Following the Footprints of Aristotle: On Kosman's The Activity of Being

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | One Comment

Aristotle’s thinking is peripatetic. It moves along paths, some of which are well-worn, others newly cleared by the creative elasticity of his thinking. It pursues questions by traversing along a course for a stretch, on the scent of truth itself, but when it finds its way impeded, it is unafraid to turn around, return to the start, or even to cut a new path of its own to navigate a hindrance, to find a way to around an aporia.

To read Aristotle well is to cultivate something of that peripatetic elasticity of mind; it is to learn to walk with him, without rushing; it is to tarry with his thinking and to patiently follow where it leads

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Expanding the Humanities PhD Market

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | One Comment

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article Susan Welch and I wrote about the data the College has collected since 1996 on the placement of our graduate students in the social sciences and the humanities. In it we focus on how the 2008 recession affected placements for our humanities PhDs.

The short story, as mentioned in the article, is that “the impact of the 2008 recession was far more severe on our humanities PhDs than it was on their counterparts in the social sciences.”

We said that the trend away from tenure-line positions toward more non-tenure line positions is “worrisome,” but it is of course not surprising. Major colleges and universities, including ours, increasingly rely on fixed-term lecturers to provide high quality and dedicated teaching for our undergraduates. In the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State, we have sought to ensure that our lecturers receive good benefits, are integrated into the academic life of the College, and have fair, renewable contracts.

Still, the deeper question in relation to the placement of Humanities PhDs is how to respond to a situation in which the market of tenure-line positions for which we train students continues to be anemic. We didn’t have space to address this in the article, nor would it have been appropriate in that context.

However, there are a number of strategies we have adopted in the College to give our Humanities PhDs experiences that can help expand the markets in which they might more effectively compete.

First, we have developed the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative in collaboration with the University Libraries. Here is how we articulate its purpose and value:

The HDA initiative was created to enhance the research and public profiles of humanities faculty in the College and the University Libraries, open new opportunities for high caliber graduate placements in the humanities, and enrich the undergraduate experience by providing undergraduate students access to and support for cutting-edge humanities research.

By combining digital literacies with advanced humanities degrees, we hope to open new markets for our Humanities PhDs. These students bring advanced communication, analytic and critical capacities to their digital work and learn how to effectively use technology to build community, work collaboratively and engage a wider public beyond the academy.

Second, we have created a Graduate Internship Program for our social science and humanities PhD students. The program is designed to provide PhD students with an opportunity to learn more about the work of the wider university and to develop a wider range of marketable skills. This is how we put it on the website:

Recognizing that graduate students in the humanities and social sciences have highly sought-after writing, communication, and quantitative skills that can enrich the operations of units across the university, the Liberal Arts Graduate Internship Program (GRIP) is designed to connect graduate students in the liberal arts with those university units that can most benefit from their expertise.

We are working with units across the university to create a variety of these internship experiences. The hope is that such experiences will enable Humanities PhDs who obtain a tenure-line appointment to become more effective young faculty because they will have a better sense of how a university operates. But we also want to open new opportunities to those students who, by choice or necessary, pursue a career off the tenure-track.

Third, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State has recently become a member of the Humanities Without Walls consortium. One of the main initiatives of the consortium is to help pre-doctoral students in the humanities pursue meaningful careers outside the academy.

Finally, speaking of alternative academic careers in the humanities, the Center for American Literary Studies (CALS) is hosting a symposium this spring on #Alt-Ac careers on March 3rd, 2014. I am looking forward to presenting on a panel about #Alt-Ac careers in the Liberal Arts.

All of these initiatives, however, are designed to augment and support our ongoing attempt to educate creative, incisive, and visionary scholars in the humanities.

The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle

By | Articles, Book Chapter, Vita | 7 Comments

“The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle, edited by Claudia Baracchi, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014).

Published in The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle (Bloomsbury Companions), this essay, entitled “The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle,” attempts to articulate the manner in which Aristotle’s thinking unfolds.

You can read the The Peripatetic Method on the Bloomsbury site, where they have made it openly accessible.

Drawing on the poetry of Wallace Stevens and the remarkable series of lectures Frederick J. E. Woodbridge gave at Union College in 1930 entitled, simply, “The Philosophy of Aristotle,” but published under the title Aristotle’s Vision of Nature, this paper identifies the path of Aristotle’s thinking, its method, as a “peripatetic legomenology.” It is a legomenology because it attends carefully to the manner in which things are said (ta legomena), and peripatetic because it follows the things said as a way into the nature of things. Read More

Tracing the Contours of the Enhanced Digital Book

By | The Evolving Book, The Long Road | No Comments

Now that Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading is in galley proofs, the contours of the enhanced digital book are beginning to take shape.

In order to determine the features of the digital book, we have developed a specification document that outlines the nature of the book, its key features and more specific details about how these features will fit into the ecosystem of the enhanced book itself.

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365 in 2013

By | Living, The Long Road | No Comments

As the year comes to a close, so too does my 365 in 2013 picture a day project. The purpose of the project was to cultivate habits of mindfulness.
Each day I set myself the task of capturing an image of something beautiful in the quotidian. This year, as in 2011, the picture-a-day practice required me to tune my attention to the world around me, to those little, remarkable things that often escape notice.

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Public Digital Scholarship: The @PubPhilJ at the #APAEastern

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentation: Interactive, The Public Philosophy Journal, Vita | No Comments

This presentation on the Public Philosophy Journal, invited by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy, provides an update on the status of the development of the open access, open peer review journal.

However difficult it is to create an open access, open peer review site of excellent digital scholarship, the Public Philosophy Journal includes a yet more ambitious performative dimension: the PPJ seeks to perform, as its very mode of scholarly publication, the sort of public philosophy it hopes to cultivate and amplify.

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Anticipation

By | Living, LwCH, The Long Road | No Comments

Excitement abounds here in the Long household as preparations are made for the arrival of Santa.

At 9- and 8-years old, the girls are at that prime age when Christmas is long anticipated and full of magic.

This morning snow fell lightly coating the ground in white after a week of rain.

These are the moments for which I am grateful.

As the girls grow, the excitement of Christmas will change.

But for me, it will be forever marked by the spirit of anticipation and hope these two little girls have always embodied.

Here they are at 3 and 2 in 2007:

Anticipation from Christopher Long on Vimeo.

Evening Sledding

By | Living, LwCH, The Long Road | 4 Comments

It was dark before I got around to shoveling the walkway.

The girls were excited to be outside, but I had a chore to complete. They wanted to go sledding, so they started down the hill toward the fields where there is a nice slope. They were sure I would tell them, “No, it’s too dark, and I have to shovel snow.”

But I decided to let them go themselves.

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The Peer Review Coordinator and the Collegiality Index

By | The Long Road, The Public Philosophy Journal | 10 Comments

As we sought to map out the design and functionality of the PPJ with colleagues at Matrix a few weeks ago, we began to suggest how a disciplinary economy of an open peer review might be navigated in ways that at once ensure rigor and maximize collegiality. Recognizing that peer review itself is an important scholarly activity, this post outlines the contours of one aspect of the PPJ user score, the “Collegiality Index.”

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Digital Dialogue 68: Building the PPJ

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast, The Public Philosophy Journal | 2 Comments

During our first planning trip to Matrix at Michigan State to develop the Public Philosophy Journal, Mark Fisher and I sat down to talk with Ethan Watrall and Bill Hart-Davidson about creating the journal as an ecosystem of scholarly communication.

Ethan Watrall (aka: @Captain_Primate) is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State and Associate Director of Matrix. In addition, Ethan is Director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative and the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool here at Michigan State.

Ethan’s research interests fall in the domain of cultural heritage informatics, with particular (though hardly exclusive) focus on digital archaeology and serious games & meaningful play for cultural heritage learning, outreach, and engagement.

Bill Hart-Davidson (aka: @billhd) is Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Writing and Director of the Rhetoric & Writing Graduate Program. He is Senior Researcher at WIDE Research at Matrix Writing in Digital Environments Research, and a co-inventor of Eli Review , a web service for coordinating and evaluating peer review. Bill is currently President of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing and in January he will become the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Letters.

The four of us discuss five functional aspects of the Public Philosophy Journal: the user profile, the open peer review process, curation, collaborative writing, and the publication itself-complete with the process by which it came into being.

As you listen, we invite your thoughts and comments here or on the Public Philosophy Journal blog.

Digital Dialogue 67: Queering Hip Hop

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | One Comment

Moya Bailey is a post-doctoral fellow at the Africana Research Center here at Penn State. She received her doctorate from Emory University in 2013 with a dissertation entitled “Training to Treat: A Study of Representation of Black Women Patients at Emory School of Medicine.” She specializes in critical race, feminist and disabilities studies and is interested specifically in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine.

Moya joins the Digital Dialogue to talk about her recently published article in Palimpsest entitled “Homolatent Masculinity & Hip Hop Culture.”

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General Education Reform and the Art of Listening

By | The Administrative Life, The Long Road | 12 Comments

By the time we took the stage as the final panel of the day, we had heard the voices of expert educators, faculty, administrators, employers and alums speak about the value and importance of general education. Now it was our turn.

But this panel was to be reversed, with panelists asking questions of the audience and listening attentively in response.

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Digital Dialogue 66: Sustainable Scholarship

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast, Technology | One Comment

Almost immediately upon being awarded a $236K Mellon Grant to develop the Public Philosophy Journal, Mark Fisher, Dean Rehberger and I found ourselves in New York at the 2013 Ithaka Sustainable Scholarship conference to learn more about how to identify a path by which scholarly projects like the @PubPhilJ can be sustained after their period of funding.

In the 66th episode of the Digital Dialogue, we discuss the journal, the technology behind it, the interface, and the future of scholarly publishing. At Ithaka, we learned more about the current state of scholarly publishing, the challenges it faces and the possibilities open to it in a digital age. In this podcast, we think together out loud about where we are and where we hope to go with the Public Philosophy Journal.

Accountability and Public Scholarship

By | Blogging and Social Media, Digital Research, The Long Road | No Comments

With the announcement that Mellon has funded the first year of the Public Philosophy Journal, I have been thinking more reflectively on what it means to do public scholarship. Receiving the grant is, however, only one of a confluence of recent experiences that have forced me to consider how best to cultivate habits of excellent public scholarship in digital contexts.

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The End of the Beginning and the Path Ahead for @PubPhilJ

By | Academic, Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Long Road | No Comments

On Friday, October 4th, we received the good news that the Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications and Information Technology program will provide $236K to support the development of the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ, aka @PubPhilJ).

The grant marks the end of the beginning for the Public Philosophy Journal, a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy at Penn State and Matrix at Michigan State, to create an open access, open peer review digital publication intent on performing public philosophy as its mode of publication.

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The Public Philosophy Journal $236,000 Mellon Grant

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, Vita | No Comments

The Public Philosophy Journal, an innovative open access, open peer review online publication in philosophy, has received a one-year, $236,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant will support the development of the journal which, in addition to accepting traditional submissions, will also search the web each day for content at the intersection between philosophy and issues of public interest in order to identify digital conversations that might be developed further for scholarly publication.

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Digital Dialogue 65: Acoustic Animals

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

In 1914 Harlan Smith published an article about how best to incorporate sound into museum exhibitions to supplement the visual experiences of museum goers. According to Craig Eley, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Arts and Humanities at Penn State, it took two decades for this idea to take hold when, in 1936, the Cornell University Museum integrated synchronized sound recordings into traditional taxidermic exhibitions.

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A Domain of Your Own

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 5 Comments

As a graduate student in the digital age, you need a domain of your own.

First of all, you will be Googled, and when you are, your domain should appear early in the results as the fulcrum of a carefully cultivated online identity.

Second, in order to leverage the power of the social web to cultivate a community of scholars interested in your work, you need a domain to which to point your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and those who have circled you on Google+.

In thinking about your online presence as a graduate student or academic, it is helpful to conceive of it as a kind of ecosystem in which various elements work together to offer the public a picture of who you are and the work you are doing.

A canonical website – a domain of your own – should provide the essential nutrients of your online ecosystem. To create one, register your name or, if you have a relatively common name, register a unique name that identifies you across a wide spectrum of websites. It is not too expensive to register a domain name with a service like Blue Host, for example. Even if you decide to host your site somewhere else, it is important to register your domain so you have some control over your online identity.

Once you have a website setup under your domain, consider it the place in which you document your research, write reflectively on your scholarship, and invite others to discover your work. You might also use the site to curate content about a hobby of interest so as to give people a more well rounded sense of who you are. At minimum, anything you would put on your CV should be added your website and amplifed through various social media channels.

Depending on your area of research, one social media channel might be more important than another. There is a robust and influential community of Digital Humanists on Twitter, for example; while Academic.edu seems to be emerging as a kind of Linkedin for academics.

In this regard, Google Plus has a special role to play. Even if you are not very active on Google Plus, it is worth creating a profile and posting your work there because Google is beginning to integrate G+ into its core business operations, and specifically search. Once you create a G+ profile, you should link it to your domain. This allows Google to associate your G+ profile with the content you author on your site so they are able to serve information about you up with links they present in search results. When it’s set up, this is what is looks like in Google Search:

Chris Long Author G+

Here you can see the way information about you as author is connected with content you wrote to authenticate both the value of the link and your status as author. Once this connection is established, you will be better able to control the content associated with your name when a potential employer or an interested student or colleague Googles you to find out more about your work.

Resources

Socrates, Plato and Digital Scholarship at #ECDS

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentation: Interactive, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | No Comments

The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship asked me to give a version of the presentation at gave at #DH2013 last summer entitled eBook as Ecosystem of Digital Scholarship

Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

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Reading the Death of Socrates

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentation: Interactive, Presentations, Vita | One Comment

Returning to Wittenberg for the first time since graduating in 1991, I gave an interactive, live-tweeted, lecture on Reading the Death of Socrates. The paper argues that the Phaedo is Plato’s most eloquent political dialogue, and it seeks not only to argue that both Socratic and Platonic politics recognized the transformative power of words, but also to use social media to experience the way words can enrich, or impoverish, community.

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The Art of Live-Tweeting

By | Presentation: Interactive, Technology, The Long Road | 27 Comments

Last year, there was some controversy over the question of live-tweeting at academic conferences and in academic settings more generally. The hashtag that emerged then, on Twitter of course, was #Twittergate.

In this post, I try to articulate the art of live-tweeting an academic lecture by suggesting that it is a kind of collaborative public note taking and by articulating various kinds of tweets one can write to cultivate a generous community of scholarship in relation to the lecture.

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Music, Philosophy and the Liberal Arts

By | The Liberal Arts, The Long Road | 4 Comments

On the day he was to die, we find Socrates writing poetry.

This is very strange because Socrates generally chose not to write, opting instead to engage in dialogue with those he encountered in and around Athens. But he has been haunted by certain dreams which, here at the end, he wonders if he has interpreted properly.

These recurring dreams told him: “Socrates, produce and practice music.” (Plato, Phaedo, 60e6-7.)

He had always taken this as an exhortation to practice philosophy which, he says, “is the highest kind of music.” (Phaedo, 61a3-4)

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The Googled Graduate Student

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 4 Comments

It is going to happen. Maybe not today or this week, but eventually, you will be Googled.

I am not talking about being Googled by an old friend interested in what you might be up to these days, but about the kind of Googling academics do when we are interested in learning more about the work of a young scholar.

