I spent most of Saturday hanging out at Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus at MinneBar 2008. I must say that the union has a pretty nice suite of conference rooms for gatherings like this. I started the morning at Social Search for the Enterprise. Rich Hoeg from Honeywell discussed a nifty use of ConnectBeam to create an internal social bookmark store that integrates directly with Google search results.
The silent litany of the workmen goes on – Speed, speed, we are the makers of speed. We make the flying, crying motors, Clutches, brakes, and axles, Gears, ignitions, accelerators, Spokes and springs and shock absorbers. The silent litany of the workmen goes on – Speed, speed, we are the makers of speed; Axles, clutches, levers, shovels, We make signals and lay the way – Speed, speed. The trees come down to our tools, We carve the wood to the wanted shape.
I went to the University of MN today to see Mary Poovey speak in the last lecture of the IMPACTS series. Her book, A History of the Modern Fact, was one of the standout readings in my science, technology, and society class last spring. Her topic tonight was “Reflections of a Worried Feminist, 30 years on.” She outlined the impact of feminist theory and activism on literary studies since the late 1970s and questioned how much benefit it has really had on the disciplines, especially the humanities.
I just finished reading a wonderful short novel “The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy “ by Jeanne Birdsall It is about the summer vacation of a family of four, very independent sisters and their widowed father. They rent a cabin on a large estate in the Berkshire Mountains. During their stay they meet a young boy who lives on the neighboring estate.
There is a certain style of argument that has been bothering me lately and I think I may finally have a name for it. It started at the beginning of this month over at Scienceblogs when the issue of framing science reared up again and created a blog tempest. Matthew Nisbet complained that critics of the anti-evolution movie Expelled were damaging their own cause by drawing too much attention to the movie.
First, create a questionnaire that asks increasingly private questions. Surely some social psychologist somewhere has developed an instrument or rubric that measures privacy or the perception of privacy. Make two versions of this questionnaire, one for individuals and another for organizations or businesses. Second, sample two groups of people. One group is given/asked questions about their personal private life. Ask people questions until they feel uncomfortable or refuse to answer further questions.
A recent forum on information ethics for the Minnesota Special Libraries Association prompted me to think about privacy. Assume that individual privacy is undergoing a massive shift because of the advent of large aggregate databases, technical innovations like the web, and, perhaps, a changing attitude among younger generations. The discussion at the meeting centered on social web applications like Facebook, Google, and LibraryThing. A lot of people are sacrificing privacy for the perceived value of a service like GMail, LinkedIn, or Facebook.
I didn’t make it to the final day of Rethinking the University. But here are some concluding notes from day 2. I hope to have more to say about this topic during the upcoming days. Panel - Surplus Value And The University In Crisis Morgan Adamson - “Student debt and the finacialization of academic life” Since the early 1970s students have been at the center of experiments in financial life.
The conference continues on from yesterday. I got here late today, in the middle of the second morning session. Roundtable - inside/outside: the university and the public intellectual I arrived in time to hear Naomi Scheman make some interesting comments about objectivity as the creation of trust in expertise. But before my thoughts could rush through Galison, Daston, and Giddens her comments were over and it was time for Q&A.
The after lunch panels and discussions. Roundtable 3 - Valuing the Liberal Arts Jigna Desai kicked things off with “no time for fancy titles” about her experience in Asian and Women’s studies. She made a few good points about knowledge production as a form of social change, the “driven to discover” U of Mn branding campaign that subscribes to the positivist goal of more creating more facts, and the fact that marketing campaigns always have pictures of diversity.