Friday, January 31, 2014

Self-Introduction - Haley Kerkhoff

Hello All,

My apologies for the lateness of this post; my invitation to this blog also got caught by my spam filter.

Anyway, I am Haley Kerkhoff, a third-semester Masters student in the department of Educational Policy Studies. I study the history of education, although I am terribly interested in the social science aspect of education (both pre-K and higher ed) as well. This semester I will be writing my thesis on the G.I. Bill at UW-Madison. I am very excited about how the discussion we had in class today, and the many more we are sure to have, informs and might contribute to my argument about the tuition and admissions policies that UW enacted in the context of the G.I. Bill, which facilitated its drastic expansion in enrollment during the immediate postwar period (roughly 1944-1948).

As I've also mentioned, I work at the Division of Continuing Studies here on campus as an Instructional Technologist developing online courses for post-baccalaureate programs and certificates. Because of my [perceived] unique positionality within this university, as first a fairly aware and actively involved undergraduate, and then immediately continuing as a graduate student and then employee of a cross-cutting division of the university, I am also excited to share with you as classmates insights I might [think I] have regarding how certain parts of the university function and relate to one another.

To sum up, I am most excited about the collective enthusiasm for this course based on the impressions I have gotten from your personal interests and how they connect to this grand topic of the research university.

See you next week!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Introductions: Sigrid

Hello, STS Friends:

Apologies for mucking up the beautiful flow of our discussion summaries for tomorrow's class (posted below) with a reminder-intro, but so it goes.  I'm Sigrid Peterson. "Sigrid" is a Scandinavian name taken from Norse mythology.  It reached its global popularity in 1890, took a steep nose-dive shortly after, and has never remotely recovered so you can call me "Sig" if that depresses you too much.  Names you unequivocally cannot call me include those cleverly authored by my family: Siggy, Piggy, Squiggles, Piglet, Squiglet, Sigmund the Sea Monster, Mr. Squigglesworth, and Angrid.  I'm a graduate student in the Department of Geography, work in the subfield of Human Geography, and have (very) broad interests in labor, class, and economic inequality in the United States.  Increasingly, though, I'm interested in the practice of public scholarship, and the politics of knowledge production.  I'm an RA for Daniel, Noah, and Greg's project which informs this seminar, and I'm already looking forward to the range of work that will be produced from this class.  I hope some of you will want to present at our conference next Fall. . .and frankly, I plan to bully you into it.  In the seminar, among other things, I'm hoping to think through how particular rhetorics of development and innovation are mobilized from fields like management studies and urban economic development, and employed in public higher education and the push for interdisciplinarity. . . and in particular places like the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.  "Creativity" is a sticky term I hope to focus on first.  

Other things I love: narrative nonfiction writing; brick oven pizza; Jeff Bridges; bourbon; Scandinavian cinema (it's all so tragic it's hysterical, even the "happy" films will rip your heart out and remind you you're all alone in the world); many different forms of exercise but not in a grating, obsessive, "let-me-post-about-my-10-triathalons-you-lazy-jerks-way" and more of a "I-gotta-do-this-or-many-revolting-things-will-happen-to-my-body-as-I-grow-old-and-it-makes-me-less-sleepy-than-Valium-so-suck-it-up" kind of way.

Other things I hate:  David Brooks.  God, I really hate David Brooks.

Cheers to a great semester!

Discussion Summary: Snow, C.P. (1959), The Two Cultures

The Two Cultures is the first of a two-part 1959 lecture in the centuries-running Rede series at Cambridge.  Delivered by Charles Percy (“C.P.”) Snow (1905-1980), a PhD Cambridge-trained physicist and novelist, the talk expands upon his 1956 article in The New Statesman, and is understood as a controversial and pivotal intervention proliferating decades-further debate on the ideal relationship between the sciences and the arts & humanities, as well as the structure and content of education.  

Main Argument
  • Snow asserts the existence of a calcified and deeply problematic chasm in the West  between “scientists” (represented by Snow as physical scientists) and “literary intellectuals” (which Snow also sometimes refers to as “the traditional culture”).

