Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘no future

Sunday Morning!

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* Early career advice you can use: The Hiring Process at Teaching Colleges. How Your Journal Editor Works.

* So what do I mean by claiming that there is no future to the study of culture in the 21st Century? My thesis is that we are (or should be) nearing the end of the study of culture, and that to continue to study it as we have will run the risk of irrelevance, or worse. In this talk I maintain that there is no future for the study of culture if it does not include the study of key concerns of the 21st century, including especially those ecological, geopolitical, and economic issues which threaten the existence of culture as we know it.

* Kim Stanley Robinson on Generation Anthropocene.

* I thought the first episode of Harmonquest was pretty promising. I’ve also been enjoying The Union of “The State” for the full 90s flashback experience. And why not wash it down with Dana Carvey’s Nano-Impressions?

* Bad news: 2016 will get one last extra second to make us all suffer.

* There’s a Secret Message Written Into the Sands of Mars.

* “I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing.” A bit more from Kottke on what happens when you turn police agencies into a revenue stream.

* Pokémon Go and Race in America.

Hillary Clinton’s Poll Numbers Look Nearly Unbeatable.

* The Leftist’s Guide to Actually Existing Welfare.

* When a physician is the perpetrator, the AJC found, the nation often looks the other way.

* An interactive self-care guide.

* Millennials and class identity.

* The end of margarine.

* The parental misery index. Whenever I see this studies I really think that “happiness” is the wrong value to be trying to measure; being a parent is unquestionably the best thing I’ve ever done, whether it makes me quantifiably “happier” moment-to-moment or not.

* No more half measures: only the total elimination of the university can protect students and teachers from each other.

The Trusted Grown-Ups Who Steal Millions From Youth Sports.

On playing the LAPD in your local pickup league.

* And truly we are all guilty before the law.

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Wednesday Links!

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tumblr_nirowmOALX1qmyzbvo1_r1_1280* This is the only movie franchise Disney should produce from now on.

* On indigenous futurism.

* It’s not time to degree, it’s time from degree.

* Horrifying, tragic triple murder in Chapel Hill.

Professors and other university employees wouldn’t be able to criticize or praise lawmakers, the governor or other elected officials in letters to the editor if they use their official titles, under a bill introduced in the Legislature. Having solved every other problem in existence, the Legislature now turns its eyes towards…

* The University of Wisconsin cuts as queen sacrifice.

* What University Administrators Gain from $300 Million in Cuts. Notes from the conspiracy against UW.

 * How our paths have diverged from that August afternoon in 1986. True story: it was freshman orientation just outside Memorial Union. We were two of a couple thousand new Marquette University freshman wistful about what our futures held. Four years later, I graduated from Marquette and later became Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. You never graduated, and you became the Governor of the State of Wisconsin bent on dismantling public education. Ironic, isn’t it? Situational irony at its best. I’d laugh if its ramifications weren’t so utterly destructive for the state of Wisconsin.

* First Louisiana, then Wisconsin, now South Carolina ups the ante. Now they want to shut it down for two years. Would it shock you if I told you this was a historically black college? Would it completely blow your mind?

What Even is African Literature Anyway.

SOFIA SAMATAR: Lately I have been thinking about African literature as the literature that becomes nothing.“African subjectivity…is constituted by a perennial lack: lacking souls, lacking civilization, lacking writing, lacking responsibility, lacking development, lacking human rights and lacking democracy. It is an unending discourse that invents particular ‘lacks’ suitable for particular historical epochs so as to justify perpetuation of asymmetrical power relations and to authorize various forms of external interventions into Africa.” (Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Empire, Global Coloniality And African Subjectivity)This was kicked off when I read Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni on lack. We know that all literary works are copies, but Africanliterature is a copy in a way that obliterates it (Ouologuem, Camara Laye, whatever, choose your plagiarism scandal). All literature is political, but African literature is political in a way that makes it cease to be literature (it’s “too political,” “didactic,” etc.). All literature is produced to suit a market, but African literature is produced to suit an illegitimate, inauthentic, outside market (it’s always in the wrong language). Its market also makes it nothing…

