Category Archives: Uncategorized

Upscale People’s Brains Can Be Stormy

For three years, Christy Coltrin — wife of renowned Dallas sculptor Brad Oldham — brainstormed a way to express one’s feeling when words fall short. The result is … a collection of 11 handmade antiqued … figures.
— from Papercity Magazine, Dallas                                                            (February 2015)

What Steve Mintz cannot imagine

Steve Mintz has millions of dollars at his disposal to shape the intersection of technology and higher education in the University of Texas System. If you do not know who he is, you can read the Wikipedia article about him, but beware: “A major contributor to [the] article appears to have a close connection with its subject.” It’s that way sometimes with people trying to become more important in social media.

photo of Mintz

Steve Mintz — a happy Texan who has become One with Capitalism, and wants you to be that way too

Mintz is a devoted capitalist. He cannot imagine any other future other than one involving decreased public support for higher education, and increased energies devoted to educators begging the private sector for help. In a way, it’s surprising we do not have a Kickstarter campaign out there already for the UT System. Mintz does not acknowledge any problem with the current state of affairs in which the state of Texas interferes 100% of the time in higher education, but provides less than 20% of its funding. For Mintz, that’s the way of capitalism, and he cannot imagine a world that is different. Mintz is one with other alleged tech gurus who hawk Coursera and edX while merging the discourse of “open education” and entrepreneurship. The goal of enterprises like Coursera and edX is profit. Have you met an administrator in public education whose goal is free and open education run only by faculty members with tech skills?

Yet, there are other ways to proceed.

The prevailing paradigms cannot explain why the economy with the highest level of workforce participation in its governance, the greatest degree of regulation of labourmarket entry through vocational enforcement and the most severe constraints on capital in its banking system should be the most competitive in Europe.

Do Hipsters Think of Themselves as Supreme Beings?

This is an etymological puzzle, probably a false one, maybe not an entertainingless one.  While preparing notes for a course, I dipped into Moses the Egyptian by Jan Assmann, and came across this sentence: “The belief in the ‘Supreme Being’ (Hypsistos) has a distinctly cosmopolitan character” (51).  Maybe it was the linking of Hypsistos and cosmopolitanism that caused me to think of hipsters.  The Urban Dictionary definition of “hipster” cites the cosmopolitan element.


Where Are the Penn State Philosophers?

Continental philosophy has a tradition of interest in ethics, and Penn State has its share of philosophers who claim ethics as a specialty or sub-specialty. The phrase in Philosophy departments is “area of competence.”  Someone might have expected some of these Penn State philosophers to have taken the lead on some ethical statement about what has been happening at their university (Robert Bernasconi, Dennis Schmidt, Jennifer Mensch, for example), but as far as I can tell, the response has been crickets. Some of the philosophers claim expertise in applied ethics, and what has taken place at Penn State would seem to call out, perhaps in a Heideggerian way (if that helps the Penn Staters) for application.  Have I missed the philosophers’ articles or op-ed pieces?  Some of the faculty members in the Philosophy Department there already have had to spend energies explaining their allegiances to the politics and ethics of Heidegger and Gadamer, and perhaps one or more could appeal to the title of one of Gadamer’s essays entitled “The Political Incompetence of Philosophy.”  The area of competence for some of the philosophers might indeed be incompetence of that sort, and then perhaps we should welcome crickets.


A Gift of Translation

Joe Paul Kroll is offering up translations of Hans Blumenberg’s works at another blog.  Translators are generally underappreciated, and here we have a translator who is not complaining, but offering up his labor to the public.  

Worship Me with Thine AmEx

Quote of the Day: “The liturgical act of placing an offering of money into the offertory plate is understood to be a form of worship.” This from the Rev. Laurel Johnston of the Episcopal Church, who reminds readers of The New York Times of those passages in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament in which God and/or Jesus urge other humans to offer worship by throwing money at God and/or Jesus.

Interpellation Facebook/Stasi Style

As we replicate voluntarily via Facebook and Twitter a version of the East German state depicted in The Lives of Others, we can thank people like Ben Walker and his podcast Too Much Information for helping people to think more deeply about internet culture and some larger issues involved therein.  You might listen to his recent broadcast about “the Lulz.”

A few weeks ago, I heard a TMI podcast with “Chris” talking about an alleged meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, in which the Zuck admitted to modeling Facebook on the Stasi.  Rather than the state needing to take extraordinary measures to spy on its people, à la the NSA’s plan to build a spying center in Utah, Facebook is the medium in which people offer up their secrets to the state for everyone to see. Ben was kind enough to respond to an e-mail that I sent him to ask about the reliability of Chris’ story.  Result: unreliable.  However, it turns out that the comedian Pete Holmes came up with a similar idea prior to the broadcast by “Chris” about Zuckerberg and the Stasi genesis of Facebook.

In short, this scenario of people absorbing a Stasi mentality and turning it inside out is quite similar to Althusser’s discussion of interpellation.  Not the kind of language that will land me an invitation to speak at SXSW, but it fits, and reinforces the political motivations of the people behind Facebook.

Unfortunately, even our most astute media analysts (Ben Walker thinks that Gabriella Coleman is one) do not seem prepared to connect party politics to the internet in innovative ways.  As “the Lulz” episode of TMI shows, members of the Mexican drug cartels know how to exploit the internet to their practical advantage, but hacktivists, internet-aware Occupiers, academic techno-media specialists, and (as far as it’s possible to tell) Anonymous members themselves toggle between moments of revolutionary posturing and smug hipsterism marked by impotent inclusions of Antonio Negri’s texts in course syllabi, unable to sustain a consistent political message.  The TMI podcast on “the Lulz” demonstrates how splintered the hacktivists can become, barely able to bring their own internal conflicts to satisfying conclusions.  The phrase “the Lulz” by itself might be the most telling symptom of the hopelessness some might feel who look to the Boing Boingers for rescue on a grand scale — the promise of the new medium that we see pulled out on stage during, for example, the “Arab Spring” to confirm for the Gangboingers that Twitter is the best revolutionary tool since the Reformation pamphlet.  The Revolution has been cancelled.