  • He characterizes the polarization as, “two groups. . . who in intellectual, moral, and psychological climate [have] so little in common,” and describes a mutual  incomprehension (sometimes willful, deliberate, and even sneering) on the part of both “scientists” and “literary intellectuals” of the theory, empirics, and findings of the other.  
  • Snow argues that the distance between the two cultures constitutes a “practical and intellectual and creative loss,” to people and society.  Snow believes there is great creative potential at the intersection of any two clashing disciplines or cultures and that this is where great breakthroughs arise, but the fact that scientists and literary intellectuals can’t talk to each other precludes this.  

  • The author directly implicates the system of education in England in the persistence of “the two cultures,” arguing that, 1)  its “fanatical” focus on specialization (an educational policy dictated at the national level and by an echelon of elites self-interested in the preservation of an intellectual culture rooted in Oxford and Cambridge), and 2) a particularly English cultural tendency to “let [its] social forms crystallize” renders the problem difficult to address.  Snow also compares education in England to other countries (e.g., the United States, the former USSR, and the countries of Scandinavia) as achieving much greater breadth in education, though some achieving this at the expense of rigor (note a sub-theme of national competitiveness).  

Audience and Method
  • The audience(s) for this particular lecture includes, obviously, the immediate audience of Rede lecture attendees and readers (specific members of the British intelligentsia), but insofar as The Two Cultures was first published in The New Statesman and, ultimately, in book form, the audience includes scholars interested in the critique of the Science/Arts & Humanities relationship, as as well as scholars and policy-makers interested in the content and structure of education.   Whether Snow successfully speaks to a general public, or even elaborates on practical implications for the public (at least in the portion of The Two Cultures read for this class) is unclear and a point of critique of Snow’s work. 
  • Methods and evidence deployed by Snow to make his argument are a bit vague.  He mentions as his only credibility to lay out “the problem” the fact that he works as an academic physicist by day (he also held several civil service positions for the British government)  and a writer who walks in literary circles by night, and has done so for many year.  Therefore, he has intimate knowledge of the insights, work, criticism, and self-reflection of both scientists and “literary intellectuals.”  He cites some demographic statistics about “scientists” (p.171) as being “less religious” (than “literary intellectuals”), more “on the Left in open politics,” and that considerably more of them (scientists) “come from poor families.”  Snow also references interviewing (along with colleagues) “somewhere between thirty to forty thousand” of the “fifty thousand scientists working in the country and about eighty thousand professional engineers or applied scientists,” but the context of these interviews is left out.   

  • While Snow begins relatively even-handedly in describing how both cultures become impoverished by their lack of understanding of each other (e.g., “literary intellectuals” who can’t define what are considered basic terms in Physics—”mass,” “acceleration,”—and scientists who find approaching Dickens a gargantuan challenge), he quickly assumes a bias, obvious in several instances, one notable section on p. 171: “They [scientists] have their own culture, intensive, rigorous, and constantly in action.  This culture contains a great deal of argument, usually much more rigorous, and almost always at a higher conceptual level, than literary persons’ arguments—even though the scientists do cheerfully use words in senses which literary persons don’t recognize, the senses are exact ones, and when they talk about “subjective,” “objective,” “philosophy,” or “progressive,” they know what they mean, even though it isn’t what one is accustomed to expect.”  

  • In describing scientists as more “optimistic” in their pursuit to improve social life through discovery, the author mentions but gives short shrift to sociologists whom he mentions could be a “third” culture.  This is one of many parts of the argument that over-exaggerates the binary and tends to overdraw both elements of the binary.  

  • Without explanation, Snow too easily exchanges “literary intellectual” with something called “traditional culture,” which he leaves undefined while making broad claims about it.

  • Snow never meticulously (at least in what we read) lays out the “practical, intellectual, and creative” loss(es) created by the distance (how, in precise terms, do the disciplines (or discovery) suffer?  does society suffer?).  

