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.

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