the 'sokal affair'

how could i not have known about this? the “sokal affair,” as it is known (apparently), refers to an event that occurred in academic history right here in new york city, where mathematical physicist alan sokal (nyu) submitted and had published an article titled, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in the journal social text. at issue was the fact that sokal’s submission was a “hoax” – that is, he submitted an article purporting to link quantum mechanics with postmodernism, but the entire thing was apparently a prank on mr. sokal’s part. at the same time that his hoax was published in social text, sokal announced his prank in the pages of lingua franca.

below are three perspectives on the issue. i encourage readers to read each version of the “truth” and gather all “facts” necessary to make “claims” about this event.

a brief note before you do so, though: (as taken from the first piece below, and an important distinction that is often missing from critiques of social constructionism frameworks)
“First, Professor Sokal takes "socially constructed" to mean "not real," whereas for workers in the field "socially constructed" is a compliment paid to a fact or a procedure that has emerged from the welter of disciplinary competition into a real and productive life where it can be cited, invoked and perhaps challenged. It is no contradiction to say that something is socially constructed and also real.”

Professor Sokal’s Bad Joke
- written by an english professor at duke, who is also (at the time) executive director of duke university press that published social text

A Mathematician Reads Social Text
- written by a mathematician from southern Illinois university and focuses exclusively on the entire issue of social text in which the sokal hoax was published.

Idiot Savants?
- a discussion of the ‘sokal affair’ two years after the fact, written at the time of the american release of sokal’s co-authored book that brings into question the very existence and work of the likes of jacques lacan, bruno latour, jean baudrillard, and others…



1 second of funding

two separate editorials and articles were sent to me this week, both offering a commentary of sorts on the current administration.

one was an article in the l.a. times which told of a company called Ignite! Learning, headed by neil bush, brother of the current president. at the heart of this company's educational product line are (purple colored) COWs - Curriculum on Wheels.

the other an op-ed in the n.y. times which discussed the cost of the war in iraq in terms of how much is being spent per second and where the money isn't going.

i will reserve extensive commentary for a later date, and for now will say only this:
i know a few handfuls of people (yours truly, included) who are doing good work, asking different questions and thus yielding insights beyond staid, easily categorizable nuggets who would benefit greatly from a few seconds of funding. 1 second ($6300) or a generous 1 minute ($378,000) would certainly go a long way in supporting inquiry into the in-between spaces and unspoken moments where learning really lives.

there may be a sucker born every minute, but for the many minutes' equivalent of national war expeditures that's being chewed up by COWs, there certainly ought to be more to report than just increased test scores. band-aids, purple or otherwise, will eventually fall off, and the laceration will still be visible. too often, the cuts are located in the sites that similarly bovine programs prey on: districts with large numbers of "economically disadvantaged students." COWs wouldn't get out one moo if they were grazing in the lush pastures of well manicured lawns, yet they are routinely set out to pasture and feed amidst the concrete playgrounds of our cities.

with 1 second of funding, i could set up a basic, semi-portable, video editing studio like the one i've cobbled together now - thanks to generous departmental "leftovers" and even more generous department colleagues - where youth can learn to compose in a new digital environment. with two seconds of funding, i could increase the portability of this studio, add some documentary equipment, and hire these new filmmakers as co-researchers. with a whole minute of funding... well, to start, i could better support my fabulous research assistants! :)

1 hour = $22,680,000. with one hour of funding, even i could come up with a clever product to market in a hideously annoying color... a nice, metallic green SNAKE (Storytelling and Networking Across Known Experiences) should do nicely.


insomia: blessing or curse?

i first learned the word insomnia while reading a nancy drew mystery in 3rd or 4th grade. in-som-nia. i loved to say it. think it. and wish for it to happen to me. it seemed like a super power, and i would imagine all the ways that i would use an additional 8 or 10 hours of awake time that i felt cursed to be denied given my penchant to sleep anywhere, at any moment, for copious amounts of time.

all that changed recently, and my wish, in all its perversity, has been granted. i can't sleep. i, who slept through birthday party sleepovers, final exams, and many a horrendous-sounding alarm clock buzzer, find myself unable to get a decent night's sleep, awakened while i'm already asleep by the supremely irksome plink-plonk of raindrops made of lead clanging down on my window a/c unit, and - horror of horrors - having the worst time trying to fall asleep in the first place! the other wicked truth: i can't drink caffeine after 9.

true, this probably has some connection to my recent bout of in-som-nia, but it's a side effect of aging about which there is nothing graceful. even up until two and half years ago, knee... err, eye-deep in dissertation chapters and revisions and edits, i could consume a venti double latte and be sound asleep within the hour. (how) could so much change so soon? so quickly? and how, in our youth, are we so unaware - or, at the very least, unappreciative of how quickly the little things we hold dear about who we are can change, nay, vanish...?

ok, this is all a bit dramatic, but i haven't come to the worst part yet. yes, there's more...

now, i've always known that very, very late and very, very, early times of the day are my most productive times, creative times, churn-out-writing times. but on the journey to those precious few times, i have, in the recent past, whilst researching (ahem...) the latest trends and phenomena in the evolving, shifting landscape of television, fallen victim to the evil, wicked ploy of abc to get suckers like me hooked on their television programs simply by making episodes of several shows available via free stream, at any internet accessible location, at any time.

tonight's double feature: ugly betty. chock full of "that life isn't for us, betty" (betty, is a young woman of mexican background living in queens, ny, who gets schooled by her older sister, but who persists in the high fashion, manhattan world where she works), and "if i have to - do i? - i'll change to fit in because this (running a magazine, albeit maybe not a fashion mag akin to vogue) is my dream!", this show approaches the border of cliche, but is addictive because of america ferrera's portrayal of the title character. at the risk of sounding too much like a television review, i'll also add that alan dale is on the show. i did love his portrayal of caleb nichol on the o.c., during which he was always and delighfully icy-cool.

so there you have it: insomnia, betrayal of caffeine, online tv victim, and chocolate's revenge in the form of a facial blemish complete today's personal reflection on "adult-escence"...


google literacy and other google news...

google's in the literacy game: see the new google literacy site, "the literacy project," and the cnn article.

and check out the latest re:

so what does this all mean?