Rethinking the University, Day 1, Part 1

I rode into Minneapolis today on Metro Transit to attend the first day of a conference entitled “Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, and Value.” The conference is a graduate student production that grew out of the AFSCME strike at the University of Minnesota last fall. The strike prompted a lot of questions about the various labor groups that make up the modern university: faculty, students, technicians, clerical workers, etc. so in the best academic tradition the grad students decided to host a conference on the topic and this is what they came up with.

Current Thoughts for April 6

Here are some of the things I’m currently thinking about: Framing and communication. I got sucked into the most recent dustup about framing, evolution, and atheism over at Science Blogs. I even started leaving snarky comments at Chris Mooney’s blog The Intersection. So I took Matt Nisbet’s advice and started reading the research on framing, agenda setting, and priming in the communication science literature. I haven’t reached any conclusions yet but the question that bugs me is the assumption that negative arguments of any kind that criticize the core beliefs of other people are doomed to failure.

These Horses Must Be Dead by Now

Three years ago I wrote the following about my experience at Socrate’s Cafe here in Minnesota. I stopped attending for three reasons: 1. every conversation started revolving around politics, which became tiring after the first month and 2. the conversations lacked philosophical sophistication (granted I studied philosophy in college so my standards might be higher than just anyone off the street)… What became more and more frustrating to me was that each conversation

It's 2008, so what are you doing now?

The blog has languished for many months but this will hopefully be the beginning of a new wave of publishing around here at EcEc. To the whopping 16 Feedburner subscribers, most of whom are probably bots, I ask you not to hold your breath for too much. For those looking for archives: things are broken temporarily until I get the new software sorted out and import my old entries in a format that I can tolerate

Dissecting the Core Curriculum

As a random exercise in memory I offer the following none too certain linkage between the former core curriculum of the MSI program at UMich and certain faculty members. 501 = Judy Olson. Contextual design all the way, baby!! 502 = Jeff Mackie-Mason. There has to be an economics course. 503 = George Furnas. Search and information retrieval to find our way out of the MoRAS. 504 = Michael Cohen.

Happy Pi Day +1

Happy Pi day + 1 everyone. I’ve been personally buried in an avalanche of reading, writing, processing, thinking, sensemaking, and job seeking, so there hasn’t been much activity here at I just finished writing the following introduction to a paper for my complex systems class. It will give you some idea of what I’ve been thinking about over recent days and weeks. Collective intelligence, group-think, organizational knowledge, distributed cognition, situated action, and the wisdom of crowds are just some of the many different phrases used to describe the similar phenomenon of people collecting, evaluating, and acting on information as a group.

Solving the Millionaire Problem, or Seeing into Networks

Two weeks ago I wrote about a presentation by Scott Page on diversity and the wisdom of crowds. One of the examples he used was the greater effectiveness of polling the studio audience versus calling a friend for an answer to a question. I suggested that a big part of this Millionaire problem is the difficulty we all have of seeing into networks, whether they belong to others or ourselves.

Causation, Social Construction, and Relativism

I can feel myself being pulled to the dark side of philosophy through this semester’s classes and readings. I’m starting to think about causality. (mock horror) In my STS class we just finished reading “The Strong Programme in the Sociology of Knowledge” by David Bloor. Bloor lists four conditions for an explanatory theory of science. It must explain the cause of beliefs, be impartial to the truth or falsity of beliefs, be symmetrical and use the same explanatory framework for true and false beliefs, and be reflexive or capable of being applied to sociology as well as science or any other human knowledge seeking/creating endeavor.

Top Books and Top Movies

A class assignment in 503 asked for the top favorite books and movies. So it here it is for another audience. I notice that the movie list is a lot more variable than the book list. The book list is more stable than the movie list. I’ve seen so many movies it’s hard to remember the ones that really make an impression. It’s also a temperament thing. For books I often remember the place and time I was reading them, the connection is more emotional.

Scott Page on Diversity

Scott Page, an economics, political science, and complex systems professor at Michigan spoke to the ICOS seminar today about his new book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. His talk straddled the line between pop social science books, like Blink or The Wisdom of Crowds, and an academic talk. The line tended to the more pop economics end of things than the academic, but I enjoyed it.