Archive: Apr 2014

Today I saw a new commercial for the Kayak travel search portal. In “Lecture,” a self-identified adjunct professor simultaneously lectures to his class and searches the web for hotel deals to attend a conference. When a student asks him why he doesn’t use Kayak, he replies, “it is not my job to know everything,” and that followed earlier comments that he has little time left after preparing and delivering three lectures for that day. The first thing that popped into my head was the growing movement to improve working conditions for adjuncts and other contingent faculty, such as a unionization effort in Minnesota.  Social media have been enlisted in that effort, such as the “We Need Contingent Faculty” tumblr for Macalester College. I won’t be surprised if the “Lecture” commercial ends up on a social media site somewhere in a mashup that amplifies real world issues surrounding the growing use of contingent faculty. If anyone sees such a thing please post  info in the comments!

Today on the Sociological Images blog Lisa Wade posted information about a recent research study on professors’ work habits, finding that professors usually worked 51 hours during the week plus an additional 10 hours on the weekend. I’ll have to keep these data handy when answering questions about work habits of the faculty!

I have posted several entries about the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope (SSK), a web portal for social media channels students maintain to discuss what they are learning and researching in the social sciences. A call went out in the fall 2013 semester for students to participate in the spring 2014 semester, and two student projects were selected; each student is receiving a $400 stipend for participating. A new University of Wisconsin-Parkside website is being developed that will have a dedicated SSK page, but the students are already working on their projects, which can be directly accessed. Jenn Zentmyer is using a Tumblr to examine her experiences in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate program, and Manvinder Singh is using a Facebook page to engage the public in facts he is learning in his Victimology class as a Criminal Justice Major. Check out their pages!

For months I’ve known that tomorrow (April 15) is Tax Day in the United States, when federal and state tax returns are due. I just learned that it’s the one day when Google Glass will be available to the general public. Back in May I wrote a post about trying to become a Google Glass early adopter. While it’s cool that a wider range of people will have temporary access to Google Glass, I think I’ll sit out tomorrow’s inevitable purchase rush, however, and wait for the price to come WAY down before trying them. $1500 is a steep price to pay for a fancy toy (at this stage of development)…

The Microaggressions Project tumblr popped into my head yesterday while sitting in the first class section of a commercial airliner. Two bottles of water await passengers in each twin seat when boarding. I took a sip from one and then put it in my bag, and then a few minutes later I absent-mindedly took a sip from the second bottle. When my seat-mate sat down I apologized for taking his water by mistake, and asked the flight attendant to bring him another. He told her that he didn’t need a replacement, and turned to me and said, “you didn’t take it by mistake, you stole it.” Racial microaggressions, as quoted on the Microaggressions Project “about this project” page, are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” The first thing that popped into my head was “does this White cat think I took his water because Black folks always steal stuff?!” In the next breath, though, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt about innocent teasing, smiled, and patted him on the arm.

A few minutes later he tapped my arm (I was wearing earphones) and asked me about my iPad. We went on to have a very good conversation, mostly about parenting and changing educational systems. I think that he was impressed that a college dean agreed with him that a 4-year degree was not necessarily an absolute requirement for everyone; he was proud that he built a multi-million dollar business with a high school degree as his final step of formal education. He was worried about how he could buy his two college-educated sons a business and set up the partnership in a way that would respect the sons’ different skills and dispositions, and not drive a wedge in their friendship. I joked that he should adjust the plan and give half of his planned purchase budget as a gift to my college. He took my business card, so maybe I’ll get lucky down the road…

One of the most harmful components of racial microaggression is the mental toll on those with particular socially constructed identities: “Did that person just do X because I’m a member of Y group?” I have enough privileged identities that I can shrug off possible slights (I was in first class on a plane, for example!), but the process is very much a powerful reality for others. We still have much work to do in creating more equitable social structures and processes.

This morning I was interviewed by a reporter for upcoming digital storytelling workshops I am conducting with one of the lecturers in my college. Digital stories are short, first person video-narratives created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. Digital storytellers are those who have a desire to document life experience, ideas, or feelings through the use of story and digital media. We will teach U.S. military veterans how to make digital stories and become digital storytellers; on April 12 we will work with student-veterans here at UW-Parkside, and then on April 26 we will conduct a workshop at Kenosha’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. The workshops were made possible by a generous grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

I’ll post additional information after the workshops have been conducted, but if readers want additional information about digital storytelling check out an article I co-published in 2010. Embedded in the article is a 12.5 minute digital story about digital storytelling, but see a higher quality version that we posted on an older blog.

Dean Paula Krebs recently posted an interesting article about academic administration in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Meet the New Boss…” She discusses very real differences in supervision of tenure-line faculty, department chairs, and deans. Check it out!