How Important is Teaching in a Modern University?

In his book The Uses of the University, Clark Kerr mentioned several times that the modern university- or muti-versity as he calls it- places more emphasis on research over teaching:


(p6)“Teaching is less central than it once was for faculty members; research has become more important. This has given rise to what has been called the ‘nonteacher’-’the higher a man’s standing, the less he has to do with students.’ and to a threefold class structure of what used to be ‘the faculty’: those who only do research, those who only teach, (and they are largely in an auxiliary role), and those who will do some of both. In one university I know, the proportions at the PhD level or its equivalent are roughly one researcher to two teachers to four who do both.”


(p32) “It [UCLA] will soon have 100,000 students- 30,000 of them at the graduate level; yet much less than one third of expenditures are directly related to teaching. ” (p68) The mark of the university ‘on the make’ is a mad scramble for football stars and professional luminaires. The former do little studying and the latter little teaching, and so they form a neat combination of muscle and intellect.”


(p78) “If the faculty looks on itself as a guild, the undergraduate students are coming to look upon themselves as a ‘class’’; some may even feel like a ‘lumpen proletariat. Lack of faculty concern for teaching, endless rules and requirements, and impersonality are the inciting causes.’”


(p79) “Student pressures for better undergraduate instruction may be supplemented by the complaints of parents, who think their children are being sacrificed on the altar of research. Also, the public at large, whose attention has been riveted on the elementary and secondary schools as the ‘population bulge’ has affected them, may now turn its attention increasingly to the university level when the ‘bulge’ reaches there. Generally the public is more interested in quality of instruction than in quantity of research. The spotlight which the universities have helped turn on the teaching of others at lower levels may now be turned on their own. ”


(p83) “Teaching loads will be competitively reduced, sometimes to zero, although more teachers are needed and students are complaining about lack of attention. ”


(p85) “The balance is not equal treatment, the provision of equal time in some mechanical and eternal way between teaching and research.”


Clark Kerr is obviously concerned about the deterioration of the quality and quantity of teaching in modern universities in his book. What are your opinions on this issue? What do you think about the quality of instruction of the universities you have attended? Do you think the same thing as Clark Kerr mentioned in his book written in the 1960s is still jeopardizing and plaquing the modern university today? If you are the president of a university, who is supposed to be a “supergiant” balancing various aspects of the university, how would you balance the contradictories among research, teaching, administration, and public engagement? What kind of status should teaching have in a modern university- or multi-veristy, where external factors such as industry, society, government, and internal factors such as research, administration, and student development all exercise great impact on the university? And if teaching should indeed be improved and given more attention, what do you think are some of the measures that could be taken to achieve this purpose, from a policy level, the instruction level, the administration level, and from the students’ level?

Teaching and Learning Center Grants, 2017-2018

Katherine Hayles, “How We Became Posthuman”

As my provocation on Hayles, let me turn her title into a larger question that we can no doubt only try to answer after considering what she says in the Prologue and first chapter to her book: How did we in fact become posthuman? What in human/historical/intellectual development led to that critical transition from a “natural self” to “cybernetic posthuman”?

What follows is a series of quotations and questions drawn from Hayles’s Prologue and first chapter.

  1. What does Hayles mean, in commenting on the Turing Test, that it is about “the erasure of embodiment” when “intelligence becomes a property of the formal manipulation of symbols rather than enaction in the human life-world.” (xi) Why does intelligence need a body or does it still need one anymore?
  2. Hayles suggests that all human beings are now “posthuman” and concludes that “Because information had lost its body, this construction implied that emobdiment is not essential to human being.” (4) Why would she draw that conclusion in 1999?
  3. Is Hayles optimistic or pessimistic about the human condition? What does Hayles mean when she says at the bottom of p. 5: “…my dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality. . . and that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity, one on which we depend for our continued survival.”
  4. What role does history play in the transition Hayles describes to the posthuman? What is the importance of what Hayles calls “three distinct waves of development,” which she defines as homeostasis (1945-60); reflexivity 1960-80); and virtuality (1980-present).
  5. Are we doomed to posthuman status or does Hayles see a possibility for resistance, a la Haraway? Do you agree with her conclusion  (on p. 20)  that “…we can demystify our progress toward virtuality and see it as the result of historically specific negotiations rather than of the irresistible force of technological determinism. At the same time we can acquire resources wit which to rethink the assumptions underlying virtuality, and we can recover a sense of the virtual that fully recognizes the importance of the embodied processes constituting the lifeworld of human beings.”

