Engaging with Global Empowerment

by on July 25, 2012 in Fresh From the Field with No Comments »


This is a picture I took of a wheat-pasted poster in Manhattan in the early days of Occupy Wall Street.

Its phrase attests to the age-old struggle of the masses fighting for an equitable piece of the pie. And, though it references power struggles with which we are very familiar, it is linked to a new movement radically catalyzed by social media. Until recently, major changes in power came in part through the direction of a revolution’s leaders or figure-heads, but not so anymore; the world has borne witness to an incredible new era of power shifts.

“Bearing witness” to human struggle and social activism have been at the heart of MCNY’s vision since its founding. For this—and many reasons—I regularly use and talk about social media in my Critical Thinking classes. In our class discussions, we have found that as others’ realities become instantaneously available to us, we are met with the opportunity (and obligation, I feel) to be impacted in ways never before seen in human history. Each of our lives now becomes shaped, informed, called into question by the realities of others across the globe.

In a recent article, Revolutionizing Revolutions: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring, the authors discuss the “role social media play not only in igniting revolutions but also in modifying how regime change is achieved” (Marzouki and Oullier, 2011). The article considers the far-reaching impact of studies tracking the “bottom-up” approach in recent uprisings. The interpretation of these studies not only gives shape to complex systems of emergent behaviors (thousands mobilizing instantly for protests), but patterns of change that are necessarily accumulative.

What does this mean?

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Learning to Fail

by on May 18, 2012 in Must Reads with No Comments »


Many parents love to tell stories of the formidable hurdles they faced growing up, like the classic “I had a to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school” tale. My mother’s version of this story harkens back to her time in graduate school. There, on numerous occasions, her art school profs would make an interesting comment about one of her works in progress . . . and then tell her to destroy it. Or they would destroy it for her. Entire clay torsos were lobbed off in anatomy sculpture class and canvases were whitewashed in color theory. She speaks of the shock this always produced, but then notes the invaluable lesson learned: her development depended largely on learning how to fail better and better.

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Learn the Rules to Break Them!
(except in this case)

by on March 29, 2012 in Reflections with No Comments »


Sometimes as teachers, we pull from our ever-expanding bag of tricks all sorts of odds and ends that we hope can catalyze a student’s comprehension, inquiry or motivation. These tools can be nuanced, direct, or bluntly manipulative. The weirdest such oddity I recently “pulled out” was in an APA workshop for a CA class: I actually found myself telling students to refer to the MCNY APA guide as their holy text while students here. How corny. What’s worse, I repeated the same line in three such workshops.

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“Imagine a World without Free Knowledge”

by on January 20, 2012 in Must Sees with No Comments »


For many students (and many people in general!), being informed and engaged in politics can feel intimidating, abstract, or even a big waste of time. But this week, we have yet another reminder that, in fact, “the political is the personal, and the personal is political.” If you weren’t following the news, you may have found out about two bills in Congress merely by visiting some of your favorite websites. Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, Wired and dozens of other sites have been staging protests to these bills.

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