Category Archives: Public service

Quote of the day: Corporatizing the university


From Avery J. Wiscomb’s “The Entrepreneurship Racket” in the latest Jacobin, a fascinating dissection of the American university’s turn towards the entrepreneurial doctrine and the exploitation of research and students for the private rather than the common good:

Today, the culture of entrepreneurialism in higher education claims both students and faculty’s creative energy and ideas at their source, and when challenged insists this is what students and faculty really want, or what they really need.

This is a perversion of the values of education, especially when students are paying for the privilege of having their labor appropriated while at university, and many are going deep into debt to do it. Entrepreneurship in higher education masks increasingly exploitative and super-exploitative types of institutional practices.

As Jeffrey J. Williams asked in the Winter 2016 issue of Dissent: What is innovation for? And for whose interests? Similarly, we should ask what good is the entrepreneurial spirit in higher education, if it brings us exploitation? Innovation has become a buzzword that points to a corporate ethos and co-opts the positive rhetoric of change for its own ends; while entrepreneurialism indicates a deeper and more intractable installation of business values, remaking our universities through its physical places as well as policies.

More and more universities are turning to the creative labor of students and faculty as a source of funding, transforming higher education into a research service for the tech industry. We need to foster a different spirit of innovation in the university — one that serves the shared social welfare of students and faculty and recaptures the ideals of education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren holds itchy feet to the fire


Leonard N, Chanin is a real mofo. That is, he works for Morrison and Foerster, a law firm representing some real mofos. But we’re calling him a mofo because his new employer’s web handle is http://www.mofo.com, right [wink wink]?.

From his mofo webpage:

Leonard Chanin is Of Counsel in the Financial Services group at Morrison & Foerster LLP. A recognized expert in the field of consumer financial protection with extensive experience in regulation and supervision of the myriad statutes affecting retail banking, Mr. Chanin counsels financial institutions on consumer financial services law issues. Mr. Chanin regularly advises clients on issues relating to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Truth in Lending Act, Electronic Fund Transfer Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Savings Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Before rejoining Morrison & Foerster, Mr. Chanin served as the Assistant Director of the Office of Regulations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There, he headed the agency’s rulemaking team by supervising nearly 40 lawyers responsible for promulgating rules and regulations implementing consumer financial protection legislation. He also provided legal opinions to Bureau supervisory and enforcement offices on federal consumer financial protection laws.

It was in his previous post with Uncle Sam that Chanin managed to ignore alarm bells about hinky loans and allowed the American financial ship of state to sail onward into iceberg that was the start of Great Recession in 2008.

And that’s what got Sen. Warren really steamed up when Chanin appeared before the Senate Banking Committee for a long-delayed hearing called by Republicans to discuss financial regulations.

By the time Chanin left his hot seat squirmathon, he’d been subjected to a though Elizabethan grilling, and it was wondrous to behold.

From Senator Elizabeth Warren:

Senator Elizabeth Warren at Banking Hearing on Consumer Finance Regulations

Program notes:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Q&A at an April 5, 2016 Senate Banking Committee hearing titled, “Assessing the Effects of Consumer Finance Regulations.”

A fascinating new tool for exploring the past


From the Georgia Institute of Technology comes a new tool for an animated exploring the spread of ideas through millions of pages from nearly 2,000 newspapers in hundreds of America cities between 1 January 1836 through 31 December 1922.

More than that, you can see the newspaper pages where the ideas appeared.

But you’re not limited to ideas. You can also used the website to track down what your ancestors were doing way back when, something we’ve spent a few hours doing to our endless fascination.

The site also tracks words appearing in advertisements.

To see the actual newspaper pages, simply click on the dots appearing after you’ve made your search.

First up, a video from Georgia Tech:

Going Viral Looked a Lot Different 100 Years Ago

Program notes:

Researchers from Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia have looked at how ideas when viral 100 years ago. They used data science techniques to analyze 10 million newspaper pages published between 1836 and 1924 and animated the data on a free website http://www.usnewsmap.com

And more details from the Georgia Tech newsroom:

Populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he called for a new currency standard based on silver rather than gold. Over the next few years, his “Cross of Gold” ideas spread across the country, with thousands upon thousands of newspaper mentions.

But it took 120 years and a collaboration between Georgia Tech data scientists and University of Georgia historians to see what the spread of that idea had actually looked like. Starting in Chicago, site of the convention, “Cross of Gold” moved to the populous East Coast, then jumped to the West Coast before filling in the less populated areas.

“Going viral” may have taken longer in the 19th century, but the principle was much the same.

Researchers tracked Cross of Gold’s spread using U.S. News Map, a database of more than 10 million newspaper pages that is helping researchers see history with spatial information that hadn’t been available before. Using digitized newspaper articles and cutting-edge search technology, the project is helping researchers see the nation’s history in new ways.

“Every historical development has a spatial component to it, and often one that is central to explaining the ‘how’ and the ‘why,’” noted Claudio Saunt, chair of the Department of History at the University of Georgia. “With this new search engine, we now have the ability to see where newspapers were writing about a subject, and how interest in that subject changed over time. It’s a powerful tool for historians, and one that can shed new light on the past.”

A free service, the database is available at USNewsMap.com. It is based on data from approximately 10 million pages published in nearly 2,000 U.S. newspapers between 1836 and 1924. The newspapers represent what was happening in nearly 800 U.S. cities. More pages are being added all the time, though some states still have not contributed digital newspaper data and are therefore not represented on the project’s map.

To create the database behind the search engine, text from the newspaper pages was scanned by universities around the country, and each word indexed, explained Trevor Goodyear, a research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). The application uses Apache Solr database software, a document database that allowed GTRI researchers to efficiently store and index the large volumes of text and associated metadata.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

And now for something completely different. . .


Yet another animation from the National Film Board of Canada, today’s offering is the story of Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, a man born in the Caribbean in 1863, who transformed attitudes in one Canadian city simply by doing the things he loved best, swimming and teaching others to swim.

From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

Fortes came to Granville (Vancouver) on the Robert Kerr, debarking on 30 Sept. 1885. The town was booming because of the lumber industry and its designation as a railway terminus . People moved from Vancouver Island to the mainland in search of jobs, and a number of blacks came as well from eastern Canada, Alberta, the Pacific northwest, the West Indies, and even further afield. Consequently, the centre of British Columbia’s African Canadian community changed from Victoria to Vancouver as the century drew to a close. Most members of the black population there, which never numbered more than around 300, lived mainly in what became known as Strathcona or the East End.

For eight months, until the great fire of June 1886, Fortes ran Vancouver’s earliest shoeshine stand, in the Sunnyside Hotel on Water Street. Afterwards he worked as a bartender and porter at such local establishments as the Bodega Saloon on Carrall Street in Strathcona and the Alhambra Hotel at the corner of Carrall and Water. Known to be clean, sober, and an expert mixer of cocktails, he was most famous, however, for his volunteer work as a swimming instructor and lifeguard. He was a common sight at English Bay beach, where he taught thousands of children to swim. It was not until around 1897 that the city, in recognition of his services, put him on its payroll as a lifeguard; at some point he was also made a special police constable. He reputedly saved more than 100 people from drowning, including many children and several adults, among them John Hugo Ross, who would die in the sinking of the Titanic.

And without further ado, from the National Film Board of Canada:

Joe

Program notes:

This animated short tells the story of Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, one of Vancouver’s most beloved citizens. Born in the West Indies, Joe Fortes swam in English Bay for over than 30 years. A self-appointed lifeguard at first, he became so famous that the city of Vancouver finally rewarded him with a salary for doing what he loved best. He taught thousands of people to swim and saved over a hundred lives. Yet there were some who did not respect him because of his skin colour. Through his determination, kindness and love for children, Joe helped shift attitudes.

Directed by Jill Haras – 2002

Headline of the day: First Amendment heroes


From the Guardian:

You are not what you read: librarians purge user data to protect privacy

US libraries are doing something even the most security-conscious private firm would never dream of: deleting sensitive information in order to protect users

Map of the day: Cooperatives in the U.S.


From the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives:

BLOG Coops

And now for something completely different. . .


Imagine Akira Kurosawa, director of all those classic Toshiro Mifune samurai flicks, had lived long enough to make a public service ads about a thoroughly modern Japanese problem, Aruki-sumaho [smartphone walking] and all those inevitable accidents.

Such, apparently, was the think of folks ar Japanese wireless carrier DoCoMo, and the result is a PSA featuring many of the classic elements of a samurai flick: The sankin kotai was the mandatory pilgrimmage of a daimyo — feudal lord — to the palace of the Shogun — feudal overlord — in Edo [Tokyo].

Failure to make the trip resulted in the slaughter of the daimyo’s family, so it was a journey fraught with consequences.

Now imagine that smartphones had existed back then and you have all the elements you need to appreciate this from DoCoMo:

Samurai Smartphone Parade

And if you haven’t seen a Kurosawa film, Seven Samurai is a good place to start, a film remade as Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western The Magnificent Seven, which, in turn, spawned a whole succession of imitators, most recently films from Quentin Tarantino and [shudder] Adam Sandler.

Only one Kurosawa film is online, the haunting Rashomon, which deals with the conflicts in eyewitness testimony in a visceral way.

H/T to The Presurfer.