Some Discussion Questions
  • To what extent does Snow’s 54-yr old argument hold and not hold today?  The 50th anniversary of The Two Cultures, in 2009, produced relatively widespread follow-up commentary on this question:

  • What is Snow’s “traditional culture”?  Is it problematic to interchange it in such a facile manner with “literary intellectual?”

  • This is tertiary to Snow’s piece or argument, but he makes one biographical reference about coming from a poor home and later cites that scientists, more than intellectuals, come from poor families.  Does this drive his increasingly sneering tone toward “literary intellectuals” throughout the piece and are class and the disciplines/interdisciplines important things to think about together?

Research Universities and the Future of America

The NRC report is a list of 10 recommendations for increasing innovation among research universities. Each recommendation comes with three or four key points for implementation. Usually these deal with federal funding priorities in secondary and post-secondary education and a few with intellectual property rights. I think we all know that the political landscape gives absolutely no chance for any of these recommendations. Therefore, I read this document as a text about American value systems as they relate to education at the beginning of the twenty first century. Sure we all want a good education system in our country, but the real question is why?

The introduction and the conclusion both propose a historical arc for the U.S. research university that has two main periods. First is the "Morrill Act" period from 1862-1940 that gave us big state schools, lots of research on improving extractive industries, and - at least this is what the NRC claims - a broad, well educated middle class. The second phase is the "Cold War" era from approximately 1940 until 2000. This phase gave us lots of new technology, like the internet and GPS, that happened to get invented along the way to making more efficient weapons. These two historical periods account for two of the values: economic prosperity (as measured by something like GDP) and security (through superior weaponry).

Indeed the NRC basically says this exactly on the first page where they are explaining how implementing their recommendations will help keep research universities as the primary engine of innovation:

In doing so, we will encourage the innovation that leads to high-quality jobs, increased incomes, and security, health, and prosperity for our nation. (pg 1)

(I've never understood what phrases like "health ... for our nation" or "the national ... health ... we expect" (pg 3) are supposed to mean in these types of reports. I doubt they're talking about national mortality and morbidity rates. I'm ignoring the health-of-the-nation type values in this short summary, but maybe it's an important theme worth exploring later.)

So research universities foster innovation and innovation leads to more money and guns. Note all the things that are left out of this value system:

- education for social mobility;
- increasing equality and shared prosperity;
- sustainability;
- education for the sake of education;
- references to humanistic values (I assume the NRC wouldn't count poetry as innovation);
- education for social justice;
- universities as promoters of diversity;
- academia as critic of government, cultural, and economic institutions.

I could go on, but you get the picture. There are other values that can be marshalled to justify changes and improvements to U.S. research universities. I'm not surprised that the organization responsible for representing medical, engineering and science research has chosen to focus on policy recommondations based on a money-and-guns value system. However, I am shocked that the report does include a few whiffs of alternative values. Albeit buried on page 17 in a section specifically on diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

Our nation’s greatest asset is its people. Improving the educational success of our citizens at all levels improves our democracy, our culture and society, social mobility, and both individual and national economic success.  (pg 17)

This suggests to me that someone, who had a seat at the table, was able to put forth an alternative vision for the purpose of research universities; that vision is still a distant second behind the twin goals of prosperity and security, however. It would be interesting to read and listen to any primary sources, like emails, meeting minutes, or markup drafts, from the process for creating the NRC's report to see who brought up these alternative values, what sort of reception they got, and why it ended up in the report at all.

