Dan Pink on Choosing a Major

I wish all of my students, especially my Freshmen and Sophomores, would watch this video when thinking about choosing a major. I think a lot of fellow faculty members would benefit from incorporating the “whole-brain” skills Pink mentions at the end of the video into their course design and assignments.


The Fuzzy Tail; or, the End of Disciplinarity

 [slideshare id=75651&doc=the-fuzzy-tail2082&w=425]

Ran across this presentation on the front page of Slideshare today. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the application of Long Tail thinking to being an educator and a Political Scientist lately, and also what it means for political activism and campaigns. This is one reason why I’ve been reading Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan – to think through the implications of what John Robb has referred to as the Gaussian-Paretian Thinking Debate.

At any rate, I find this presentation on “Fuzzy Tail” thinking to be a nice corollary to The Long Tail. The university is still operating on a 19th century model of how to organize knowledge, which was reinforced by a drive for a certification process beginning in the late 19th-early 20th century. This is old thinking, a vestigial stump about as valuable as an appendix, I think. David Weinberg’s excellent Everything is Miscellaneous really illuminates why we may not need to break things down in such a fashion anymore, so long as we pay careful attention to the metadata.

And if disciplinarity is breaking down, then the importance of becoming a generalist, especially one practicing what Dan Pink would call “whole-minded thinking,” becomes ever more important. I’ve tried to practice this in my own career, moving from Ph.D. student who skirted the research-activism border to Research Director at a university research center, to applied work at an economic development non-profit, and now back to a college Lecturer. In my teaching I’ve tried to “acquire” a variety of courses (American Government, Intro to Political Theory, Kentucky Politics, Appalachian Politics, Culture and Politics in the Third World, and soon American Political Thought) which may seem to be disconnected on the surface and structure them so that if you take all of these courses with me, they add up to a larger line of inquiry and thought. Even moreso within the classes I teach, I’ve tried to blur methodological and epistemological boundaries – using odd research techniques, critical sources, non-traditional texts (online readings, comic books, now video games) to really shake up what it means to be a student of politics. In a sense, acting as a multi-disciplinary/multi-media Political Scientist helping his students to prepare for a post-Political Science/post-disciplinary world. but it can be tough to build the future in a structure overdetermined by the past. However, this is the call of Long Tail, and “Fuzzy Tail” thinking.

Isn’t that what being an engaged academic is all about? Not political indoctrination or careerism, but building the intellectual infrastructure of the future and watching what patterns emerge?

Dead Media and the Flavour of Cities

This is an excellent presentation, and well worth going to slideshare.net to see the author’s annotations. Nice design, as well as an interesting take on viewing cities as a text shaped by media flows and technologies.

[slideshare id=70662&doc=dead-media-the-flavour-of-cities3744&w=425]


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb.

This is one of those books that I have a feeling will have a massive impact on many disciplines, though it will take a while for it to get under the skin of enough young scholars and practitioners to do so. For my part, I am fascinated by the implications for the discipline of Political Science, which has traditionally focused on Gaussian thinking, as opposed to Long Tail, Paretian thinking. John Robb has an excellent post on what this might mean for political practitioners at his excellent Global Guerrillas blog here.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my thoughts chapter by chapter as I work through the book.

PS, Taleb had me at the mention of Eco’s “antilibrary.”

“There’s nothing that’s wrong with Kentucky politics that can’t be fixed by what’s right about it.”

Sadly, Mark Nickolas (of BluegrassReport.org) is leaving our fair state at the end of the month. As one of the pioneers of political blogging in Kentucky, I have to say his voice will be sorely missed. In a post earlier today, Mark had this to say about Kentucky politics:

There’s nothing that’s wrong with Kentucky politics that can’t be fixed by what’s right about it. Democrats should feel good about the big first step they took on Tuesday night. There’s much to be hopeful about, but we always need to ask the tough questions, demand accountability from all of our leaders, and never stop shining light on every nook and cranny of our government and political system, regardless of their attempts to silence dissent or intimidate critics. Keep your chin up and keep fighting. Sometimes it feels like you’re climbing Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, but usually you’ll be shocked by the impact a single person can have over time.

There’s a revolution going on, if you hadn’t noticed. We can’t afford to simply stand on the sidelines and watch. There is too much at stake.

Truer words were never spoken. For an interesting take on the evolution of Kentucky politics and political blogging in Kentucky over the last few years, read the entire post. You’ll be glad you did. So long, Mark, and thanks for all the fish…

Globalization and Homogenization

I was over at Warren Ellis‘ website this morning and came across this video of a Spider Jerusalem rant from Transmetropolitan (which I’m using again for PS 240 this fall). I’m teaching PS 212 Culture and Politics of the Third World this summer, and as I prepare for the globalization portion of that course, this rant seemed particularly apt.

“Now let’s all go out and celebrate by buying the same burger!” Indeed.