The Cyborg Today

In her essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”, Donna Haraway embraces the dissolution of boundaries between human and machine in the technological age as grounds for creating a new politics. Haraway offers the image of the cyborg as an “ironic myth” that inspires new ways of approaching and reformulating social relations. Like other emerging third-wave feminists of the time, Haraway rejects identity politics that actually reify the oppressive dualities of race, class, and gender by imposing identities. According to Haraway, every attempt at definition by necessity fixes and delimits the object. She says, for example, “Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute… There is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women” (155). The cyborg, by contrast, embodies the increasing interconnections between human and machines and does away with the old dualisms, especially of natural/artificial and mind/body. In this imaginary, according to Haraway, the confusion of such categories and dissolution of identity creates an opportunity for new coalitions. Haraway therefore proposes that we base a politics on affinity, where people can construct their own groups by choice. At the time, this argument critiqued common feminist articulations of technology as a destructive force. Here (and this is where the irony comes in), Haraway presents the cyborg as a figure that, in its monstrosity, creates a potential for new politics that searches for “pleasure in the confusion of boundaries” (150).

After finishing this essay, my first reaction was to marvel at Haraway’s vision and hope for technology’s potential to unite human beings, especially since this vision was articulated well before the popularization of the internet as a means of connectivity and communication. Of course, Haraway is careful to point out and explain at length the “intensification of insecurity and cultural impoverishment, with common failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable” that results from the socio-economic situation created by the digital revolution (172). Here, she emphasizes the the exploitation of women of color in supplying the labor. But she remains optimistic, asserting that “there are grounds for hope in the emerging bases for new kinds of unity across race, gender, and class” (173).

Taking up Haraway’s call, I’m going to draw attention to a digital project at the GC that engages the dissolution of binaries. I this this is a particularly useful provocation for our class, since we are now beginning to conceptualize our own projects, and we could benefit from taking Haraway’s ideas as inspiration for examining other student projects. How might we look at projects as engaging or enacting a politics related to the cyborg myth? After searching the various projects on the New Media Lab website, I was particularly interested in Nora Goldman’s work on gender expression in social media. Goldman, a Linguistics PhD student and New Media Fellow, scrapes twitter for language patterns in her project, “Language and Gender in the Online Feminist Movement”. In her introduction, Goldman points out that “When the Internet first became publicly available, some theorized that it would serve as an equalizing medium of communication. If we have no visual or audio cues when communicating, the thinking went, all of our prejudices and insecurities related to our social identity become irrelevant, allowing for a truly egalitarian linguistic exchange.” However, her project questions evaluates whether twitter exhibits the “same stereotypical gender patterns as any other mode of communication.” Here, Goldman might call to mind Haraway’s assertion that “cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication” (176). We don’t have access to Goldman’s results, but we might still comment on the potential for technology (such as social media) to create the space for unity through coalition. Given your own social media experience and Goldman’s hypothesis, where can we recognize this unity or harness the potential for coalition? Perhaps in the hashtag? (I’m only half-joking)

TimBerners-Lee Information Management

It’s hard for me to remember a time when the World Wide Web did not exist, but it is a somewhat recent invention that has changed the course of how we interact with and engage with the world.  I’m not quite sure that Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the FULL potential of his idea and the rapidity with which it was adopted at the time of his Information Management proposal to his director, Mike Sendall, at CERN (which according to Sendall was a “Vague, but exciting” proposal).  Nevertheless, perhaps it is the vagueness that Sendall refers to that has allowed for the WWW to grow so quickly.  It seems so obvious now that information should be connected the way it is through hypertext online, but the right social and political forces were necessary and the right people needed to create it, as many of this week’s readings pointed out.