Often, of course, this happens during a job search, but it can also happen in the course of your graduate education as you cultivate new professional relationships through disciplinary organizations and public appearances at conferences.

When it happens, you will want content you created to appear early and often in the search results.

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Beginning Again with the Liberal Arts

By | Education, The Liberal Arts, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 4 Comments

The rhythm of the academic year returns us again to the beginning.

State College is charged with energy as parents drop off their children, some for the first time, and students turn and return to a course of study that will transform their lives.

This year, as in past years, I find myself thinking about how to address over 700 incoming freshman in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State. I hope to encourage them to take an active role in their own education.

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Twitter Owl by Codiew

The Tweeting Graduate Student

By | Technology, The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 10 Comments

They will tell you it is too dangerous, that you’ll say something stupid and never be hired.

They’ll say it is too fast, too superficial, too full of snark to be of any value to anyone who aspires to serious scholarship.

They’ll say it’s a waste of time, that it’s noise that will distract you from your research and dissertation.

But don’t listen to the naysayers who steer you away from Twitter and other modes of social media communication.

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Performative Publication in a Digital Age

By | Digital Humanities, Presentation: Academic, Vita | No Comments

New affordances in dynamic modes of digital scholarly communication have enabled authors to tailor the content of our texts to the forms in which they appear in public.

This presentation focuses on two performative publication projects I am currently undertaking: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading to be published by Cambridge University Press, and the Public Philosophy Journal which is in the final stages of being considered for a Mellon Grant.

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The Digital Research Circle Completed

By | Digital Research, The Long Road | No Comments

In April 2010, I began blogging about closing the digital research circle. The iPad had just been released and I had just moved from Endnote to Zotero to take advantage of its ability to share collections and foster collaboration. It was a heady time and I was excited by the possibilities these new technologies offered for a completely digital research cycle.

The hope was to be able to move through the gathering, annotating, note taking, crafting, writing and citing phases of my academic research without printing or interacting with paper.

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The Evolving Book: Building into the CBO

By | Books, The Evolving Book, The Long Road | No Comments

The CBO is Cambridge Books Online, the electronic books platform for Cambridge University Press (CUP). This is the platform into which Mike Chaplin and a team of programmers working for CUP will build the Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading.

Already at the beginning, I was worried that my vision of an open and fluid boundary between the written text and the online community of readers using social media to share ideas would dissolve as a rigid wall was established between the text and a wider public. Obviously, we are dealing with issues of access and questions of monetization, both of which are important concerns in a project like this, engaged as it is with a major University Press.

These concerns, however, have been assuaged, as Mike has sought my frequent advice and direction during these early phases of development. Right now he is playing around with mock-ups of the environment, and I have been suggesting models of online digital communication and interaction that might help provide a path to a more open, dynamic and interactive reading experience.

Toward More Opennness

Mike’s first mock-ups sought to integrate some of the features of highlighting and annotation into the CBO environment. I had suggested that the way Diigo allows you to highlight text on any web site and take notes, which can be made public or private, might serve as a model for us.

Figure 1.0: Diigo on the Uni(di)versity blog:

Diigo Screenshot

Here you can see the ability to highlight and add a kind of sticky note that can be private or publicly viewed. I like the little menu bar at the top right to add notes, bookmarks and highlights. I also like the new feature that Diigo has added with the little orange dot on the right margin that indicates an annotation is at that location. I’d like us to develop a way to use such dots to indicate points of common interest among readers. The idea would be that the dots would get larger and more intense in those spots where multiple highlights and annotations are being added, so that hot spots of conversation and interest can be easily identified.

Mike then developed this initial mockup of what the book might look like in a CBO environment.

Figure 1.1: Reading Inline

11 READ inline

Here the text appears immediately under the main area with information on the title, etc., with the sticky note metaphor floating in its own window outside of the main central column of text.

In the next image, Mike tried to illustrate how we might integrate social media into the system, bringing voices from outside into the the CBO environment and allowing those reading the book to share the text or their comments with wider social media communities.

Figure 1.2: Social Media and Notes

12 Social Media and Notes

Here you can see how facebook and blogger might be integrated, and in turn, how I as author might appear as part of the conversation.

Philosophical issues of authorial authority lurk here. Although I am identified as the author, I like how I am not afforded special status and that I would appear in line with other comments and annotations.

The design ought not to reinforce the aura of authorial authority.

My voice as author will, of course, overdetermine the nature and direction of the conversation simply by virtue of the fact that the conversation centers around the things I wrote. Because of this, I will need to participate in these conversations with care, attending to the manner in which my responses themselves will have weight and authority, even if that authority is being directly challenged in the comments and annotations.

Extending Beyond the Column

In thinking about how to integrate comments and social media into the experience, I was beginning to feel too constrained by the single column of content sandwiched between two wide expanses of Cambridge University Press blue. I suggested to Mike something along the lines of CommentPress.

Figure 1.3: Comment Press

13 CommentPress

Here I liked the clean look in which reading is clearly a priority, but elements of interaction are inserted by means of chat bubbles and a column on the right with two tabs: comments and activity.

Also, and importantly, the text is organized by paragraph marks, not page numbers, a feature I would like to see added to both the print and digital editions of the book. This would make referring to specific passages consistent between the paper and the digital formats.

Mike then responded with a mockup that extended the inline reading experience outside of the single main column.

Figure 1.4: Extended Column

14 READ inline Comments

Here you begin to see the manner in which social media profiles can be drawn upon and the comments and annotations can extend beyond the main column of text even as the annotation column would be easy to access, if desired.

Directions to Pursue

I would be interested in your thoughts and ideas about the layout and direction developed thus far.

A number of features now seem to be emerging as important:

  1. Paragraph reference markers in the digital and print editions should be established to facilitate cross referencing in paper and digital environments;
  2. Textual “hotspot” markers could be implemented to suggest emerging areas of reader interest;
  3. Design elements should not overdetermine and reinforce authorial authority;
  4. There is not, as yet, a space for more extensive and detailed conversation in a forum. For this, I have in mind a model of something like Discourse.org, but I think I am getting ahead of myself…

The Evolving Book: Introduction

By | Books, Digital Humanities, The Evolving Book, The Long Road | 2 Comments

As my book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading, goes officially into editorial production on the print side of Cambridge University Press, I have started to work with Mike Chaplin on the innovative features of the enhanced digital book.

From the beginning, this book has sought to put a certain kind of public scholarship and engagement into practice by leveraging digital media to cultivate community around the ideas for which the book itself argues. So it is only fitting to continue in that spirit of publicness by sharing and reflecting upon the process by which we are developing what I hope are innovative aspects of the digital book itself.

Mike has graciously agreed to let me share some of his mockups as we work through how the book will ultimately look and feel in a digital environment. From the beginning of this project, the process itself has been the product; so it makes sense to document and reflect upon the process by which the digital book itself evolves.

The original book proposal was rather traditional, as I wanted it to go through all the standard processes of peer review required of any other manuscript submitted to Cambridge.

Robert Dreesen, the editor with whom I have been working, has been extremely supportive from the beginning. He saw the value of both the philosophical content of the book and the attempt to publish it in a way that performs the book’s central argument – that reading is a political activity.

In making that argument in the book, I trace the manner in which Platonic writing is designed to cultivate in readers three virtues of community:

  1. The ability to attend to the individual in concrete contexts so as to open new possibilities of more just relationships;
  2. A hermeneutical imagination capable of diagnosing the limits of existing political realities;
  3. The capacity to put a vision of the just, the beautiful, and the good into words that can enrich the communities in which we live.

What features of an enhanced digital book would cultivate such virtues of community? How can the design of the digital book itself embody and foster these virtues? How can I, as author, respond to readers in ways that model them?

These are the questions that will inform design decisions about the electronic book. Can we design a book to cultivate a community of readers capable of these virtues of community?

This series of posts under the heading The Evolving Book will be an attempt to articulate and document the process by which the book itself came into being.

Golder on Google Plus

Digital Dialogue 63: Aristotle on Touch

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | 5 Comments

Rebecca Goldner, recent PhD from Villanova University, joined the Digital Dialogue for episode 63 on Touch in Aristotle. This was our first recorded Digital Dialogue using Google+ On Air, and we were able to stream it live during the discussion.

In the spring of 2013, Rebecca defended her dissertation at Villanova University entitled, Lived Flesh: Touch and Embodiment in Aristotle’s de Anima.

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Cultivating the Virtues of DH

By | Academic, Digital Humanities, The Long Road | 3 Comments

Last week humanities scholars from around the world descended upon Lincoln, Nebraska for DH2013, the annual international conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.

It was my first time at the DH conference and I certainly felt welcomed by everyone I met, reinforcing my sense that, as an endeavor, the digital humanities brings together a wide variety of very creative, intelligent people committed to working across and between disciplinary boundaries.

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Digital Dialogue 62: Practicing Openness at #DH2013

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

Lee Skallerup Bessette and Jarah Moesch join the Digital Dialogue for episode 62 at the 2013 Digital Humanities Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Lee, who tweets as @readywriting and writes the College Ready Writing blog for Inside Higher Education, and Jarah, @jarahmoesch, talked about the paper they delivered at #DH2013 entitled Digital Humanities: Egalitarian or the New Elite?

Their paper invited us to reflect upon the practices of openness in the Digital Humanities, and challenged us to consider how we are living up to the ideals of inclusivity and access toward which the Digital Humanities have long aspired.

The presentation, originally submitted as a panel, was accepted as a “Long Paper” for the conference program and, of the six co-authors of the paper, only Lee and Jarah were able to make the trip to Lincoln. They did a nice job reading sections of the paper authored by others, but I missed the voices that were not there: Liana Silva-Ford, (@literarychica), Roopika Risam (@roopikarisam), Alyssa Stalsberg Canelli (@alyssastalsberg), Tressie McMillian Cottom (@tressiemcphd).

Because no one wanted to speak for those who were absent, in episode 62 we focus our attention on the perspectives Lee and Jarah represented, though it is my hope that Liana, Roopika, Alyssa and Tressie will be willing and able to participate in the ongoing discussion here on the Digital Dialogue blog.

eBook as Ecosystem of Scholarly Communication

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | No Comments

Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

The book’s central argument is that there is an analogy between the ways Socrates practices politics with those he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Platonic writing turns us as readers toward ideals of speaking and acting capable of transforming our lives and the community in which we live.

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A New Path on the Long Road

By | Blogging and Social Media, The Long Road | 3 Comments

I began blogging in earnest shortly after my arrival at Penn State in 2004, but it was not until June 2007 that I created this blog, the Long Road, to reflect on my experiences share my work with a wider public.

Shortly after meeting @ColeCamplese, then the Director of Education Technology Services at Penn State, in 2006, I agreed to beta test an early version of the Blogs at Penn State platform in one of my courses in Ancient Greek Philosophy.

In that class, and those that followed, I began to develop a cooperative approach to teaching and learning with technology in which students are empowered to give voice to their own experience with the assigned readings and to share these experiences with a wider public audience. This pedagogical approach meant cultivating my students the same commitment to regular public writing that I was myself trying to develop on The Long Road.

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Forever (42 bicycles), Ai Weiwei

The Politics of Reading … in China

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 2 Comments

NANJING, China – I must admit, I am a bit uneasy about delivering this talk on Plato and the Politics of Reading here at Nanjing University.

You see, I am simply not sure what it means to speak in China about the erotic nature of politics. But this uneasiness is not unfamiliar to the discipline of Philosophy; in fact, one might tell a long story about how the history of Western philosophy, at least, is the history of trying to do away with uncertainty, of repressing it by appealing to some ultimate Archimedean point on which we can ultimately depend.

But Philosophy goes astray the moment it denies its own uneasiness and seeks refuge in the delusions of certainty.

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Digital Dialogue 60: Socratic Narrative

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | One Comment

Anne-Marie Schultz, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core at Baylor University, joins me at the 13th annual meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society  She is author of many articles in Ancient Greek Philosophy and on Plato specifically, including most recently:

  • “The Narrative Frame of Plato’s Euthydemus,” Southwest Philosophy Review 24 (2009):163- 172;
  • “You Are What You Read: Reading the Books of Augustine’s Confessions,” Augustinian Studies 39 (2008): 101-112; and
  • “Socratic Reason and Emotion: Revisiting the Intellectualist Socrates in Plato’s Protagoras,” in Socrates: Reason or Unreason as the Foundation of European Identity, ed. Ann Ward (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007): 1-29.

She has recently completed an excellent book, entitled, Plato’s Socrates as Narrator: A Philosophical Muse, to appear with Lexington Books any day now.

Anne-Marie is on the Digital Dialogue to discuss the paper she delivered at #APS13: “The Narratve Frame of Plato’s Lysis: Toward a Critique of Socratic Intellectualism.”

Digital Dialogue 60: Anne-Marie Schultz on Socratic Narration
To subscribe to the Digital Dialogue through iTunesU, click here.

Public Philosophy in Digital Dialogue

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | No Comments

There is a difference between the ways Socrates turns those with whom he speaks in Plato’s dialogues to consider questions of justice, beauty and the good and the ways Plato’s writing turns his readers to consider the same ideals. But there is also a strikingly analogous set of philosophical practices by which Socratic speaking enjoins interlocutors and Platonic writing enjoins readers to orient our lives toward the question of justice. This presentation traces the contours of this analogy that is at the center of my enhanced digital book: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy.

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Public Philosophy Journal

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | One Comment

Philosophy is often mistakenly viewed as distant from public life, secluded in the Ivory Tower away from the public concerns of civil society.

However, the affordances of digital scholarly communication have enabled philosophers increasingly to bring the value of their work to bear on matters of public importance from ethics and public policy to cultural criticism. Even so, however, there are few publishing venues available for philosophers to gain publicity for their work and to reach diverse audiences.

The Public Philosophy Journal is designed to re-envision the relationship between the academy and everyday life by creating a public space for accessible but rigorous scholarly discourse on challenging contemporary issues of public concern.

The Public Philosophy Journal is a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative at the Pennsylvania State University, and Matrix: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Our intent is to create a journal that will perform public philosophy as its mode of publication.

By leveraging the open and collaborative capacities endemic to digital communications, the Public Philosophy Journal will cultivate a community of scholars engaged in curating, reviewing, editing, co-writing and modeling rigorous work related to public philosophy broadly construed.

The process of publication for the journal will involve five basic dimensions:

  1. Curate: Current digital public philosophy discussions and pertinent web content will be curated by leveraging the work and input of a world-wide community of scholars, graduate students, and policy makers;
  2. Review: The journal will include mechanisms for open peer review of curated content, including a system for reviewing reviewers and credentialing reviewers who are consistently engaged and thoughtful in their contributions;
  3. Enrich: Digital public philosophy will be greatly enriched by creating a space for collaborative writing to further develop the content of the online discussions into a rigorous scholarly article;
  4. Publish: Reviewed articles will be openly published together with invited responses to the reviewed work;
  5. Cultivate: Ongoing open dialogue about the published articles will be cultivated by invited and curated responses that have the potential to feed the development of new collaborative scholarship.

Below is a Prezi that Mark Fisher and I developed for the Networked Humanities conference at the University of Kentucky, February 15-16, 2013, #NHUK, that explains in a bit more detail the vision behind the Public Philosophy Journal.

If you are interested in being a part of the @PubPhilJ community, please fill out the attached form and help curate excellent content from around the web.

