Archive for November, 2006

Blogademia

Just read this commentary by Craig Saper, which mentions “nomad scholars” and their use of blogs to compensate for the insecurity of their position:

In her synthesis of political theory and cultural studies, Jodi Dean, in her scholarship, rather than in her popular blog, exposes the myth of the nomadic academic’s networking as inherently liberating.

Other intellectuals are forced to migrate, to serve as itinerate, contingent, academic piece-workers. They teach heavy loads with few benefits and less security. Often they are pushed out of the academy altogether. They are forced into exile and deported. Those with time to write may lack the resources to attend academic meetings and to cultivate opportunities to publish their work. Those who do publish may despair at the unlikelihood that what they write will be noticed, will count, will register in the discussions that matter to them. Institutions like universities and nations are thus bars separating privileged from forced mobility. Claims to cosmopolitanism, inclusion, and significance notwithstanding, even in, especially in, the networks of communicative capitalism, there are barriers that cannot be crossed, loops that cannot be broken. Mobility depends on fixity.(n.p.)

Those blogademics often express this sense of itinerate work and uncertain futures. The blogs serve as a salve for, and a utopian simulation of, the privileged mobility of cosmopolitanism, diverse points of view, and political networks. This view of blogademia has a certain charming pathos; considering the blogs as a desperate form of expression might avoid considering them as research, experimentation, and legitimate scholarship. Most academics, including the bloggers, do not think these blogs have any impact on scholarship, and the production of knowledge, precisely because they have no editorial review process.

It is certainly true that this blog is a “desperate form of expression,” but it is not driven by the pressures of being a nomad within the institution.

25 November 2006 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Global Energy Management part II

In the same issue of The Boston Globe that I quoted in my previous post, there is an editorial titled “Diet for a hot planet” by Daniel Nepstad.  This editorial makes the connection between what we eat and global warming.  Tropical rain forests, which turn out to store incredible amounts of carbon (400 billion tons worth), are being chopped down to make available arable soil for third world countries in need of income.  But as the article points out, there are signs for hope:

Imbedded in the growing worldwide demand for agricultural commodities is an increasingly rigorous set of environmental and social standards. Finance institutions, commodity traders, consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and human rights organizations are pushing to raise the bar on the socio-environmental “quality” of the agricultural-commodity production chain. For example, the companies that buy most of the soy produced in the Amazon recently declared a two-year moratorium on the purchase of soy grown on recently cleared Amazon rainforest soil, responding to a Greenpeace attack on McDonald’s restaurants in Europe that fatten their chickens with Amazon soy.

And international climate negotiations provide another ray of hope. Last year, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica proposed the compensation of tropical nations for their efforts to curb deforestation. Brazil advanced a similar proposal at the Nairobi round of negotiations last week.

So here is another example of emergent voluntary energonomics–good news!  The big question is this:  will U.S. citizens, the biggest consumers of meat (5% of the population consuming 25% of the world’s meat) be able to curb their consumption for this luxury item?  The editorial ends by suggesting as much:

But the demand for agricultural commodities also must come down. And there the hope is as close as our dinner tables. If Americans face the connections between diet and the planet by eating less meat — thumbing their nose at the Atkins diet — they could provide a rare act of leadership in slowing global warming.

22 November 2006 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Global Energy Management

An article in today’s Boston Globe points to how the human species is beginning to seriously consider global energy management.  Titled “In hunt for energy, the sun is a model” (p. A9), it tells of “Several partners representing half the world’s population” who “have agreed to build an experimental fusion reactor in southern France that could revolutionize global energy use for future generations.” 

The ITER project by the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea will attempt to combat global warming by offering an alternative to fossil fuels.  Controlling climate change and finding new energy sources are urgent goals.

Finally–energonomics on a global level!  Interesting that we are participating in this project while the official stance of the Bush administration is that global warming is questionable.

22 November 2006 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

The Florida School: In Search of Electrate Reasoning

In my previous post on “Embodied Mathematics,” I promised to comment further on my return to an academic research program.  I recently had a proposal accepted (titled “Autocartography: Medieval Map-Making Practices and Imaging Virtual Places“) for the Invent-L 2007 Imaging Place conference.  According to Greg Ulmer’s website (which includes instructions for how to subscribe), “Invent-L exists to support discussion among educators, artists, students, and other interested parties concerned with the apparatus of electracy.” 

As a former student of Ulmer, I am a “Florida School” graduate of the University of Florida,  a school which engages in an experimental approach to cultural studies in the search for the institutional practices of schooling appropriate for an electronic apparatus.  Ulmer’s approach to teaching at the level of higher learning is unique insofar as he not only invites students into a research paradigm but also provides a “heuretic” practice of invention.  The various practices he invents (the “CATTt”–“contrast, analogy, theory, target, tale”–in Heuretics; the “image of wide scope” and “the pop-cycle”–in Internet Invention; the “mystory” in Teletheory) all provide ways to engage in constructivist meaning-making.  Ulmer intuitively recognizes the need to write oneself into knowledge creation, this being the fundamental tenet of constructivist educational theory, which is discussed more in education schools and in K-12 education than in the upper eschelon of higher education.  His methods of electronic composition all allow for one’s self story to be juxtaposed to theoretical and disciplinary knowledge (as well as other significant social institutions) and thereby become a source for intellectual discovery.

It is an exciting moment of transition in cultural and institutional practices–the transition from literacy to electracy–and, rather than creating intellectual clones (which in a more cynical view of the academy is what happens in institutions of higher learning), Ulmer’s theory and practice invites all students–undergraduates (as witnessed in the Freshman English text book titled Text Book) as well as graduates and professionals–into the process of inventing these new practices. 

14 November 2006 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

Embodied Mathematics

As a result of my return to my academic research program (more on this later), I recently picked up Lakoff and Nunez’s Where Mathematics Comes From:  How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics Into Being and was reading about the what a point is.  Having studied math through differential equations (when I stopped the formal study of math–as a freshman in college), I thought I knew what a point was. . . . But it turns out that there are two approaches to math which envisions the point as a completely different phenomenon:  one involves viewing space as continuous and comes naturally to us, given our experience of 3-D space with an embodied mind.  The other involves the “discretizing” program that started in the 19th century and has determined the direction of mathematics ever since.  This latter approach actually comes about by means of metaphoric blends whereby two differing “image schemas” are blended together to allow for a completely new understanding. 

Now I know many people’s eyes glaze over when one mentions mathematics, but it should come as some comfort to know that we draw upon our “embodied mind” to understand these concepts and that we actually have no other choice than to do so!  Knowing how our minds work with these fundamental metaphors could help us learn how to be more creative in the future:  by playing with these metaphors, we can create new metaphorical blends which can lead to new insights and fresh perspectives.  This is one point of deconstruction as a philosophical approach, at least how I understand it and had it presented to me during various graduate courses at the University of Florida in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  This leads to my reason for looking at this book at the moment:   I’m investigating mathematical conceptions of space to see if there might be a way to re-think the 3-D world of virtual reality, which, of course, relies in an analogical way upon our “continuous” and natural understanding of space but which doesn’t have to be confined to the limitations of real space.  This might lead to new insights into how to store information in such spaces. 

12 November 2006 at 9:38 pm 1 comment


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