What’s the Philosophy of America’s Favorite Astrophysicist, @neiltyson?

Neil deGrasse Tyson recently gave a lecture at my university, and my girlfriend and I, being fans of his and of astronomy, decided to attend. Tyson’s lecture, which was livetweeted at #NDTPurdue, was focused on recent discoveries and events in astrophysics. It was informative and entertaining, as you might imagine if you have ever heard Tyson speak.

In my most recent reading, writing, and listening, I have become interested in philosophy of science. With apologies to my philosophy friends for any inaccuracies I may make in representing various philosophical viewpoints, I would like to try to determine exactly where Tyson is on the spectrum of the philosophy of science. There were a few clues from the lecture that I have been analyzing to try to narrow down Tyson’s view of science. Here they are, relatively verbatim, and in no particular order. (more…)

#CWCon from Afar: Gee’s Affinity Spaces & Situated Learning Interrogated

I have been following Computers & Writing Conference this week on Twitter at the #cwcon hashtag. Among the most livetweeted talks was James Paul Gee’s keynote, “Writing in the Age of the Maker Movement.” Gee, famous for research on gaming and literacy, spoke broadly about teaching writing from a situated learning perspective. In his talk, he emphasized the need for “goal-based action” in learning to write, where students see writing as a way of “doing” something. He advocated learning situated in “affinity spaces,” where a group coalesces over a “common endeavor” (Gee, 2003, p. 192). I have Storified the livetweeting of the talk here.

Before I respond to the talk, I want state a caveat: I wasn’t there. I am relying on livetweeting, and therefore my comprehension and interpretation of Gee’s talk is limited by the points that were livetweeted. I could have missed points in his argument, which would then skew my interpretation in an erroneous direction. I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted Gee.

I want to respond to a few key claims livetweeted, so I’ve selected the first tweets I could find in the #cwcon stream that documented each of these claims. I have embedded them below. (more…)

The Prime Directive in Linguistics: Problems with Non-Interference

In the new Star Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness, *SPOILER ALERT* Kirk and Spock debate the Prime Directive, which is the principle of non-interference with people who have not become interstellar space-faring civilizations. In the process of saving a non-Industrialized culture from a volcano, Kirk reveals the Starship Enterprise to the people he is trying to save. As a result, they draw an icon in the dirt that represents the ship, implying that the Enterprise will now become a symbol in their culture–either for good or for ill. The point is: Kirk violated the Prime Directive. Because of this, he is stripped of his command and demoted by Starfleet brass. *END SPOILERS*

I see a principle like the Prime Directive operating in descriptive linguistics. (more…)

On Poetry, Family, and Letting Go

In the academic year 2008-2009, I discovered a small poetry reading in a coffeeshop. It was serendipity. I found out about it while attending a different poetry reading by Norbert Krapf, the Indiana Poet Laureate at the time. The Laureate’s reading was sponsored by Bookmammas, an independent bookstore (remember those?) just off the main drag of a community called Irvington, on the eastside of Indianapolis. A few inquiries about other local poetry readings, and I found myself sipping a soy vanilla latte one fall night in the packed backroom of a coffeeshop called Lazy Daze. I don’t remember much about that night except for one poet, Jason, and his pounding voice as he read his words from the page, hitting me in my gut and engaging my mind at the same time. I thought, “This is what poetry is all about.” (more…)

Conference Recap: Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature Annual Symposium 2013

After a brief hiatus to recover from my last blogging venture on the Reading Wars and knowledge structures, I hope this post will be the beginning of a productive summer of weekly blogging.

On May 9, I presented at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature Annual Symposium. This was my first foray into literary criticism since my undergraduate work, which was over five years ago. Having studied linguistics for two years and then education another two, I found SSML, a humanities conference, to be quite different from my experiences at social science conferences. I was prepared for some of the differences, but others were a surprise. This information may be helpful especially for young scholars and grad students. Here are a few of the key differences:

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Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies: The Reading Wars as Evidence of Horizontal Knowledge Structure

This post is a consolidated form of the 8-part series I posted from April 16-May 30, 2013 as part of a class seminar on literacy. I have done a rough edit to attempt to make the posts more cohesive; if some issues are unclear, please refer to the original posts. Thanks again to all who commented and encouraged me during this endeavor. A special thanks to Dr. Carol Hopkins, who supported me in this project.

The Reading Wars of the 1990s were documented by the exchanges between Edelsky and McKenna, Robinson, & Miller in Educational Researcher. This theoretical conflict between Whole Language and Traditional Literacy represents what I call a “traditional academic feud.” A traditional academic feud is a social phenomenon in an academic field of study where two or more groups theorize about or describe a single phenomenon in categorically different ways. That a traditional academic feud eventually achieved “war” status is a curious phenomenon–but perhaps no more curious than the fact that academic feuds occur in the first place. In this series, I plan to explain 1) why the academic feud of the Reading Wars occurred, 2) why the feud escalated to a war, and 3) why a similar feud developed recently in the reading comprehension field (this element of the thesis was abandoned due to time/space constraints), and (if I am brave enough) 4) how we might avoid wars and have more productive feuds in Literacy Studies. (more…)

Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 8: Knower Code and Conclusions

Note: This is the eighth and final part of an eight-part series which satisfies a term paper requirement for a class seminar on literacy. Note that all citations in quotations can be found in the bibliographies of the linked items.

In this last post, I will demonstrate how Literacy Studies satisfies the final feature of horizontal knowledge structures–that of having a “knower code.” I will also show how this feature contributed to the Reading Wars. In a revision of my thesis, which originally contained a second analysis of the debate I highlighted in post six, I will conclude by reviewing the main features of horizontal knowledge structures and argue that they are the primary mechanisms that facilitated the Reading Wars. I will then offer suggestions based on this analysis on how we might avoid wars and have more productive feuds in Literacy Studies. For the sake of clarity, I refer to McKenna’s first article as “McKenna et al., 1990a” and their rejoinder “McKenna et al., 1990b.” Citations from quotes in the M-E discourse are not linked. They can be found at McKenna et al., 1990a; Edelsky, and McKenna et al, 1990b.

9. “Choices between competing claims to insight are based more on a ‘knower code’, that is to say, on who is making knowledge claims rather than on what is being claimed and how.”

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