Crumbs is a new feature-length film project from award-winning Addis Ababa-based Spanish director Miguel Llansó boldly touting itself as “the first ever Ethiopian post-apocalyptic, surreal, sci-fi feature length film.” Its cryptic official trailer, which we first spotted over on Shadow and Act, takes us deep into a bizarre universe inhabited by the beautiful Candy (played by Ethiopian actress Selam Tesfaye) and her diminutive scrap collecting partner Birdy (played by Ethiopian actor Daniel Tadesse Gagano), who sets out on a journey to uncover strange happenings in their otherwise desolate surroundings.

In the high-stakes world of American education, Pearson makes money even when its results don’t measure up.

* Jon Stewart quits. Brian Williams suspended. Tough times in fake news.

* Another preview of Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules.

* To all the young journalists asking for advice.

I asked Mr. Trachtenberg if it was morally defensible to let students borrow tens of thousands of dollars for a service that he himself had compared to a luxury good. He is not, by nature, one for apologies and second-guessing. “I’m not embarrassed by what we did,” he said. “It’s not as if it’s some kind of a bait and switch here. It’s not as if the faculty weren’t good. It’s not as if the opportunities to get a good degree weren’t there. There’s no misrepresentation here.” He seemed unbowed but also aware that his legacy was bound up in the larger dramas and crises of American higher education.

Whatever happened to the teenage entrepreneurs whom Peter Thiel paid to forgo college?

* Jesus Christ: The University of Oregon illegally pried through the medical records of a female student who was expected to file a sexual assault-related lawsuit against the school, a staff therapist claims.

* The salary gap at Berkeley.

For centuries we the taxpayers have paid to maintain the nation’s treasures and institutions. It would be madness to hand over our archives now.

I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles.

Rosa Parks — because of her arrest, because of her activism — loses her job at the Montgomery Fair department store, where she was an assistant tailor. She wasn’t fired, they just let her go. And Raymond Parks also loses his job as well. And neither one of them is able to find sustainable employment in Montgomery after that — because of their activism, absolutely. They are basically boycotted. …

This is a 1955 tax return, and of course her arrest is in December of that year, and their combined income is $3,749. So they’re, you know, the working poor, but they’re holding their head above water. And here is their tax return in 1959 when they’re living in Detroit. Their combined income is $661. They have descended into deep, deep poverty.

On June 30th, 1974, Alberta Williams King was gunned down while she played the organ for the “Lord’s Prayer” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. As a Christian civil rights activist, she was assassinated…just like her son, Martin Luther King, Jr.

* BREAKING: People with Stronger Writing Skills Are Better at Their Jobs, Get Paid More, Better Looking, Less B.O., Just Better Period.

* Five Dials has a special issue devoted to Richard McGuire’s amazing comic Here.

Review: Jupiter Ascending Is The Worst Movie Ever Go See It Immediately.

* So what would have made Jupiter Ascending work?

* NASA’s latest budget calls for a mission to Europa. OK I think as long as we attempt no landings there.

* Milwaukee streetcar boondoggle project approved.

Secret Teacher: exams have left my students incapable of thinking. “Incapable” is a bit strong, but elites have certainly turned education into a nightmare.

* TOS for Samsung’s exciting new 4o-inch telescreen.

What appears to happen during this time—the years I look at are 1994 to 2008, just based on the data that’s available—is that the probability that a district attorneys file a felony charge against an arrestee goes from about 1 in 3, to 2 in 3. So over the course of the ’90s and 2000s, district attorneys just got much more aggressive in how they filed charges. Defendants who they would not have filed felony charges against before, they now are charging with felonies. I can’t tell you why they’re doing that. No one’s really got an answer to that yet. But it does seem that the number of felony cases filed shoots up very strongly, even as the number of arrests goes down.