TimBL’s idea was born out of a problem: the need to organize workflows on projects he was involved with at CERN in 1989 and the frustration he was experiencing with limited access to the voluminous information being gathered/created at the institution in addition to the valuable information that was being lost due to employee turnover and constant change and development in the work CERN was doing.  By developing an Information Management System that linked different “nodes” (which could be documents, projects, people, software, etc.) of information through hypertext, regardless of which systems were used to create the nodes, TimBL proposed that a web of information connections would provide more complete access to the “pools” of information being developed at CERN and the loss of such information would be mitigated.  It is important to stress that despite the hierarchical nature of an organization like CERN, TimBL witnessed that the actual behavior of the institution among the many discreet departments and projects operated like a web where “interconnections evolved over time” and a benefit is to be had if more people contribute to the pools of information within the web.

Therefore, his Information Management System would need to be flexible and open enough to provide the access to various nodes of information among the many departments and individuals at the organization, as well as provide the ability for users to make their own contributions.  Luckily, as many of this week’s readings have pointed out, there has been an historically strong ethos for shared and open access so that technology can continue to develop freely and openly (even with competing commercial/political interests and motivations).

He also recognized that CERN was not unique and that many organizations operated in the same function that would benefit from the same kind of information management system (perhaps he did envision a grand potential for this as his proposal mentions the potential commercial usefulness).  His success at creating linked networks and hyperlinked text and media (which definitely made his job at CERN easier), consequently provided the foundation for the rest of the world’s information to be searched for and accessed at the stroke of a few keys or pokes on a screen (at least for those in the world with access to the internet).

Despite the many great advances that have been made for providing networked information online, there’s still a long way to go for achieving universal access to the collective knowledge of humanity.  What social and political forces are necessary to continue the momentum and who will lead us there?  What will the 50th anniversary of the World Wide Web look like?

Roy Rosenzweig, History of the Internet

Rosenzweig’s essay concerns itself with a singular issue facing today’s historians and historiographers: namely, how might the history of the Internet be written?  As a “review essay,” most of the article’s pages are spent providing summaries and critical evaluations of recent works that try to write this history.  Each work is shown to describe their subject in markedly different ways, and none of the variations seem to fully please Rosenzweig; however, he does voice his appreciation of these authors’ efforts every now and again. It is to my mind noteworthy that this history is such a thorny problem to begin with, for it is perhaps indicative of the nature of historiography itself–considering most historical works focus on the all-too-human aspects of the events of the world (although not all, Braudel’s geological history of the Mediterranean comes to mind), historians, once they come face to face with computers, the very epitome of the artificial, do not quite know how or where to begin.

I have not read any of the authors Rosenzweig mentions; however, there are a number of conclusions from his evaluations I think we can draw. I will detail just three interconnected points:

  1. The history of the internet cannot not be divorced from broader historical developments. The internet is not (although it can sometimes appear to be) a world apart from the one in which we daily toil; subsequently, a history of the internet cannot avoid the cultural and social underpinnings that influenced its development.
  2. Taking cue from 1, we should always be cognizant of the internet’s origins in military spending (e.g., ARPA’s contracts with the Defense Dept.), and the constant possibility, in various permutations, of its potential for weaponization (useful to remember considering today’s political situations).
  3. The theory underlying the development of network systems and the internet must itself must be framed by two opposing tendencies:  the ideal of a “closed” world, built on the slag of Cold War paranoia, and the ideal of an “open” world, inspired by proponents of the 60’s dream of freedom and human connection.

Going a little beyond Rosenzweig’s essay, I cannot help but feel Benjamin’s essay looms large when considering these issues, especially when it comes to historical preservation.  Historians usually like to work with original source documents; since this is not always feasible, reproductions may do.  Historians have almost always (until now) worked with physical reproductions (like copies on microforms).  The arrival of computers and the internet, however, has opened up the vast realm of digital reproductions.  Thus, even while historians are busying themselves with how to actually write a history of the internet, the internet is all the while shaping and influencing the way historians think and do their work.  Any “history of the internet” thus needs to be conscious of how the internet has changed history.  Furthermore, if there is ever a time or place for Friedrich Schlegel’s dictum of the historian as a “retrospective prophet” to be taken under advisement, it is here and now–because the internet is very much alive and well today, and ever-evolving, historians, even as they look to its past, should also be considering its futural prospects.  Perhaps the source code contains the portents, as it were, of where its technology will lead us next.


