Category: Nerdblogging (page 2 of 3)

Emancipation through Song: What Can We Learn from Rock Music?

This is a guest post from Sean Kay, Robson Professor of Politics and Government, and Director of International Studies, at Ohio Wesleyan University. The interview quotes appear in his new book Rockin’ the Free World! How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World (2017).

There is power in rock and roll – an art form that has modernized American values and helped them to ripple around the world – advancing freedom, equality, human rights, and peace. Over the last several years I was fortunate to interview about sixty major rock and roll artists, songwriters, producers, managers, non-profit heads and activists as part of a new book project. The interviews led me to the central case – that rock and roll advances progress in America and the world.

The Ethos of Rock & Roll

More than a music form – rock and roll is also an attitude and an ethic. As Joan Jett said in her 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It’s a language of a subculture that’s made eternal teenagers of all who follow it. It’s a subculture of integrity, rebellion, frustration, alienation, and the glue that set several generations free from unnatural societal and self-suppression. Rock and roll is political. It is a meaningful way to express dissent, upset the status quo, stir up revolution, and fight for human rights. Think I’m making it sound more important and serious than it is? ‘It’s only rock and roll,’ right? Rock and roll is an idea, and an ideal. Sometimes, because we love the music and we make the music, we forget the political impact it has on people around the world. There are Pussy Riots wherever there is political agitation.

The modern world has been shaped by rockers – even if not being overtly “political.” According to Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, rock and roll can be a shared expression of freedom, Wenner says: “Like Chuck Berry, just writing about how boring school was, ‘ring ring goes the bell’ – can’t wait to get out of there!” Billy Bragg, who was inspired to his career at a Rock Against Racism concert put on by the Clash, says: “You challenge your audience. Sometimes you are confirming the things that they support. I don’t like the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’ – but you are ‘recharging their batteries’ – by reminding them; they’re standing in the room and everybody in the room sees there’s power in union together.” George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic tells me it was the kind of freedom you: “…could get at church, or any kind of ritual, but especially to do it on your own terms – not to get psyched into it, because you’re still opening yourself up.” Continue reading

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The Trump Syllabus: Duck Input Needed!

Even though ISA provided some much-needed group therapy, in the end we still need to grapple with and teach about #45. I was inspired by some ideas in syllabi 1, 2, and 3, but I also needed some background information and topics that are geared towards a non-American audience. On top of it, I left the theme of one session open for the students to decide on.

So below is roughly what my students are  in for at the University of Bremen.  Any ideas how to improve it?

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Friday Nerd Blogging Tribute to An Old Duck-ster

Robert Kelly used to blog here before he made the big-time on the BBC, so here’s a salute via Friday nerd-blogging.

 

 

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Trump and Truth: Or What Arendt Can Teach Us about Truth and Politics

Today’s revelation that Mike Flynn resigned from his post as National Security Advisor is another strong sign that the struggle between Truth and Politics is not a foregone conclusion.  Indeed, we ought to actually celebrate the fact that when Flynn lied about speaking with the Russian ambassador, and the lie was made public, he was forced to resign.  This victory notwithstanding, we still must be extremely vigilant against the Trump administration’s attack on Truth.  For the administration apparently knew that he lied some time ago, and it was only with increased public scrutiny that Flynn submitted his resignation.  Had that not come to light, the administration appears to have no compunction about employing liars.

In what follows, I will briefly argue that Hannah Arendt’s insights into Truth and Politics, as well as her understanding of power, authority, violence and persuasion are all key to helping us resist Trump and his acolytes.   We are in a fragile time where the balance between freedom, reason, and truth may be overrun by domination, nonsense, and lies.    We are on the precipice of what Arendt calls “organized lying,” where the community, or at least the governance structures and a portion of the community, seek to systematically erode any claims to factual or rational truths, and with that to unmoor the very foundations of our state.

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Bannon’s Incoherent Vision of Disruption

In 2013, Bannon is reported to have told Ron Radosh of the Daily Beast that he was a Leninist.  He is quoted as saying “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”   Yet this is such an odd thing to tell someone, particularly a journalist, when one’s very wealth, political power and caché depend on the very institution that he wants to destroy.  Lenin, after all, wanted to bring down capitalism and the bourgeoisie to usher in the proletariat as leaders of a communist government and society.   Lenin strongly believed in Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and with it the belief that the workers of the world, and not the owners of capital, must have the power.  Only when all workers—men and women alike—are seen as equal and free will true freedom and democracy reign.  Here is the problem, as I see it, with Bannon: he isn’t a Leninist, a Marxist, or a socialist.   He is an incoherent miscellany of ideas, none of which he understands fully and all of which are dangerous when combined in a haphazard manner.

