One Out of Three Ain’t Bad (News)

Or, Friday Fun Times

One scientist drowned and another was eaten by hyenas
Serena Golden, “‘The Warcraft Civilization,’IHE, 12 Feb 2010

An interview with sociologist William Sims Bainbridge, about his new book on, yes, WoW. Very smart stuff:

Q: You also argue that virtual worlds merit attention as an area of study in themselves – and of course The Warcraft Civilization represents a step in that very direction. Why should we study virtual worlds, and what might we hope to learn?

A: Many reasons, but here are mine. Each well-designed virtual world is based on a coherent theory of human society, history, and our options for the future. Thus, this is like an entirely new field of literature or a laboratory that develops and tests social theories with actual human beings, somewhere between philosophy and social science but also with utopian qualities. For example: Pirates of the Burning Sea is set in the Caribbean in 1720 and reflects a general view of society often called political economy. A Tale in the Desert, set in a kind of utopian ancient Egypt, illustrates principles of industrial supply chains, and fits theories of technology as ritual originally proposed by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. Star Trek Online (which opened only two days ago) is based on the cultural relativist principle “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” Tabula Rasa expressed a well-developed ideology of space exploration, and our avatars were actually taken up to the International Space Station. Of course The Matrix Online was built on European theories of false consciousness. In the 1960s I started studying utopian communes and relgious movements, because I saw them as valid if risky experiments on new directions for humanity. That’s what virtual worlds are today.

An iPad is a glorified web kiosk.
David Parry, “The iPad and Higher Education,” ProfHacker, 8 Feb 2010

Aka, Good reasons to loathe the iPad, Apple, etc. Relevant excerpts:

For me, this is the real crux of the matter with the iPad: it is designed as a beautiful, wonderful, easy to use media consumption device. But I don’t want my students to be only media consumers. To be successful engaged citizens with control over their own life path, they need to be critical consumers and creators of media, not passive consumers. This device is designed for passive consumption.

But let’s be clear: these are locked devices… educational appliances, not educational computers. …what makes them revolutionary is that they are in fact a step backwards from the way that the web has operated.

And finally, for all those new profs, old profs, and wanna-profs
Thomas H. Benton, “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind’,” CofHE, 8 Feb 2010

A humanist from the Chron of Higher Ed keeps it real. This one goes out to all my colleagues who believe what their teachers tell them:

If you are in one of the lucky categories that benefit from the Big Lie, you will probably continue to offer the attractions of that life to vulnerable students who are trained from birth to trust you, their teacher.

Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon “the life of the mind.” That’s why most graduate programs resist reducing the numbers of admitted students or providing them with skills and networks that could enable them to do anything but join the ever-growing ranks of impoverished, demoralized, and damaged graduate students and adjuncts for whom most of academe denies any responsibility.

Image cite: slayerphoto, “Venus flytrap,” Flickr, CC License