Monthly Archives: November 2004
As the semester winds down (well, not really since i still have an exam and three fair sized papers left to write) I have been thinking about what I have put on my plate, and how I have been approaching/dealing with it.
I did not get an RA’ship this year because my prof wanted me to focus on my classes. But in true mother-overload fashion, in the absence of ‘extra’ work from my prof., I went on my own make work program, and decided to submit two abstracts for a conference coming up in june. The amount of work and research that went into the abstract alone was mountainous, and I must say, I am glad today is November 30th (the deadline for submissions).
But last night, when i was finishing the references for paper #1, which i am writting with a colleague, I almost gave up on my own abstract. I was faced with the fear of success. This is a topic i visited quite some time ago, here in this blog. I was scared to send in my abstract for the fear that it would get accepted. Now, at first, I tried to rationalize the fear saying that the conference was in June, papers, if accepted are to be in in April, and well, I am graduating this year, writting my honours thesis – would i really have time to write two papers on top of my class work? But then, after talking to a very good friend who is doing her ph.d, I realized my fear was not that i would mess up my coursework, but that if I was accepted, I had to put my money where my mouth was. I am reaching a point where my ideas have been contained within a small circle of colleagues. I have had the excuse that i am an undergraduate, and any more then what i am doing is not expected of me – and what i am doing is considered above and beyond my academic level. But as time passes, and I finish my BA, the day of truth (of sorts) approaches. I am applying for my MA for the fall, I am putting my work and ideas out to the international public (scarry i might add) and I am now working with people outside of my university. I think sometimes, that to apply and be rejected would be easier .. i could at least say i tried, and move on… but onto what?
I guess I am simply babbling on.. I have a great support network that have alot of faith in my ideas, I guess i should respect their opinion and go on to ‘own’ my ideas.. but no one told me it would be this intimidating!
Procrastination & Productivity: Together at last
Some would call it a distraction, some would call it innovative, either way you slice it, this new online thesaurus that I found (and subsequently purchased) lets me feel like I am having fun while being productive at the same time!
I have a friend who has been in Canada for the past few years from Scotland. She moved here with her son to do her MA on something to do with Quebec Cinema. She was admitted into the country on a student visa for the duration of her studies. When her studies were complete, she had applied for residency to stay in Canada. That was just over 2 years ago. The government claims the right to take up to 2 years and 6 months to process her application. She has always maintained employment – working with foreign students in schools. [After her MA, she got a TESL certificate as well] She has never taxed the system, asked for handouts or ‘stolen jobs’ from citizens.
She has been deported once already over a technicality between bureaucracies – something to do with papers from one country taking too long for the other.
She has recently been under alot of stress lately, since it is nearing the end of her 54 month wait, and still no answer. The thought of returning to Scotland and starting her life all over again, uprooting her son – again, is not something she looks forward to.
What gets my feathers ruffled about all of this is situations like this. I can’t understand how my friend can get deported – and shit like this goes on!
Expressed Knowledge or Waste of Time?
Throughout my 4 year undergraduate degree, 120 credits translating roughly into 40 different classes/subjects, I am lucky to have had at least half of them leave a significant mark on my knowledge pool. Perhaps this is why I am a tad resentful of a class I am taking this semester in which the professor fully proclaimed that if I followed the readings and read the course notes (which she provides for the students, so we wont have to take the chance of taking our own notes and potentially missing the point of the lecture) that class attendance would do little to further my understanding of the subject matter. In a course where there is one assignment and one exam worth 50% each, it is diffcult to get enthused and give it your all.
In true spirit of procrastination (as has been a regular theme lately), I have a paper due on thursday – which I have yet to start. It is difficult for me to take what i have learned andt ry to make a ‘creative’ and ‘fun’ paper comparing social theory (from our coursepack) to a work of fiction .. and how the theory speaks to the character development. It is not an overly difficult assignment per se – since I did the exact same paper – different social theory (change instead of occupation) this summer, for the exact same professor. (and half of the readings/theorists were the same …)
So I ask myself, have I learned anything? Was it worth the $166.00 I paid the University? This type of course goes against every ‘opinion on education’ bone in my body – yet, due to the vast selection* of courses that I had to choose from, there was little choice in the matter. So I take my credit, swallow my perception of education and crank out a paper in 48 hours (/sigh back to my old ways!) and get it over with.
*note heavy sarcasm
Every Great Empire Must Fall
Last summer I had taken a [great] poli sci course called Contemporary Global Politics. What I liked about this course was that it contextualized the current global politcal state into the wider historical picture of all documented political eras. From this grandiose spectrum, we can see long term patterns of power and decline emerge. A common thread throughout history was that each great power – the empires – lasted in the vicinity of 100 years [give or take a decade or two]
With this in mind, we approached the [then] current state of global political power of the United States. It is commonly agreed among politica scientists that the US hit their prime global power in the ’50′s. This was exemplified by the fact that the global markets had stopped calculating currency on the gold bar, and began faring it against the strong, almighty US dollar. A sign of the US’ decline was the return to the gold bar as the marker. (among many other political situations, reactions and retaliations over the last 2 decades)
I recently had this conversation with Sashay, and she discussed other elements that historically were symbolic of a move towards decay and decline of empire powers. Socially and culturally, movement towards narcissitic and decadent behavior, global arrogance along with many more signs that could – put into a ‘from the beginning of time’ historical context, could be seen as witnessing of the decline of yet another great power.