ITP Lab: Planning and Completing a Project

Planning and Completing a Project
Kimon Keramidas & Michael Mandiberg

Start with an overview (5m)
Project Management begins with conceiving of realizable and relevant projects
Project Management requires time management, and team communication
Your goal for this sessions is for you to recognize the importance of planning and forethought in executing a complex project

KK & MM share some anecdotes (20m and 10m for Q&A)
Projects: Smithsonian & Chaplin/A+F
You need to find your own path, but you need to be actively looking for that path.
Scope creep – how do you measure what is scope creep?
How to you build in time to make mistakes?
How do you enable experimentation?
When and how to you reach out to others for help/knowledge/resources?
How to understand the scope of tools you are unfamiliar with?
You need to understand your field so you know how to act in that field, and what constitutes new knowledge.
How does traditional research transition into project based work?

Breakout (20m)
Pair and describe their goal – project/general interest/direction – write it down
Describe a potential project – write it down
Make a list of what they need to accomplish the project – people, skills, knowledge resources, stuff, access
Identify which ITP labs meet these needs
Draft a rough sequential timeline (what comes first, second, third). Focus on order, not necessarily duration.

KK & MM workshop a few of them. (20-30m)

KK & MM Talk about how we deal with time management & team communication (20m)
How we allocate time and resources.
Share 7×24 grid as *one* way of managing time.
You have to know yourself. There are many ways of dealing with time. You need to be honest with yourself and find the one that is going to work for you.
K – stays ahead of inbox, likes meetings with people
MM – all creative work on Tuesday, Trello, talking things through, the shower/bicycle/massage
Dealing with other people: You need to understand their personalities. Often you will be leveraging access to resources through someone else, so get into their good graces. How do you negotiate all the people.
Remember, a dissertation is a project you are managing, with a team, and a workflow.

Consider your data, and its afterlives. This is a Data checklist from the Library.

Review the list of workshops this fall and Sign up for Labs!

Pair and then report back (15m)

Q&A for remaining time.


Here is a cleaner public version of this document on Kimon’s site


Additional thoughts on Marx

We had to cover so much last night in class that we were only able to glance at several key theorists and theories. I did want to add several additional thoughts about Marx. Marx saw himself as developing a theory of scientific socialism (as opposed to the utopian socialism of people like Owen and Fourier) in which he uncovered the “laws” of capitalist development (how and why it came to be as it was in the first half of the nineteenth century in Western Europe and the U.S.). It’s important to remember that Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species was published in 1859 and had a major influence on Marx as he was developing Capital. Marx believed that Darwin had given the world a scientific methodology that could be applied successfully to the ebbs and flows (the evolution, if you will) of human history. Marx understood himself to be a historical materialist (as opposed to having a spiritualist or abstract notion of the world and how it operated) who rooted his analysis of capitalism in a concrete understanding of what happened in the past. While Marx’s theories were predictive of subsequent capitalist developments that was not his primary intention when he set out to write Capital. Rather, he decided to try to uncover the underlying materialist framework that drove historical developments forward in each epoch and to apply those insights to the new moment in human history introduced by the new system of industrial capitalism.

Thoughts on Walter Benjamin

Just posted this on my Facebook page:

Rereading Walter Benjamin’s great essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936) I came across this brilliant statement in the Epilogue about Fascism:

Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees it salvation in giving these masses not their right but instead a chance to express themselves. …Fascism seeks to give them [the masses] an expression while preserving property.

If you substitute the Tea Party Right for “the masses,” and Trumpism/White Nationalism for Fascism you have a fairly prescient description of right-wing politics today in the U.S. and Western Europe.