Each year in August Beloit College releases its Mindset List, which provides “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college.” The list for the class of 2020 includes items such as “Serena Williams has always been winning Grand Slam singles titles” and “presidents have always been denied line item veto power.” I wondered what the list for my graduation year (1990) included, but I discovered that the list was started in 1998, for the class of 2002. An interesting class project would be for students to create pre-1998 lists!

The “digital divide” has classically referred to the gap between those with access to computer-based technologies such as the internet, and those without. The Pacific Standard article “The Term ‘Digital Divide’ Doesn’t Work Anymore” extends more recent arguments that the divide is now not so much about access to technology, it’s also about how technology is used.

Simple “yes or no” questions no longer suffice. The questions now must also address access (does the person have a home computer or are they smartphone-dependent?) and speed (do they have dial-up or broadband?). These factors aren’t simply ancillary, they are integral.

This distinction is important because it casts light on another concept at play: Those left behind are further behind than ever before.

The article closes with this argument:

“Digital divide” denotes a chasm that can be crossed. What we should be talking about is a “digital spectrum,” the endpoints of which widen with each innovation.

Moving from a discussion of the “digital divide” to the “digital spectrum” sounds like a good project to me. Non-profit organizations can play a strong role in this expanded understanding, as discussed in an earlier Pacific Standard article, “How Non-Profits Help Close the Digital Divide.”

A July 25, 2016 post on the Google Maps blog notes a new feature: “As you explore the new map, you’ll notice areas shaded in orange representing ‘areas of interest’—places where there’s a lot of activities and things to do.” The post goes on to note, “we determine ‘areas of interest’ with an algorithmic process that allows us to highlight the areas with the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops. In high-density areas like NYC, we use a human touch to make sure we’re showing the most active areas.” It turns out, however, that the algorithm and/or human touch seems to embed class and racial biases, as non-areas of interests reflect real-life geographic divides. Hopefully the next update of Google Maps will tweak the algorithm and human guidance processes.

SJSU Professor Kate Davis is currently attending a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Faculty on Mapping, Texts, and Travel. In the archives she recently encountered a 1959 booklet, the Go Guide for Motor Tourists, which provided information about safe places for African Americans to visit while traveling by car. I had not heard of this publication, and a quick web search did not turn up any information. The booklet was probably a competitor to the more well-known Negro Motorist Green Book. I learned about this publication a few years ago, and asked my aunt and mother-in-law about it. Both are in their 70s and remember traveling in the Jim Crow South, but don’t remember this book. Maybe it was only used by men, who would be the drivers. My paternal grandfather drove through many states of the Jim Crow South, and thus would have been a perfect person to ask, but he passed away years ago, unfortunately. A PBS story referenced a documentary that briefly discussed traveling while Black in that era; I’ll have to check it out!

 

This week my associate dean is attending the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) seminar for new deans, in which experienced deans share processes and tips to help new deans get off to strong starts. Each year a few slots are reserved for associate deans who are thinking about eventually moving over one position. I attended the seminar as a new dean in 2013, and in 2014 sent my then associate dean, who went on to become a dean last year! Hopefully my associate dean this year doesn’t get snatched up for another few years…

In a new twist for mentoring new deans, I was contacted yesterday by a new dean who is starting an advisory circle. I’ll be available to answer questions via email, and we might check in via Skype from time to time. If ever in the same city for conferences we’ll try to meet up. I am impressed by her initiative in putting together this mentoring opportunity. I wish that I had thought of this as a new dean!

SJSU Communication Studies Professor Matthew Spangler is Co-Directing a National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute, The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre. The institute is being held here on the SJSU campus July 17-31, 2016. This morning I attended a lecture on U.S. immigration by Donna Gabaccia, a former colleague at the University of Minnesota. On Saturday I hope to join a walking tour of immigrant San Francisco that will be led by SJSU History Professor (and Department Chair) Glen Gendzel. I’m thrilled that SJSU is able to host discussions and activities with high school teachers from around the U.S. on a topic of immense global importance.

On July 1, 2013 I became a dean for the first time, and I used this blog to chronicle my experiences as a newbie to full-time administration. I stopped posting entries at the end of my first year, but then started posting again at the end of the first week of my second dean appointment. Now the second year of the second dean appointment is underway, and it’s the start of my fourth year overall as a dean. I want to continue posting brief notes about experiences and observations as a social scientist who’s also a college administrator, so it’s time for a blog name change! “Dispatches From a New Dean” is now “Dispatches From a Dean.” Thanks to the folks at The Society Pages for keeping me on board!

I’m not usually a podcast listener, but today stumbled upon one I should check out occasionally: NPR’s “Invisibilia,” which is “about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”  The “Flip the Script” episode features discussion of how a Danish town helped young Muslims turn away from ISIS. Interesting!

Recently a friend and I had a conversation on the messaging service WhatsApp about mobile phone charging cables:

SS

I’ll have to visit There’s Research on That! to see if my hunch is correct about mobile phone charging cables causing problems in folks’ ability to fully use their phones and stay connected with friends and family…

The spring of 2000 was the second semester of my first year as a new assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s General College. At the end of that semester one of my students — Andy “A-Ron” Winger — asked me to check out his rap music album, which I very much enjoyed. Over the years I’ve listened to all of his albums, solo as well as with others (including one made with a student from one of my classes in my very first semester in the fall of 1999!). A-Ron has recently released his latest album, Covered in Dust. It contains many social justice themes that are very relevant in a week that saw massive calls for police reform. Check it out!