Research and the Penn State Vision

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

The Long Road at the BWVision

On Saturday, January 19, 2013, I joined administrators, staff and members of the Penn State Board of Trustees for the Blue and White Vision Council Seminar at the Nittany Lion Inn. The goal of the seminar was to provide the Blue and White Vision Council a broad perspective to develop a strategic direction for teaching and technology at Penn State.

The seminar included two morning lectures, one by Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of Innosight Institute, the other by Clay Shirky, Partner for Technology and Product Strategy at the Accelerator Group. Horn highlighted a white paper on Disrupting College in which he established an analogy between the demise of the steel industry and the current crisis in Higher Education. Shirky, on the other hand, offered a different analogy, suggesting that MOOCs unbundle courses from curricula in the way Napster and iTunes unbundled songs from albums. The suggestion in both analogies was that Higher Education is an enterprise ripe for disruptive transformation that would likely lead to the demise of many universities unable to respond effectively to the revolution in technology we are experiencing.

The afternoon was focused more on the innovations we at Penn State have already undertaken with the growth and expansion of the World Campus and the integration of strategies of teaching with technology into our residence curriculum.

The day was full and I continue to reflect upon it, but I left with an unsettled feeling that the heart of Penn State was somehow missing from the discussion. That feeling was surely rooted in the absence of the voice of faculty in general, and our research faculty in particular. The seminar focused on teaching and technology, so it would have made sense for our faculty to have been more centrally included. They were, with a few exceptions, largely absent.

This absence signals something of deeper concern, for it suggests that there may be a failure to appreciate the deep connection between scholarly research and teaching.

As I have argued previously, the most effective way for Penn State to defend and strengthen its position in Higher Education is through the research mission that has long sustained and enriched the education we offer students. Only by infusing rigorous academic scholarship into all aspects of the educational endeavor–from general education at the undergraduate level, to our online offerings on the World Campus, to our professional and academic graduate programs–will we be able to offer a more compelling and transformative education than those who seek to deliver courses more efficiently and inexpensively.

To be sure, rigorous scholarship will mean different things in each of these contexts, but the education we deliver in the future will be neither competitive nor compelling unless we empower our research faculty to infuse rigorous scholarship into all levels of the curriculum and to inspire a new generation of students to take up and appreciate the research endeavor in which knowledge is not merely passed down, but discovered.

This is not, of course, to say that we ought not be innovative, or that we ought to reject opportunities to improve efficiencies and cut costs. Nor is it to deny the economic challenges facing our educational enterprise.

But our innovation must be fueled by rigorous academic research, our curriculum made relevant and compelling by engaged and engaging public scholarship, and our attempts to reach out beyond the physical campuses of the university ought to be animated by a vision of education rooted in a commitment to the transformative power of academic research.

If Saturday was designed in part to articulate for the Board a vision of the future of education at Penn State, I fear they may have left without a deep understanding of what ought to drive that future: excellent academic scholarship.

This Day is Broken

By | Living, The Long Road | 5 Comments


6/365: Grandparents Clock

Originally uploaded by cplong11

Today is Mack Brady’s birthday; he would have turned 9.

His father has recently written eloquently, even in his grief, about the theological questions the senseless death of a young boy raises. For him, it is not a question of God’s punishing anyone or of some grand divine plan, but of “the broken nature of the world.”

This W. H. Auden poem captures that brokenness; so I offer it here in memory of a birthday that should have been welcomed by the palpable excitement of an energetic little boy ready to enter into his ninth year of life.

W.H. Auden, via http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/auden.stop.html

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

One Week

By | Living, The Long Road | No Comments


Statuesque

Originally uploaded by Targuman

When the Collegian asked me to comment on the scholarship established in honor of Mack Brady for the article they published today, they could not integrate all I had written.

This is what I wrote:

When you look at the striking photographs Chris Brady took of Mack and his entire family, you see a glimpse of the beautiful life that was lost, and of the love that endures.

The entire Penn State community mourns with Chris and Elizabeth and Izzy.
The soccer scholarship they have established will be a tribute to the energy, skill and passionate dreams of a wondrous little boy, and a lasting testimony to the enduring love our community feels for him and the Brady family.

* * *
Tonight marks the one week anniversary of Mack’s death. Here are a few images by which to remember the love that endures:

Research Cycle Returns to Zotero

By | Digital Research, The Long Road | 6 Comments

Even as I press to finish an article on dogs and wolves in Plato’s Republic for a volume entitled “Plato’s Animals” edited by Michael Naas, it is worth returning for a moment to our ongoing discussion of digitally enhanced research.

When I first wrote about my attempts to close the digital research circle in 2010, I had just relinquished EndNote in favor of Zotero for its superior ability to share and organize references. At the time, Zotero was still a plugin for Firefox and lacked a number of features I needed to facilitate my research – features like the digital reading, annotating and organizing pdf files. Those limitations led me to Mendeley, which I still value for collaborative annotations and research.

However, with three developments in Zotero, I have returned to it with renewed commitment. One reason for this commitment has less to do with features and more with the underlying open source philosophy of the product’s development. Zotero was developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media, a leader in digital humanities scholarship and a strong advocate for open collaborative research.

Although I am committed to their values of collaboration and openness, without the functionality I need, I would not have been able to return fully to Zotero. Let me mention the three developments that have made Zotero central again to my digital scholarship.

First, no longer simply a plug-in for Firefox, Zotero is a stand alone product that works across browsers. I rely mostly on Chrome these days, and the stand alone version works beautifully with the Chrome extension.

Second, I have adopted Zotfile to facilitate the simple organization of my pdf files. Zotfile effectively turns Zotero into as powerful a pdf file organizer as Mendeley. It enables you to quickly pull references from online databases and across the web directly into your Zotero collections. (Don’t sync using Dropbox; rather use the native Zotero syncing service to avoid generating duplicates.) Zotfile also facilitates the simple renaming of all files based on the metadata in your reference collections. With Zotfile, Zotero pulls articles from library databases even more easily and efficiently than Sente, which excels in that area.

Third, and most importantly from my perspective, is the development of ZotPad, the iPad application for Zotero. Although it still lacks note taking functionality (under development), it brings all your documents from your collections to your iPad and allows you to use your preferred annotating program to edit, annotate and update the pdf files in your Zotero collections. Because it does not download all your files at once, it works much more efficiently than the Mendeley iPad app, which has languished since its early appearance. I use GoodReader for annotating, and love the ability to annotate files, return them to ZotPad and find them updated in my Zotero library when I return to a computer.

These recent developments have brought me much closer to my goal of closing the digital research circle. They have certainly made my digital research much more efficient; allowing me even to take a moment to write a post about it before returning, as now I must, to my work on wolves and dogs in Plato’s Republic.

Initial Reflections on MOOCs and the College Curriculum

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road | 11 Comments

As the debate over Massively Open Online Courses, also known by their unfortunate acronym: MOOC, rages on, I thought I would begin by curating a few articles here:

http://www.diigo.com/user/cplong/MOOC

The impetus for this little Diigo collection is the recent appearance of two articles, one skeptical of MOOCs, the other more sanguine about their transformative power.

In their December 17, 2012 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?,” Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk gather the skeptical voices who insist, as Peter Stokes of Northeastern University, puts it:

“The whole MOOC thing is mass psychosis,” a case of people “just throwing spaghetti against the wall” to see what sticks…

Of course, if the MOOC is psychosis, it is born of a deeper pathology; for as Robert Archibald of the College of William and Mary is quoted there as saying:

“At most institutions, students are in mostly large classes, listening to second-rate lecturers, with very little meaningful faculty student interaction. …Students are getting a fairly distant education even in a face-to-face setting.”

It is a response to this deeper pathology of contemporary Higher Education that seems to be at the root of Clay Shirky’s analogy between the MOOC and the MP3 file format.

Shirky’s Higher Education: Our MP3 is the MOOC is the second article to which I’d like to point as a way to begin thinking through the implications of the MOOC for higher education. Shirky’s argument is based on this analogy: 

mp3 : album : music industry :: MOOC : curriculum : higher education

Just as the mp3 file format, by making music accessible and sharing simple, unbundled individual songs from albums and transformed the music industry, so too will the MOOC, by making education accessible and massively open, unbundle courses from curricula and transform higher education.

Shirky presses the analogy further: just as the mp3 unbundled individual songs from the albums the record companies forced us to purchase, so too will the MOOC unbundle specific courses from the degrees for which institutions of higher education force students into debt.

Shirky emphasizes that the promise of MOOCs is that “the educational parts of education can be unbundled.” 

But that, of course, is a packed suggestion itself not so easily unbundled. For there is a difference between taking a course or series of them and being educated. 

Just as one swallow does not make a spring (Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, 1098a19), neither does a course divorced from a course of study make an education. The educational parts of education cannot be unbundled like a single from an album, for the education is both in the curriculum and the manner in which that curriculum is delivered.

The challenge the MOOC posses to institutions of higher education is that they will force us to re-imagine the curriculum into which we have placed our individual courses. And institutions of higher education have not historically been particularly nimble when it comes to creating and implementing innovative curricula responsive to new forms of literacy and public communication.

If our courses are not to be unbundled from the curriculum without perverting the education they together offer, then we in higher education will need to articulate and develop new, more coherent, well crafted, and, yes, even efficient curricula capable of enriching student lives and preparing them in a relevant way for a world in which many will have been taught, but fewer well educated.

Digital Dialogue 59: Anarchy and Animal Humor

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | One Comment

For episode 59 of the Digital Dialogue, I am joined at the 51st annual meeting of SPEP in Rochester, NY by Cynthia Willett and Shannon Winnubst to talk about the paper Cindy delivered entitled “Anarchy and Animal Humor.”


Cynthia Willet is Professor of Philosophy at Emory University
, where she specializes in political ethics, moral philosophy, race and gender studies, new critical theories and American social thought. She has numerous publications including three books: Irony in the Age of Empire (Indiana, 2008); The Soul of Justice: Social Bonds and Racial Hubris (Cornell, 2001); Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities (Routledge, 1995).

She has been a long time member of SPEP and served a term as co-director of the society. She is also, I must add, an esteemed alumna of the PhD program in Philosophy at Penn State.


Shannon Winnubst is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University
. Her work currently inquires into the conceptual transformations of social difference and ethics underway in the social rationality of neoliberalism, especially as diagnosed by Foucault in his 1979 lectures. She has numerous publications in queer theory, race theory, feminist theory, and twentieth century French theory, including a book entitled Queering Freedom from Indiana University Press, 2006.

She commented on Cindy’s paper and joined the Digital Dialogue to talk further about Cindy’s work.

 

Twitter, Community and the First Year Experience

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 10 Comments

Words do things. What they do, depends on the manner in which they are said, written and received.

What they did, and failed to do, last night is something that requires some reflection.

That is the purpose of this post on my visit to the Catholic University of America to deliver a keynote address to the 2012 freshman class.

When I was invited, I was encouraged to do something innovative and unconventional with technology, so I invited students to use twitter to participate in a shared experience designed to perform the central idea for which I advocated in the lecture:

The real value of a liberal arts education is political because it teaches us how to speak, act and respond to one another in ways that enable us, if we are willing and graceful enough, to create enriching public communities that are the conditions under which a fulfilling human life is possible.

The lecture was designed as a performance in which students would be empowered to actively and publicly engage with the question of the liberal arts and politics so that we might directly experience our shared ability (and inability) to create an enriching public space of community and communication.

The Design

The lecture was designed on three levels.

First, the written text was rather traditional. It was organized around Athena’s encounter with the Furies in Aeschylus’s Eumenides. I argued that the story illustrated how our ability to imagine our way into the position of others, particularly those with whom we disagree, is the central virtue of a liberal arts education and the key to establishing healthy and flourishing communities.

Second, I used Keynote to create slides with images and quotations that supported and augmented the points the written text made. These slides were not merely designed to reinforce the written text, but were themselves meant to add value to the lecture by exposing students to a rich history of artwork and imagery about Athena, the Furies, and the judgment of Orestes.

Third, through my keynote slides, I was able to live tweet my own lecture: when a slide appeared, I had pre-written a tweet to go with it. These tweets, like the slides themselves, were designed to add another layer of meaning and texture to the lecture.

To give you a sense of how the images and the tweets were designed, I created a specific Storify just with my tweets and some of the artwork included in the lecture.

A Good Plan and a Calculated Audible

Because I had experience using twitter in front of a large audience of first year students at Penn State that deteriorated quickly once students realized they could tweet snarky comments to a screen that everyone would immediately see, I knew I would need a way to moderate the tweets before they appeared on screen. We used the #cuafye hashtag (Catholic University of America, First Year Experience) to curate the tweets, but we needed a way to filter out those that were immature, overly snarky or otherwise impoverishing of the community we wanted to cultivate.

The plan was to have Taylor Fayle use the @MyCUA_FYE twitter account to retweet only those tweets he felt added value to the conversation. The idea was not to censor students–they would still be able to see anything posted to the #cuafye hashtag on their personal devices. Rather, we wanted to add a layer of review to ensure the level of the conversation reinforced the points the lecture articulated.

We thought we had it worked out too, but about 20 minutes before we started, we realized that the way it was set up would not update and scroll quickly enough to accommodate the tweets we were by then already receiving.

So I called an audible and told Todd to allow the raw hashtag feed to run, knowing full well that the dynamics of the entire lecture would thereby be altered.

It was … and not for the better.

And yet, strangely enough, I think the shared experience was educationally richer, if intellectually and emotionally more taxing.

Here is the Storify of the event with tweets from the students to give you a sense of what happened.

But this doesn’t really capture what was happening in the room. That is partly because students went back and deleted some of the more vulgar and disrespectful tweets (about Penn State, Sandusky, and other immature rudeness). But it is also because the twitter feed did not capture the overwhelming sense of respect and maturity I felt from a majority of students in the room itself. That respect and maturity was felt more palpably in the question and answer period, when we had the chance to reflect upon what we had together experienced.

What we experienced, however, was a failure to use words to create an enriching community. The twitter stream deteriorated quickly into immature snark, and students were not able to pull themselves out of that cycle of immaturity, despite some valiant attempts by some to convince their colleagues to imagine their way into another possibility.

Now, for my part, I knew exactly what was happening, though I could not follow all the posts as they were coming so quickly and I was, after all, trying to speak and tweet my lecture. Still, by calming the students down at specific points, speaking extemporaneously to refocus their attention and by emphasizing the things I had written into the text to invite their generosity and grace, we were able to proceed … for a while.

Then someone of the faculty decided the twitter feed needed to be shut down.

When it was, you could feel the frustration of the students, but you could also feel their attention turned more fully to me, and I was able to finish the lecture in a much more traditional way – with more passively receptive students for the words I was articulating. Of course, students still had access to the live stream on their devices, but not having the feed up on the “big screen” robbed them of a shared experience and thus diminished the allure of the snarky tweet.

Shared Reflection

The most rewarding aspect of the lecture for me was the question and answer period, because we were able to reflect together on the experience we’d just had. A central point of the lecture was that a well cultivated ethical imagination is required if an enriching community is to be created.

What we experienced, among other things, was a collective failure of ethical imagination. But it is not only that the students failed to imagine their way into the position of a visitor who had travelled a distance to speak with them and who had put a lot of thought and energy into the design of an interactive lecture. Rather, more fundamentally, we failed together to imagine another possibility for ourselves as a community.

Perhaps once I called the audible to allow the raw feed to roll, the die was cast and we were destined to descend to the shallowest expressions of ourselves.