2013 record heatwave ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, Climate Council of Australia report says.

* Text adventure micro-game of the day: 9:05.

* Fantasy short of the day: “The Two of Us.”

Sharing companies use their advertising to build a sort of anti-brand-community brand community.  Both sharing companies and brand communities mediate social relations and make them seem less risky. Actual community is full of friction and unresolvable competing agendas; sharing apps’ main function is to eradicate friction and render all parties’ agenda uniform: let’s make a deal. They are popular because they do what brand communities do: They allow people to extract value from strangers without the hassle of having to dealing with them as more than amiable robots.

38 Percent Of Women Earn More Than Their Husbands.

The Worst Commutes In America.

* “I was keenly aware of my Jewishness when I enrolled at Hogwarts in that faraway fall of 1949.”

* The-price-is-too-high watch: Study says smelling farts may be good for your health.

Black girls are suspended from school 6 times more often than white girls.

* From the archives: The New Yorker‘s 2013 profile of American Sniper Chris Kyle.

* Human sociality and the problem of trust: there’s an app for that.

* Adnan Syed is getting an appeal.

Detroit needs Sun Ra more than ever.

But Manson, 80, does not want to marry Burton and has no interest in spending eternity displayed in a glass coffin, Simone told The Post. “He’s finally realized that he’s been played for a fool,” Simone said. Poor guy.

“This AI can create poetry indistinguishable from real poets.” Finally, we can get rid of all these poets!

* Peace in our time: Marvel and Sony have concluded a deal that will allow Spider-Man to appear in Avengers movies.

Zoo Security Drills: When Animals Escape.

Ming the clam, the world’s oldest animal, killed at 507 years old by scientists trying to tell how old it was. RIP.

* Jonathan Blow says The Witness, his followup to Braid, is finally almost done.

* The other Apollo speeches.

* The news gets worse, academics: Your lifetime earnings are probably determined in your 20s.

* And presenting the world’s most delicious diamond.

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Written by gerrycanavan

February 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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1/2 Links

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tumblr_mypo84vnXR1qz6f9yo1_500* Preach it.

All years are terrible years; the predicament of being human tends towards the negative. We read the news and are left feeling nothing more noble than “only I have escaped to tell thee.” A given year can be pronounced good only in a solipsistic sense.

* This headline seems like it was generated by some dystopian headline generator: Yakuza Gangsters Recruit Homeless Men for Fukushima Nuclear Clean Up.

* And then there’s this one: Climate Change Vastly Worse Than Previously Thought.

If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.

* And then there’s this: Drone Testing Sites Announced In Six States.

“Diversity is something that’s being marketed,” Pippert says. “They’re trying to sell a campus climate, they’re trying to sell a future. Campuses are trying to say, ‘If you come here, you’ll have a good time, and you’ll fit in.’ “

How the Tenured are to the Job Market as White People are to Racism. Waving The White Flag On Tenured Vs. Adjunct.

At the Ivies, It’s Still White at the Top.

History Jobs Down 7.3%.

The drop follows two years of modest gains, but even those gains hadn’t come close to returning to the level of openings before the economic downturn hit in the fall of 2008. This year, the AHA posted 686 jobs, and the pre-recession total was 1,064.

Handed up by an Orange County, N.C., grand jury, the indictment charged Nyang’oro with “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously” accepting payment “with the intent to cheat and defraud” the university in connection with the AFAM course — a virtually unheard-of legal accusation against a professor. It’s simply incomprehensible to me how the alleged behavior could have been accomplished by just one person acting alone.

* The philosopher posited chains and a key.

* Asimov predicts 2014 in 1964 (and 1997 in 1977).

