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Todd Suomela

The Promise and Disappointment of Virtual Reality | Literary Hub - 0 views

  • Of course, whether it is using VR for the treatment of vertigo and PTSD, or drawing our attention to unconscious biases like racism, it is possible that VR does have the ability to change our perception of the world around us, that the knowledge we gain from this technology can be transformative.

    But Plato’s Cave presupposes that those freeing the prisoner from their chains to reveal the true nature of “reality” are altruistic in their intent—that the world being shown the freed prisoners is indeed the truth. It is an allegory that does not allow for the world as it is today, or the pervasive desire to escape it.

    The continued commercial failure of VR may represent an unconscious resistance to jettisoning our connection to the real. Maybe we are waiting for that blockbuster game to drive mass-market appeal. Perhaps the technology simply is not good enough yet to simulate a truly authentic—and profitable—experience. In this sense we are trapped. We crave authenticity of experience but, despite the efforts of philosophers, authors and auteurs, our imaginations appear limited to what we can individually consume and identify with. While capitalism lumbers on, we cannot see anything but the shadows on the wall.

Todd Suomela

Digital History & Argument White Paper - Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - 0 views

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    "This white paper is the product of the Arguing with Digital History Workshop organized by Stephen Robertson and Lincoln Mullen of George Mason University, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The two-day workshop, which involved twenty-four invited participants at different stages in their careers, working in a variety of fields with a range of digital methods, was conceived with a focus on one particular form of digital history, arguments directed at scholarly audiences and disciplinary conversations. Despite recurrent calls for digital history in this form from digital and analog historians, few examples exist. The original aim of the workshop was to promote digital history that directly engaged with historiographical arguments by producing a white paper that addressed the conceptual and structural issues involved in such scholarship. Input from the participants expanded the scope of the white paper to also elaborate the arguments made by other forms of digital history and address the obstacles to professional recognition of those interpretations. The result was a document that aims to help bridge the argumentative practices of digital history and the broader historical profession. On the one hand, it aims to demonstrate to the wider historical discipline how digital history is already making arguments in different forms than analog scholarship. On the other hand, it aims to help digital historians weave the scholarship they produce into historiographical conversations in the discipline."
Todd Suomela

Author discusses new book about how American higher education has always been 'a perfec... - 0 views

  • The typical university is in constant tension between autonomous academic departments, which control curriculum and faculty hiring and promotion, and a strong president, who controls funding and is responsible only to the lay board of directors who own the place. Also thrown into the mix are a jumble of independent institutes, research centers and academic programs that have emerged in response to a variety of funding opportunities and faculty initiatives. The resulting institution is a hustler’s paradise, driven by a wide array of entrepreneurial actors: faculty trying to pursue intellectual interests and forge a career; administrators trying to protect and enrich the larger enterprise; and donors and students who want to draw on the university’s rich resources and capitalize on association with its stellar brand. These actors are feverishly pursuing their own interests within the framework of the university, which lures them with incentives, draws strength from their complex interactions and then passes these benefits on to society.
  • The biggest problem facing the American system of higher education today is how to deal with its own success. In the 19th century, very few people attended college, so the system was not much in the public spotlight. Burgeoning enrollments in the 20th century put the system center stage, especially when it became the expectation that most people should graduate from some sort of college. As higher education moved from being an option to becoming a necessity, it increasingly found itself under the kind of intense scrutiny that has long been directed at American schools.
  • The danger posed by this accountability pressure is that colleges, like the K-12 schools before them, will come under pressure to narrow their mission to a small number of easily measurable outcomes. Most often the purpose boils down to the efficient delivery of instructional services to students, which will provide them with good jobs and provide society with an expanding economy. This ignores the wide array of social functions that the university serves. It’s a laboratory for working on pressing social problems; a playpen for intellectuals to pursue whatever questions seem interesting; a repository for the knowledge needed to address problems that haven’t yet emerged; a zone of creativity and exploration partially buffered from the realm of necessity; and, yes, a classroom for training future workers. The system’s organizational messiness is central to its social value.
    • Todd Suomela
       
      The idea that colleges should be valued for their organizational messiness is also quite interesting. Where does this messiness fit into Bucknell?
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  • The American system of higher education emerged in a unique historical setting in the early 19th century, when the state was weak, the market strong and the church divided. Whereas the European university was the creature of the medieval Roman Catholic church and then grew strong under the rising nation-state in the early modern period, the American system lacked the steady support of church or state and had to rely on the market in order to survive. This posed a terrible problem in the 19th century, as colleges had to scrabble around looking for consumers who would pay tuition and for private sponsors who would provide donations. But at the same time, it planted the seeds of institutional autonomy that came to serve the system so well in the next two centuries. Free from the control of church and state, individual colleges learned to survive on their own resources by meeting the needs of their students and their immediate communities.
Todd Suomela

Who Framed Augmented Reality? | Johannah King-Slutzky - 0 views

  • The human/drawing interaction trope that Zuckerberg is rebranding as Facebook’s own innovation even predates animated cartoons. One type of scrapbook, the paper dollhouse, played with the appeal of mixing real-life and an invented world. It was most popular from 1875-1920, and over forty years its form remained consistent: A dollhouse unfolded theatrically to create illusions of progress and depth.
  • Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur is generally considered the first animated cartoon ever, and it made use of the same trope of mixing reality and man-made art when it premiered all the way back in 1914. McCay was a cartoonist famous for the Freudian, surrealist comic Little Nemo in Slumberland, which was published in weekly instalments in the New York Herald and New York American—though its material is more frequently compared to Bosch than to Garfield. McCay, already two hits deep into his career in the first decade of the twentieth century, purportedly decided to animate a comic strip in 1909 on a dare from friends griping about his daunting productivity. Following a brief stint with an animated Nemo, McCay developed Gertie the Dinosaur, an amiable brontosaurus with a stoner grin, and took her on a vaudeville roadshow across America.

  • LAST MONTH Facebook premiered its vision for the future at its development conference, F8. The camera-app technology Mark Zuckerberg calls augmented reality (or AR) borrows heavily from the social network Snapchat, which enables users to layer animated digital content onto photos on the fly. On stage, Zuckerberg promoted this collaging as social media’s first steps toward modish virtual screen manipulations. “This will allow us to create all kinds of things that were only available in the digital world,” Zuckerberg bubbled effusively. “We’re going to interact with them and explore them together.” Taken in, USA Today repeated this claim to innovation, elaborating on the digital mogul’s Jules Verne-like promise: “We will wander not one, but two worlds—the physical and the digital,” For my part, I was particularly delighted by Facebook’s proposal to animate bowls of cereal with marauding cartoon sharks, savoring, perhaps, the insouciant violence I associate with childhood adventure.
Todd Suomela

We Have Been Here Before | Easily Distracted - 0 views

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    A useful review of the past 60 years of controversy over college speakers.
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    For those interested in following the political correctness debate from an historical perspective.
Leslie Harris

Map of 73 Years of Lynchings - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    An effective but somewhat disheartening use of GIS to map the frequency of lynchings in the Southern U.S. by county from 1877 to 1950.
Leslie Harris

When the Archive Won't Yield Its Secrets - Research - The Chronicle of Higher Education - 0 views

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    Interesting article about the difficulty of working with archives, especially when their contents or structures don't match research questions. This applies mostly to paper archives, although the issue of digital archives is discussed at the end as well. The article is primarily a summary of presentations at a conference.
Leslie Harris

Computing Crime and Punishment - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    The article discusses a computer-based analysis of word use in the court reports of trials at the Old Bailey from 1674 through 1913.
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