But even so, there was something redemptive about that failure and the opportunity we had to reflect upon it together afterwards. During the question and answer period, we tried to come to terms with what we had experienced: was it right to have the feed pulled? Did that go against the very points I was trying not simply to argue, but also to perform? Were the students treated fairly by requiring that they attend a lecture in which they would be expected to participate freely and in good faith?

And what about the content of the lecture itself? There were excellent questions in this regard; questions that demonstrated without a doubt that many students were not too distracted by the experience to understand at a deep level what I was trying to accomplish.

One does not often have the privilege to reflect so candidly and insightfully with one’s audience about the very dynamics that emerged between us during the performance of the lecture itself … perhaps that elusive, more enriching community began to take root during those shared reflections reflections at the end. Perhaps those roots are continuing to grow as faculty teach into the experience in their classes.

Here, in fact, is an example of what can happen when faculty do just that:


As I think further about it, and as I continue to engage in ongoing conversations with students via twitter about what we experienced, I have come to recognize that the performance of the lecture itself had all the beauty, and all the ugliness, all the hopefulness, and all the disappointment, all the complexity and nuance and texture of all our attempts to enter into public communication with one another in order to establish a more fulfilling community together.

Words do things; and what they are capable of doing depends on our capacity to imagine an enriching life for ourselves and our ability to put that shared vision into words.

An education in the liberal arts is schooling in the beautiful life.

DancinGirl Turns 7, Ponders Finitude

By | LwCH, The Long Road | 2 Comments

DancinGirlTurnsSevenAs we pulled into our driveway after running errands preparing for her Monster High birthday party, DancinGirl, who was generally excited about the day, announced that she has been thinking a lot, recently, about death.

“I wonder what happens after we die,” she says. “I don’t want to be stuck in the ground in a graveyard the whole time.”

At such moments of truth, I consider very carefully my response – I don’t want my anxieties to eclipse her genuine attempts to come to terms with her own finitude.

Val and I look at one another, we’ve been here before: both ArtGirl and DancinGirl consider the question of death on a regular basis. In fact, just last year, ArtGirl, gave a beautiful account of how difficult it is to live with unanswerable questions.

We offer an agnostic response, affirming how difficult it is to live with the knowledge that we really just don’t know what happens when we die.

DancinGirl knows what she wants though: “I just want to keep on being as I am.”

I want that for her too and for her sister, because there are no two beings more beautiful in their being than these two quickly growing little girls.

So on her seventh birthday, my wish for DancinGirl, and for Val and ArtGirl and myself, is that she keep on being as she is and that she continue sharing her beautiful self with us as long as we are here together.

Happy seventh birthday, DancinGirl.

Digital Dialogue 58: Love of the World

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | 4 Comments

For episode 58 of the Digital Dialogue I am joined at the 51st annual meeting of SPEP in Rochester, NY by Silvia Benso. She is Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Contemporary European Philosophy, the history of philosophy, ethics and feminist philosophy.

Besides having published articles on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas, and ancient philosophy (especially Plato), she is the author of Thinking After Auschwitz: Philosophical Ethics and Jewish Theodicy (in Italian), The Face of Things: A Different Side of Ethics, and the co-author of the volume Environmental Thinking: Between Philosophy and Ecology (in Italian). She is also the general co-editor for the series Contemporary Italian Philosophy published by SUNY Press.

I would be remiss if I did not also say that she is a graduate of the philosophy PhD program at Penn State.

She is also a long time member and friend of the Ancient Philosophy Society, so when we found out we were coming to Rochester for SPEP, we knew just who we wanted to invite to speak at the APS at SPEP session. She joins me today on the Digital Dialogue to speak about the paper she delivered entitled:


Life, Death and Liesure: Recovering Socrates’ Love of the World

Listen here:

On Canvassing, Four Years Later

By | Politics, The Long Road | 5 Comments

Today, the girls and I, along with my colleague, Dan Letwin, and his son, Nick, took to the local streets to canvass for Barack Obama as we did four years ago.

A lot has changed in four years, particularly with the kids, as the pictures posted here attest.

Changed too is the sense of possibility we had four years ago when we really didn’t know if it was even reasonable to think that America might elect an African American President.

Even then, however, I was trying to live a kind of critical optimism that would enable us, in what still remains “a dangerously adolescent country (Baldwin),” to cultivate a sense of our own limits and to nurture more just relationships with one another.

Today, I took to the Pennsylvania streets for Barack Obama despite what I believe to be his very significant failures to move our understanding of justice from one based on retribution and violence to one oriented by a deep sense of how our lives are woven intimately into the lives of others and the well-being of the world in which we together live. Retributive justice is, of course, no justice at all; rather, justice is rooted in our abilities to respond to others, however different they may be, in ways that move us toward a mutually more fulfilling life.

The rhetoric of retribution in the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the unrepentant use of drone strikes are two of the ways this administration, like the last, perpetuates a cycle of violence that is destructive of any possibility of peace. Even at this late date in human history, when retribution has proven itself unable to perpetuate anything other than perpetual violence, we humans remain addicted to the short lived satisfaction it offers, no matter how many times we experience the pain it will inevitably return to us.

And yet, despite all of that, I nevertheless took to the streets to canvas for Obama with my kids and my colleague because Barack Obama still articulates a compelling vision of what is possible for America, even if America – and perhaps Obama himself – is not fully prepared to live up to the ideals set forth.

I will settle, for now, for a President who recognizes the need for us to take care of one another, who understands the destructive impact our human economy is having on the earth’s ecology, and who has shown himself capable of moving difficult legislation through a recalcitrant and dysfunctional political system.

So today, just like four years ago, we set out to knock on doors for Obama; and today, as then, I found myself at once saddened and heartened. I was saddened by the man who, learning that we were there for Obama, shut his door in the face of three little kids and their somewhat taken aback fathers. That act of rudeness did not rise to the comic level that my argument with the libertarians did four years ago, but still, it demonstrated a lack of civility that has become all too common a part of our civic culture.

I was heartened, however, as I was four years ago, by the few we seemed to convince, and by the woman who was herself so pleased to welcome the six of us onto her front porch, where she listened to these two middle aged fathers still idealistic enough to believe knocking on a few doors could make a difference, and to their three excited kids willing to believe it would too.

Plato and the Politics of Reading

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 3 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – To give a lecture on the politics of collaborative reading without inviting one’s listeners to become active participants would be a performative contradiction.

So, in this lecture, Plato and the Politics of Reading, delivered at the University of San Francisco, I have sought ways to use digital technologies like twitter, Storify and, of course, this blog, to invite my listeners to participate in the lecture itself. (I wrote a post about live tweeting my own lecture to explain the rationale and logistics of this.)

As this post is designed to be a platform for further discussion, let me offer a brief synopsis of the position the lecture articulates.

Socratic politics may be characterized as the practice of using spoken words to turn those individuals one encounters toward the questions of what is just and beautiful and good. These ideas function as erotic ideals that entice those animated by Socratic questioning to live a life seeking justice, beauty and the good. Of course, one of the main things we learn from the figure of Socrates we meet in the Platonic dialogues is that those ideals, however alluring, remain always ultimately elusive to finite human beings. Even so, Socratic politics is designed to turn individuals toward those ideals and to enjoin us to weave a concern for them into our relationships with one another.

The main argument of the lecture is that what Socrates attempts to do with those with whom he speaks, Plato attempts to do with those to whom he writes.

Platonic writing is political not because it presents manifestos, but because it requires each of us who encounters his texts to become actively concerned with the ideals of justice, beauty and the good and to consider how the course of our lives and our relationships with one another can be enriched by an engagement with those ideals.

The lecture ultimately seeks to articulate three dimensions of Platonic writing that demonstrate its profound political power.

  1. By calling our own beliefs and opinions into question, Platonic writing opens us to what is beyond ourselves.
  2. By confronting us with Socrates’ public failures and pointing to his more private interpersonal successes, Platonic writing cultivates in us the ability to imagine new, more just political realities.
  3. By depicting a Socrates unwaveringly animated by a concern for the erotic ideals of justice, beauty and the good, Platonic writing invites us to consider how these ideals themselves are capable of transforming the nature of our relationships with one another.

But if this is what Platonic writing does with us, the politics of reading points to what we might do together as engaged readers of his texts, for the most transformative possibilities emerge from Plato’s writings only when we take them up and actively read them together.

Works Cited in the Lecture

Plato and the Politics of Reading is a group in Education, Philosophy on Mendeley.

In an attempt to perform something of this in public, I have sought below to curate some of the collaborative discussion that emerged from the lecture in the Storify story embedded below. I invite you participate in the Storify by way of twitter (@cplong and #bapca) or by commenting on this blog post.

Here is the Storify:

On Live-Tweeting Your Own Lecture

By | Academic, Technology, The Long Road | 6 Comments

On Thursday, October 25th, at 4:30 PDT, I will read a paper entitled, Plato and the Politics of Reading at the University of San Francisco. One of the main points of the paper is that reading is fundamentally a collaborative endeavor.

Here is the blog post with more information about the content of the lecture itself.

Traditionally, when one delivers a paper in the discipline of philosophy, one simply reads, that is, one “lectures” (from the Latin legere, to read). But it would be ironic to read a paper on the collaborative nature of reading without inviting those listening to become actively engaged in the reading.

So, I intend to invite those attending the lecture and anyone following along on twitter, to join in an ongoing discussion of the lecture during the lecture itself.

The idea is not only to talk about collaborative reading, but to perform it as well.

Now, there are certain influential voices in the discipline who say anyone who tweets a lecture on philosophy should be ejected from the lecture post-haste, so I surmise that my attempt to use twitter to enrich and expand the reach of the philosophical ideas I am presenting will meet with more than a little skepticism, if not dismissive derision. There is, however, at the root of this skepticism the valid concern that a technology like twitter is unable to offer anything more than a truncated, impoverished and fragmented account of the lecture’s content.

Given that the skepticism is not unfounded, let me articulate how I intend to use twitter and, through it, other digital technologies to address each concern in turn.

From Truncated to Extended

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that its 140-character constraint forces each tweet to extend somehow beyond itself. This occurs most effectively by means of shortened links to more substantive resources.

In order to point my listeners to those resources, I have set up the Keynote presentation I will use during the reading of my paper to tweet for me.  For those of you interested in how, precisely, one might do that, take a look at this video:

So, during the lecture, I will have populated certain Keynote slides with tweets that will extend the discussion in at least three ways:

  1. I will post phrases and formulations I think are important for the listeners in the room and beyond to reflect upon and remember. This will allow them to favorite the tweets to return to them later or to retweet them in order extend the discussion to their followers.
  2. I will link to references to important secondary sources to which I appeal during the lecture so listeners can follow up on specific passages I discuss in more detail.
  3. I will tweet links to my own published work on the nature of Socratic and Platonic politics, so listeners can deepen their understanding of the wider project into which this lecture fits.

From Impoverished to Enriched

Anyone who actually uses twitter recognizes that its power comes not from what one pushes out, but from what one receives. This is felt most palpably when one invites those with whom one tweets to share the wisdom they bring to the issue under discussion.

To facilitate this sort of sharing, I will explicitly invite those present at the lecture to actively tweet during the lecture itself. The hope is that the questions and suggestions posted will cultivate a vibrant back-channel discussion that will add insight and value to the reading itself. At the end of the lecture, questions and ideas raised on the back-channel can be brought into the discussion and other voices from outside the room can be integrated into the discussion we have there. As an author, I hope to encourage robust and lively engagement with the ideas I present in the lecture so that I too might learn something in the process that I can, in turn, integrate into my ongoing scholarship.

From Fragmented to Integrated

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that the deployment of hashtags is the best way to mitigate against the fragmentary nature of a conversation on twitter.

In order to curate the tweets related to the lecture, I will append the hashtag #bacpa (one of the sponsors of the talk is the Bay Area Continental Philosophy Association) to my tweets and invite others to use that hashtag as well. To further integrate the tweets related to the lecture, I will curate them using Storify.

This will allow me to add other digital artifacts related to the lecture and to weave a story around the tweets I receive from those participating. This will afford me the opportunity, after the lecture, to consider in a more reflective way the things others have added to the lecture.

The Storify story will be embedded into the blog post on my Digital Vita I will have written outlining the basic argument of the lecture, a post that will, I hope, be a platform for further discussion.

To that end, I would like to invite anyone who has been interested enough in this endeavor to read to this point to join the lecture on twitter (following me @cplong or the #bacpa hashtag) or to come in person on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PDT in MC 252 on the campus of the University of San Francisco.

Here is the Storify:

 


Digital Dialogue 56: God and the Organism

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | 2 Comments

John Protevi, Phyllis M. Taylor Professor of French Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University, joins me for episode 56 of the Digital Dialogue, God and the Organism.

John’s work focuses on Continental phenomenology and, more specifically, on contemporary French philosophy. In addition to his many publications on embodied cognition and French philosophy, his book, Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic, came out with University of Minnesota Press in 2009, and he has another book, Life, Earth, War: Deleuzean Interventions, forthcoming with Minnesota Press.

Although I have known John through our work together at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, the impetus for this episode of the Digital Dialogue was a series of comments we exchanged on the Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science blog to which John contributes. In response to a post by Mohan Matthen on Aristotle On Art and Nature:

http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/08/aristotle-on-art-and-nature-a-footnote-to-eric-on-posidonius.html

John asked a question about the passage in Aristotle’s Metaphysics in which Aristotle invokes the notion of eros to characterize the manner in which the prime mover moves: “it moves as something loved [eromenon].” In response, I tried to point to some of the arguments I articulated in my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, about how the understanding of eros there awakes finite beings to their own lack. John suggested that these themes where taken up in chapter 3 of his book on Political Affect, particularly with regard to the gnomic claim made by Guattari and Deleuze in A Thousand Plateaus
that “the organism is the judgment of God.”

This is the first video episode of the Digital Dialogue. I embed it here below:

Digital Dialogue 56: God and the Organism from Christopher Long on Vimeo.

Below are the links to the audio file and to the iTunesU:
As always, we welcome your comments.

Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal

By | Articles, Publication: Journal, Vita | 7 Comments

Christopher P. Long, “Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal,” Ideas y Valores, 61, 149: 2012.

This essay articulates the differences and suggests the similarities between the practices of Socratic political speaking and those of Platonic political writing.

The essay delineates Socratic speaking and Platonic writing as both erotically oriented toward ideals capable of transforming the lives of individuals and their relation- ships with one another. Besides it shows that in the Protagoras the practices of Socratic political speaking are concerned less with Protagoras than with the individual young man, Hippocrates. In the Phaedo, this ideal of a Socrates is amplified in such a way that Platonic writing itself emerges as capable of doing with readers what Socratic speaking did with those he encountered. Socrates is the Platonic political ideal. Read More

Digital Dialogue 55: Aristotle and the Tragedy of Life

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

Larry Hatab joins Emanuela Bianchi, Erick Jimenez and me in beautiful Umbria, Italy in Citta di Castello, at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum, for episode 55 of the Digital Dialogue.

