Round-up of Berkman Center Notes and Reflections

I have to thank the entire crew at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard for hosting me yesterday.


The room was quite full and the audience brought it. We talked about debt, identity, space, place, platforms, policy, and culture. It kept me on my toes while the incredible support of my colleagues at Microsoft Research and the Social Media Collective kept me ten feet off the ground.

To each his or her own on the whole debate about back-channels and live-tweeting academic talks. All I know is when you get smart people who are interested enough in your talk to leave their home or office to participate, the hashtag becomes a marvelous critical discourse. I had librarians, sociologists, communication scholars, theorists, practitioners, and all manner of critical thinkers parsing and synthesizing my work in real-time yesterday. This storify is lived annotation and it is marvelous.

There was also an incredible moment of social science meeting humanities. Unbeknownst to me until after the talk, an artist in the audience was transcribing my talk on canvas as I lectured! He unfurled this length of material after the Q&A while asking me a really pointed question about probability statistics of race across institutional sectors (A: when I say over-represented in for-profit colleges I am considering proportions relative to population AND enrollment in traditional not-for-profit colleges). berkman artist
He then asked if any symbol could capture my feelings about my work. I told him that anything I would think of would be too literal for artistic interpretation. He agreed and I could not even be mad at that. He says he will interpret his impression of my work as he paints over and through the text he’d written on the canvas. I hope he shares an image of the final work as promised. It was an incredible moment.
Another incredible moment: Nate Matias’ live blog of the talk and Q&A. It’s clear, succinct, and makes me sound good.
The estimable Audrey Watters has done a two-part dialogue with me at Hack Education. Audrey is, hands down, one of the baddest thinkers I know. That she is also a good friend is just proof that some people get all the luck. She’s talked about “identity-less-ness” and “context-less-ness” in current ed-tech platforms.
I understand the talk will be online at the Berkman Center website within the week or so. This is good because my mother got as far as opening a browser before realizing that she did not, in fact, know what a live-stream was. If you’d like to join her in watching a replay, it appears that sometimes technological solutionism is actually a real solution. Go figure.

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