Yes, I agree that Professor Fish's article is problematic--in particular, some of his statements about public officials strike me as uncalled-for. I did not make any references to the article in the body of my post because I came upon it after I finished writing the post. Nevertheless, Professor Fish does articulate clearly, if not entirely accurately, what appears to be one of the main motivations for the "axing," as he calls it, of humanities programs:
"And indeed, if your criteria are productivity, efficiency and consumer satisfaction, it makes perfect sense to withdraw funds and material support from the humanities — which do not earn their keep and often draw the ire of a public suspicious of what humanities teachers do in the classroom — and leave standing programs that have a more obvious relationship to a state’s economic prosperity and produce results the man or woman in the street can recognize and appreciate. (What can you say to the tax-payer who asks, 'What good does a program in Byzantine art do me?' Nothing.)"
Plus, his ideas about how the humanities benefit our culture are also expressed by Skorton in a more formal and presentable manner.
Andrea, this is a very instructive comment. I was, in fact, unaware of the concept of Open Access (thank you for providing a definition of the term). I guess the major concern of those who most ardently oppose Google's activities, chiefly Microsoft, is profit: “There’s no question that Microsoft has made it a mission to cause trouble for Google in Washington. And the Wired article noted that Microsoft is helping to finance research on the books settlement at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School.”
Nevertheless, the issue has stimulated some animated debates among academics, librarians, lawyers, and businessmen. The issues raised by the librarians, in particular, are justified, but the cost of Google’s book service and its commitment to reader’s privacy are difficult to determine in advance. Google, for its part, appears to be actively developing its image as a friend of academics. As the article by Patricia Cohen indicates, Google has granted Mr. Cohen and Mr. Gibbs a digital humanities award “that provides money along with access to the company’s powerful computers and databases.” Still, there remains the concern about “Google’s virtually exclusive license to millions of so-called orphan books”--and the profits and revenues that these works may generate. Overall, I hope that the competition, even if it is of a financial nature, will in the end benefit the reading public with access to the internet.
Many of the comments that I read on other webpages where this video has been posted echo your sentiments about Colbert's overbearingness, especially in this interview with Nell Irvin Painter. Yet this domineering attitude accords with the obstinate, selfish character that Colbert is trying to portray--someone who is unwilling to accept views on race, gender, and religion divergent from his own. In my opinion, he handles this interview well by preventing Painter from asserting anything that would challenge his character's persuasions, that would upset his character’s insular perspective. Moreover, in this role, he makes some seriously controversial statements:
Stephen Colbert: “White people are the default color, Christianity is the default religion, male is the default sex, brown is the default eye color, English is the default language – I am default American.
Nell Irvin Painter: “NOOO!”
At 4:02, Nell Irvin Painter's face is the epitome of shock.
It is important to note, however, that in our discussion, we also examined some of the ways in which technology can frustrate plagiarism through the development of programs that are able to identify works that have been plagiarized.
While we should not place the entire blame on technology, it does undeniably contribute to academic dishonesty. The question of to what extent our lives and intellects are governed by technology seems to me a significant one. Today, people possess phones that give them access to quantities of information amounting to entire libraries. Why is it thus important for them to remember what a certain philosopher said or when a certain battle occurred if they can simply use their phones to find the information of which they are in need? Mere memory is no match for the power of such devices.
The more critical question, perhaps, is how does this reliance on technology also affect one's reasoning skills.
Your remarks about face to face discussions and written communication, such as writing on blogs, and authenticity reminded me of an article that appeared in the NYTimes which examined the discrepancy between oral and written communication, a discrepancy that is particularly apparent when someone who is a superb writer proves to be a lousy orator, as was apparently the case with Vladimir Nabokov. Obviously, such discrepancies can call the author of a work into question, but it remains true that proficiency in written communication does not guarantee proficiency in oral communication. In part these observations are in response to Ed Dante’s question, “Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally competent research? How does that student get by you?”
I just finished reading the article about "Ed Dante," and I am stunned. I did not realize the extent to which some students rely on people like him to write essays upon which their careers depend, from admission essays to graduate theses. What is more disturbing, of course, is his methodology, the way in which he approaches the assignments with which he is inundated--in my opinion, working on over 20 assignments per day is inconceivable. He quite literally churns out these papers, relying on abstracts and excerpts that he finds on Google Scholar, in addition to using Wikipedia. I found it astounding that he has not been to a library once since he began ghost writing. Plus, he does not even proofread his work! His boast about being able to “say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph” exposes the vapidity and utter emptiness that he associates with academic writing, especially with student’s writing. He seems proud of his performance as a “bullshit artist”: “I've written essays that could be adapted into Meryl Streep movies.” (I want to note that, regardless of any ethical principles that his practice may violate, that is a funny statement.) Harry Frankfurt, whom I mentioned in my podcast on the first section of Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, mentions “bullshit artists” in his essay “On Bullshit” to denote those who are especially skilled in the art of bullshitting. In this regard, however, Ed Dante is peculiar because he remains anonymous, hidden from view: others claim his work as their own. Yet he obviously chose to step forward to discuss the issue, while still concealing his identity. His egotism, on display throughout the essay, mixes with the essay's sinister tone: “I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created...Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it.” His reference to some of the responses he has received from students who are seeking his help or whom he has helped are possibly the most laughable part of the whole essay--and by laughable, I mean incredibly disheartening.