Larry Hatab is Louis I. Jaffe Professor of Philosophy and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on 19th and 20th century philosophy. He has written extensively on Nietzsche, including:
  • Nietzsche’s Life Sentence: Coming to Terms With Eternal Recurrence. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • Ethics and Finitude: Heideggerian Contributions to Moral Philosophy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
  • Experiment in Postmodern Politics, Open Court, 1995.
  • Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths. Chicago, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 1990.
  • Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Translated into Portuguese: Genealogia da Moral de Nietzsche: Uma Introdução. São Paulo, Brazil: Madras, 2010.
Larry is currently working on a book on language.
Emanuela Bianchi is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, New York University
She is completing a manuscript entitled, The Feminine Symptom: Aleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos, which she discussed in some detail on Digital Dialogue episode 24.
Erick Jimenez was for a number of years the editor of The Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal. In the fall of 2012, he will begin a position as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at University of Navarra, Spain.
Larry, Emma, Erick and I gathered in Città di Castello to talk about Larry’s paper on Aristotle at the 2012 Collegium entitled Aristotle and the Tragedy of Life.

On Touch and Life in the De Anima

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | No Comments

CITTÀ DI CASTELLO, Umbria, Italy – Late last year, I received a very kind set of questions from Matteo Cosci, a PhD student in Italy at the University of Padua, about my book Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. One of the issues he raised about the book was that it did not flesh out the meaning of the methodological approach that informs the book, an approach I call a “peripatetic legomenology.”

In this, Matteo agreed with Sean Kirkland’s review of the book in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews in which he suggested that “more contextualizing methodological reflections” on the meaning of legomenology would have been welcome.

In this paper, On Touch and Life in the De Anima, I attempt to further flesh out the meaning and nature of the legomenological method by putting it to work on the question of touch in the De Anima. More specifically, because legomenology involves the attempt to discern the nature of a phenomenon by attending to the things having been said (ta legomena) by thoughtful predecessors who have sought to articulate the meaning of the phenomenon itself, this paper seeks to follow the things Aristotle says about touch in the De Anima.

The most effective articulation of the meaning and nature of legomenology is not to offer a meta-reflection on it as a methodology separable from a way of inquiry, but to perform it so that the hermeneutical possibilities it opens may be experienced.

This is the spirit in which this paper was offered, as a performance of legomenology at work on the question of touch in the De Anima. By following the manner in which Aristotle speaks of touch in the De Anima, we identify an itinerary in which the nature of touch is felt to haunt Aristotle’s account of the other proper powers of perceiving – seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting – in such a way that the nature of perceiving itself comes ultimately to language in the chapter on touch in De Anima II.11.

More specifically, the aporia of touch, which seems not to require a separate medium through which to operate as the other powers of perceiving do, appears in the middle of the De Anima, forcing Aristotle to speak not of a medium (to metaxu) but of a mean (to meson). This enables him to articulate the nature of perceiving itself as a mean condition (mesotes) that puts us in intimate touch with the world in which we live. But perceiving turns out not only to be the manner in which animals inhabit the world, but the mode by which the world habituates us to it.

The legomenology of touch in the De Anima uncovers the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between animal life and the world in and with which it lives.

Below is a small slide show with some images from the Circolo, where the Collegium is held:

The Book As Ecosystem of Scholarly Dialogue

By | Books, The Evolving Book, The Long Road | 4 Comments

Consider this an invitation to continue along a path we have traversed together over the past three years.

This path, which began in the wake of my 2009 Summer Faculty Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellowship, has now, with the completion of a draft manuscript of my book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading, reached a kind of crossroads.

The book itself came to life in dialogue, digital and otherwise, with many of you. It has been enriched by our ongoing conversation about ancient philosophy, Socrates, the writings of Plato, and the transformation of literacy in a digital age.

With the submission of the manuscript, however, we approach a crossroads in which the digital dimension of the dialogue we have been having can either wither away as the book appears in traditional print, or further grow and blossom with the publication of an enhanced digital book that combines the virtues of print and digital scholarship and communication.

Consider this, then, an invitation to continue together along that second path, which, like the path that led us here, cannot be traversed alone.

An outline of the manuscript itself points in the direction of the proposed path. At the center of the manuscript is an analogy between the ways Socrates practices politics with those he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Platonic writing turns us as readers toward ideals of speaking and acting capable of transforming our lives and the community in which we live.

The manuscript argues that Platonic writing itself cultivates in readers specific habits of thinking and creative habits of responding that are able to integrate a concern for the erotic ideals–of justice, beauty and the good–into the relationships we have with one another. Platonic political writing is shown to require a peculiar politics of reading in which the community of readers is called to consider how a commitment to speaking the truth and acting toward justice can, in fact, enrich our lives together.

If, however, the book is not to be a mere abstract academic exercise, it will need to be published in a way that performs and enables the politics of collaborative reading for which it argues. 

The manner in which the research for the book was undertaken in dialogue with you here in this public space has already cultivated such a community of readers. The path forward is to create an interactive and evolving ecosystem of print and digital content capable of enlarging and enriching the existing community of scholarly discourse we have cultivated through the Digital Dialogue.

Before we explore what such an ecosystem of scholarly dialogue would involve and how we might together accomplish it, let me chart the itinerary of the manuscript itself.

The Itinerary of Socratic and Platonic Politics

The seeds for the book were planted more than a decade ago in those courses on Ancient Greek Philosophy I taught as a young professor just out of graduate school. In dialogue with students over the course of semesters, the question of the peculiar manner in which Socrates says he practices the true art of politics in the dialogues presented itself with increasing urgency.  As we discussed it and focused more attention on the practice of Socratic dialogue, two things became clear: 1) we began to thematize and reflect upon our own dialogical practices and 2) we began to sense that Platonic writing itself was cultivating in us certain practices of engaging one another in dialogue.

The idea for this book, however, began to take determinate shape in the summer of 2009 when, as a Summer Faculty Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellow, I developed the Digital Dialogue, a podcast dedicated to cultivating the excellences of dialogue in a digital age.

The book that emerged from those digital dialogues, augmented and enriched by face to face dialogue at conferences and on campuses here in the US and abroad, is divided into seven chapters:

  1. Philosophy as Politics introduces the central distinction between the things Socrates says to those characters he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Plato writes to move readers to consider questions of justice, the beautiful and the good. The first I call the “topology of Socratic politics,” because it points to the place (topos) of Socratic political speaking (logos); the second I call the “topography of Platonic politics,” because it points to the place (topos) of Plantonic political writing (graphein). This chapter also indicates the rather peculiar way in which Socrates says he “practices politics,” and illustrates that politics for him and thus for this book means something different from taking power through the political institutions of a city or state.
  2. Crisis of Community illustrates how Socrates practices politics with Protagoras in the Protagoras, focusing on Socrates’ concern for the soul of Hippocrates, his young associate who comes at the start of the dialogue to ask Socrates if he would accompany him to see the great sophist Protagoras. This is one of the two chapters in the book that have been published elsewhere: Long, C. P. (2011). “Crisis of Community: The Topology of Socratic Politics in the Protagoras.” Epoché: a Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15 (2), 361-377. Digital Dialogue episode 31 with Ryan Drake and episode 32 with Anne Bowery focused on ideas articulated in this chapter.
  3. Attempting the Political Art is a reading of the Gorgias in which Socrates explicitly claims to be one of the few Athenians to practice the art of politics truly. This chapter illustrates how Socrates speaks differently with different interlocutors depending on their philosophical commitments. The result is an image of philosophy as an activity not opposed to rhetoric, as has been typically argued, but as intimately bound up with a specific kind of rhetoric commited to putting words in the service of the ideal of justice. This is the second of the two chapters that have been published elsewhere: Long, C. P. (2012). “Attempting the Political Art: Socrates, Plato and the Politics of Truth.” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 271, 153-74. The chapter itself grew out of a presentation and a reading seminar at Boston College in the spring of 2011.
  4. The Politics of Finitude is the fulcrum of the book. It marks a transition from a focus on the practices of Socratic political speaking to those of Platonic political writing. A reading of the Phaedo, this chapter demonstrates first how Socrates is able to create a powerful community of people committed to speaking truth to and with one another and, second, how Plato writes in ways that encourage his readers to commit themselves to the same. A version of this chapter was presented at the Freiburger Hermeneutisches Kolloquium in June 2011.
  5. Socratic Disturbances, Platonic Politics considers the Apology of Socrates as both an account of Socrates’ self-defense before the Athenian citizens and a Platonic attempt to defend the life of his teacher in the wake of his death. Here the topography of Platonic politics is brought further into focus by attending to the way Plato has Socrates say provocative things at specific points in order to provoke us as readers to consider the roles speaking the truth and a concern for justice play in our own lives. This chapter was enriched by a seminar on the Apology given in Bogotá, Colombia in February 2011.
  6. The Politics of Writing traces how the collaborative reading of Lysias Socrates undertakes with Phaedrus in the Phaedrus opens the possibility of developing an understanding of reading itself as a political activity capable of transforming a community of readers by orienting them toward questions of justice and the beautiful.
  7. Politics as Philosophy further develops the manner in which Platonic writing cultivates in readers specific habits of thinking and creative habits of responding that are able to integrate a concern for the erotic ideals–of justice, beauty and the good–into the life of the community itself. Here Platonic political writing is shown to require a peculiar politics of reading in which the community of readers is called to consider how a commitment to speaking the truth and acting toward justice can, in fact, enrich our lives together.

The book thus argues for a politics of reading and suggests that a reading of Plato offers a unique opportunity to cultivate such a politics. In order to accomplish something of what it argues, the book must be capable of combining the best of print scholarship with the best of digital scholarship. As an enhanced digital book, the text might be able to perform what it argues.

Research by Public Dialogue

In her book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, Kathleen Fitzpatrick articulates the intuition that animated the research and writing of this book.  She writes:

If we were to shift our focus in the work we’re doing as authors from the moment of completion, from the self-contained product, to privilege instead the process of writing, discussion, and revision, we’d likely begin to “publish” work–in the sense of making it public in readable form–earlier in its development (at the conference paper stage, for instance) and to remain engaged with those texts much longer after they’ve been released to readers (p. 12, see findings.com).

Although Socratic and Platonic Politics has not been “published” online and publicly peer reviewed, it has been exposed to the wider public from its earliest beginnings.  The decision to open it to the public in the form of audio podcasts that attempt to perform the practices of scholarly dialogue in a digital age was intentional, rooted in the recognition that Socrates articulates something of the truth in the Phaedrus when he says:

In a way, Phaedrus, writing has a strange character … if you question [written words] with the intention of learning something about what they are saying, they always just continue saying the same thing” (Phaedrus, 275d3-10).

Podcasting, because it is more dynamic, fluid and less easy to cite, offered the inchoate ideas of the book a space in which to move and grow. They developed, however, not simply in as I engaged primary and secondary texts in the quiet, private spaces of the library and my study — though they developed there too, and importantly so — but also in dialogue with others.

Further, these dialogues were for the most part staged around the scholarly work of those I invited to the Digital Dialogue, as opposed to being centered on the Socratic and Platonic Politics project itself. The podcast thereby exposed the ideas ultimately articulated in the book to a wider range of scholarship by forcing me, in preparing for each episode, to read a wider range of work in a responsible way that would lead to an enlivening and fulfilling public dialogue on the podcast itself.

The public nature of this philosophical research had a powerful motivating effect. In fact, I would not have read nearly as much nor as diverse a collection of scholarship for the book had I not been motivated by the knowledge that my colleagues would be joining me for a public discussion of their work on the podcast.

Cultivating the Politics of Reading

If the book was born in public dialogue, it should continue to live in public dialogue.  If the book argues for a politics of collaborative reading, it should be published in a way that embodies the possibilities of precisely such a politics.

To do this I envision a dynamic enhanced digital book that will embed the audio of the eleven podcasts cited in the manuscript into the digital book itself, enabling readers to listen to the podcasts directly as they encounter them in the text. In order to cultivate a community of collaborative reading, the enhanced digital book should also enable the reader to make all highlighting and annotations public if desired.

Those annotations and markings should then themselves generate a feed that interfaces with a blog plug-in like Comment Press or some other form of integration by which the annotations and highlights can appear in public in ways that are open to further response. Although readers might decide to publish the annotations to a preferred social media site, the annotations should also be accessible to a blog managed and moderated by me so that I can respond to and engage with readers as they engage with the book itself.

The publication of this enhanced digital book is designed to facilitate an ongoing dialogue about the book, its ideas and the larger question concerning the politics of reading. As the conversation develops, I envision recording new episodes of the Digital Dialogue podcast with readers who have had particularly insightful annotations or comments. Those podcasts too, if desired, could be made available in the enhanced digital book.

I envision the printed version of the book as another way to give readers access to this enhanced digital version and the community of dialogue to which it is intimately connected. I would like to have QR codes or some other method of moving the reader from the physical book to the online conversation. I would hope that the enhanced digital book would interface with existing systems of curated annotations as those found on the Kindle via Amazon.com and sites like Findings.com and Apple’s iBookstore.

This vision for Socratic and Platonic Politics combines the best elements of print scholarship with the best elements of digital scholarship: by bringing the print culture of rigorous, creative and careful reading, clear and compelling writing, peer review, and detailed and attentive editing together with the digital culture of dynamic interaction, exposure to a widely educated public, and the cultivation of a community of actively engaged and creative readers, the publication of the book would perform the very politics of collaborative reading for which it argues.

An enhanced digital book designed to create an ecosystem of scholarly dialogue is the above mentioned second path I hope to chart; but it is a path that cannot be embarked upon without you.

Sente, Mendeley, Zotero: Too Many Sharp Tools

By | Digital Research, The Long Road | 14 Comments

As spring rolls into summer, it is time for another appraisal of my digital research ecosystem. For a brief history of my reflections on digital scholarly research, I invite you to take a ride on the Long Road way-back machine circa April 15, 2010, when I first wrote about the elusive quest to close the digital research circle.

Funny how, in that initial post, I thought I was “tantalizingly close” to closing what I called the digital research circle: the ability to gather, curate, annotate, synthesize and cite scholarship without paper using a seamless digital process. More than two years later, I am still close, but now what felt  tantalizing has tilted toward the torturous.

I will not here rehearse my entire research ecosystem which involves Dropbox, Evernote, Scrivener and even Word, although I invite you to read through and comment on my posts on the issue of digital research. Instead, I want to focus again on what should be the very heart of that ecosystem: the reference manager.

Thinking that I might finally close the digital research circle by taking the advice of @Targuman and @history_geek, I decided to give Sente a try. After a bit of fun with Sente, after two weeks I am back to my combined Mendeley/Zotero model. Here is why:

The great strength of Sente is its capacity to gather, which itself is a vital part of the research process. When I experienced the way Sente integrated with the Penn State Library, felt the ease by which I could pull pdf files directly from our huge collection of databases and have Sente parse them quickly according to their bibliographic information and place them at my disposal on my desktop and in a beautiful iPad app, I thought I had died and gone to research heaven. Soon I realized, however, that although it does have a rich and responsive support forum, Sente is missing what both Zotero and Mendeley offer: a robust capacity to share and collaborate with a research community.

Although I am in a humanities discipline, collaboration is becoming an increasingly important part of my academic research. (OK, that came off as a bit too as too cynical – dial the cynicism back a notch or two, but you get the point.) Here is link to a post about how I work with a research assistant to do collaborative research in philosophy – it includes an embedded Prezi as a bonus.

Despite Sente’s excellence at gathering, its limited social capacities, its outmoded ways of integrating with the word processor (using in-text citation tags and the need to initiate scans of the document – as opposed to using Applescripts), its clunky search features, and its brutal lethargy on the iPad app with certain kinds of pdf files led me back to the Mendeley/Zotero model.

