
* Via my friend @DanHF: a celebration of Tarantino’s Death Proof.
* And who had Mali in the places-to-invade-next pool? You’ve won some exciting violence.
This year’s theme at the Center for 21st Century Studies is “Changing Climates.”