Especially in mainstream rap, rappers spend a great deal of time boasting about how much wealth they possess. Personally, one of my favorite rappers, who identifies Jay-Z as his “big brother,” Kanye West, although he does sometimes rap about societal issues, often raps about his current affluence, flaunting the luxuries which he can afford. Why does the public enjoy listening to raps that constantly make reference to luxury cars, designer fashion--Versace sofas?--and jewelery--see: http://dimewars.com/HipHopNews/Did-You-See-Kanye-...
? Obviously, Kanye is endorsing, through his songs, a lifestyle that revels in unmitigated exorbitance. But such songs are also commodities, items that are for sale, aimed at a mass public who, by buying them, help to encourage the lifestyle represented by the songs. There is thus, in this, a cycle of consumption which feeds on itself. In relation to my own rap--I am in a number of rap groups, the most recent being Free Milkshakes, the name, of course, designed as a ploy to attract, or perhaps trick is the more appropriate term, people to come to our live shows--I quickly realized that the majority of people do not want to listen to my rapping about metaphysical quandaries which perplex me, but I rap about them anyway and, consequently, I most likely will never be signed to Young Money.
That is what I have to say about hip-hop.
As regards the post proper, Andrea, I like how you compared some of Habermas’s ideas with those of Adorno, highlighting the relationship between these two critical theorists. I find that possessions at least in part serve to define a person, to indicate their success. For instance, owning a Rolls-Royce is a definite sign of affluence. I suppose that one problem with such purchases is that they do not really benefit society; donating the money to charity would be a more altruistic, some would say more noble, act. But even donations to charity can be perceived as declarations of wealth, I suppose. Is it that presentation is nine-tenths of wealth? The richest people in the world are listed every year in Forbes magazine. What does this say about how wealth is depicted and understood in the United States?
Also, do you think that Buy Nothing Day has an effect on the structures of domination that drive consumer culture? Does changing one’s purchasing habits for one day truly impact the system? Besides, how can one afford to miss out on all the sales?
That is curious--readers being more active in the community than non-readers. I agree that reading must be coupled with watching movies, attending plays, going to concerts, etc., in order to truly appreciate and critically engage the works being represented. What I find particularly interesting is that readers are on the whole more involved in intellectual, as well as physical, activities, demonstrating that reading, although a solitary activity, motivates people to interact with the community in myriad ways. Advanced reading, according to the article, even leads to greater empathy, a greater bond with one's fellow man. Does good reading lead to greater empathy or does this greater empathy cause one to become a good reader in the first place, enticed by what C.S. Lewis identifies as the power of reading to reveal the lives of others, while at the same time teaching one about oneself?
Edelstein’s maps are indeed visually stimulating—every time that I regard the blog, I find myself drawn to them. In addition, they provide a perspective on the extensiveness of the communication of these writers and scholars. Clearly, in the past, the art of letter-writing had a cachet and import which today have become nearly nonexistent. I know that in my research for my final project for this class, I have scrutinized the correspondence between Benjamin and Adorno; and, moreover, many writers, scholars, politicians, and other noteworthy figures have had compilations of their letters published. Nevertheless, with the advent of the digital age, the writing and preservation of letters seems to be a thing of the past; to write a letter now seems anachronistic. Yet something is surely lost in our departure from letter-writing, from the custom of the exchange of personal letters. For the most part, digital communication precludes intimacy. E-mails pile up in our inboxes and generally, we reply to them as succinctly and as quickly as possible. One cannot labor over such communication, which is aimed at rapidity and disposability. This is in definite contrast to the custom of letter-writing that Habermas outlines in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. As Habermas indicates, the intimate sphere of the conjugal family that came to prominence in the 18th century gave rise to a notion that in relation to this sphere privatized people were “capable of entering into ‘purely human’ relations with one another”: “The literary form of these at the time was the letter” (48). In fact, the 18th century, according to Habermas, was the century of the letter. The significance of letter-writing in connection with the individual is underscored by Habermas’s remark that “through letter writing the individual unfolded himself in his subjectivity” (48). The letter, we learn, “was considered an ‘imprint of the soul,’ a ‘visit of the soul’; letters were to be wept. From the beginning, the psychological interest increased in the dual relation to both one’s self and the other; self-observation entered a union partly curious, partly sympathetic with the emotional stirrings of the other I” (49). Diaries and first-person narratives further explored the nature of subjectivity. Orientated toward an audience, subjectivity was fostered by these interactions. Letters, even those whose authors were unknown to the person handling them, were borrowed and copied. There were also some letters which were intended for publication from the outset. A thing of beauty, a well-composed letter was, according to the idiomatic expression of the time, “pretty enough to print.” As the century progressed, the influence of letters increased substantially: Rousseau and Goethe even chose to write epistolary novels. On Habermas’s view, these letters transformed the relationship of author, work, and public: “They became intimate mutual relationships between privatized individuals, who were psychologically interested in what was ‘human,’ in self-knowledge, and in empathy” (50). This invigorated subjectivity led to the birth of “fiction” as a genre of literature. Likewise, the contemporary drama introduced the “fourth wall.” People became, by their own contrivances, subjects of fiction, through the blending together of reality and illusion. Furthermore, the appearance of fiction, developed from this newfound subjectivity, appealed to larger public of readers, prompting the formation of book clubs, reading circles, and subscription libraries. Thus, it is clear that the development of the public sphere of rational-critical debate is directly linked to the letters that begot a new understanding of subjectivity that stemmed from the intimate sphere of the (patriarchal) conjugal family. Now, with the loss of letter-writing, and its replacement by messages via e-mail, we have perhaps lost the empathy conferred by letter-writing.