“In 1969 the median salary for a male worker was $35,567 (in 2012 dollars). Today it is $33,904. So for 44 years, while wages for the top 10 percent have continued to climb, most Americans have been caught in a ”Great Stagnation,” bringing into question the whole purpose of the American capitalist economy. The notion that what benefited the establishment would benefit everyone, had been thoroughly discredited.”

Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke.

* 10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2014.

The 124 states of America: What would the U.S. look like if all of the secession movements in U.S. history had succeeded?

* Spied On from My iPhone: NSA has “backdoor access” to iPhones.

* RIP, James “Uncle Phil” Avery.

* Ernesto: A Quick RPG.

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower.

* And now an annual tradition: What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2014?

2014whatcouldhavebeencollage

#HaveWeekendLinksLandedYet

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New leaks show NSA spying on European regulators and charities. UNICEF, man.

NSA had secret deal on back-doored crypto with security firm RSA, Snowden docs reveal.

* Shock decision: Federal Judge Rules That Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Utah. I’m hoping this is finally the watershed. In Striking Down Utah’s Gay Marriage Ban, Judge Gives Scalia Big Bear Hug.

* #slatepitches we can believe in: There Are Two Americas, and One Is Better Than the Other.

* Aaron Bady deconstructs the Twitter “event” of the week, #HasJustineLandedYet.

* Another good post on education policy from Freddie de Boer: Is there such a thing as static teacher quality?

Now, these numbers are particularly stark, but this is not really a surprising result, if you been paying attention. Why did New York end its teacher performance pay program in the first place? In large part because of incoherent results: teachers would be rated as terrible in one class and excellent in another, within the same semester. Teachers that had been among the top performers one year would be among the worst performers the next. Teachers that were believed by administrators and parents to have serious performance issues would be rated highly; teachers that were believed by administrators and parents to be among a school’s best would be rated poorly. On and on.

* Six questions for Teach for America.

Conservative groups spend $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.

Oklahoma City cops charge Keystone XL protesters with “terrorism hoax” because their banner shed some glitter.

Fracking chemicals disrupt human hormone functions, study claims. FDA should be looking into this in about forty years.

* Gasp! Researchers Find Factors Tied To Voting Restriction Bills Are ‘Basically All Racial.’

Stop and Frisk Is Everywhere.

* Rogue death scene cut from Days of Future Past, it looks like.

“Where we’re losing them is at the full professor rank,” she continued. “Somehow we’re losing women.”

Pharmacists Frequently Misinform Teens About Whether They’re Allowed To Buy Plan B.

A 54-year old American woman was given increasingly invasive and fruitless cavity searches after a drug dog was instructed to “alert” in front of her by U.S. border guards. The victim, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, was then ordered to consume laxatives, endure x-rays and other scans, and subjected to further medical rectal and vaginal probes—all conducted by doctors at University Medical Center El Paso over over her protests and without any form of warrant.

Wealthy Tech Investor Backs Plan To Split California Into Six States.

A court in Canada has ruled Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen can try to seize the assets of oil giant Chevron based on a 2011 decision in an Ecuadorean court found it liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rainforest.

What happens if you make a mistake with a planet?

* Great moments in neocolonialism: Is It Time to Make Knowledge of English a Human Right?

* Florida is sticking with legal murder: Florida Man Who Shot Acquaintance For Threatening To Beat Him Won’t Face Charges, Judge Rules.

* Finally, the story of Harry Potter’s years of neglect and staggering abuse can be told. BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT.

* Dibs on the screenplay: Under Seattle, a Big Object Blocks Bertha. What Is It?

* Peter Singer, maximum-utility troll: “How Many Kids Died Because of Batkid?”

* New York Times to murder its last lingering shred of journalistic integrity.

* And MetaFilter has a mega-post all about the great Alice Sheldon, a.k.a. James Tiptree, Jr.

However Many Links You Think There Are In This Post, There Are Actually More Links Than That

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9710380815_b64e98462e_b* First, they cast Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and I said nothing.