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The Value Alignment Problem’s Problem

Having recently attended a workshop and conference on beneficial artificial intelligence (AI), one of the overriding concerns is how to design beneficial AI.  To do this, the AI needs to be aligned with human values, and as such is known, pace Stuart Russell, as the “Value Alignment Problem.”  It is a “problem” in the sense that however one creates an AI, the AI may try to maximize a value to the detriment of other socially useful or even noninstrumental values given the way one has to specify a value function to a machine.

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Before you leave for the holiday season: Nominate your friends for The Duckies!

Grades are in, reviews submitted, and I’m headed out for the holiday season.  I hope you are wrapping up the semester and/or enjoying a well-deserved break.  Please remember to submit your nominations for the 2017 Duckies before the end of the year.

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Kiss 2016 Goodbye: Call for Nominations for the Duckies

Thankfully, The Disaster that was 2016 will soon be behind us.  I’m sure hoping 2017 will be better!  With all the uncertainty of 2017, I am assured of one thing: ISA 2017 is right around the corner and will be AMAZING.

My favorite part of ISA for the last several years is the Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies!  This year, the event will be held on Thursday, February 23rd at 7:30 pm.  I’m excited about our Ignite speaker lineup – more information will be released on this soon.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) is very thankful to have the support of Sage in hosting the reception.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2017 Duckies.  All nominations can be sent to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com.  We’ll be awarding Duckies in the following categories:

Best Blog (Group) in International Studies

Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies

Best Blog Post in International Studies

Best Twitter Account

Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media

As before, these awards are intended for English-language international studies blogs and bloggers whose online output has significant scholarly content.  Award nominees or their designated representatives MUST be present at the Duckies.

January 1st, 2017 is the deadline for nominations.  The Online Media Caucus and Sage will then judge the nominations and determine finalists for public voting as necessary.  Self-nominations are encouraged.

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Trump and the Fall of Númenor—a comment from a sad political scientist

sauraonThis is a guest post by Eric Grynaviski, an Associate Professor of Political Science at International Affairs at George Washington University. He is the author of Constructive Illusions (Cornell, 2014) .He studies sociological approaches to cooperation and conflict, and international ethics.

Over the last few days, protestors have taken to the streets to combat what they believe is an evil power that will soon occupy the White House. The problem of evil has featured in rhetoric about this election, in fact, for months, as featured in the Washington Post commentary on the election. The tropes “politics is evil,” “Hillary is evil,” and “Trump is evil” have a new significance when people are confused and disoriented by Trump’s surprising win.

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Analogies in War: Marine Mammal Systems and Autonomous Weapons

Last week I was able to host and facilitate a multi-stakeholder meeting of governments, industry and academia to discuss the notions of “meaningful human control” and “appropriate human judgment” as they pertain to the development, deployment and use of autonomous weapons systems (AWS).  These two concepts presently dominate discussion over whether to regulate or ban AWS, but neither concept is fully endorsed internationally, despite work from governments, academia and NGOs.  On one side many prefer the notion of “control,” and on the other “judgment.”

Yet what has become apparent from many of these discussions, my workshop included, is that there is a need for an appropriate analogy to help policy makers understand the complexities of autonomous systems and how humans may still exert control over them.   While some argue that there is no analogy to AWS, and that thinking in this manner is unhelpful, I disagree.  There is one unique example that can help us to understand the nuance of AWS, as well how meaningful human control places limits on their use: marine mammal systems .

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Empathy, Envy and Justice: The Real Trouble for Algorithm Bias

Rousseau once remarked that “It is, therefore, very certain that compassion is a natural sentiment, which, by moderating the activity of self-esteem in each individual, contributes to the mutual preservation of the whole species” (Discourses on Inequality).  Indeed, it is compassion, and not “reason” that keeps this frail species progressing.   Yet, this ability to be compassionate, which is by its very nature an other-regarding ability, is (ironically) the different side to the same coin: comparison.  Comparison, or perhaps “reflection on certain relations” (e.g. small/big; hard/soft; fast/slow; scared/bold), also has the different and degenerative features of pride and envy.  These twin vices, for Rousseau, are the root of much of the evils in this world.  They are tempered by compassion, but they engender the greatest forms of inequality and injustice in this world.

Rousseau’s insights ought to ring true in our ears today, particularly as we attempt to create artificial intelligences to overtake or mediate many of our social relations.  Recent attention given to “algorithm bias,” where the algorithm for a given task draws from either biased assumptions or biased training data yielding discriminatory results, I would argue is working the problem of reducing bias from the wrong direction.  Many, the White House included, are presently paying much attention about how to eliminate algorithmic bias, or in some instance to solve the “value alignment problem,” thereby indirectly eliminating it.   Why does this matter?  Allow me a brief technological interlude on machine learning and AI to illustrate why eliminating this bias (a la Rousseau) is impossible.