In the meantime, I solved a duplicating problem I was having in Mendeley when I stopped having Mendeley sync to a folder in Dropbox and allowed it to sync to a local drive on my various machines. When it comes to organizing pdfs in a social research context, Mendeley is the best. It even allows you, for example, to embed your profile into your blog posts:

Christopher Long is a member of Philosophy on Mendeley.

Mendeley’s capacity to facilitate collaborative research led me to adopt it extensively in my graduate seminar on Aristotle’s De Anima over the spring semester. My graduate students and I shared a collection, and thus were able to refer to the shared highlights, annotations and notes of our various texts together in class. (Above is a picture of me teaching with Mendeley, referring to a document a student had annotated.) Mendeley’s capacities for collaboration enriched our collective research and our seminar discussions throughout the semester.

Mendeley falters, however, at the gathering and the citing phases. They still have not fixed an issue with html code coming into footnotes when using the Chicago Manual of Style Full Note with Bibliography style. Further, the bookmarklet they use to gather document information from the web is … weak: it does not identify bibliographic information on the website and import it directly into Mendeley as Zotero does so beautifully.

Thus, I am forced to continue to use Zotero for the gathering and the citing phases of the process. I really do like Zotero, and especially now that they have a version that stands alone outside of Firefox. But, it does not hold a candle to the pdf managing capacities of Sente or Mendeley.

If, as they say, sometimes you need many sharp tools to get a job done well, still I wish I didn’t need quite so many sharp research tools to close the digital research circle.

Literacy in Bloom

By | Education, LwCH, The Long Road | 3 Comments

DancinGirl has fallen in love with words. Actually, she has always loved to play with words, singing, rhyming, mimicking.

Literacy in BloomBut now her love of the verbal has exploded into literacy.

She is reading voraciously; book after little book, she reads, sounding out words she does not recognize, learning the joys of story. There you find her, in a chair in the spare bedroom, on the floor in her own, on a sofa, with a book.

She is always under the caring tutelage of her mother, well versed in the ways of Vygotsky, who makes sure she has a book just challenging enough to push her, but not too challenging to frustrate her.

Tonight, however, the reading inspired writing. She had recently read in school a book by Kevin Tseng entitled Ned’s New Home, and she took to the chalkboard to write.  She spent almost an hour writing her story, after which time, she read it to us.

Here is DancinGirl’s version of the Kevin Tseng story with, as she said later, a few words of her own: DancinGirl Reads Her Version of Ned’s New Home

To listen to your daughter discover the beauty of the written word is awesome.

Attempting the Political Art

By | Articles, Publication: Journal, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | No Comments

Christopher P. Long, “Attempting the Political Art,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 27 (2012): 153-74.

The main thesis of this essay is that the practice of Socratic political speaking and the practice of Platonic political writing are intimately interconnected but distinct.

The essay focuses on the famous passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims to be one of the few Athenians who attempt the political art truly and goes on to articulate the nature of his political practice as a way of speaking toward the best (521d6-e2). Read More

ALP at Penn State: A Vision of the New Research University

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Administrative Life, Vita | 5 Comments

University budgeting and strategic planning was the focus of the final Academic Leadership Program (ALP) sponsored by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) held at Penn State, April 12-14, 2012. No two topics have more impact on the life and direction of an institution than these.

In reflecting on this final ALP seminar (the other two were at Indiana University and the University of Chicago), I began to imagine what it might look like for Penn State to pursue a bold strategic vision of the new public research university in the 21st century. The vision would need to be grounded in the history of Penn State as a public institution, even if it would likely involve greatly diminished support from a Commonwealth intent on systematically starving the University of the resources that first made it possible over a century and a half ago.

At the center of the vision would be an unwavering commitment to the excellences of rigorous public research. The rigor would be rooted in a curriculum designed to cultivate in each student, undergraduate and graduate alike, a sense for the transformative power of inquiry and the imaginative intellectual abilities to discover new knowledge. The university would be “public” less because it receives public funding, and more because it is oriented toward public concerns and intent on pursuing the public good. Its research endeavor would be integrated into undergraduate and graduate teaching at all levels of the university. The historical commitment to ensuring that education remains accessible would be pursued on a global scale through the reach of the World Campus, and new technologies would be used to create new opportunities for innovative collaborative research and teaching. The new public research university would be smaller, more nimble, bolder and unwaveringly focused on initiatives that strengthen its core mission to pursue rigorous public research.

Multiplayer Introduction Game

By | Academic, Education, Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments



Jane McGonigal

Originally uploaded by Joi

At the 2012 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium at Penn State, I had the honor of introducing Jane McGonigal, Creative Director of Social Chocolate, and game designer extraordinaire.

In his book, The Grasshopper, Bernard Suits writes: 

“Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”
Jane McGonigal quotes this in her own book, the name of which I am omitting for reasons that will become clear presently. She then goes on to say: 
“Compared with games, reality is too easy.” 
Now, I feel the same way about giving introductions, it is too easy; so I thought we could make a massively multiplayer game of it. 
The game has 7 quests and 5 minutes to complete them:
  1. The title of her New York Times best selling book.
  2. Three games she has developed to help people tackle real world problems.
  3. The title of her TED talk. Bonus: How many times has it been viewed?
  4. What is her current job title?
  5. Where did she get her PhD?
  6. Tweet the link to her webpage with her twitter handle, the TLT Symposium hash tag and one of my twitter handles.
  7. Tell us something we didn’t know, something I would not have come up with in a traditional introduction.
I am very happy to report that we successfully completed this game in 3 minutes and 38 seconds. I brought the introduction as a whole in under 10 minutes, so it all worked out well.
The introduction itself was designed to perform some of the ideas that Jane went on to present in such a compelling way.

Digital Dialogue 54: Plato’s Philosophers

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For episode 54 of the Digital Dialogue, I am joined via Skype by Catherine Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Zuckert is the author of many on the history of political philosophy and the relationship between literature and politics. I will link to her CV on the blog, but I want to mention a few of her excellent books here in reverse chronological order:

  • Natural Right and the American Imagination: Political Philosophy in Novel Form (Savage, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1990), 277 pages.
  • Postmodern Platos: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, Strauss and Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 351 pages.
  • The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy, with Michael P. Zuckert (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 352 pages.

But it is her most recent book, Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues (Chicago UP, 2009) that brings her to the digital dialogue today. I had the privilege to review the book for the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews and upon its recent appearance, we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to engage in a more dynamic discussion of the book together here on the digital dialogue. So, Catherine Zuckert, welcome to the Digital Dialogue.

 

ALP at University of Chicago: Virtues of an Education for Democracy

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Administrative Life, Vita | 2 Comments

In her address to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation‘s Academic Leadership Program at the University of Chicago last Thursday, Martha Nussbaum offered a compelling defense of a liberal arts education. She advocated for an education for democracy in the face of increased global emphasis on education for economic growth.

In the United States and around the world education policy has come to be driven by a concern more for economic growth than for a flourishing democracy. One need only look as far as the 2006 Spellings Report (pdf) to see this trend at work:

“America’s national capacity of excellence, innovation and leadership in higher education will be central to our ability to sustain economic growth and social cohesiveness. Our colleges and universities will be a key source of the human and intellectual capital needed to increase workforce productivity and growth.” (Spellings, 7)

Nussbaum sought instead to articulate a set of educational virtues for democracy around which our institutions of higher education should mobilize. The three on which she focused were:

    1. Socratic self-criticism: the ability to argue coherently, to criticize thoughtfully and to hold one another accountable for the implications of our political policies and beliefs;
    2. Becoming a citizen of the world: the ability to understand and converse about global problems, the recognition that we are part of a global community;
    3. Narrative imagination: the ability to “read” the stories of others, to recognize that everyone has a internal life and a set of motivations that determines the way they relate to others.

These three virtues, decisive for the long term well-being of democracy, are cultivated largely through the traditional liberal arts curriculum which is increasingly under attack by those pressing for a more focused, narrower, professional education oriented toward economic growth.

As the Academic Leadership program at the University of Chicago unfolded, the tension between an education for democracy and an education for economic growth came more fully into focus. When we turned our attention to the research mission of the University, it seemed that the economic argument for research came to eclipse the concern for the virtues of democracy for which Nussbaum advocated.

Joseph Walsh, Vice President for Research at Northwestern University, began his presentation by emphasizing the educational mission of research, suggesting that in the classroom, we teach our students, but with research, we teach the wider world. However, he focused most of his comments on those research discoveries at Northwestern that had the most palpable impact on the economy, reminding us that four-fifths of all economic growth comes from technological development, and that much of that development happens at research universities. In this context, he outlined the argument he offers to the politicians in Washington whose funding support research universities seek: economic growth is driven by the research done at our best research universities; funding research increases employment opportunities. It is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The 2012 Academic Leadership Program Fellows at the University of Chicago.

As we returned from Chicago, I found myself reflecting on this tension between education for democracy and education for economic growth. Then, we were lucky enough to miss our connection from Dulles to State College. I say ‘lucky’ here, because the long drive from Dulles offered a number of us the opportunity to talk further about our experience at the University of Chicago. Driving through rural Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, we began to focus our attention on what a major land-grant research university has to offer students educationally that they can’t get from smaller, private liberal arts colleges. We kept coming back to the research mission of the university.We began to consider ways to integrate the research enterprise more tightly into the undergraduate experience at Penn State. Students need to be exposed to the passion for discovery that animates all great research endeavors. They need more opportunities to work closely with our research professors so that they might feel the power and excitement of research as an educational endeavor. To accomplish this on a grand scale at Penn State would likely require substantive changes to the general education curriculum and other significant financial resources, but I am convinced that if we are able to integrate the research enterprise more deeply into the undergraduate experience, we will have begun to cultivate in our students the very virtues Nussbaum suggests are critical for a flourishing democracy. Students engaged with research will learn self-criticism, the concerns of a global community and narrative imagination as they come to experience precisely these abilities at work in our most excellent academic researchers.

Following such a path at Penn State would, I imagine, illustrate the extent to which economic growth is not so much a goal of research, but an important, albeit secondary, outgrowth of an education rooted in traditional liberal arts virtues infused with a deep engagement with the research enterprise. Perhaps an education for democracy can also be an education for economic growth–the history of the American land-grant system of higher education seems to suggest that this is precisely the case. Perhaps the best way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act is to redouble our efforts to combine rigorous research with the long standing virtues of an education in the liberal arts.

Digital Dialogue 53: Pindar and the Phaedrus

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Christopher Moore joins me for Digital Dialogue, episode 53. He received his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2008 and is currently Lecturer in Philosophy and Classics at Penn State.

His areas of specialization include: Ancient Philosophy, Socrates, Aesthetics and Democratic Theory.

He has a number of articles in press and forthcoming, including:

  • “Chaerephon, Telephus, and Cure in Plato’s Gorgias,” Arethusa (forthcoming May 2012)
  • “The Myth of Theuth in the Phaedrus,” in Status, Uses and Function of Plato’s Myths, Catherine Collobert, Pierre Destrée, Francisco Gonzalez, edd. (Brill, forthcoming Spring 2012)
  • “Socratic Persuasion in the Crito,” British Journal of the History of Philosophy (forthcoming November 2011)

I was very happy when Christopher joined the faculty here at Penn State because it offered me the opportunity to work closely with someone who really understands the nuances of Greek. What better way to welcome Christopher, I thought, than to invite him onto the Digital Dialogue to talk about his very interesting paper on the connection between Plato’s Phaedrus and Pindar’s First Isthmian, a poem from which Socrates quotes early on in the Phaedrus.

I hope you will enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

Complementarity

By | LwCH, The Long Road | No Comments

LITCHFIELD, SC – Vacation can be a time for moments of insight and tenderness. One such moment came this week for me at a restaurant here in South Carolina called Studio Café. (You can see my Yelp! review here).

SC MarshThe restaurant is also an art studio and the owner, Pat Ghannam, both shows here work there and serves tables when they are short staffed. She was serving us that day and she mentioned that the chef was her husband and a co-owner of the restaurant.

At few minutes later, when other members of the table were engrossed in conversation, ArtGirl (7) came to sit on my lap. She had something she wanted to tell me; it was a revelation she’d had.

This is what she whispered in my ear:
ArtGirl: Daddy, I think when you decide who to marry, you should try to find someone who makes you better.

Me: I think that is a great way to think about it, Sweetheart. But how come you are thinking about that now?

ArtGirl: Well, it’s like the server. She is an artist and a server, but her husband is the chef who makes the food for the restaurant. Neither of them could do it alone, but together they can.

And it’s like Mommy and you. There are some things Mom does to make you better and there are some things that you do to make her better.

Me: You know something, you are a very wise person.

And think about this: when you have that sort of relationship, it can also happen that you might just have a daughter, and maybe even two daughters, like you and [DancinGirl], to make your whole family better.

Then we hugged and went back to lunch.

HASTAC 2011: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Structure

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 4 Comments

Long at HASTACANN ARBOR, MI – The story I told at the 2011 meeting of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) conference is rooted in my pedagogical practices of using digital media technology to cultivate communities of learning in the classroom. The story itself is told at a moment of intense transformation in education as we move from a culture of print scholarship to that of digital scholarship.  The main thesis of the presentation is that by drawing on the best virtues of both print and digital scholarship a new educational model capable of transforming the culture of the university itself can be developed.

In the presentation, I attempt to articulate how I have sought to translate those pedagogical practices associated with digital scholarship — openness and collaboration – with those practices associated with print scholarship — careful review and the certification of expertise — into both my scholarly and my administrative practices.

In the presentation I did not have enough time to talk about the details of the work we are doing in the College of the Liberal Arts to cultivate a digital culture of scholarship.  When I started as Associate Dean, we hired John Dolan at Director of Digital Media and Pedagogy in the College. Last summer we held our first Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology workshop for faculty and graduate students in the Liberal Arts. John has been working with both faculty and staff to find new ways to use digital media to enrich our work in the College of the Liberal Arts.

HASTAC11: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Culture.mp3

Resources

Pedagogy

Research

Administration

  • Digital Research in the Liberal Arts: This blog is co-authored by faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts doing academic scholarship using digital media.
  • Instructional Space at Penn State Task Force Blog: This blog is part of our attempt to up a university wide discussion about instructional space and scheduling. It is an example of how I have sought to use what I learned in my teaching with technology in my administrative work.

ALP at Indiana: Herman B. Wells

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Administrative Life, Vita | No Comments

Sometimes without looking, one finds a paradigm – an example that can serve as a model.

Last week I visited Indiana University as a one of Penn State’s Academic Leadership Fellows in the Academic Leadership Program of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (Big 10 Academic Alliance).

I went expecting to hear administrators from across the Big Ten speak about best administrative practices and about the role of the public research university in the 21st century. Although I received what I expected in that sense, I did not anticipate encountering a figure who embodied some of my own most deeply held educational convictions: Herman B. Wells.

Wells, who died in 2000, was the 11th president of Indiana University. Born in 1902, he was the youngest state university president at the age of 36, in 1937. While there are many important contributions Wells made to the educational mission of Indiana University, I would like to focus here on three, each of which embodies one of the themes that became important to me during the seminar at Indiana University entitled The Evolving University.

Cooperation

In 1958, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation was established by the presidents of the Big Ten Conference. Herman B Wells was one of its founding members and lasting champions. As I listened to former president of Michigan University, James Duderstadt, speak at Indiana about the importance of increased collaboration between public universities in the 21st century, the foresight of Wells and his generation of presidents came into focus.