* de Boer v. Schuman re: Hopkins. It’s not the supply, it’s the demand.

The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto.

Earth’s Quietest Place Will Drive You Crazy in 45 Minutes.

If I worked at Kansas University, this post might get me fired.

* Rortybomb v. the social safety net.

* Charlie Stross v. Bitcoin.

* X-tend the Allegory: What if the X-Men actually were black? Essay version. Via.

“Men’s Rights” Trolls Spammed Us With 400 Fake Rape Reports.

The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency.’ It’s already here. 96 Percent Of Network Nightly News’ Coverage Of Extreme Weather Doesn’t Mention Climate Change. The year in fossil fuel disasters.

* “Unfathomable”: Why Is One Commission Trying to Close California’s Largest Public College? ACCJC Gone Wild.

San Jose State University has all but ended its experiment to offer low-cost, high-quality online education in partnership with the massive open online course provider Udacity after a year of disappointing results and growing dismay among faculty members.

Data Mining Exposes Embarrassing Problems For Massive Open Online Courses.

CSU-Pueblo revising budget downward; up to 50 jobs at risk, loss of $3.3M.

* For-Profit College Oakbridge Academy Of Arts Suddenly Shuts Down.

* “This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don’t know quite why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not,” the billionaire told Politicker, calling her plight “a sad situation.”

In Defense of ‘Entitlements.’

* The way we die now.

* Oh, I see, there’s your problem right there. Links continue below the graph.

IncomeGuide_2013_Jan17_RGB_page-11_11

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”

* World’s first full-size Lego car can hit 20 mph, powered by insane, 256-cylinder compresed air engine.

Scott Walker signals he will sign school mascot bill.

Thieves steal risqué calendars, leave protest signs.

* DC Passes Great Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Days Bills. What’s in Them?

* France institutes a carbon tax.

Community Season 5 Feels Like An Old Friend Has Finally Come Home.

62 Percent of Restaurant Workers Don’t Wash Their Hands After Handling Raw Beef.

* Mars by night.

* Shock in Ohio: No evidence of plot to register non-citizen voters. That only proves how successful the conspiracy has been!

* Wow: Tampa Toddler Thriving After Rare 5-Organ Transplant.

* The Decline of the US Death Penalty. Still illegal to murder people in Detroit (maybe). 15 Things That We Re-Learned About the Prison Industrial Complex in 20123. Data Broker Removes Rape-Victims List After Journal Inquiry.

* The true story of the original “welfare queen.”

Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.

* The 16 Colleges and Universities Where It’s Hardest to Get an A.

* Michael Pollan on plant intelligence.

Signs Taken as Wonders: Žižek and the Apparent Interpreter.

Marriage equality reaches New Mexico.

A vigil planned as a peaceful remembrance of a teen killed in police custody ended with tear gas and arrests Thursday night in downtown Durham.

* An oral history of the Cones of Dunshire.

* On scarcity and the Federation.

* “Characters” trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

* And ion has your science fiction postage stamps.

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Written by gerrycanavan

December 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Future

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Written by gerrycanavan

July 3, 2013 at 10:29 am

Sunday Morning Links!

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Under the terms of an earlier decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the BP refinery can legally discharge an annual average of 23.1 parts per trillion of mercury — nearly 20 times the federal water quality standard for Great Lakes polluters. The proposed new permit would allow that special exemption to continue indefinitely.

* Monsters University: The Aftermath. Expanding on the beloved series of tweets!

* If you’re an American corporation operating over the last ten years, you’re gonna have a bad time: Gawker’s Unpaid Interns Sue After Fox Searchlight Ruling.

Goodwill is paying some of its disabled workers just 22 cents an hour, while the charity’s executives make six figure salaries.

* “Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism.” This got tweeted at me during my conversation about whiteness with @studentactivism the other night, and I found it really interesting.

* Given Marvel’s famous sliding time scale, the entirety of the Marvel Universe has now happened since 9/11.