Reading my sidebar Yahoo! news (not necessarily my ‘news source’ of choice’ but its there when i log into my email – and i’m easily distracted) this story caught my eye. During the span of my lifetime, I have witnessed a growing … disgust (for the lack of a better word) and impatience by the canadian people and government with the US and their ‘shenanigans’ that i never thought i would see. For most of my teen/20′s Canada has always been the docile neighbor that smile and nodded when the US acted up. To see the increased occurence of Canada standing up for themselves to the US (and other countries have as well) – it makes me wonder if this is yet another piece of the ‘decline of an empire’ puzzle.
/Rant On: The Blog Police
It has been just under a year that i have been blogging, and therefore I will fully admit, that I am no expert on the subject. But over the time i have spent in this space, sharing my thoughts and insights, there has been discussion, comments and criticism as to what a blog is, what it is supposed to be and what it was.
In the beginning [hopefully Sashay will come to my rescue here - seeing as she is alot more knowledgeable in blogging history - and it was her hand that directed me here] but very simply put, blogging was a space where people contextualized topics and links.
I will fully admit, that my space rarely if ever, fulfills this definition.
Another common theme i have seen in blogs (and those who have made comments included) is the diary/journal of ‘my life for all to see’. Others use it as an annotated community events calendar. Whereas others have used it to stir up great ‘forum-like’ dialogues with people with similar interest. I have used it to talk about things that have interested me that i sometimes dont have the time to talk about with my friends.
All this to say, what bothers me is the blog snobbism that is out there … ‘that is not what a blog is supposed to be’ is something i have heard often from people, and when I look at their spaces, in my knowledge of what a blog was .. in its beginning – then neither are their blogs what a blog is ‘supposed’ to be .. so the question is, why can’t my space be what i want it to be? Why should i be made to feel that i am bastardizing a medium if i decide to make this space a little more private then the whole wide web? Where is it in the blogging contract that says i can only talk about relevant issues (deemed relevant by who i would like to know) in a particular format (decided by who again?) in a field where people usually like taking something and changing it to make it their own, why do i have to adhere to their rules?
Dont get me wrong, i am in no way being innovative or revolutionary by using a blog for purposes other then its ‘intention’ – but then, we shouldnt try to use blogs for collective academic think tanks if we are sticking with using a blog for ‘what it is supposed to be used for’. In the end, blogging is about a one to many medium. If my definition of many is 20 people then so be it… besides, there are bigger fish to fry in the world then to worry about whether people are using technology they way its ‘supposed’ to be used.
Reality Television, Foucault and Goffman
Had a great guest speaker today in my Sociology of Media class today. A student currently working on their MA in sociology wrote a paper (that will be published soon – so i will not write too much about it!) on reality television and surveillance. He used Foucault’s theory of panopticism and Mathiesen’s theory of syntopticism as functions of reality television. This alone was enough to entice me into reading the paper, but then he pulled in Goffman, who has – for a while now – been my theorist of choice. I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to another dimension of Goffman – his work titled “Asylums” and his theory of ‘total institutions’. Another thing on my ‘to read’ list! Nonetheless, this presentation was awe-inspiring to see someone tie in three dense theories and blanket the current state of reality television with them. I am glad to have been priveleged with both the presentation and the chance to read the paper in full – not to mention a chance to talk to the author about his work.
*As soon as I get info on where the article is published, I will post a link here – its well worth the read!
Authorship/Ownership: From Plato to EQ2
There have been a few recent debates over at Terra Nova concerning the topic of authorship and ownership of content in video games. With the recent Marvel/CoH case, one has to ask how much does one company own an idea when what they market are tangible items. In the case of the Marvel/CoH lawsuit, the issue is not direct replicas of a trademarked or copyrighted image but the ‘likeness’ to that image and item. So, the question isnt that the player is intentionally trying to pass off their CoH creation as the real deal (the Marvel character) – just that their character bears resemblance to theirs. I find this mentality scarry since we live in a world that is so bombarded by imagery and ideas, that it is difficult to pin point any one idea as a truely original one. I think of the example I encoutered in my Contemporary Social Theory course last year. French philosopher Michel Foucault is attributed with being one of the first (if not the first if my memory serves me correctly) to theorize about the insanity plea as a viable defence in the criminal system. Yet, when this was introduced to me, my mind was jogged back to a course on political theory i had taken the semester before that where we spent 4 months looking at Plato’s “Laws”. Within his laws – book 9 (again, working by memory) Plato works through the idea that when a man commits a range of particular crimes (which he lists and describes throughout the text) can only be explained by mental defect, therefore the punishment should be handed with this in mind…
Getting far off track with that one, but the point is that no matter how original we may claim to be, the influences are there that affect our creative perception.
So where is the line between influenced work and lawsuit material? (plagiarism, copyright infringement etc.?) If Marvel can sue over a strong resemblance of something they own, then how different must these representations be? I think of Manga animation where it is at times difficult to distinguish characters from such a strong animation method, if someone creates a character that resembles another in this form of animation, it is difficult for it to be a stand alone original.
Taking this idea towards another direction, is the issue of EQ2 and their newly supported out of game sites – such as guild management sites, screenshots databases and other useful tools (this is also the topic of a thread over at Terra Nova). But in giving the players these tools, they also claim ownership over the players’ authored material created out of game.
As a longstanding guild member in EQ1, I am not sure how I would feel about Sony owning the storyline of our guild… the dynamics and content that were created outside the game, that carried over into real life friendships and multiple MMO’s belonged – imo – to us… to those who had the experiences. It is our story to tell, not theirs. I think of this new content ownership and the fact that EQ has released a series of books. The first one I looked at was based on a player’s experience in the game. (He played a rogue)
So, is this where Sony will harvest storylines for their new books? I might be wrong, but the possibility is there – and sadly, the profits will be theirs to make.