Duderstadt described a 21st century world that does not respect traditional boundaries between regions and geopolitical borders. He spoke about the need for more collaboration between universities and the hope that we might reduce the zero sum attitude that establishes intensely competitive relationships between us and places us in extremely predatory environments with one another. The vision of cooperation Wells laid out and helped put into practice, places the CIC universities in a strong position to cultivate yet more cooperative relationships given the 50 year history of collaboration and interaction on which we can draw.

Ethical Imagination

Wells was well known as an advocate for student self-governance, for a desegregated university and for academic freedom. He worked tirelessly and unobtrusively to end racial segregation in the dining halls and on campus housing; he protected Alfred Kinsey’s controversial and ground breaking research on human sexuality, and he worked to preserve the woods on campus. These are all elements of what I would call his highly cultivated ethical imagination: the ability to imagine one’s way into the position of each individual other. Wells held office hours for students, and they came to talk with him about their individual experiences. He signed each individual diploma himself, over 62,000 of them, because he wanted “a sense of direct identification with each graduate.”

This capacity for ethical imagination serves as a model for what is possible when administrative service is able to make decisions for the mission of the university by attending carefully and with care to each individual member of the community.

Service

In her remarks, Provost Karen Hanson spoke of the suspicions faculty have about administrators. She traced that suspicion to the late ’60’s and early ’70s when the institutional authority of universities were called into question. She then spoke about the qualities of a good administrator: the ability to disagree without being retributive, the need to be open and patient, circumspection. She also reminded us that the word “administer” derives from the Latin, “ministrare“, which means “to serve”.

I left Indiana with a much deeper appreciation of the nature of administration as a way of serving.

Wells put it this way: “Remind yourself daily that general administration must be the servant, never the master, of the academic community. It is not an end unto itself and exists only to further the academic enterprise.”

And as we left Indiana, the news about the Sandusky indictment broke, and we returned to a Penn State transformed. In the week since, the nature of administration as service and the need for ethical imagination and cooperation have taken on a deeper and more urgent meaning.

Open Letter to the Liberal Arts Undergraduates at Penn State

By | The Liberal Arts | No Comments

Dear Liberal Arts Student Colleagues:

As we process the events of the past week, it is difficult to grapple with what we and others are thinking and feeling. Each of us responds to these events from where we live, from our perspectives as individuals and as members of an educational community to which we have dedicated our time, our energy, our lives.

As students in the liberal arts, you have many resources to bring to bear on these difficult experiences. As humanists, you know something of the finite nature of human existence, of the complex and often tragic nature of human relationships, and of the healing power of words well placed; as social scientists, you know something about the role power plays in social interactions, the nature of psychological and physical trauma, and the intricacies of healthy human communities. I ask you to bring to bear on this difficult situation the wisdom of your disciplines, the power of your learning and the depth of your commitment to your friends, your teachers and your institution.

As we try to come to some terms with this experience in all its complexity, I hope we find ways to notice the beautiful and good things that are done at Penn State everyday even as we face the things we must as we learn more about what happened. Your good academic work, your integrity as students and your well placed energy contribute to what is valuable about Penn State.

Thank you.

If you or any of your colleagues need to talk with a professional counsellor, please don’t hesitate to call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 814-863-0395 or go online at: http://www.sa.psu.edu/caps/schedule_appointment.shtml

For emergencies: http://www.sa.psu.edu/caps/crisis.shtml

Once, in the course of my own education in the liberal arts, I came across a passage from Rilke. My wife reminded me of it last night and it seems to be helping me at the moment; perhaps it might be of some help to you today:

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

Sincerely,
Christopher Long

Christopher P. Long
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Classics
College of the Liberal Arts
The Pennsylvania State University
http://www.la.psu.edu/chrislong

Digital Dialogue 52: Politics and the Phaedo

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Episode 52 of the Digital Dialogue was recorded at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.

I was joined by Sara Brill, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University and graduate from the Philosophy Department here at Penn State in 2004, where she wrote her dissertation with John Sallis entitled, Hygieia: Health and Medicine in Plato’s Republic.

Sara has appeared on the Digital Dialogue a number of times including episodes:

So this episode is part of an ongoing dialogue about our ongoing work on Plato.  Sara has completed a manuscript on Plato’s psychology and I am completing a manuscript on Socratic and Platonic Politics.  The Phaedo plays an important role in both of these manuscripts and we take up our readings of that text in our discussion.

New Media Habits

By | Technology, The Long Road | 14 Comments


Facebook

Originally uploaded by laikolosse

A number of recent changes to the social media technologies I use daily force me again to reflect on the habits design decisions cultivate in us. The decisions made by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple are, of course, design decisions with a decidedly commercial interest.  Even so, their willingness to make substantive changes to the way we interact with one another through their sites is teaching us all something about the habits we need to cultivate in the digital age.

Facebook, of course, just implemented some fairly radical changes to its user interface, adding a twitter like timeline on the right side of the screen, integrating Spotify, adding a timeline, and curating more content from friends it thinks will be of interest to you. They have followed Google in making it easier to direct a specific post to a group of friends right from the status update text box. And they have implemented, among many other things, a subscribe feature that allows anyone to subscribe to your FB page.

Google, for its part, continues to roll out changes to its new Google Plus platform, recently adding the ability to share circles with others. What seems on the surface to be a simple design decision has wide ranging implications for the number of people following you and for your ability to follow new people.

Apple has just rolled out its iCloud service, rendering its previous Mobile Me service obsolete. In so doing, they announced to anyone with content on Mobile Me, that it would no longer be supported after June 2012.

Make no mistake, these changes are designed to increase the revenue each of these companies is able to generate for itself.  But what interests me about this in particular is the manner in which these changes are forcing us all to be more flexible, open and, hopefully, inquisitive about the technologies with which we are engaged.
We are not used to having the medium through which we communicate with one another change so radically so frequently.
It is disconcerting.
But perhaps there is something important to learn from that sense of vertigo that comes with such changes. We are required to learn anew the things we thought we knew. We are forced to ask ourselves new questions about how we post and to whom; we are made to think again about what is public and how we want ourselves to be seen and heard online.
These changes, whatever the value or lack thereof they have, force us again and again into a mode of play so that we might learn what we can do with these technologies and what they are doing to us.
If we are to engage one another with a modicum of responsibility in and through these technologies, we will need to cultivate in ourselves the habits of playful exploration and curiosity; we will need to be willing, again and again, to reconsider the things we thought we had finished considering, to rethink those habits of interaction that have become thoughtless and rote.
Whatever the value of the changes these companies have foisted upon us, our ability to navigate in a new, more dynamic digital world, will depend on our ability to cultivate in ourselves, our friends, our students, and our children an openness to change, a willingness to reconsider, an ability to playfully explore and the courage to act with integrity in the flux of things.

Digital Dialogue 51: Digital Public

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Episode 51 of the Digital Dialogue was recorded in Washington, D.C. at the Advancing Public Philosophy conference. Joining me are: Mark Fisher, Assistant Director of the Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State, Ronald Sundstrom, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco, Cori Wong, PhD Candidate, Penn State, Jessica Harper, Partner at Bodker, Ramsey, Andrews, Winograd, and Wildstein in Atlanta, and Vance Ricks, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Guilford College.

We focus our discussion on two workshops that focused on social media and public philosophy. The first, facilitated by Vance Ricks and Mark Fisher, focused on Social Media Ethics; the second, facilitated by me and Cori Wong, focused on Philosophy and the Digital Public.

Resources

Philosophy and the Digital Public

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | 2 Comments

Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation

WASHINGTON, DC – Today at the Advancing Public Philosophy Conference hosted by the Public Philosophy Network, Cori Wong, a graduate student in the Philosophy Department at Penn State, and I are holding a workshop entitled Philosophy and the Digital Public.

Rembrandt’s image, Philosopher in Meditation, presents a vision of the philosopher as isolated from the world. The Public Philosophy Network and the Advancing Public Philosophy Conference challenges this image by advocating for a vision of the philosopher as deeply engaged with the public and philosophy as a fundamentally human way of being with others in the world.
As part of the larger effort to advance publicly engaged philosophy, our Philosophy and the Digital Public workshop is designed to open a sustained dialogue about the relationship between philosophy and the digital public.
The workshop is divided into three parts. The first part, which I lead, focuses on the transformation of literacy through which we are currently living as we move from print to digital culture. It then turns to concrete examples of how I have used my Digital Dialogue podcast, and other modes of collaborative research to do philosophy publicly in ways that enrich my scholarship. The model here involves the attempt to do philosophy more publicly.
The second part, which is led by Cori, focuses on doing philosophy with and for the public. She has used social media, such as Youtube and her personal blog, to present philosophy to wider public audiences in ways that seek to cultivate and enhance public discourse on issues like racism and homophobia. The goal of making philosophical reflection relevant and accessible to general audiences has required her to develop different pedagogical skills, which are in many ways beneficial for her as an instructor, but this public work on the Internet is also seemingly in tension with the sort of scholarship that is viewed as legitimate, credible, and more valuable when establishing oneself as a rigorous scholar. Furthermore, despite her own skepticism about the pedagogical promise of teaching to the public through social media versus teaching in residence to students in a classroom, a number of “viewers” have urged her to continue this public work and stress that it is important for them and others.
The third part of the workshop will involve the creation of a collaborate digital artifact that captures something of the spirit and nature of the discussion we had and establishes a basis for ongoing dialogue concerning the nature of public philosophy in a digital age.

Liberal Arts Voices Hanging Out on Google

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 11 Comments



Student Panel at LASTS11

Originally uploaded by LAUSatPSU

On Wednesday, September 28th at 4pm eastern, we in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office will take another step out into the great technological unknown by recording an episode of our Liberal Arts Voices Podcast live on a Google Plus hangout.

I hope that anyone interested in what we are doing in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office will join us. Here is a link to my Google Plus profile where you will find the Hangout when it is available.

The official guests on the episode will be leaders from the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council, a dynamic group of student leaders who have always been willing to engage with new technologies with me in interesting and enriching ways. That they will be with us for this experiment is only proper since they have helped us grow our community through Twitter and Facebook.

The impetus behind this experiment is first to perform what we preach about the importance of practice in learning about new technologies. We will see what Google Plus adds to our discussions on the Liberal Arts Voices podcast, and we will experience directly what it takes away.

The second reason for this use of a Google Plus Hangout is that I think the ease by which this technology makes face to face conversations public is very compelling. It is a simple broadcasting platform that can be used to raise the level of discussion online by adding the ethical dimension of the face. In our attempts to use technology to enrich the undergraduate experience in the College, it seemed timely to try to put Google Plus to work in this way. 
Finally, we now have a number of members of our community out in the “real world’ – as if we in Happy Valley don’t live in the real world. But I digress… In any case, these friends who were so engaged when they were physically here as students or staff members remain engaged in various ways. It will be interesting to see if that distance can be traversed by the G+ technology and we will once again be face to face, talking about the importance of the liberal arts.
I am looking forward to what this little experiment will bring. 

The Press Enterprise

By | Living, Technology, The Long Road | 7 Comments

West End of Bloomsburg, PA
Originally uploaded by colecamp

I have long had the vague idea that newspapers need to recognize that the core of their business is the business of their communities.

Sometimes the experiences of your friends have a way of making vague ideas poignant and concrete.

Such is the case for me with my friend, Cole Camplese, and his experience with the Press Enterprise of Bloomsburg, PA.

The Press Enterprise is the local paper in Bloomsburg, a town that was hit last week with a devastating flood.

Have you read much about it? No? Well, I would point you to the paper so you could learn more about the lives of those impacted by the flood, but if I did that, you would quickly come face to face with this:

Press Enterprise.jpg
No, to learn about the flood from this paper allegedly dedicated to “Serving Bloomsburg,” you would need either to subscribe or visit their Facebook Page, where you would find comments from Facebook users and the occasional link to the Press Enterprise itself; and if you would like to read the articles to which these links point …  well, then you would need to subscribe.

Of course, you could also look at the images and stories gathered by individuals like Cole.

These images and stories articulate well the business of Bloomsburg at the moment. And it seems to me that the business of a newspaper designed to serve this community should really revolve around the business of the community itself. While the newspaper did unlock its content during the flood and in its immediate aftermath; it has now closed itself off again from the wider community of communication that is the internet.


Cole has written an eloquent post about this on his blog, a post that should move the Press Enterprise to reconsider its business strategy
.

But it is the strange tension in the name of the paper that I find rich with ambiguous meaning. At a time when the culture of printing is giving way to a new, more dynamic digital culture the very enterprise of the press has been called into question.

When we speak of the “enterprise” in business terms, we understand, as Dictionary.com says, “a company organized for commercial purposes.”  But the most common meaning of the term is “a project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy.” I like that one. But it does not seem to be the meaning at play in the Press Enterprise.

Of course, we have been living since the invention of the printing press around 1440 in a print culture that has long been characterized by what might be called a logic of compression, impression and even repression. The printing press itself is an impressive machine designed to press information upon us, imprinting mass culture with the ideas, thoughts and values that have the imprimatur of the those with authority.

The enterprise of pressing has been lucrative indeed.

But what might the press enterprise look like if we took seriously the common meaning of ‘enterprise’ as an important, difficult and bold endeavor?

It would need to become something less depressing than the business of printing. It would need to be more attuned to the business of the community as the community engages in activities that make lives meaningful. It would need to become a curator, a collector, an open space of gathering, sharing, re-mixing and responding.

It would need to relinquish its tendencies to impress, compress and contain. In short, the Press Enterprise needs to become a shared, community enterprise.

And if the newspaper business truly becomes the business of communities, I am confident it will continue to be lucrative as well; for people will come not to be told or imprinted upon, but because they find a place in which they can engage in a common enterprise about the business of their community.

For DancinGirl on Her First Day of Kindergarten

By | LwCH, The Long Road | No Comments

Dear DancinGirl:

Gotta DanceDo you know why I call you DancinGirl when I write about you here?

It is because, from the moment I met you, now almost six years ago, you were dancing. At first, it was with hands and feet wriggling every which way, then it was the inimitable way you crawled – a sight to behold! – and eventually, as you learned to stand and walk and run, you danced and danced and danced.

Always, you danced.

I love the way you dance. There is a spirit in it that is uniquely you.

You have always moved through the world in a way that is all your own. It is one of the things I admire most about you.

As you start Kindergarten, and the long and wonderful journey that is your formal education, my greatest wish is that your creative, dancing spirit is nourished along the way.

There are so many ways that educational institutions and the culture of schooling dull the very spirit of creativity and imagination on which all real education depends.  But there are also so many people who can and will help cultivate your dancing spirit.

On this, your first day of Kindergarten, may that dancing spirit be magnetic: may it attract others who recognize the beauty of your dancing and who can dance with you; and may the life of education and learning on which you are about to embark enrich the way you move through the world.

Love,
Dad

New Cultures of Scholarship

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 2 Comments

STATE COLLEGE, PA – In my keynote address at the inaugural Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit, I discuss how the transition from print literacy to digital literacy is transforming the nature of academic scholarship.

[The live stream recording of the event can be seen below.]

The presentation is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the theoretical background that helps us put the transformation of literacy through which we are living into a wider context. In the second part, I focus on a few of the ways I have sought to integrate digital technologies into my scholarly practices.

The theoretical background begins with a discussion of what Lars Sauerberg has called the “Gutenberg Parenthesis,” suggesting by this term a contained period of literacy characterized by the dominance of the printed book. I use Thomas Pettitt’s lecture at the 2010 conference at the MIT Communications Forum to emphasize that the parenthetical period was no mere digression, but added substantively to the history of literacy.