* And on the other side of the aisle: Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today?

* What happens when you don’t get enough sleep basically every night, am I right.

* Tomorrow’s headlines today: Massive Flooding In Alberta Canada Forces 75,000 To Flee.

* But don’t worry! And Obama Will Announce Regulation Of CO2 From Existing Power Plants On Tuesday. So next year the rate of increase of flood refugees will begin to taper off.

This Was the Moment When the Rise of the Oceans Began to Slow and Our Planet Began to Heal

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No Hope

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Written by gerrycanavan

March 7, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Thursday Night Links

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* This may shock you, but Thomas Friedman loves MOOCs. An Ad Hominem Attack Against Thomas Friedman. MOOCs R Us. MOOCs or BOOKs?

* Public higher education is about to cross a historic threshold, in which students pay a higher percentage than do states of the operating costs of colleges.

Mother who stole son’s education gets 12 years in prison.

* Two bad tastes that taste good together: Rand Paul filibusters drones.

* Apocalypse now: The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new federal figures show.

Planning for the Post-Income Economy. Fracking is starting to devour the US economy.

Elephant Poaching Pushes Species To Brink Of Extinction.

* The case for open borders.

The entrapment defense rarely succeeds, both in terrorism cases and more quotidian (usually drug-related) prosecutions, largely because “entrapment” means something very different in a courtroom than it does in ordinary usage. For nearly a century, the federal courts have allowed a criminal defendant to dodge criminal liability by showing that the governmentinduced her to commit an unlawful act. Once the accused makes such a showing, however, the government still has the opportunity to prove that she was predisposed to commit the crime, even before government agents entered the picture. If a jury accepts the government’s characterization, other factors—the nature or size of the “bait,” the complexity of the government artifice, or the independent wherewithal of the defendant to commit the crime—basically don’t matter: the defendant is still guilty. This means that when entrapment is at issue, the personality, reputation, criminal history, and political or religious beliefs of the accused become the centerpiece of the trial. Post-9/11 juries have had little trouble concluding that the disaffected Muslims (and occasional anarchists) ensnared by the FBI have been sufficiently “predisposed” to engage in terrorism.

* On writing fan fiction.

Recovering Lolita. My students have been pouring over this collection of Lolita book covers thanks to @sselisker.

* #slatepitches: What SimCity Teaches Us About Real Cities of the Future.

Ephemeral third ring of radiation makes appearance around Earth. If we lived in a comic book, I bet this story would be fifteen times as awesome.

Detailed Floor Plan Drawings of Popular TV and Film Homes.

See Stephen Colbert school James Franco on Tolkien mythology.

* A first look at The Grand Budapest Hotel.

FBI Investigating Drone Near Miss with Jet at JFK.

* TPM’s papal contenders cheatsheet.

* Smile Time: Community is doing an all-puppet episode, with actual puppets.

First Trailer for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Consequences of Repeated Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Football Players.

* And the latest issue of The New Inquiry posits time is the fire in which we burn.

Some Preliminary Theses on MOOCs

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These tweets got a lot of attention over the weekend, so I wanted to take a minute and expand a bit on why I think this is the case. On some level, after all, this seems like a calculatedly perverse thing to say; as we all know, MOOCs are the one and only future of a higher education system that is otherwise doomed. Doomed!  And don’t they use computers, and the Internet? What could be more future-oriented than that?

But MOOCs actually register an end-of-history fantasy in at least three ways:

(1) First, the most basic economic justification for MOOCs assumes that the funding conditions of the current financial downtown (2008-) will never reset. Colleges, we are repeatedly told, are to face ever-declining budgets from this moment forward forever. There will never be any period of expansion and growth again; consequently “we must all learn to do more with less.” From my perspective this supposedly urgent need to upend the basic assumptions that have governed university life over its centuries-long history — of which the MOOC is but the most salient example — is both a hyper-reaction to temporary vibrations in the economic cycle and an unnecessary surrender to a shock-doctrine rhetoric of permanent crisis. Draconian cutbacks to education are a choice we are making, not an historical inevitability or some unyielding law of nature, and a choice we can yet unmake.