Bruce Hevly (1992): "Reflections on Big Science and Big History"

Bruce Hevly contributed “Reflections on Big Science and Big History” (1992) as an afterword for the edited volume Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research (P. Galison and Bruce Hevly, eds.). As an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington, Dr. Hevly specializes in the history of science and technology, with a particular focus on the field of physics. In this piece, he identifies the major themes of Big Science, a volume on the history of the phenomena with work contributed by both historians and scientists. He frames this conclusion as a discussion of collaboration and connections, not only between scientific institutions in academia, but through a consideration of the relationships between these institutions and their various members, funding organizations and agents, governmental and military bodies, technological requirements and contributions, and the very cultural contexts in which these scientists and institutions are operating. He suggests that “placing big science in a broader context” (Hevly 1992, 357) is a necessary exercise for historians, one that requires consideration of the various ways in which collaborations shape all involved parties. Beyond this, Hevly indicates that big history itself is moving away from traditional, individualistic practices, and that historians must consider the role that collaboration plays in the creation and study of history. Finally, Hevly concludes that the study of big science remains a relevant and “vital issue for historical scholarship” (363).

Although it’s difficult to get a detailed grasp of what big science is and how historians have confronted its study from just an afterword, Hevly succinctly reintroduces the subject. Additionally, it is clear that he does so through the perspective gained not only through the new scholarship contributed by each chapter author(s), but through his years of expertise and consideration. In fact, a reader confronting this chapter in isolation from the rest of the volume us exposed to what are likely the main themes and questions of volume, if not the data to support these interpretations, and certainly not the detailed history of big science. Several points are brought up by Hevly in his afterward that have implications outside of the history of big science, however, and should be considered by members of any discipline (as well as their historians).

It is clear from the piece that there is no single definition of big science employed by the authors in this volume. Big science is not strictly defined in the book, and Hevly maintains that it remains a “murky” phrase (355). This difficultly in defining a term, both by the members of big science institutions and experts on big science’s trajectory, brings up several questions for discussion.
Are disciplines easily identified and defined? Does the identification of a discipline require a historical consideration? Do we ‘know it when we see it’?

Hevly identifies several major collaborations and connections between big science and related fields and organizations. These collaborations appear to be discussed in detail in the volume, but Hevly urges historians to “adopt a skeptical attitude towards pat descriptions of the relationships between science, government, industry, and technology… and the characteristics of collaborative research” (357). Collaborations, and maybe especially the collaborations between scientists and their sponsors, have very real and practical outcomes, and can influence the very goals, methods, and results of scientific inquiry. Key collaborations that are highlighted include: science and technology, science and the military, science and engineering, science and funding agencies, and scientists and the historians of science. He suggests that histories that focus on the study of collaborations will greatly increase our understanding of big science over time and across different cultural, institutional, and national contexts of scientific research.
Is an explicit study of the relationships between academic disciplines and various collaborative groups a necessary part of ‘doing’ history? Should academics engage in these studies as part of their own epistemological considerations?

 Hevly concludes his afterward with several points about the current state of the history of science as a field. He suggests that collaborative history is perhaps the way of the future, and that collaboration by histroians (in the model of big science) should be undertaken as a specific strategy of scholarship. This type of research is necessary not only as a tool for improving the field of history, but because no one, including historians, is free of the broader context in which they conduct their work, be it institutional, cultural, financial, or our larger habitus.

 How do the types of collaborations discussed in Hevly influence your own discipline?
What important collaborative relationships are not discussed here?
Can scholars perform research outside of the context/influence of the motives, goals, and values of governments, funding agencies, and private institutions? Can we (or should we) insist on a ‘pure ideal’ (and does this exist)?

How does Hevly’s discussion relate to Wisconsin’s ‘Discovery to Product’ initiative?

Bruce Hevly, "Reflections on big science and big history," in Peter Galison and Bruce Hevly, eds., Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 355-363.

Summary: Brint (2005) "Creating the future: 'New Direction' in American Research Universities"

In this article Steven Brint (2005) examines the strategies some public and private research universities are using to increase income and other political and economic resources. This examination is based on interviews and the analysis of university plans.