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Attack of the Ads

For this week’s FNB, something that is well timed:

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Superhero Oversight

Every time I think I am out, they pull me back in.  No, not leading the mafia.  Principal-agent theory.  Yep, and I blame Stan Lee.  How so?  I saw the new Captain America: Civil Wars movie… explanation below the break:

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Return of An Old Theme

It has been awhile, but with the end of the term, we are due for some Friday Nerd Blogging.

How some definitive proof that adding a little bit of Empire makes ordinary dancing much better?

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The Question of Quantum

Tough as it is to follow Charli’s excellent post on terrorism, somebody has to do it and so I might as well. If this past ISA is any indication, quantum is a big deal. The panel on Alex Wendt’s new book linking quantum mechanics to the social sciences was standing room only (from what I hear, I could not be there). James Der Derian has Project Q at the University of Sydney. One of the papers I read as a discussant at ISA invoked the term superpositionality, much to my surprise. So, Newtonian World out, Quantum World in (not sure where Einstein fits).

 

This is all fascinating. Quantum mechanics has been around for a while, and for a while physicists have struggled to reconcile the strange subatomic world, characterized by phenomena like superpositionality (the state or location of a particle are probabilistic and exist in multiple states/conditions at the same time, and according to one interpretation only collapsed to a point upon observation), quantum tunneling (when a particle passes through a barrier without having to surmount it) and quantum entanglement (quantum states of two particles are linked such that changes in one are immediately reflected in the other, regardless of distance), with the macroscopic world we see, which is characterized by none of these things. Continue reading

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Early But Sans Spoilers

We have not Friday Nerd Blogged in a while, and we are reluctant to do anything that might spoil the Force Awakens.  Yet, my grading is done and my enthusiasm is making the Kessel Run in record time, so here’s a non-spoilery bit of joy that is early and excessive.  May the Force Be With You as you grade and travel over the holidays.

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The Mindful Academic

It is that point in the semester when the energy of summer wears off, endless grading awaits, deadlines loom, meetings drag on and everyone feels swamped, exhausted and grouchy. [1] It’s that point when we know the semester is going to become a runaway train, a downward spiral that ends in stacks of blue books, wine, and crying about your failure as a teacher. It’s that point in the semester when the blank page seems to stare back at you, when the spark of creativity has dimmed and you have serious doubts about the usefulness of anything you “study.” But it doesn’t have to be this way! Committing to a daily meditation and mindfulness practice might just slow the semester down and make it more productive.

Who could forget the epic last scene in the series finale of Mad Men, when Don Draper, clad in white, sits peacefully meditating on a mountain top and is struck by the idea for a brilliant new ad campaign? Don comes to terms with his anxieties, self-doubt and self-loathing through mindfulness meditation and unleashes his creativity. Is it possible that mindfulness meditation could work such wonders? [2] Continue reading

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Zen of teaching

There are a lot of really great aspects of professorial teaching. It at the core of education, and thus at the core of universities as institutions of higher education. Professors have the opportunity to watch students grow through discovery and skill building. Professors and students through the practice of teaching build a shared connection of knowledge and inquiry. For many faculty and (hopefully) students, teaching raises new perspectives and forces reconsideration of established ideas. Teaching has economic benefits for students, notwithstanding recent debates. All of this and more is well known, particularly to colleagues outside major research universities, where teaching is sometimes seen as a task to be endured rather than embraced.

Having just seen a TedX talk on the link between happiness and living in the moment, another benefit of teaching occurs to me that I have not see discussed. It turns out that when our minds wander, we report being substantially unhappier than when we remain focused and in the moment. Continue reading

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Friday Nerd Blogging: The End of Summer Movie Season

As the summer movie season ends, it makes sense to bring back Friday Nerd Blogging after spending most Fridays at the theatre.  This week’s invokes all kinds of IR, including resource conflicts, gender dynamics, and Tom Hardy:

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APSA Tweet Up: Ducks Like Beer

westmalle-rubber-duck

Once again, those poli sci types on twitter (Marc Lynch, Dan Drezner, me, and the other usual suspects) will be meeting up at the APSA on Friday, August 4th from 5:30-7pm at the Parc 55 hotel bar (which I believe is on the second floor) which is across the street from the Hilton.

Note that the regular Hilton is undergoing renovation so the usual bar/lobby meeting arrangements will not work this time around.

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