After making a “dad joke” or doing something ridiculous, my dad always laughs and says “why should life be boring??” That’s how I feel about the social sciences and academia in general. Why can’t we make intellectual engagement and involvement in current events fun?
Things I Like:
Touché, AAAS108x. You win. Though I am still not sure whether my tweets are worth following, I probably will create my own Twitter account (not just tied to this class) at the end of the semester. While I find myself getting more annoyed with insufferable facebook statuses, Twitter at least expands networks beyond our “friends” and thereby can allow you (if you make the effort to follow people you wouldn’t normally be in contact with, ala Ethan Zuckerman’s advice) to feel a more accurate pulse of what is going on in the world. Also, thank goodness for the 140 character limit.
Humor in Social Science / Digestible Social Science- Sometimes, humor is the best way to point out an uncomfortable truth without making people defensive and closed off. Also, it is one of the best ways to engage our generation on important issues; if young people are in a place where keeping up with the news does not lend itself to social acceptance, then humorous sources such as the Daily Show or the Onion allow one to stay informed and be funny at the same time. I think TedX and Kickstarter, books like rewire, are also great ways of upping public involvement in important projects and ideas by making the content fun to participate in.
Things I want more of:
Discussions about the Speakers
In terms of this class, I think I would have liked more time to let the presentations of our many amazing speakers sink in, and then to discuss them in class. I often found it hard to come up with questions I really wanted to ask right away, and I always learn best from speaker when bouncing ideas around with professors and peers afterwards.
Social Engagement Theses & co.
I am tired of academic buzzwords. I want to see academia grounded in purpose, and actions grounded in evidence. This class is just one of a handful in college that I feel has really engaged current issues in both a practical and academic way (you know things are bad when “practical” and “academic” can be used as two opposing adjectives). Even worse, I remember that in high school, little attempt was made (or it was not done effectively) to make our studies seem relevant to the real world. Luckily, in the digital humanities, we have to be concerned with current issues; but with history, or literature, there is always a way to tie these events back to their real world context. In my case, I am especially interested in conducting research or studying subjects that directly impact the way that I and others view the world, and hope to eventually convert this type of knowledge into impact.
People Who Don’t Take the Internet at Face Value
Sometimes I don’t understand why everyone isn’t fascinated by the Internet. At the very least though, this class gives me some hope that a healthy skepticism about online environments and digital technologies is slowly making its way onto the Harvard scene. In particular, I thought the video about how Google search works was a great example of how generally-accepted-as-normal things on the Internet are also, at the end of the day, designed by a group of people. (When people roll their eyes at “social construction” I want them to understand that when social scientists mention it in reference to coding or biology or other hard sciences, we aren’t saying that it isn’t real or effective, but just to keep in mind that these are not god-given ways that the world works.)
However, I think that the idea that the Internet holds more power than it actually does — to connect us, to break down class lines — is still very prevalent, and I hope that we can change that. Because, to reference my favorite sociology concept, if people believe something is real, then it is real in its consequences. For example, if we believe that we are getting all of the information (about an event, a presidential candidate, etc.), but only are exposed to a fraction of the story, then we will act upon that information with more certainty and entitlement.