In contrast to the long history of research universities funding specialized departments, research universities are moving in a "new direction" by supporting the funding of "interdisciplinary creativity". In many cases this means creating teams of people from different disciplines to work on research projects. For example, in the sciences interdisciplinary teams may work to create private sector support for innovation in biotechnology and materials science. In the arts and humanities, teams may work together to create new forms of cultural expression. Many of these collaborations take place outside of specialized departments at new "centers of innovation" funded by private and public donors who hope to license discoveries and products to entrepreneurs. Additional evidence of this "new direction" can be seen in interdisciplinary journals and conferences. In short, the goal of many research universities to enhance disciplinary knowledge has now shifted to an interdisciplinary focus on the "the creation of the future" through economic and social innovation.

This new direction has led to more autonomy for public research universities because they now rely less on tuition and state funding for research.  There is also more emphasis on hiring staff involved in interdisciplinary research and promoting interdisciplinary programs to undergraduate and graduate students.

Brint mentions that public and private universities adopt the interdisciplinary strategy for different reasons. He states that public universities with Land Grant origins tend to focus on projects that will enhance the local and state economy while private universities have been shown to use this strategy to draw excitement towards new fields of study.

Brint ends his discussion stating reasons why this new direction of interdisciplinary creativity may be a passing fad including the possibility that the federal and state governments may lose interest in funding large technology projects. He also gives reasons why this trend will continue such as the need to compete with other countries like Japan and China who are developing national innovation systems.

While reading this article, I couldn't help but reflect on how UW-Madison is using "interdisciplinary creativity" to increase political and economic support. The following are a few questions I found myself asking. What role does the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery play in securing political and economic support for new innovations? What private sector organizations are investing in UW-Madison research? What knowledge about these collaborations is not available to the public because research is now tied to the private sector? How does the role of university students (undergraduate and graduate) change when they assist on projects that are privately funded?

I look forward to discussing this article because I have additional questions about the author's research methodology and I am interested in knowing what my peers think of his findings.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Analytical Summary: Kohler, "The Ph.D. Machine: Building on the Collegiate Base"

Kohler’s piece “The Ph.D. Machine: Building on the Collegiate Base” (1990) takes a historical approach to explain the development of today’s research university. A broad task for twenty-three page article, his moves toward an answer for how the university’s development shaped scientific research in U.S. universities, focusing narrowly in on the type of research questions and approaches researchers had to adopt. Additional questions he is exploring in this piece include: “exactly how and why did graduate education and research develop out of collegiate courses, rather than alongside them or separately”; “What were the alternatives, and how did it happen that the assimilating strategy prevailed”; “How were cultural values sustained by institutional arrangements” (p. 640)? 

The historical perspective is an interesting approach to understanding the university today; however, Kohler has assumed a certain level of familiarity with the university’s history in his readership. (Either that or he is writing is too rushed. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the former). At times, it was hard to follow ideas of “electives” and “graduate” programs as written. With historical pieces, especially, I need a clear picture, and this means clarifying the definitions of terms. As graduate students, we are intimately familiar with the higher education system. The subject is so close to our own experiences that we each have our own definitions for many of the key terms in piece, from liberal arts to collegiate culture, collegiate character to electives. Though it was interesting to see how rooted these terms are in history, I was never sure if how I was reading the piece was how I was “supposed” to be reading the terms. 

Kohler’s argument, while a history, also carries a very particular analytical bend. His explanations of changes to higher education repeatedly colors the analysis in terms of economics. As a student, this lens is most notable to me in the discussion of the Federation of Graduate Clubs (p. 651-652). He describes their ascent as: “these grass-roots lobbies for encouraging and regulating graduate programs and, to a lesser extent, for improving the market for individuals with Ph.D.s” (p. 651). Over time, however, he describes them later as reversing their positions in economic terms. This included a changing position on “migrating” to German universities: “the growth of large graduate programs made foreign competition less welcome” (p. 682). Moreover, the regulation of Ph.D. programs came from “graduates of elite universities” who “felt threatened by potential, if not actual competition from graduates of a very broad-based system of higher education” (p. 652). Even political battles are framed in terms of being won by economic considerations (p. 653). 