But going deeper:

(2) The pedagogical justification for MOOCs derives from a misunderstood belief in the surety and fixidity of current academic knowledge when, in fact, the entire point of the academy is discovery and dialogue. That is: the MOOC assumes we know what there is for us to know, and the only question now is how to package that knowledge in its best possible form for widest dissemination. So we must locate the “most charismatic” professors — but really, why not hire actors? — and have them lecture “deliver content” for huge Internet audiences of 10,000 or more.

But this bears no relationship to what actually goes on in classrooms, at least in the humanities fields in which I’ve spent the last fifteen years. The vitality of our teaching derives not from the recitation of what is certain but from the explorations of questions that are still unsettled and raw. MOOCs presume that nothing new will be produced in research — the entire point is to freeze established “content” in its perfected form — but also that nothing new or worthwhile is produced in the two-way encounter between teacher and student. Neither assumption reflects any college classroom I’ve ever sat in or how we in the humanities teach and learn.

This is at odds, we should further note, with the ecstatic assertions of “disruption” that frequently accumulate around discussions of the MOOC. In fact the MOOC is not a disruptive form but a fundamentally conservative one, flattening academic practice into the playing back of fixed lectures from a handful of professors recorded who-knows-how-long-ago under who-knows-which conditions. The MOOC is, in short, exactly how you’d structure higher education if you believed there was no future, if you believed you were living at the end of history and nothing was ever going to change. It’s in fact the interactive educational experience that is dynamic and radically adaptative, the interactive experience that has the power to disrupt the things both student and teacher think they know for sure.

(3) Parallel to this there is the question of who exactly is supposed to update all these MOOCs, or record new ones, years and decades from now, as will inevitably become necessary. And in some ways this is the crucial point, not just about MOOCs but about neoliberal attempts to defund and deprofessionalize the academy more generally. People working in the academy themselves are commonly complicit in this; we generally treat questions of our own reproduction as a kind of unhappy embarrassment, as if it weren’t necessary for any field of human activity to attend to the replenishment of its own conditions for existence. (Indeed, what’s wrong with the short-term balance-sheets of late capitalism is precisely this failure to attend in any meaningful way to long-term sustainability.) What’s unique about the field of higher education is that it itself is in crucial ways the system of replenishment for so many other fields — the means by which we produce more engineers, writers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, doctors, and so on. But higher education is also the means by which higher education replicates itself, as it must, as any system must. It needs to fulfill both mandates as it goes or the system will collapse.

Articulating the need for more professors in the future — and thus grad students and assistant professors in the present — isn’t any different than doctors recognizing that in each year that comes there will always need to be more med students to replace those doctors who will retire or die. There are children being born today who will someday need college professors. There are children not yet born who will someday become professors for children not yet born! The university requires a rational and sustainable system for replicating itself into the future because there will still need to be a university system after we are all dead.

Failing to account for, and pay for, the continuation and reproduction of a necessary system isn’t economic rationality; it isn’t a hard-nosed commitment to making the tough choices; it’s the exact opposite. It’s living as if there is no future, no need to reproduce the systems we have now for the future generations who will eventually need them. The fantasy that we could MOOCify education this year to save money on professor labor next year, and gain a few black lines in the budget, ignores the obvious need for a higher educational system that will be able to update, replenish, and sustain the glorious MOOCiversity when that time inevitably comes. Who is supposed to develop all the new and updated MOOCs we’ll need in two, five, ten, twenty years, in response to events and discoveries and technologies we cannot yet imagine? Who is going to moderate the discussion forums, grade the tests, answer questions from the students? In what capacity and under what contract terms will these MOOC-updaters and MOOC-runners be employed? By whom? Where will they have received their training, and how will that training have been paid for? What is the business model for the MOOC — not this quarter, but this decade, this century?