After pointing briefly to how pre-literate oral cultures undertook many of the practices we now find in digital culture–remixing, borrowing, creatively changing and modifying stories for particular audiences–I turn to Walter Ong’s book, Orality and Literacy, to suggest the manner in which print culture values the ideals of completeness, originality and creativity in ways that gave rise to the idea of authorial genius that continues to determine how we think about scholarship and scholars.

In the second part of the talk, I illustrate how I have sought to use digital literacy to reinforce and amplify those values of print literacy worth retaining–the established practices of peer review, caring attention to detail and the permanence of books. I tell the story of my own use of digital media for scholarship, focusing on how I used Diigo to annotate and respond to a recent review of my book in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and how some of my colleagues, notably Rose Cherubin from George Mason University, added substantively to that digital discussion.

I talked also about the Digital Dialogue podcast to suggest how digital media can be used to create new print scholarship.

Resources
Quotations
From Sauerberg:
In a cognitive context the mass-produced and mass distributed book has been of the greatest significance for the way we approach the world. In the transition from the printed book to digitized textuality the mode of cognition is being moved from a metaphorics of linearity and reflection to a-linearity and co-production of “reality.” This means moving from the rationality accompanied by the printed book to an altogether different way of processing, characterized by interactivity and much faster pace. The book as privileged mode of cognition is, it seems, being marginalized and transformed (Sauerberg, 79)
From Ong:

“Print encourages a sense of closure, a sense that what is found in a text has been finalized, has reached a state of completion … Print culture gave birth to the romantic notions of ‘originality’ and ‘creativity’, which set apart an individual work from other works even more…” (Ong, 132- 133).

From Carson:

An individual who lives in an oral culture uses his senses differently than one who lives in a literate culture, and with that different sensual deployment comes a different way of conceiving his own relations with his environment, a different conception of his body and a different conception of his self (Eros the Bittersweet, 43).

 

Digital Dialogue 50: Efficient Cause

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

Tom Tuozzo, Professor of Philosophy at Kansas University, joins me for episode 50 of the Digital Dialogue.

Professor Tuozzo is author of the forthcoming book with Cambridge University press entitled “Plato’s Charmides. Positive Elenchus in a ‘Socratic’ Dialogue.”
He has written extensively on Ancient Greek Philosophy, including “The General Account of Pleasure in Plato’s Philebus” Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (1996) 495-513; “Aristotle’s Theory of the Good and Its Causal Basis” Phronesis 40 (1995) 293-314; “Contemplation, the Noble, and the Mean: The Standard of Moral Virtue in Aristotle’s Ethics” Apeiron 28 (1995) 453-448.
Tom joins me on the Digital Dialogue to discuss an article he published in Epoché vol. 15, no. 2, 2010 entitled: How Dynamic is Aristotle’s Efficient Cause?

Responding to Gonzalez Review of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | No Comments

Earlier this week, Frank Gonzalez published a review of my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

His review is the latest contribution to a decade’s long dialogue we have had about how to read Aristotle, the meaning of energeia and dynamis in Aristotle’s thinking, and the nature of Aristotle’s God.

Our conversation, which has always pressed me to articulate my position with more care and, I hope, more subtlety, extends back to the first gathering of the Ancient Philosophy Society at Villanova University in the Spring of 2001.

Mine was the first paper delivered there, later published in Epoché as The Ethical Culmination of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. That paper argued that Aristotle’s Metaphysics culminated not in the purity of God’s self-thinking, but in the more contingent and ambiguous principles articulated in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

His was the first question I fielded. That question challenged me to think more carefully about the nature of God in Aristotle, and specifically it encouraged me to consider that perhaps God as “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις”, “the thinking of thinking thinking” (Metaphysics, XII.9, 1074b33-5), did not express the totalizing principle I ascribed to it.

Frank’s question haunted me as I completed my first book on Aristotle, The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy. But in that book, I continued to understand God in Aristotle as the activity of self-identity and thus, as I argued in an article published in Philosophy and Social Criticism entitled, Totalizing Identities: The Ambiguous Legacy of Aristotle and Hegel after Auschwitz, as a totalizing principle.

In his essay length review of The Ethics of Ontology in the Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, volume 26, issue 2 (2005), entitled, Form in Aristotle: Oppressive Universal or Individual Act?, Frank took me to task for failing to appreciate the radical otherness of God in Aristotle. There he wrote:

A genuinely third way of knowing [one that is neither anarchic nor totalizing] could have been found where Long refused to look for it: in the knowledge of what is most radically unique and Other; what, as the absolutely self-contained activity of life and thus pleasure, i.e., the unmoved mover or God” (GFPJ, 26.2, 2005: 181).

He was right to insist that I read Aristotle on God more closely, a project I explicitly undertake in chapter 7 of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, but what is less clear on Aristotle’s own terms is the degree to which the thinking of God is radically other to human thinking or even, as I suggest in the Truth book, to human perceiving.

In fact, establishing the connection between the middle voiced activity of perceiving (αἰσθάνεσθαι) and the middle voiced activities of imagining and thinking is central to the argument of chapters four and five of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. Recognizing that activity itself involves a kind of receptivity, as I mention in note 6 on page 118, caused me to reconsider my own interpretation of the hegemonic dimensions of divine identity in Aristotle. Yet, because my reconsidered interpretation continues to insist on a dimension of dynamis, or potency, in God, Frank, as our most recent discussions make clear, remains unsatisfied.

To hear some of the details of those more recent discussions, I would invite you to listen to Digital Dialogue 41: On Time and Motion in which I talk to Frank about his work on Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle, and his critique of Heidegger. There the discussion again gravitates to the meaning of God as energeia, or pure activity, in Aristotle.

Given his continuing critique, it was no surprise that Frank was the first to ask a question at the session the Ancient Philosophy Society held on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth this spring at Sundance.

His question asked about two key moments in the book where my voice and Aristotle’s seem to diverge. The first, of course, is in the discussion of God, where I continue to want to insist upon a dimension of dynamis in the divine; the second is the question of justice, which I want to extend beyond the inter-human realm to the relationship between humans and the things we encounter.

Listen to the six minute clip of our exchange at Sundance on the player at the bottom of this post, or by clicking the link below, which will open a new window:

Frank Gonzalez and Christopher Long at the 2011 Ancient Philosophy Society

The two issues Frank raises in that exchange are expressed also in his review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review commentary. I have used Diigo to reply to specific points he makes in that review, and I invite you read that review with my annotations and sticky notes by following the link below:

Frank Gonzalez Review of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review with annotations by Christopher Long.

Because my annotations speak to a number of the specific points Frank raises, here I would like to highlight an important dimension of the book that Frank does not even mention in the review: its peculiar methodology, which I refer to as “legomenology.”

I now realize in listening again to the recording of our exchange at the 2011 Ancient Philosophy Society that I did not respond to what was at the core of Frank’s important question about where and how my voice diverges from Aristotle in the book. The more critical moments of the BMCR review are animated by Frank’s insistance that my interpretation of truth in Aristotle “turns out to require some hermeneutical violence.” A better understand of the phenomenological legomenology I undertake in the book will suggest both how my voice diverges from Aristotle’s and how I seek to minimize the violence of my interpretation with candor when the things I say diverge from things that can be easily ascribed to Aristotle.

The legomenological method the book undertakes is rooted in the idea that the very attempt to put the truth of things into words articulates something of the truth.

With regard to the question of God in Aristotle, it is not simply a matter of reconstructing what Aristotle might have intended. In that case, I am inclined simply to agree with what Frank says at the end of the BMCR review that if my thinking is animated by the paradigm of dialogue, Aristotle’s is animated by the paradigm of self-identity. And yet, even on Aristotle’s paradigm of self-identity, and indeed, at the very moment when that paradigm achieves its most poignant articulation in the formulation “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις”, “the thinking of thinking thinking” (Metaphysics, XII.9, 1074b33-5), something of the dialogical truth is heard in the very way the idea comes to language.

This is the core of the argument of chapter 7, an argument that culminates with the sentence “God is relationality” (Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, 237). When I speak about “relationality” I mean to point to that which enables things to enter into relation with one another in the first place, perhaps I could call it the erotic site of relational happening … The formulation “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις” articulates and indeed declares the structure of relationality itself.

The legomenology I pursue attempts to remain attuned always to the truth in the things said, even if that means diverging from what the speaker might have intended.  This point is an echo of the very thing Aristotle said about Plato in the Nicomachean Ethics, 1096a16-7:

… although both our friends and the truth are loved, it is more sacred to give truth the higher honor.

The legomenological method opened a path that allowed me, I hope, both to love Aristotle and to honor the truth. Frank very kindly notes at the beginning of his review that “[t]his is a highly original book both in its approach and its conclusions…” And if this is true, then its originality is rooted in a careful, caring reading of Aristotle, that remains, however, always willing to relinquish the attempt to reconstruct Aristotelian thought in order to undertake the yet more difficult attempt to articulate the truth.

That, indeed, is ultimately what is at stake in my ongoing discussion with Frank about God in Aristotle and about the meaning of justice. For it is not only the Aristotelian texts to which we must do justice, but in our ongoing dialogue with one another, we must attempt to speak the truth to and with one another.

I have gathered the various ways we have each attempted to do that over the years here in this post in order that it might provide fertile soil for further discussion in which the truth might not only take root, but grow.

Collaborative Research in Philosophy

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 9 Comments

Today in the Foster Auditorium of the Pattee/Paterno Library, my undergraduate research assistant, Lisa Lotito, and I gave a presentation about the workflow we use in doing philosophical research.

I have written in some detail about my basic research cycle, but this presentation allowed us to articulate more fully how we use the collaborative power of digital media to do scholarly research in philosophy.

The process begins with a discussion about my current book project on Socratic and Platonic politics. Once Lisa had a sense of the project, we were able to delineate a basic set of sources on Plato’s Phaedo for a chapter on that dialogue I was also going to present at the 2011 Hermeneutisches Kolloquium in Freiburg.

The presentation, the recording for which I embed below, articulated how we created a shared collection on Mendeley to manage pdf resources, how Lisa added notes to Mendeley summarizing some of the main points of those articles and how they related to my thesis. We discuss how I use Dropbox to collect all the documents and Evernote and GoodReader to annotate the pdf files.

We used direct messaging in Twitter to communicate in a dynamic and asynchronous way that allowed me to request more resources or ask Lisa to look for specific issues in the secondary literature. This was particularly helpful during the two week period when I returned to the primary text to develop the details of my interpretation. I was able to rely on Lisa to help me recall the terms of the debate in the secondary literature on an issue or theme in the dialogue.

I used Word and Scrivener to write the chapter and, because of the ongoing limitations of Mendeley with citations, we returned to Zotero to add citations.  Obviously, the constellation of technological tools we used to do this research is varied and perhaps complex; but what stands out, it seems to me, is the way Lisa and I were able to work in a collaborative way to do serious philosophical research. The asynchronous nature of our communication and the digital medium of many of the texts to which we referred allowed us to work in a collaborative way even when we were often at opposite ends of the Commonwealth.

My hope is that this might serve as one model for collaborative research in the humanities; for we have not historically cultivated the models of scholarly apprenticeship in the humanities that the sciences and social sciences have when they undertake research with students in their labs and research groups.

The Research Circle from Christopher Long on Vimeo.

Making Google Smarter

By | Technology, The Long Road | 3 Comments



The Wind is Beautiful

Originally uploaded by cplong11

Nicolas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, considers the impact new media technologies are having on human cognition. Although he recognizes the reciprocal nature of the human-technology relationship, he focuses primarily in that article on what technology is doing to our abilities to read, concentrate and comprehend.

But the human relationship with technology is fluid, reciprocal and dynamic, and the boundaries between human-beings and our technologies are porous, as Freud already recognized in speaking about humans as “prothetic gods.”
Technology does things to us as we do things with it, but we also do things to it as it does things with us.  
Issues related to the dynamic interaction between us and our technologies have been rendered poignant for me again as I begin to play with Google+. What strikes me most at this point, however, is how the Google culture of engineering has taken a decidedly humanistic turn, and in a potentially powerful way.
The rhetoric Google used to introduce Google+ reflects this humanistic approach. Vic Gundotra, Senior VP of Social at Google, told TechCrunch that Google+ was created to respond to the “basic human need” to connect with other people in a way that is less “awkward.” 
There are a number of features and design decisions that recognize that human insight and understanding enrich the technology.  Circles, to take the central example, is beautifully designed in a way that makes it fun and aesthetically pleasing to create different audiences of people with whom one might want to communicate. The design, however, is important because it invites us to teach our Google profile about the sorts of communities about which we care. In so doing, our profiles become more flexible in communicating diverse ideas to diverse groups.  Facebook groups offers this possibility as well, though in a less compelling and playful way.  By making circles central to Google+ and by making it fun, Google has recognized that it will get smarter only if it invites humans to teach it.
This recognition seems also to be at the heart of the +1 button which adds a social component to search in a way that is designed to take your personal views and ideas into consideration.  There are, of course, dangers in this insofar as it can serve to reinforce existing prejudices and positions; but used effectively, it can also serve to open new horizons of insight.
The Hangout feature of Google+ is rooted in a metaphor taken from the world of concrete human interactivity. The Hangout is set up like a kind of front porch on which one can sit and wait for others to join. The conversation is inherently dynamic, because the Hangout need not be “about” something specific nor is it even owned by the person who began it: it is simply an invitation to a circle of people saying I am here if you would like to talk and it can continue long after the initiator has left. 
It is striking, however, that Bradely Horowitz, Google VP for Product Management, has been using Hangouts to open discussions with anyone following him on Google+ as a way to receive feedback on the product or, presumably, to participate diverse conversations, the direction of which remains open.  This in and of itself is testimony to the fact that Google has recognized that the only way it will get smarter is by attending and responding to human insight and experience in a dynamic and reciprocal way.
 

Platonic Writing and the Practice of Death

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 3 Comments

FREIBURG, GERMANY – Today at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies, I presented a paper entitled The Politics of Finitude in Plato’s Phaedo at the 2011 Freiburger Hermeneutisches Kolloquium, whose theme was Hermeneutik (in) der Antike.

The paper, written specifically for this conference, will also be the middle chapter of my book on Socratic and Platonic politics.  This chapter traces the differences and continuities between what I have been calling the topology of Socratic politics and the topography of Platonic politics.

The Phaedo, I argue, is perhaps Plato’s most eloquent political dialogue. To quote from the paper:

Its eloquence, however, is not heard in the political theories it sets forth or in the dogma it allegedly establishes, but in the way the poignant things Socrates says to and with his friends on the last day of his life are woven together into a written recollection that requires those who enter into dialogue with it not merely to reflect upon, but also to act differently in the footsteps of the words encountered there.

You can, I hope, hear the influence of Gadamer here, who argued that genuine interpretation requires the willingness of the interpreter to risk entering into dialogue with the text in such a way that the interpreter’s own thoughts and possibilities are brought into play (Truth and Method, 388).

The paper traces the way Kebes and Simmias are themselves transformed by the power of the things Socrates says to them, moving then in the second half to trace the ways Platonic writing attempts to transform the course of the life of the interpreter of the text by showing Phaedo practicing what Socrates calls a “second sailing” with Echecrates.

If politics, for Socrates, is a way of caring for the soul, then Plato has given us a provocative vision of politics in the Phaedo.