As the article’s title suggests, “The Ph.D. Machine” is a fairly cynical reading of the higher education system’s past (one that is perhaps warranted), but this frequent return to economics seems like an oversimplification. It automatically juxtaposes the espoused ideals against economic realities. This binary is an easy analytical default--and a dismissive one. Though I do not have access to his data, as a student now, I could easily make dual arguments about the greater personal fulfillment of working in the university and economic concerns about this degree. I do not see the two as negating the either; Kohler, however, never explicitly disagrees but sets them up as though there is no other way to interpret these movements. Though an interesting piece that I am looking forward to discussing, I think it’s critical to remember that Kohler is writing a particular version of the university’s history perspectives and making a very particular (though compelling) argument through it.

Questions (Sorry! I went into response autopilot and forgot to add in my questions.) 
1. Does Kohler's explanation still hold relevant for today? What does his interpretation of the history of the university add to our understanding of it?
2. Could you imagine a different system? How would research be different today if research institutes had developed independently of the collegiate system?
3. Does it matter that economics/the market is the determining factor for the university? Is this analytical framework convincing?

Introduction: Meredith Metzler


I'm Meredith Metzler, a first-year Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Though my research is a bit different from this course (how does information flow between political elites and citizens), I'm particularly interested in reflecting on my academic experiences. I've attended a small, liberal arts college, a private, urban research university, and now a large state research university. And at each of these places, "interdisciplinary" has been a primary focus - though in different forms. The debate about the meaning, future, and value of higher education is one I am deeply invested in as a Ph.D. student, and I'm excited to explore the topic with you this semester!

Introductions: Jen


My name is Jen Lacy. I just started my third year as a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction in the Science Education program. I am currently a research assistant for the course WI Make Sustainability, an interdisciplinary course that brings engineering students together to learn about sustainability and design through making a sustainable product. Students in the course are encouraged to make a product that can go to market and/or compete in university competitions for cash prizes. This focus on marketability has led me to ask many questions about the role public universities play in the economy and the role university competitions (many funded by private donors) play in students' education and post-graduation opportunities.

I am also interested in the relationship between humanism and science education and the efforts made by philosophers, policy makers, educators, etc to make students' science education more humanistic.

I look forward to learning from the many perspectives that make up our class!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Introductions: Heather

Hello! It was great to meet you all last week. This will be the first seminar I've taken outside of my department, so I'm really looking forward to learning from everyone.

I'm Heather, and I'm an archaeology PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. I study Bronze Age (c. 2600-1900 BC) maritime exchange in the Persian/Arabian gulf and Indian Ocean. More specifically, I use evidence for marine shell exploitation and craft production to explore mobile communities in Eastern Arabia, and their role in interactions with the state level societies of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization. I feel like my research bridges multiple gaps within archaeology, and I am also interested in how my dissertation can be relevant to work being done in other fields. I think that this seminar will really help me address what interdisciplinary research and innovation will mean for me, as well as for archaeology in general. More strategically, I'm hoping that this seminar will also help me write my NSF broader impacts statement in a meaningful way.

See you on Friday!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Introductions - Patrice

Nice meeting all of you on Friday. Everyone reflected so thoughtfully on the seminar as it relates to their own academic interests. I sense the caliber of the instructors and students in this seminar will keep me on my toes.

I’m a first year School of Journalism and Mass Communication Ph.D student. I learned about STS last semester and it really struck a chord with me. I used to write about natural sciences as a reporter and work with researchers on science communication outreach projects. Among researchers, I encountered a wide range in willingness to communicate with the public and in ideas about when, how or even whether uncertainties in data should be publically discussed. I’m interested in how interactions between credentialed experts (i.e. researchers), experience-based experts and the general public influence the problems answered and methods used by researchers. For the class research/review project, I’m thinking about exploring some version of the following question:

When a researcher doubles as a science communicator by, for example, producing a podcast, Tumblr or blog for the general public, how does explaining research in their field influence the questions they become interested in or how they reflect on their own practices?