In a thousand ways today, all across the world, higher education today is eating its seed corn; MOOCs are just a particularly visible example of this phenomenon.

The answer to this objection, as best as I can tell, is that elite students will still have elite colleges, and their elite professors will just do all the new MOOCs. But this is revealing — against a rhetoric of radically democratizing MOOCs that expand access for all, we find instead a reality of intensifying class divisions in higher education, making the current divide between educational cohorts both formal and permanent while at the same time returning to us the worst aspects of the academy’s past as a luxury only for the rich. It’s also a fundamentally self-defeating explanation for how all this is supposed to work; when pushed to its limit the radical disruption of the MOOC turns out to retain the “rotten tree” of the university after all, just for those who can still afford to pay. To take up Aaron’s hyperextended metaphor once again, from this perspective we might say that the MOOCiversity keeps only the rotten tree, and clear-cuts the rest of the forest.

Of course this is not to say that every MOOC is necessarily bad. Of course not. It seems to me there are plenty of places where this pedagogical model can work quite well; I’ve even heard rumblings on my own campus of limited MOOC-style projects that could (at least potentially) solve real structural problems with core instruction here. I don’t oppose the MOOC form in principle any more than I oppose online classes, or three-hundred-person-lectures, or Wikipedia. There’s a place for multiple pedagogical models in knowledge production, and certainly a place for experimentation. But this fantasy we keep hearing of replacing whole campuses and all courses and all instruction with MOOCs — of doing away with face-to-face and digital-face-to-digital-face instruction entirely, at least for bulk of students and professions — is a fantasy of tearing down the robust university system our society spent centuries building and selling it for scrap. I say we shouldn’t do it.

‘Scrooge’s Rejection of Christmas Is Merely a Particularly Recognizable Subset of a Broader Rejection of Reproductive Futurism, and Is For That Reason Depicted as Monstrous’

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Christmas is about capitalism—of course; everyone knows that, albeit usually in the context of bemoaning it. Sedgwick’s insight is that Christmas’s univocality allows each of these sites of power—capital, the state, “the” (heteronormative, reproductive) family, religion—to stand in as a metonym for all the rest. You buy Christmas presents because you love your family because the Christ-child loves you because you love the Child because the Child is the future of the nation, and round and round. Christmas has meaning, we are continually assured, and it is all the same meaning—the single, univocal meaning that the unmeaning sinthome both opposes and makes possible. If Christmas is about “meaning,” then a purely negative Scrooge is the reason for the season.

Children Dressed as Animals Dressed as Children (or, The Meaning of Christmas). Also via zunguzungu.

‘Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.’

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“It’s just too late for it,” he says. “Perhaps if we’d gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don’t have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can’t say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do.”

He dismisses eco ideas briskly, one by one. “Carbon offsetting? I wouldn’t dream of it. It’s just a joke. To pay money to plant trees, to think you’re offsetting the carbon? You’re probably making matters worse. You’re far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives the money to the native peoples to not take down their forests.”

Do he and his wife try to limit the number of flights they take? “No we don’t. Because we can’t.” And recycling, he adds, is “almost certainly a waste of time and energy”, while having a “green lifestyle” amounts to little more than “ostentatious grand gestures”. He distrusts the notion of ethical consumption. “Because always, in the end, it turns out to be a scam … or if it wasn’t one in the beginning, it becomes one.”

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, says we’re all screwed. MeFi continues its never-ending discussion about the extent to which the sky is really falling. There’s something of Olaf Stapledon’s wonderful Star Maker, which I think I should have more to say about soon, in the way this article ends:

“There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that’s just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we’ll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That’s the source of my optimism.”

And of course, something of No Future as well:

What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.”

Written by gerrycanavan

March 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm