robertogreco + twocultures   6

Reverting to Type: A Reader’s Story |
"It did become my thing. I transferred to what we thought of as the University of Alabama, the one in Tuscaloosa, largely because it had a better English department. I double-majored in English and history, and at some point decided — what considerations went into the decision I no longer remember — that I wanted to go to graduate school to study more literature. So I attended the University of Virginia. I developed a historical sense — my love for Browne’s prose led me to spend most of my time in the seventeenth century, until a relatively late encounter with the poetry of W. H. Auden made a modernist of me — amassed a repertoire of critical gestures, learned to invoke the names and terms of High Theory in the proper ways and at the proper times. I was initiated into the academic guild; I became a professor.

It wasn’t always easy, of course. In my last weeks as an undergraduate one of my professors had taken me aside and whispered to me the sacred names of Barthes and Derrida, and told me I should make fuller acquaintance with them. I dutifully wrote down the names and immediately forgot about them. Since none of this Theory stuff had previously been mentioned to me in my undergraduate career, how important could it be? So when I plunged into my first graduate classes — including a theoretical survey in which we read Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Gramsci, Georg Lukács, Horkheimer and Adorno, Husserl, Heidegger, Ricoeur, Jakobson, Althusser, Brooks, Frye, de Beauvoir, Kenneth Burke, and, yes, Barthes and Derrida, among others — I was immediately transformed from a confident critic-in-the-making to a lost lamb, baahing reproachfully, petulantly.

Ten weeks or so into my first semester I decided that I just couldn’t cut it and needed to drop out. But I was a newlywed, and had carried my bride hundreds of miles from her family, set her down in a strange town, and effectively forced her to hunt for compartatively menial jobs, all to support this great academic endeavor of mine. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how miserable and incompetent and just plain lost I was.

Our apartment in Charlottesville had a small windowless room that I used for a study. One evening after dinner I went in and closed the door and tried to sort through the vast pile of photocopied theoretical essays I had bought at Kinko’s on the first day of class. (We could violate copyright in those days, too.) But it was useless. I could scarcely bear even to look at the stuff. My professor had copied from his own well-used books, and every essay was full of confident underlinings and annotations that seemed by their very presence to judge me and find me wanting. I couldn’t bring myself to read another word.

My eyes wandered to a nearby bookshelf, and were caught for a moment by the glit of a gold cardboard box: it contained the three volumes of the Ballantine mass-market version of The Lord of the Rings. I had never read Tolkien: I was a science-fiction guy, not a fantasy guy. But of course I knew that The Trilogy (as I thought of it) was important, and that someday I ought to get to it. Almost thoughtlessly, I picked up the first volume and began to read.

When bedtime rolled around I set the book down and emerged from the sanctuary. “How’d it go tonight?” Teri asked.

I said, “It went well.”

The next evening I re-entered the study, under the pretense of continuing my academic labors with all due seriousness, and picked up where I had left off in the story. For the next week or so, though during the days I went to classes and did generally what I was supposed to do, I did none of the reading or writing I was assigned. I got further and further behind. I didn’t care; I was somewhere else and glad to be somewhere else. Teri seemed pleased with my scholarly discipline, as each evening I washed the dishes, gave her a kiss, and closed the study door behind me.

When I finished The Lord of the Rings I drew a deep breath. I felt more sound and whole than I had felt in weeks, maybe months. But, to my own surprise, I did not conclude that all that academic crap was a waste of time and I should do something else with my life, something that gave me time to read lots of fantasy novels. Instead, I experienced a strange refreshment, almost an exhilaration. My confusion and frustration seemed like small afflictions, conquerable adversaries. Barthes and Derrida weren’t so fearsome after all. I could do this.

I don’t believe that I was thinking, “Literary theory is as nothing in comparison to the power of Mordor!” Or, “If Frodo can carry that Ring to the Cracks of Doom I can write this paper on Paul Ricoeur!” Rather, I was just benefiting from spending some time away from my anxieties. We had been too intimate and needed separation. So I resumed my studies in a far better frame of mind; as a result, I did better work. I completed my doctorate and began my career as a teacher, but I didn’t forget the debt I owed to that week I spent in Tolkien’s world."



"In a sense I am only talking here about expanding my repertoire of analogies, my ability to make illuminating and meaningful comparisons. For many years now Douglas Hofstadter, drawing on the work of the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, has been convinced that the secret to creating artificial intelligence lies in teaching machines to recognize analogies. (Ulam says somewhere that it’s all about “as”: we see marks on a piece of wood pulp as a portrait of a beloved child, a cairn of stones as a monument to a dead chieftain.) Similar principles underlie the methods of Google Translate, which collects an enormous corpus of sentences and then tries to match your input to something in that corpus, and Apple’s “digital personal assistant,” Siri. Siri can’t parse what you say to her unless she can connect to the network, which undertakes a comparison of your utterance to other utterances on record. All this might be called brute-force analogizing, but it seems to me that my own understanding develops as I pursue the same method, though with far less force and (I hope) less brutishness.

In one of his most beautiful poems, Richard Wilbur writes, “Odd that a thing is most itself when likened.” And this is true no matter the thing: a book becomes more fully itself when we see both how it resembles and how is differs from other books; one discipline of study takes on its proper hues only when we see its relations to other disciplines that stand close to it or very far away. My repertoire of analogies is my toolbox, or my console of instruments, by which I comprehend and navigate the world. It can’t be too large; every addition helps, at least a bit. And that’s why I’m thankful for my gradual recovery of the books I adored, and thoughts I lovingly entertained, when I was forty years younger."
alanjacobs  howweread  reading  2015  analogies  metaphor  text  pleasurereading  richardwilbur  harukimurukami  jrrtolkein  thelordoftherings  stainslawulam  loreneisley  sciencefiction  understanding  literarycriticism  genrefiction  fiction  literature  academia  writing  howwewrite  howwelearn  books  jacquesderrida  rolandbarthes  whauden  sirthomasbrowne  williamfaulkner  nealstephenson  joycecaroloates  twocultures  cpsnow  jamesgleick  linux  learning  canon  digressions  amateurism  dabbling  listening  communication  howweteach  teaching  education  silos 
december 2015 by robertogreco
David Buckland - Cape Farewell - The cultural response to climate change
"Since 2001 David Buckland has created and now directs the Cape Farewell project, bringing artists, scientists and educators together to collectively address and raise awareness about climate change. The artists have already been the subject of a film for The Culture Show and a BBC documentary. The art resulting from these fruitful journeys has toured around the world with exhibitions including Carbon14, Carbon13, Carbon12 and Unfold.

David is a designer, artist and film-maker whose lens-based works have been exhibited in numerous galleries in London, Paris and New York and collected by the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum, New York and the Getty Collection, Los Angeles amongst others.

In 1999 David presented a one-man show of digitally mastered portraits of performers at London's National Portrait Gallery, which attracted over 100,000 visitors. Three new commissions, all in the USA, from MasterCard, Vanguard Insurance and Royal Caribbean have just been completed. Each entailed huge digital constructions on glass for the new atriums of each company.

Books
Five books of his photographs have been published including works on the Trojan Wars and The Last Judgment featuring the sculptures of Sir Anthony Caro, and two monographs of his own work. He has designed over 20 stage sets, as well as costumes, for The Royal Ballet, Rambert Dance Company, Second Stride, Compagnie Cré-Ange and Siobhan Davies Dance Company. His short film for the Dance for the Camera season Dwell Time was broadcast on BBC1 in January 1996."
via:anne  art  artists  science  twocultures  thirdculture  davidbuckland  capefarewell  climatechange  carbon14  carbon13  carbon12  unfold  design  film  filmmaking 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Fiction of the Science on Vimeo
"In his work at the Google Creative Lab, Robert Wong never imagined he would be influencing the future of scientific development—and yet he does just that, breaking down the boundary between art and science by creating stories that inspire engineers and the technology they build. He says that this kind of collaboration between art and science, between story and fabrication, is essential for scientific and creative innovation."

[See also "Project Glass: One day...": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4 ]

[Same video as bookmark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvgdKfWnYCg ]

[Via: http://www.fastcocreate.com/3017297/how-fiction-influences-science-according-to-google-creative-labs-robert-wong ]
speculativefiction  designfiction  fiction  writing  design  storytelling  robertwong  google  googlecreativelab  googleglass  technology  creativity  filmmaking  fabrication  innovation  art  science  twocultures  2013  srg 
september 2014 by robertogreco
FYS 2014 syllabus
"First-Year Seminar: The Two Cultures (FYS 1399-N7)

Alan Jacobs • http://ayjay.org MW 12:30pm-1:45pm, Morrison 205

Goals and Purposes: This is a course with twin purposes. Purpose One is that we explore a topic of serious significance. Purpose Two is that we do this in a way that helps you to acquire, or develop, some of the key skills you will need in order to succeed as a college student, especially in this Baylor context. What this means in practice is that while we will indeed cover the course material or content in a responsible and orderly way, we won't be in a great hurry to do so, and will from time to time pause to think about some of the issues that concern you as new college students.

Our primary topic here is what is often called the "two cultures" debate, named as such after a lecture by the English novelist and scientist C. P. Snow, who argued that the sciences and the humanities had become two mutually unintelligible cultures, and that that separation has seriously negative consequences for our society. We are going to try to figure out what Snow was right about and what he was wrong about; how those two cultures arose; how things have changed in the half-century since Snow delivered his lecture; and how all these matters affect the shape of the university education that you are all just beginning."
alanjacobs  twocultures  syllabus  2014  science  humanities  syllabi 
august 2014 by robertogreco
No, there aren’t “two cultures” | Oscillator, Scientific American Blog Network
"To say that science is objectively focused on external reality and not, to quote the best subtitle of all time “produced by people with bodies, situated in time, space, culture, and society, and struggling for credibility and authority,” is to ignore the external reality of how science and culture shape one another through the life and work of scientists. The problem with the “two cultures” concept then is neither that non-scientists don’t know enough about thermodynamics, nor that science can’t fully capture the ineffable power of art, but that separating science off from culture leads to bad science.

The belief that science and scientists are somehow above the influence of cultural forces has made it easier to pass off harmful stereotypes and cultural biases as scientific facts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the “science” of human difference and the generations of scientists who studied the “natural” inferiority of women and basically any minority group ever. These “scientific” beliefs about human nature change over time not because of the progressive power of science to correct previous errors with new evidence, but because of the changes that happen in culture when disenfranchised people fight hard to be heard — in politics, in art, and in science.

The idea that “true science” is strictly rational, with a clear path leading from questions to answers, organized around the infallible scientific method, is especially damaging for young scientists. When experiments fail or produce inconsistent, confusing data, students get lost in what systems biologist Uri Alon calls “the cloud” — where imagination and intellectual curiosity are necessary to break free. This process only looks plainly rational through 20/20 hindsight, when, following the rubric of the two cultures, scientists painstakingly remove the evidence of their intuitions, leaving a picture of science that is impossible to reproduce.

This is why as a teacher and biologist, I work with artists and social scientists: not to better communicate science through creative packaging, but to understand how cultures, science, and technology intersect. Too often, scientists think of artistic, humanistic, and social scientific methods as ways to make the rational medicine of science go down easier. If science were truly concerned with open inquiry and experimentation, we might look harder for ways to disprove the two cultures hypothesis."

[References William Deresiewicz's book review: "No, Jane Austen Was Not a Game Theorist: Using science to explain art is a good way to butcher both" http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116170/jane-austen-game-theorist-michael-suk-young-chwe-joke ]
twocultures  thirdculture  christinaagapakis  science  humanities  2014  via:anne  culture  dualism  art  transdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  williamderesiewicz  culturewars  michaelsuk-youngchwe  inquiry  experimentation  openinquiry  criticalthinking  scientism  stereotypes 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The Two Cultures - Wikipedia
"The Two Cultures is the title of an influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow.[1][2] Its thesis was that "the intellectual life of the whole of western society" was split into the titular two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems."
via:charlieloyd  polarization  twocultures  multi  multidisciplinary  crosspollination  crossdisciplinary  departmentalization  departments  thoughtsegregation  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  1959  theory  engineers  science  humanities  thetwocultures  cpsnow  from delicious
may 2012 by robertogreco

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