I welcome any related ideas anyone has to share!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reading and discussion summary assignments

To keep the system simple, I've just divided the class into two arbitrary groups of six students each, and assigned each group to roughly the same amount of reading summaries and discussion summaries over the course of the semester.  (Any suggestion that I simply drew a line in the middle of the alphabet is absurd; these groups represent hours of careful social engineering!)

I've only assigned students who were officially registered with the course as of this morning.  If you are dropping or adding the course, let me know and I'll adjust the lists accordingly.

You are all kind and smart people, so I trust you to work out the details of who is covering which reading or which discussion summary each week on your own.  Think of it as a "group teamwork assignment."

Lacy, ______, Metzler, Moehr, O'Connor, Peterson
Cover weeks 2, 4, 7, 11, 14 (23 total readings, 5 discussion summaries)

Week 2 - Friday, January 31
The research university, 5 readings

Week 4 - Friday, February 14
Interdisciplinarity, 7 readings

Week 7 - Friday, March 07
Discovery to product, 4 readings

Week 11 - Friday, April 04
Research publics, 5 readings

Week 14 - Friday, April 25
Guest speaker, 2 readings

Burling, Choung, Jeon, _______, Kerkhoff, Kohl
Cover weeks 3, 5, 6, 10, 12 (24 total readings, 5 discussion summaries)

Week 3 - Friday, February 07
Disciplines, 6 readings

Week 5 - Friday, February 21
Mode 2 science, 5 readings

Week 6 - Friday, February 28
Academic capitalism, 4 readings

Week 10 - Friday, March 28
Research tools, 5 readings

Week 12 - Friday, April 11
Innovation spaces, 4 readings

Finally, remember that in week 13, everyone proposes and prepares a reading!

UPDATED 2014-01-25: One student removed from group two after dropping class.
UPDATED 2014-01-31: A second student removed.  Now each group has five students.


Hello everyone! Nice to meet you all in this blog system, which looks quite awesome. My name is June Jeon, the first year PhD student of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and studying STS. This course is going to be a journey to ask question to myself as an interdisciplinary scholar. I hope we all have wonderful time with this course. See you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

First class meeting this morning

Hi folks.  We'll be having our first class meeting this morning, in 6117 Social Sciences.  We'll all introduce ourselves to each other, and talk a bit about where the idea for the course came from.  We are also interested in hearing from you what the terms "interdisciplinarity" and "innovation" mean to you -- so I hope we can start the discussion there, with some brainstorming and unpacking of those terms.

After our class meeting, we will sign all the students up as members of this collaborative blog.  Look for an invitation from Blogger in your inbox (or maybe your SPAM folder) and follow the instructions.  You may choose to register and post using a pseudonym if you like; remember that this blog is intentionally publicly-viewable, to bring our conversations into a wider discourse about the future of the university and of knowledge production in general.

There are no readings assigned for today, of course, but I came across an article in the New Republic by William Deresiewicz that I thought might inspire some reaction in connection with our seminar goals.  The piece is titled "No, Jane Austen Was Not a Game Theorist; Using science to explain art is a good way to butcher both":
Proust was a neuroscientist. Jane Austen was a game theorist. Dickens was a gastroenterologist. That’s the latest gambit in the brave new world of “consilience,” the idea that we can overcome the split between “the two cultures” by bringing art and science into conceptual unity—which is to say, by setting humanistic thought upon a scientific foundation. Take a famous writer, preferably one with some marketing mojo, and argue that their work anticipates contemporary scientific insights. Proust knew things about memory that neuroscientists are only now discovering. Austen constructed her novels in a manner that is consistent with game theory. Bang, there’s your consilience.
There is only one problem with this approach: it is intellectually bankrupt.
Check out the full article if this little bit intrigues you, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First draft of syllabus

The first draft of our syllabus is ready; all articles are available for download with a standard UW NetID and password.  Beware, we still may tweak this syllabus over the next few weeks before class starts.

In the meantime, here's another insightful take on interdisciplinarity from the world of web comics.